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The Oris watch factory was founded in 1904 in Hölstein, Switzerland by Paul Cattin and Georges Christian. Starting with just 24 workmen, they took over the watch firm Lohner, which had recently closed down. Only two years later they opened their own shop and by 1910 they employed over 300 people.
Because of the Swiss Watch statute, which protected the monopoly of a limited number of manufacturers, Oris was initially unable to produce precision watches with lever escapements. Oris overcame this obstacle by refining its pin-lever watch to such an extent that it virtually equalled the precision of a genuine lever watch, obtaining 242 certificates with the classification ‘with distinction’ from the Bureau Officiel de Contrôle de la Marche de Montre at Le Locle. This was unique at the time for this type of watch.
In 1925 Oris entered the wristwatch market by retrofitting their smaller pocket watches with straps and buckles. In wristwatches, like their previous work, they focused on producing good quality low cost watches, pioneering gold plating of cases. In the 1930s, the company built its own watch escapements by hand rather that outsourcing that task as many of its competitors did.
In 1938 Oris produced their first watch with pointer calendar, a style of watch that continues today. In 1952 that produced an automatic movement with power reserve and in 1966 produced their first automatic watch to achieve chronometer certification.
In 1970 Oris produced their first chronograph, the ‘Chronoris’ but in the same year they were bought by ASUAG (a group of watch companies that went on to become Swatch Group) ASUAG saw Oris as producer of cheap watches and so as the quartz crisis hit, Oris was badly affected. Despite adopting quartz and going ever cheaper, the company was in trouble.
In 1982 there was a management-buyout and Oris became independent again. They repositioned themselves as producers of high quality mechanical watches at a reasonable price. They found early success in the Japanese market and eventually this spread back to Europe and across the globe.
Number of times sold at auction