The Oris Carl Brashear Limited Edition
Without a doubt, my favorite moment of Baselworld 2016 was getting to meet Philip Brashear, son of the first African American Master Diver, Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Brashear. For those not familiar with Carl's life, I think it's fair to call him the Jackie Robinson of the US Navy. As Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947, Carl Brashear was the first African American to enroll in and graduate from the U.S. Navy Diving & Salvage School in 1954. As Jackie Robinson went on to have a Hall of Fame career, Carl Brashear also had a challenging and groundbreaking career full of accomplishments. In 1968, he became the U.S. Navy's first amputee diver after losing the lower part of his left leg in an accident during a mission to salvage a hydrogen bomb. He then went on to qualify as a Master Diver in 1970, the first African American to do so. Breshears also went on to win countless naval and civilian commendations.
When I met Philip, he described how happy he was that Oris chose to honor his father, and he spoke with infectious enthusiasm about how the racism his father endured on the way to achieving his dream was only one of the obstacles he was able to overcome. The others were poverty, illiteracy, a physical disability, and a struggle with alcoholism. On the case back of the Oris Carl Brashear is his name and personal expression, "It's not a sin to get knocked down, it's a sin to stay down." As Philip Brashear pointed out, if he wanted father's life to stand for anything, it would be that we choose life and chose to live. You can see my interview with Philip here.
The Oris Carl Brashear shares the same Sellita-based Calibre 733 movement and case proportions of the 2015 Divers Sixty Five, but in a slightly (2mm) larger 42mm case. Like the Divers Sixty Five models that made their debut in 2015, the Carl Brashear also features the minimal 100m of water resistance, allowing the watch to maintain a thin case. We estimate the Oris Carl Brashear to be under 12mm thick.
The Carl Brashear dial layout deviates from the 2015 Divers Sixty Five in that it is more like other dive watches of the sixties. Instead of the lume outlines of Arabic numbers at three, six, nine, and twelve o'clock that are the hallmarks of the steel Divers Sixty Five, the Carl Brashear features applied indices. The rose gold plated indices are circular (one, two, four, five, seven, eight, ten, and eleven o'clock), rectangular (three and nine o'clock), and triangular (twelve o'clock). There is a minor circular luminous circle for the six o'clock indice just beneath the date aperture. The dial color also appears to be a much deeper blue than the Deauville blue dial of the latest steel Divers Sixty Five.
Unique among the Divers Sixty Five series, the Carl Brashear comes adorned with a thick brown leather strap featuring contrast stitching and a bronze tang-type buckle. At 21mm at the horns, the strap is 1mm wider at the horns. Instead of featuring a sixty-click bezel, the Carl Brashear (and the other steel 42mm models announced for 2016) feature a 120-click bezel.
For fans of the original Divers Sixty Five who like the idea of a non date version, check out the Topper Limited Edition Divers Sixty Five.
The Carl Brashear Limited Edition has the distinction of being the first ever bronze watch from Oris. What makes bronze different from other case making materials is not just the reddish brass tone it gives the watch when new, but the way it patinas over time. Bronze is an alloy made primarily of copper and tin, and as the copper interacts over time with the air, humidity, and acidity in human skin, it will oxidize and change color. Depending on the length of exposure to each of the aforementioned elements, this patina process can take days, weeks, or months, but it always produces a coloration pattern unique to every piece. How fast will it change? We are guessing the Carl Brashear Oris will change very quickly. While it is common for some bronze watchmakers to add a chemical agent into the bronze to either darken the material or slow down the patina process, we see no sign of any such agent here. Bronze can also be highly polished, though this piece features a bezel with a grainy matte finish and a case sporting a more brushed finish.
The Oris Carl Brashear celebrates a different aspect of nautical bronze than most bronze watches. Rather than invoking the image of a bronze propeller, the namesake tie into the watch is the bronze used in the Mark V diving helmet Chief Brashear would have worn when he trained at the U.S. Navy Diving & Salvage school in the mid 1950s. There is a relief of a Mark V helmet on the case back which, unlike the watch case, is made out of stainless steel to reduce the potential of allergic skin reaction to the bronze.
The 2000-piece limited edition Oris Carl Brashear retails for $2,800. Below are photos of our first pre order. More Carl Brashear Limited Edition watches will be arriving at Topper soon. Please call the store to discuss pre ordering one of these special watches while they last.
The cast bronze bezel and curved sapphire crystal of the Oris Carl Brashear.
The rose gold plated applied indices and baton hands of the Oris Carl Brashear.
The lower bezel and brushed lugs of the Oris Carl Brashear.
A closeup of the deep blue dial and contrasting rose gold plated features of the Oris Carl Brashear.
A side view of the 12mm thin case and signed crown of the Oris Carl Brashear.
The bronze tang buckle and contrast stitched leather strap of the Oris Carl Brashear.
The stainless steel case back of the Oris Carl Brashear with his famous motto: "It's not a sin to get knocked down, it's a sin to stay down." Note also the limited edition sequence number.
The lume signature of the Oris Carl Brashear.
A wrist shot while sporting the Oris Carl Brashear on Burlingame Avenue.The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.