For A Jazz Pianist, Itís All In The Wrist; For Jazz Enthusiast, It Should Be All On The Wrist

Oris pays tribute to the jazz masters of old.

BY Daniel Goh | Dec 19, 2016 | Feature

With more than 50 sub-genres to choose from, the music is as diverse as they come; complex in its nature and timeless in its appeal, there is another product of society that shares similar values—the mechanical timepiece. What would seem like a match made in heaven is actually more elusive that one would think with Oris being only one of the very few brands that find an affinity with Jazz music.

Apparently the impetus to start a collection that pays tribute to the jazz masters of the past didn’t include a fantastically poetic reason but rather simply because the owner and president of Oris, Ulrich Herzog loves jazz. It is through this love of the music that in 1996 Oris sponsored the London Jazz Festival for the first time, a festival attracting the likes of music legends like Sonny Rollins, Andy Sheppard, John Harle and Elvis Costello. Kickstarting the brand’s involvement with jazz culture, this was also the year they produced the very first jazz watch with British saxophonist and composer Andy Sheppard. Chosen due to his reputation for exploring new influences, it was the perfect partnership, drawing parallels with the brand’s desire for unique inspiration.

Since then, Oris’s Jazz collection has grown to encompass past masters including McCoy Tyner, John McLaucghlin, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bob Dylan, Oscar Peterson, and Chet Baker. One of the watches that really stood out was the 2005 Oris watch dedicated to Frank Sinatra. Offering a coussin shaped case, the dial displays a fine radial pattern, numbers in the style of Broadway posters and even a power reserve indicator making it a tribute watch befitting the man himself.

The Frank Sinatra limited edition from Oris.

John Coltrane Limited Edition

Then about three years ago came the John Coltrane limited edition. I am quite surprised it took them this long to honour, arguably, one of jazz’s most important musicians but the result is a stunning dress watch worthy of its namesake. Coltrane is regarded as a talented musician and composer, to say the least, but more importantly he is often revered as the first master of improvisation, influencing generations of musicians both during his life and after his death.

John Coltrane on tenor sax, New York, 1961. © Max Jones F./Jazz Index.

Where the other jazz tribute watches were more obvious in their approach, usually with the names printed on the dial or with a silhouette on the caseback, the Coltrane watch took it to a whole new level giving away only the tiniest details to indicate it is in some shape or form tied to John Coltrane. Clad in a beautiful black colour, the only reference to the legend on the dial comes in a blue railway track minute ring that circles round as a visual reference to Coltrane’s seminal vinyl album, Blue Train, released 1957. Other than that, the caseback is engraved with ‘John Coltrane Limited Edition’ along with its limited edition number, but even if you aren’t a Coltrane fan, the dress watch is handsome enough that it is something you would want it on your wrist regardless.

Another noteworthy detail is this Limited Edition watch comes tucked neatly into a velvet-lined box to emulate the casings of the classic instruments mastered by Coltrane. It’s not surprising that this level of detail went into its production as the watch pays tribute to a musician that has won a posthumous Special Citation from the Pulitzer Prizes in 2007 for his ‘masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship, and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.’

Thelonious Monk Limited Edition

The latest addition to the Jazz collection for Oris came last year with the Thelonious Monk Limited Edition. By way of background, Thelonious Monk was one of the guiding lights of modern jazz thanks to his particular use of dissonance in his music. This is a style defined by harmonies that are unstable within an overall harmonic context, something that stands out and is disruptive to the norm, but in a very pleasing way of course.  In 1944, Monk wrote Round Midnight which today is the most recorded jazz standard ever composed by a jazz musician. Like Coltrane, Monk was also awarded with a posthumous Special Citation in 2006 ‘for a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz.’

At a glance, nothing seems aloof with the watch, the gorgeous sunray finished smoke blue dial garners all your attention drawing your eye to the centre of the watch. But upon examining the it a little closer, the hours are marked by polished dots and looking even closer than that, the 11th minute marker is offset slightly, a nod to Monk’s dissonant technique. The caseback reads MONK ALWAYS KNOW which is not a huge grammatical error on Oris’s part but rather it refers to one of Thelonious Monk’s many memorable quips inspired by the letters on his custom made ring.