2021 Oris Carl Brashear Cal.401 Limited Edition Review

by Chamath Gamage
8 comments

Pros:

  • Beautiful Bronze that will Patina over time
  • Latest calibre 401 with small seconds at 6’oclock and 5-day power reserve
  • Beautiful blue dial and dial layout

Cons:

  • Some may find it pricy
  • Blue woven elastic strap should have been an additional strap
  • No open case back to showcase the calibre 401

Overall Rating: 7.5

  • Value for money – 7.0/10
  • Wearability – 8.0/10
  • Design – 7.5/10
  • Build Quality – 7.5/10

Oris has come back to once again honour one of the most influential and inspirational figures of the 20th century, Carl Brashear. Keeping in the theme of Oris’s Carl Brashear limited edition watches of the past, this latest timepiece follows the same colour palette and similar design cues, with now being given the brand’s latest and greatest movement. The Oris Carl Brashear Cal. 401 limited edition is a special piece, and we at WatchAdvice were certainly happy to be one of the first to be able to review it! 

Oris Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition

However, before we get into the watch, it wouldn’t do it justice without knowing who Carl Brashear was and why he was so iconic in the diving world. Born in 1931, Carl Brashear was enlisted in the U.S Navy in 1948, just after the Navy was desegregated by the U.S President Harry S. Truman. Carl Brashear faced many hardships and hostility during his career, especially racism while attending diving school in Bayonne, New Jersey. Brashear’s first employment was working as a diver who retrieved rounds of ammunition that fell to the ocean floor, salvaging aeroplanes and recovering dead bodies. 

Carl Brashear joined the U.S. Navy in 1948 and served with distinction until his retirement in 1979

In January 1966, during an accident that is referred to as the Palomares incident, a B28 nuclear bomb was sunk to the bottom of the ocean near Palomares, Spain. Carl Brashear was part of the dive crew that was in charge of retrieving the bomb. During the recovery process, however, Brashear was involved in a horrific accident that resulted in his lower left leg being amputated. This didn’t stop him from following his dream, however. 

In April 1968, Carl Brashear was the first amputee to be re-certified as a U.S. Navy Diver. Then later in 1970, he became the first African-American U.S. Navy master diver, which he then went on to serve nine more years after that. Through all his struggles, Carl Brashear was incredibly motivated by his belief that “It’s not a sin to get knocked down; it’s a sin to stay down”.

Carl Brashear has a special place not only in diving history but also as part of Oris’s, with this latest model being the third limited edition piece dedicated to the pro-diver. In 2015, as a part of Oris’s mission to bring “Change for the Better”, the Swiss brand partnered with the Carl Brashear Foundation, which was set up in his memory and to continue his legacy. The Carl Brashear Foundation uses Carl’s story to inspire people to never give up on their dreams. 

Case:

The Carl Brashear Cal. 401 limited edition timepiece comes with a 40mm bronze casing. Much like the previous limited-edition models, the uni-directional bezel with timing scale in relief and crown are also done in bronze to match the case nicely. The bronze material was chosen as it symbolises the diving helmets worn by Carl during his career as a U.S Navy Master Diver.

The bronze material is also unique as it tells its own story. Over time the bronze will patinate as it reacts with oxygen in the air and moisture from the skin, which will ultimately change its appearance, making each watch different from one other. The case has been waterproofed to a depth of 100m (10 bar). 

Design:

Oris has retained the same dial colour from previous Carl Brashear limited editions, with this latest model getting a slightly brighter tone of navy. The same rose gold and cream coloured hands and hour indexes have been kept from previous models as well. The colour of the hands and indexes provide a beautiful contrast on the navy background, making the legibility of the dial pure and crisp in any given condition. 

The only dial change from the previous Carl Brashear limited edition model is that the date window is now replaced by a constant seconds counter at the 6 o’clock position. Within this counter, there is an inscription “5 DAYS”, which refers to Oris’s latest movement which as the name suggests produces a staggering 5-day power reserve. 

Movement:

The engine inside this latest Carl Brashear limited edition model is the brand’s in-house Oris Calibre 401 movement. This watch is the first to use this Calibre 401 movement, which is based on Oris’s groundbreaking Calibre 400 movement released last year. WatchAdvice was fortunate enough to review this movement upon its release and we were able to do a full in-depth review of it which you can find here.

