Years from now, 2020 is likely to be a fascinating year for watch collectors. The unique nature of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically restructured brands’ release plans, likely impacted overall production numbers, deeply influenced sales trends, and influenced the industry in countless other less tangible ways. One of the most fascinating of these ways from a collector’s perspective is what could be dubbed the “phantom limited edition.” Many limited-edition releases in the modern era are tied to event partnerships, and as nearly every major public event since the outbreak of the virus has been either canceled, rescheduled, or held without spectators, this has left a host of special commemorative watches commemorating events that never happened. The latest in this unprecedented club comes from Oris, which has announced a special limited-edition version of its Crown ProPilot GMT to celebrate the 57th running of the world-famous Reno Air Races, traditionally held each year in the Nevada desert but canceled this year due to the pandemic. The Oris 57th Reno Air Races Limited Edition is one of the cleanest and simplest of this year’s “phantom limited editions,” bringing a sporty and modern new colorway to one of Oris’ cornerstone pilot watches.
The clean 41mm stainless steel case design of the Oris 57th Reno Air Races Limited Edition is finished with a graphite gray PVD coating, with a tone that appears in initial images to be perhaps a shade darker than titanium. This is a fresh and distinct alternative from the usual black PVD finish, with enough of a difference to set it apart from raw stainless steel. The form of the case is virtually unchanged from the standard Big Crown ProPilot, including the wide tapering lugs and unique radially toothed bezel design. Around back, Oris has included a numbered caseback with a stylized engraving of aircraft rounding the Reno racing pylon, with the main level of the engraving cutting through the PVD layer for added contrast.
While the dial layout of the Oris 57th Reno Air Races Limited Edition should be familiar to fans of the brand, like the case a few color changes can go a long way toward changing the design’s overall character. Here the updates are limited to pops of electric blue on the seconds hand, the GMT hand, and the pointer date indicator. Introducing a vibrant color to this otherwise stark, modernist take on the tool pilot watch aesthetic does set this limited edition apart, and in initial images, this bright blue seems to complement the darker gray of the case nicely. The ProPilot’s broad futuristic alpha hands and slim, open printed Arabic numerals are left unchanged, keeping a strong family resemblance to the rest of the line while keeping this tool watch concept as legible as possible.
Inside the Oris 57th Reno Air Races Limited Edition beats the Sellita SW330-1 based Oris 798 automatic movement. Beyond the iconic red Oris rotor, the 798 is functionally quite similar to its Sellita forebear, with a 42-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. Oris completes this package with a black fabric strap lined with a deep blue leather. Why this leather was not color-matched to the dial accents is unclear, but the darker shade gives the strap a more subdued look.
While the overall changes to the base model are mostly limited to color swaps, the Oris 57th Reno Air Races Limited Edition is a handsome addition to the unusual and fascinating roster of 2020’s “phantom limited editions.” Time will tell how collectors view this and others like it in years to come, but it should make for an interesting bit of history. The Oris 57th Reno Air Races Limited Edition is limited to 1,000 examples and will be available through authorized dealers in late September 2020 at an MSRP of 2,650 CHF. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.