DIVE Q&A: Ralf Hilbich, Oris

In the second of our series of diving watch Q&As, Oris product development manager Ralf Hilbich talks about the significance of diving watches through the ages and Oris’ diving watch past, present and future.

1. How have divers’ watches evolved through their history and how do you think we will see them continue to develop?

Divers’ watches have evolved from sport watches and as diving has become ever more popular as a hobby the demand has grown and grown thus the market has had to meet that demand.

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The beauty of the divers’ watch is in the pure engineering of each piece, something that Oris as a brand shares deeply. As the popularity grows, so will the two different strands of the market: the more design led market and the more professional functional strand of the market. All divers’ watches have to meet a specific regulation to fall into the bracket of a diver’s watch but, like with all products nowadays, brands will push and push to have the watch that can withstand the most depth or pressure as hero pieces. Here at Oris we are very proud in our mix of design and functionality.

Oris’ relationship with the divers’ watches started with the Meistertaucher, then we created the Pro Diver collection, the Aquis collection and at Baselworld 2013 we released our most impressive Diver watch to date the Aquis Depth Gauge. We have a long and rich history in creating timeless diving watches.

2. What are the fundamental functions that separate a diver’s watch from a standard or outdoorsy model and what are a diver’s priorities in a watch?

At Oris our design principle is very simple – ‘form follows function’ and we design all of our watches with this in mind. When we are developing a new diver’s watch there are many things to take into to consideration but clearly one of the most important is the water resistance. We also believe that is important not to make the watch too complicated, and look for the easiest solution to provide extra functionality. This also helps to control the production cost which is ultimately passed on to our consumer.

We have several diving ambassadors who provide us with a wealth of knowledge and experience from their daily lives. This gives us a wealth of information that we need to ensure we give them what they really need. The last thing we want to do is make great looking divers watch that doesn’t do the job. After all, to many people these watches are tools of their trade, not just a watch.

Although the majority of water sports men and women don’t dive to anywhere near a depth of 300m we want to provide them with the peace of mind to allow them to continue their dive without having to consider whether or not their watch will perform. Therefore, it is recommended that a diver’s watch should be water resistant to 300m (minimum).

We have produced a collection of divers that will withstand water pressure at depths from 300m to1000m and have to follow the regulation of the ISO Norm 22810 or the German DIN 8306. This way the diver can have full confidence with their watch while under water. All Oris divers’ watches are fitted with a uni-directional bezel to measure elapsed time. It is essential that the this bezel will only rotate anti-clockwise, this way it will prevent the diver accidentally giving themself more underwater time than they have oxygen.

We make sure that the dials on all Oris divers’ watches are very easy to read with bold luminous hands and batons. The sapphire crystal is treated with an anti-reflective coating, which will help give greater clarity and in turn make it easier to read under water.

3. When designing divers’ watches how do you make them commercial and combine a divers’ requirements and elements that will appeal to the general consumer?

The market nowadays is very competitive and thus we have to deliver both commercially as well as functionally. We at Oris have always been proud of using specialist patented technology developed in house to deliver to our diver market whilst at the same time mixing this with our creative design team. Here at Oris we like to keep a very keen eye on, and strive to provide innovative designs that give excellent value for money.

Our latest Depth Gauge watch is the perfect example of design and functionality, and showcases how Oris offers special solutions for the needs of the diver. We have managed to give the important information of depth using a rather simple but effective method. The Oris Depth Gauge watch has very similar functionally as several other brands with the added benefit of common sense and is very attractively priced at £2,100.

4. When a retailer is thinking about stocking brands with a strong divers’ watch offering what do they tend to be looking for in the watches and why?

We believe that retailers are looking for a strong recognisable design with maximum reliability and functionality. Each diver’s watch is an incredible piece of engineering and thus each customer has to be properly educated and informed to ensure they will purchase the correct watch for their individual needs. Clearly, there will always be the pieces that retailers look for that are more flagship pieces that are perhaps more expensive, have a popular name, can either reach the deepest depths or have an extravagant design to create more attention.

However, what we have found is that most customers in the market for a diver’s watch are regular people looking for good design and functionality at a price that suits their budget, (form follows function).

5. What do you think has been the most exciting recent development in divers’ watches and why?

In 2009 we launched the very striking and exciting Pro Diver Chronograph, with the professional offshore diver in mind we developed the locking time elapsed bezel. This was without doubt the largest we have ever made and is still extremely successful.

This year at Baselworld we launched another fantastic development, the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge. Through our special patented technology we have managed to design the ultimate diver’s watch in terms of functionality, twinned with exciting design all at an incredibly affordable £2,100.

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