Oris ProPilot Altimeter – analogue in the digital age

Before the age of electronics, the world was mechanical – analogue, if you will. Dials and gauges in cockpits, ship bridges and laboratories were precisely calibrated to measure various parameters. In modern times, digital instruments have largely superseded analogue meters, but the world of the mechanical still continues to inspire creativity – to pursue precision and craftsmanship. In 2023, Oris has continued its fascination with the mechanical by improving on one of it’s most innovative watches – the mechanical altimeter. The Oris ProPilot Altimeter brings small improvements compared to its predecessor, but still remains the first and only mechanical altimeter within a watch – a creation that is no small feat.

The first mechanical watch with an altimeter would be unveiled by Oris in 2014, with the Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter. The latest iteration of the ProPilot Altimeter sees its case made of carbon fibre that has been specially produced by their partner, 9T Labs (an offshoot of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology).

Measuring in at 47mm, the watch case is unlike conventional carbon fibre, in that it is a composite of carbon fibre and a polymer known as PEKK, which enables the watch case to be manufactured in an additive and sustainable manner, and can also be moulded. This enables the watch case to be as light as plastic, but with the mechanical strength of metals – and Oris is the first watchmaker to use this technology in watch cases. 

The bezel is PVD coated titanium as are the crowns at 2 and 4 o’clock – the former of which controls the time and date setting. The dial features a mix of Arabic numerals and markers, and the hands and markers are painted with SuperLuminova for low-light legibility.

The altimeter itself takes up much of the watch, and has been improved from the original model. Like the original, two versions are available – one that measures in metres, and another that measures in feet. The module has been improved to measure up to 6000m (19700ft) – a 25% improvement from the original’s 4500m (15000ft). 

Operating the altimeter is simple – unscrew the crown at 4 o’clock (when fully screwed in, the watch is complete water resistant to 10 bar), pull out the crown to calibrate the altimeter to a reference reading (usually provided by airport control towers, weather stations, etc.), and push the crown back in without screwing in the crown. In this mode, the watch is protected by a PTFE membrane that ensures protection from ambient moisture and humidity. A red ring around the 4 o’clock crown alerts the wearer that the altimeter is in use, and once you are finished with the altimeter, the crown can be screwed back in for maximum water resistance.

Oris is unique in that the ProPilot Altimeter combines an automatic movement with an altimeter. This was achieved with a second dial underneath the movement, enabling the use of a convenient automatic movement.

Powering the watch is an Oris 793, with automatic winding, 56 hours of power reserve, hacking seconds and date display at 3 o’clock. This is secured with a grey PVD titanium caseback with a feet-metres conversion scale engraved on the back. The watch is delivered on a green textile strap with brown leather lining, on a grey PVD titanium deployant clasp with fine adjustment system. The watch is available in two different variants – one with an altimeter that measures in metres, and another that measures in feet (primarily for the US market).

The Oris ProPilot Altimeter is a watch that celebrates mechanics in all of its forms. Mechanical watches are already a celebration of tradition, and the mechanical altimeter is something that celebrates aviation of the past. Whilst digital instruments exist, why shouldn’t a mechanical altimeter and watch exist? As a celebration of past and present, the Oris ProPilot Altimeter brings modern materials science together with traditional watchmaking and instrument making in one piece, and we think that’s simply awesome.

Technical Specifications

Case: Single piece carbon fibre case, grey PVD plated titanium bezel and case back

Size: 47mm

Dial: Black with altitude scale on dial ring in either feet or metres

Luminous material: Indices, numbers and hands printed with SuperLuminova

Top Glass: Sapphire, domed on both sides, anti-reflective coating on both sides

Case back: Grey PVD plated titanium, screwed, feet to metre conversion chart engravings

Operating devices: Grey PVD plated titanium screw-in security crown at 2 o’clock, grey PVD plated titanium screw-in altimeter crown at 4 o’clock

Strap: Green textile strap with brown leather lining, grey PVD plated titanium folding clasp with fine adjustment system

Water resistance: 10 bar (100m)

Movement: Oris 793

Functions: Hours, minutes and central sweep seconds hands, date with quick setting, stop second device, date window at 3 o’clock

Winding: Automatic

Power reserve: 56 hours