Oris Waldenburgerbahn Limited Edition
Oris introduces a 1,000-piece edition celebrating the historic railway that brought people and prosperity to the Waldenburg Valley, the independent Swiss watch company’s home since 1904.
The story of Oris is different to so many Swiss watch companies. It began in 1904 with two watchmakers, Paul Cattin and Georges Christian. The pair were based in the watchmaking heartland of Le Locle, but rather than found their company there, they ventured west towards Basel. They settled in Hölstein, an unassuming village nestled in the beautiful Waldenburg Valley. But why?
Their decision owed a great deal to the Waldenburgerbahn (WB), an efficient, low-cost rail network opened in 1880 that linked the valley. It covered just 13km, but passed right by what would become the Oris factory.
It’s impact? “The Waldenburgerbahn linked Hölstein and Oris to the world,” says Andreas Büttiker, CEO, BLT Baselland Transport AG. “The WB was and is the lifeline of the valley. In the 19th century, it fuelled industrial development and the founding of numerous, innovative companies, especially in the watchmaking and precision engineering industries. Oris, like the WB, stands for reliability, quality and innovation.”
Marking the WB’s recent upgrade, Oris is proud to introduce the Waldenburgerbahn Limited Edition, a 1,000-piece watch based on our signature Big Crown Pointer Date.
The perfect platform
Without the Waldenburgerbahn, there might be no Oris. The independent Swiss watchmaker creates a watch to capture the unique role the railway has played in our story.
When thinking about how to capture our affection and gratitude for the role played in our story by the Waldenburgerbahn – the historic railway that connects Hölstein to the valley around us and the world beyond – it felt only right to create a special watch.
We settled quickly on a design based on our Big Crown. First introduced in 1938, in constant production ever since, and our signature watch, the timeless Big Crown is a vital piece of our history, just like the Waldenburgerbahn. We could never verify this, but it’s also likely no watch design has ridden the Waldenburgerbahn more often.
We’re very proud therefore to introduce the Waldenburgerbahn Limited Edition, a 1,000-piece watch that carries the echo of generations of Oris watchmakers who have been travelling to Hölstein on the train since the company was founded in 1904.
Why do this now? In December, the 13km network will be reopened after an 18-month project to upgrade it to the latest tramway technology. Once again, Oris employees will be able to make their way to work using this alternative, low-carbon means of transport, helping us to deliver on the Oris Emissions Reduction Programme, unveiled earlier this year in our first sustainability report.
The watch has a 40mm stainless steel case and fluted bezel, and a domed sapphire crystal over a black dial decorated with large, lumed Arabic numerals and a railway-track minute scale. It’s powered by Oris Calibre 754, which fuels our signature Pointer Date function, whereby a central, red-tipped hand points to a date scale running around the edge of the dial. It’s finished on a dark brown strap made of sustainable deer leather supplied by our partner Cervo Volante.
The finishing touch? An engraved case back showing the old Waldenburgerbahn steam locomotive and the limited-edition number. The perfect platform to tell the story.
Journeys of a lifetime
For more than a century, Oris’s story has been shaped by the Waldenburgerbahn, “the smallest train in Europe”. Here, two locals share memories of it going back decades.
Oskar, tell us your Oris story…
I joined Oris in 1963 when I was 16 years old, following my father, who had joined when he was 15. I was good at technical drawing so they trained me as a draftsman. The apprenticeship lasted three and a half years. In more than four decades with Oris, I drew hundreds of watch parts – each screw, bridge, plate and mechanical part had its own drawing, and back then it was all done by hand as we didn’t have computers. It was painstaking work, but I loved it.
What are your memories of the Waldenburgerbahn?
Because my father worked at Oris, I have memories of the old steam train from when I was a child. I also remember standing on the platform waiting for the train when I was an apprentice. The trade school where I did some of my training was in Liestal, and I’d take the train there from the factory in Hölstein. I remember one conductor, a Mr Käser, a very nice person. A few locals found a whistle that sounded just like his and would sometimes blow it while the train was on the platform and he was still in his office. The train would start pulling away before the loading and unloading of goods had been completed, and he’d come out onto the platform, angrily waving his arms. It’s an amusing memory now, but at the time I felt for him
Who used the train?
Everybody! It was a vital artery along the valley, helping so many people get to work and then home again. Even tourists used it. I remember Ulrich W. Herzog (former Oris chief executive and now chairman) giving a visitor from Hong Kong directions. He described getting to Liestal where, as he said, they’d find the Waldenburgerbahn, “the smallest train in Europe”. There were three stops in Hölstein and he told them to get off at Hölstein Süd, right opposite our factory.
