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Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter Watch Review

An Oris customer wore his Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter to climb Taiwan's highest mountain, discovering that even when temperatures fell to -5°C, the watch was more precise than an electronic altimeter.

Alex Huang recently climbed Mount Yushan, an intense 23km trek over a vertical climb of 2,800 metres. The highest point of Mount Yushan is 3,952 metres above sea level. The Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter continued to function perfectly throughout Huang's physical challenge.

"In spite of the cold, my Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter was very useful," Huang said. "When I reached 3,900 metres, the watch was even more precise than my electronic altimeter. It’s an impressive timepiece."

The Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter is the world's first watch to combine a Swiss Made automatic movement with a mechanical altimeter, and is one of the most innovative Oris watches to date.

To make an altimeter mechanism small enough to fit inside a wristwatch was a huge challenge for the Oris engineers, as the hand had to be extremely lightweight, but still stiff enough to avoid inaccurate readings. The hand was therefore made in a laminated carbon fibre, making it seven times lighter but 10 times stiffer than the average watch hand.

Oris also patented a new altimeter adjustment and venting crown, which prevents moisture from entering the watch when the altimeter is activated. A membrane made of PTFE was used to create a vapour barrier and protect the inner workings of the timepiece.

The watch has two crowns: a conventional crown at 2 o'clock to adjust the time and date, and to wind the watch as necessary. The second screw-down crown at 4 o'clock operates the altimeter. When screwed into 'Position 0', the altimeter is inactive and the watch is water resistant to 10 bar. When the crown is unscrewed into 'Position 1', the altimeter is activated, indicated by a red ring. Pulling the crown out into 'Position 2' allows the altimeter to be calibrated. Once set, the watch displays the current altitude with a yellow indicator on the dial, and the corresponding air pressure with a red indicator.

The altitude scale is found around the outer dial ring, measuring altitude up to 15,000 feet or 4,500 metres. The air pressure scale is recessed between the altimeter scale and the central dial.

The Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter has a a 47 mm multi-piece stainless steel case with a sapphire crystal, domed on both sides and featuring double-sided anti-reflective coating. Two models are available: one with an altitude scale in feet, the other in metres.

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