Oris Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition

Oris Carl Brashear money shot

Once again we present an Oris watch tied to a charitable donation – without any indication of how much money is involved, either per watch or in total. This time we’re looking at the Oris Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition dive watch. The recipient of Oris’ largesse? The Carl Brashear Foundation, honoring . . .

the first African American U.S. Navy Master Diver.

Immortalized by Cuba Gooding Jr. in Men of Honor, Carl Brashear was a man’s man amongst manly men doing manly things, triumphing over adversity in a world rife with racial prejudice and underwater travail. Brashear was a true American hero, more than worthy of a Swiss horological tribute.

Yes, well, that still begs the question whether or not buying the Oris Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition is an efficient/effective way to donate to the Foundation named in his honor (as opposed to writing a tax-deductible check).

“That information [e.g., the size and method of Oris’ contribution to the Brashear Foundation] is contractual between Oris and the Foundation,” Phillip Brashear demurred in an email to TTAW. “I cannot answer your inquiry.”

Do you care? No matter how virtuous the cause supported by a watch sale, the bottom line remains the same: do you like the timepiece enough to plunk down your hard-earned cash? Here’s what sending $4200 Oris’ way buys you . . .

Oris caliber 401 movement

A 40mm timepiece running off a modified version of Oris’ Caliber 400. Introduced in 2020, the 400 movement was designed in-house and produced out-of-house, using “state-of-the-art industrial techniques.”

The engine’s twin barrels deliver a five-day power reserve. Caliber 400 also boasts “a newly developed oscillating mass based on a low-friction, slide-bearing system that only winds in one direction to reduce wear and tear over the long run.” Hence an impressive 10-year service interval and warranty.

Oris Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition closeup

Oris modded the 400 to introduce a small seconds subdial to the design, eliminating both the sweep second hand and the date wheel found on the two previous Oris Brashear watches.

While I’m happy as Larry with the date window deletion, our man Klosoff has something to say about sub-seconds dials (none of it good). I agree with him here; it creates a vintage vibe that has nothing to do with diving in a watch dedicated to one of the world’s most celebrated divers.

Oris Brashear Cal. 401 LE on its side

Speaking of authenticity (or at least practicality), the Oris Brashear Cal. 401 LE is only water resistant to 100m. That makes it suitable for swimming, snorkeling and . . . dry land. In case you didn’t know, a 100m water resistant watch is not sufficient for high diving, diving high or diving, full stop.

Oris’ decision to advertise the OBLE’s diving depth deficit on the dial is a bit peculiar. But hey! The right-sized case is made of bronze – like the Master Chief Petty Officer’s dive helmet! So there is that.

OBLE Caseback

Only it’s not bronze on the Oris’ caseback. The watchmaker (or its out-of-house state-of-the-art supplier) fashioned the dive helmet (is that Gumby’s distorted face beneath it?) from silvery steel, along with the main man’s name and Brashear’s tagline: “It’s not a sin to get knocked down, it’s a sin to stay down.”

I would have preferred the diver’s other notable quotable – “I ain’t going to let nobody steal my watch dream.” But that’s me – German watches are my biggest Sinn and they take one hell of a beating.

Oris Carl Brashear Calibre 401 Limited Edition strap

Oris tapped Erika’s Originals for the navy blue band. It riffs on their $75 Nautica woven strap, substituting a golden spine line and a bronze buckle. Again, not the best choice for a dive watch. You might say that style over substance is the montre’s mantra, but I couldn’t possibly comment. Except to suggest the same calculation applies to the narrow dive bezel with its monochromatic markings.

There’s no getting around it. What we have here is a failure to commemorate. Oris created a non-diving dive watch to celebrate a famous diver, with “just” 2000 chances to help subsidize Brasher’s Foundation to an unknown extent. No matter how many times you slice it, or what piece of the pie goes to charity, the Oris Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition is a curious curio for a cause. How great is that? You tell me.

11 comments

  1. This is an absolute joke for $4,200. I am not a fan of bronze watches, but if you are you can get the Glycine GL0266 for 1/10 the cost for the same or better specs (except the power reserve, not that important on an automatic watch).

    Both Swiss Made, both have sapphire crystals, the Glycine has a 100m better depth rating. Plus the Sellita SW200 in the Glycine, based on the ETA 2824, can be repaired by anyone that can repair a watch.

  2. I knew these Marine Nationale straps were pricey, but $95 for some glorified underwear elastic and three bits of stamped metal with a couple seconds worth of machine stitching? This is quite insane.

    Listing the power reserve on the seconds sub-dial amuses me for some reason, and I can’t unsee the Gumby face.

    1. Those Marine Nationale bands are fantastic, and can be found for much less than $95. Comfy, and since they are “single pass”, much more slimmer on a wrist than a NATO.

      1. Are you telling me that the ones without Erika’s Original Secret Recipe are not somehow inferior? I’ve been meaning to try one out, but that hook and slider don’t strike me as the most secure fastening around.

        1. The hook has never fallen out of the slider, but it does occasionally ride up the slider a bit. Even when worn “loose” the tension does seem to keep the hook in place. I’d never put one on a watch that cost/was worth more than a hundred dollars, but on a cheap watch, the very small risk of the hook sliding off completely and the watch getting damaged is worth the trade off in terms of comfort. And there are times, regardless of the strap or value of the watch, when it is best just to take a watch off.

  3. Yes, well, that still begs the question whether or not buying the Oris Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition is an efficient/effective way to donate to the Foundation named in his honor (as opposed to writing a tax-deductible check).

    Ah, but that would deprive Oris of the social credit for the donation!

    1. Right off the Oris website, for starters. Better prices may be available at authorized or gray market dealers.

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