Sunday, July 7, 2024

Wristwatch Review: Vintage Oris Men's Manual Wind Watch from India

The Allure of Vintage Watches on Etsy

It's alive! I recently purchased an interesting vintage watch off of Etsy. It is a vintage Men's Oris manual wind watch that has been extensively restored.  I found this watch when looking at the wide variety of vintage watches on Etsy.  The price tag was amazingly low for such a beautiful looking watch. 

Vintage Oris Manual Wind Watch

Fear of the Unknown Watch

When I teased its impending arrival from a faraway land on the Watchfreeks forum, some members warned me of "Frankenwatches" from India. These watches are made up of a hodge-podge of parts and can be of dubious reliability.  To be honest, once I learned of this and did a little research, I was quite worried about what I would actually be getting. This watch was inexpensive and from India. I was scared, but the die was cast and I was determined to see what I would get.

A well packed Vintage Oris Watch

Shipping, Packing, and Tracking

The seller and Etsy did a great job tracking the package from India and it made its way from India through a shipping company to my mailbox in only 13 days. Upon opening the small, thoroughly wrapped, box, I found that the watch was just as described. I immediately placed the watch next to my Timex Weekender for comparison sake.

A restored Oris compared to a Timex Weekender

Watch Dimensions

Some posters had warned that some of these watches could have very small cases. However, the reconstructed Oris ended up with a 35mm diameter case which makes it a little smaller than a current Timex Weekender and about the same diameter as a vintage Timex Mercury.  The watch is about 10mm thick. The included leather strap was nice, but just a little short for my wrist. I replaced it with an inexpensive fabric expansion strap. This Oris is a smaller watch than most contemporary timepieces, but it is definitely wearable and a man's watch.

Vintage Oris Caseback

Watch Construction

The caseback says that the watchback is made out of stainless steel and the movement is reportedly shockproof. I'll try not to shock it. The crystal is nicely domed and seems to be some sort of glass. The hands are simple silver-toned dress watch hands with no lume. This seems faithful to vintage Oris dress watches of the day. I didn't see any obvious problems with the construction of this watch. While Oris purists will scoff at the full replacement of the case, dial, hands, and crystal, the result is a nicely functioning watch that keeps good time for long periods.

Vintage Oris Watch from India on the Dashboard

Watch Daily Wear

As I wear this, the watch has been keeping accurate time for over a day.  I wind it up gingerly since the crown is small and the winding seems a little tight.  Without a manual, I err on the side of caution.  But, winding it with several short slow spins of the crown, it seems to run and run.  Due to my clumsiness with the caseback press, I'm not pulling the back off.  From the photos provided, the watch  mechanism appears to be a Swiss FHF96 movement.  I wind it a little more each day.  

Vintage Oris FHF-96 Movement in Oris Vintage Watch from India

Once wound, I notice that second hand doesn't stop when I pull out the crown.  This will make precisely timed cat burglaries, jewelry thefts, and casino heists difficult, but I shall persevere.

Authenticity of A Vintage Watch From India

The authenticity of this watch remains an interesting question. You can dig and dig into the topic on forums like WatchRepairForum and Watchuseek. Since the seller revealed that the case, dial, and hands were all replaced, I feel that is fairly transparent. The movement appears to be Swiss and has been running like a champ. Obviously, the new plastic guide ring needed to be in place in order to fit the movement to its new case.  

Ultimately, the question is somewhat irrelevant to me. When I look at new and used Oris models in places where the provenance has a good paper trail, I see Oris watches priced from $1000 to $3000 or so. I don't have that much money for a watch right now.  For a watch, I have about $35 or so.

If I did have serious money for a genuine Oris watch, I'd be quite tempted by this Oris Big Crown Automatic that is available from Bob's Watches in Amazon.  It has an authenticated pedigree and a serious price tag.

Oris Big Crown Automatic from Bob's Watches

Researching this topic has certainly driven me to the Oris site, to Bob's watches, and to various watch movement sites than I could have previously imagined.  It's planted a seed that may yet grow into a "if I ever have some money I should look at an Oris" tree.

I'm satisfied in calling this a genuine Indian "frankenwatch."  I'd liken it to a "restomod" car built completely new from the remnants of the engine and frame of a very old car. I'd like to think that this  watch is using a movement made by Fabrique d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon, Fontainemelon in Switzerland for Oris.  

I'm not expert enough to definitively call this watch a fake. It seems unfair considering the workmanship that has gone into this watch.  The watch has been completely rebuilt around the movement.  However, if this watch has a Swiss movement but not an Oris-labeled one, then the restorers should name the watch something else. They've done work they can be proud of.  Perhaps they should rebrand it as "Vintage Revival" put "Swiss Made" on the bottom of the dial and "Rebuilt in India" on the top?  I think they've made an earnest attempt to re-use and re-work this watch and provide a good value for the money.

Should you buy a watch like this from India?  

If the authenticity and provenance of each watch in your collection is important, you should not buy these sorts of inexpensive watches from India. If you just want a mechanical watch that is interesting, works well, and is very affordable, then give it a shot.  Don't spend too much money.  Keep it fun.

My Vintage Oris Watch from India reflected on an ebony table

Overall Impression

I love this little watch. It was affordable at $32. It sure has an  interesting backstory. The mystery of this watches origin story has kept me engaged and busy for hours. In my opinion, the restorers in India did a great job matching a case and dial to the movement and staying true to the vintage Swiss watch spirit. It is working watch and a fun addition to my collection.

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