Oris Calibre 400

The Calibre 401 movement was designed from the ground up by Oris’s engineers and in-house watchmakers. Oris states that this movement is more accurate than a chronometer as it comes to (within -3 to +5 seconds a day). Along with the Calibre 400 movement, the Calibre 401 tackles and solves many of the problems faced by watch movements today, which include heightened levels of anti-magnetism, a five-day power reserve, and also a 10-year extended warranty. 

Oris movement Calibre 401

So whats differs the Calibre 401 movement from Calibre 400? It’s the small seconds counter at the 6 o’clock position, which of course the engineers and designers need to redesign as the calibre 400 had a date window at the same position. The watch comes with a closed case back, in which you can see the inscriptions “ORIS CARL BRASHEAR” and “CAL.401 LIMITED EDITION”. The middle of the case back features a diver’s suit and the limited edition number/2000 is shown at the bottom. The Calibre 401 movement is a perfect symbol to represent the drive and spirit of Carl Brashear, as with the Master Diver, the movement is designed to overcome life’s shocks. 

Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition -Closed Caseback

How it wears:

Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition – On a 6.5inch wrist

On a 6.5inch wrist, the 40mm casing sits perfectly. With only 11mm in thickness and 49mm lug to lug, this watch can be worn on a daily basis. The previous model of Carl Brashear was 42mm and some found it to be a touch big on their wrists. But with the latest shaving off 2mm, this model is sure to attract many new buyers who may have overlooked it previously. 

Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition – On a 6.5inch wrist

During my time with the watch, I found it to be super comfortable on the wrist. The blue dial is pleasant to look at and depending on the lighting, I got to enjoy different hues of blue. I quite enjoyed looking at the golden hour markers and the hands which just pop with the dark blue dial. The dial layout is pleasant to look at and compared to the earlier version I prefer this model with the small seconds at 6 o’clock. The curved text around the small second is a nice touch and makes the dial pop. I found the bronze case to patina within a couple of days of wearing the watch. The bezel and casing patinated at the same rate whereas the bezel edges retained that shiny bronze colour. 

One complaint I had with the watch was its strap. Whilst the watch looks great in the nylon elastic strap, it’s quite fiddly to put on, and being elastic over time, elasticity will die out. At times, the watch was not aligned on the wrist properly. In my opinion, this nylon strap should have been an additional strap rather than being the main strap. 

Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition – On a 6.5inch wrist
Blue woven elastic nylon strap specially produced in partnership with Erika’s Originals
Blue woven elastic nylon strap specially produced in partnership with Erika’s Originals

Let’s talk about the price. Oris is entering the very competitive price bracket of 5000+ AUD group. The previous generation Carl Brashear model (Ref 01 733 7720 3185) was retailed at 3,750.00 AUD and at that price point I believe it was well priced for what you get. The latest timepiece however retails at 6000.00AUD. For this price, you get the latest calibre 401 (modified cal 400 with small seconds at 6 o’clock) which has a 120 hr (5day) power reserve, and Oris’s latest 10-year service interval and 10-year warranty (when you register through My Oris online). The price point will be a big deciding factor for a lot of us out there and it will come down to how much the individual loves this watch. 

Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition

Overall, I think Oris has executed this model well by making this watch a 40mm which will appeal to a lot of watch lovers out there, and with the beautiful patina, this will sure to be a unique piece in one’s collection.

In closing :

Limited to 2000 pieces, this latest timepiece in dedication to Carl Brashear is a great way to keep his legacy moving forward. The latest updates give the watch a superb movement whilst still retaining the beautiful bronze/blue look we have become used to with Carl Brashear limited edition models. Rolf Studer, Oris CEO summed up this piece nicely by stating “Together with the Carl Brashear Foundation, we hope that every time someone wearing this new watch looks at it, they will be reminded to never give up, and to press on, no matter how insurmountable the challenges ahead appear”.

Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition Specification:

  • Case: 40 mm. Multi-piece bronze case and uni-directional rotating bronze bezel with timing scale in relief
  • Case Material: Bronze
  • Dial: Blue
  • Crystal: Sapphire, domed on both sides, anti-reflective coating inside
  • Water resistance: 100 meters
  • Movement: Oris 401
  • Power reserve: 5 days
  • Strap: Blue woven elastic nylon strap specially produced in partnership with Erika’s Originals

Australian Retail Pricing : $6,000.00 AUD (CHF 3,900) (4,200 USD)

Availability: Limited edition of 2000. Available now

Enquire at local Authorised dealers :

  • Brisbane – The Hour Glass
  • Melbourne – Hardy Brothers
  • Sydney – Gregory Jewellers and Wamada Jewellery
  • Perth – Hardy Brothers
Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition
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