What role has the Waldenburgerbahn played in establishing Oris as one of the world’s best loved watchmakers?
When I joined in the 1960s, Oris was going through a period of significant growth. By the end of that decade, it was one of the 10 largest watch companies in the world. It was a very proud time. The Waldenburgerbahn was so important to the company, shipping parts, supplies and watches, and helping our people get to and from the factory. I wonder whether Oris would have been able to grow as efficiently without it. You could call it the lifeblood of the valley and perhaps even the company, I suppose. I’m very happy to see the latest upgrades to the line and that the train’s special legacy continues.
Looking back, what are the highlights of your career with Oris?
I’ve been retired for a long time now, but I still remember the original Chronoris case, which I drew in 1968. I have number 1,947 of the 1,970 pieces we made of the 40th anniversary model in 2010, because that’s the year I was born. I worked for Oris for 45 years in all and enjoyed my time there enormously. The decision I made to join the company at 16 was one of the best of my life.
Hilda’s family ran the local Hölstein post office, a conduit between Oris and the train.
Hilda, when did your Oris story begin?
At birth, I suppose. I was born in the village in 1933. My parents were the local postmasters, a role that had been my grandfather’s before them. As Oris grew, so the volume of letters and packages for the company grew. In truth, it became fairly overwhelming – the post outgrew the mail room. That old building is long gone now. It was demolished in 1975.
So you grew up aware of Oris…
Absolutely. Every New Year, Oris would give my father an alarm clock. During the war, Oris became famous in Switzerland for its alarm clocks because it was so difficult to export wristwatches. I still have an extensive collection of them. Oris was the post office’s main customer and we always had a good relationship with the people there.
What did the work involve?
The mail came in on the Waldenburgerbahn at 7.30am every day. It would be brought to our sorting room and then some local boys, aged around 16, would deliver it. Oris’s post was taken directly by the Oris messenger, Walter Thommen. The same thing happened at 11am and 2pm. Every day at noon, the Oris factory siren would sound, and the workers flooded out. Some went home for lunch, and those that had newspaper subscriptions would stop at the post office window. The papers came on the steam train at 11am and the sack was thrown out of the moving car. They weren’t labelled, and yet my mother somehow knew who had which newspaper.
Did you have a role to play?
Yes, it was my job to go into the Oris factory to deliver the express letters, which came on the 4pm service. The day kicked off again at 5pm when boxes came over from Oris. Sometimes they piled up to the ceiling, there were so many of them. They went all over the world, and it was my poor father’s job to issue the papers for the foreign countries.
And did that mark the end of the day?
No! At 7pm, all letters, packages and boxes had to be loaded onto a cart, which was then driven to the station to be loaded onto the mail train. We had dinner at 7.30pm, then my parents had to go back to the post office at 8pm and do the balance sheet for the day. That could take until midnight. The post office was also open for Christmas and New Year. My parents never stopped working, never took a holiday and never saw the sea in their whole lives. I’m amazed they were able to endure the burden for so long.
With your unique perspective, how do you view the Waldenburgerbahn and Oris?
They shaped the rhythm of our lives. I can still remember the sound of the steam train, the sensation of catching letters as they were thrown from the mail compartment, and the faces of the Oris workers who used to come to the post office to be served. It was a different time, but we were a strong community. Obviously, the world has changed, but because Oris and the Waldenburgerbahn are still here, Hölstein still has much of its character and community, for which I’m grateful.
Oris Waldenburgerbahn Limited Edition
Reference: 754 7785 4084-Set
Limited edition of 1000 pieces
- Material: Stainless steel
- Diameter: 40.00 mm (1.575 inches)
- Glass: Sapphire, domed on both sides, anti-reflective coating inside
- Stainless steel screw-in security crown
- Caseback: Stainless steel, screwed, special engravings
- Water-resistant to 50 meters (5 bar)
Dial and hands
- Black dial
- Indices, numbers and hands with Super-LumiNova®
- Oris 754
- Automatic movement
- Power reserve of 38 hours
- Centre hands for hours, minutes and seconds
- Date centre hand, instantaneous date, date corrector, fine timing device and stop-second
Strap and buckle
- Dark brown Cervo Volante deer leather with quick strap change system
MSRP: CHF 2'100
For more information, please visit oris.ch