For the better part of a century, certain watches have been built entirely with a single sport in mind. The Rolex Daytona and TAG Heuer Monaco were named after racetracks first and cities second. If you’ve seen a recent French Open final, Rafael Nadal’s backhand has shown flashes of an orange Richard Mille named after the Spanish tennis player. Omega offers a range of golf edition Seamaster Aqua Terras in addition to their new “Ultra Light,” a watch as sporty as it is expensive. The Panerei Luminor Regatta makes no secret about its yacht racing pedigree and if you consider scuba diving to be a sport instead of a hobby, there have been a couple watches made for that as well.
Despite the long relationship between sport and watch, and if we look past some personally beloved Timex Snoopy watches, there has never been a serious baseball watch. The company to break that trend wasn’t an up-and-coming American watchmaker but instead was Oris: the 116-year-old, proven Swiss luxury brand. As someone whose brain is divided evenly between baseball statistics and watch facts, the Oris Roberto Clemente Limited Edition is the one.
Baseball and the Big Crown
The Oris Big Crown Pointer Date is a pilot’s watch that doesn’t sacrifice wearability for legibility. At 40mm, the watch has presence but is a far cry from the hulking pilot’s watches that often define the category. The 12mm thickness and elegance of the Roberto Clemente Limited Edition’s white and gold face allow it to slip easily under a dress shirt cuff.
The Big Crown Pointer Date’s noticeably curved lugs enable the watch to hug the wrist and emphasize the well-made leather strap. The large diameter crown makes setting the time and date easy but is relatively thin and never limits wrist movement.
The Roberto Clemente Limited Edition and the “standard” Big Crown Pointer Date share the same foundation, including the Oris 754 movement. While Oris does make in-house movements, the 754 is based on the Swiss-made Sellita SW 200-1.
The automatic movement offers a 38-hour power reserve, beats at 28,800 bph, and is smooth when winding and setting the watch. The movement also includes namesake Pointer Date function, a rare feature at any pricepoint. Although it takes an extra moment to read the date, the lack of date window lets the face remain clean and preserves the 82-year history of the Oris pointer date function. Setting the date is a relatively quick process as the date hand moves around the dial with satisfying clicks.
Deserving of a Limited Edition
Fans often ask the rhetorical question, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” Few players within the sport embody that question more than Roberto Clemente, and it quickly becomes clear why he is deserving of a watch engraved with his likeness. Born in 1934 as the son of a poor sugar farmer, Clemente’s baseball prowess quickly gained the attention of Major League teams. Clemente came to the United States and played all 18 years of his career on the Pittsburg Pirates, wearing number 21.
The Oris Roberto Clemente Edition makes a subtle nod to Clemente’s number with a gold numerals at the 21st date. During his career, Clemente was an All-Star 13 times and cemented himself as one of the best offensive and defensive players ever.
Yet Clemente is remembered for his work off the field as much as his success on the diamond. When he ended the 1972 season with exactly 3,000 career hits, joining a group of just 32 elite hitters to ever reach that mark, he didn’t dwell on his milestone achievement but instead focused on his commitment to charitable work, just as he did every winter. Hearing news of an earthquake in Nicaragua, Clemente boarded a flight to the affected area on December 31st, 1972. Just after taking off from Puerto Rico, the aging airplane crashed into the Atlantic, killing everyone on board. Clemente’s career was far from over, yet he will forever remain at an even 3,000 hits. The Oris Roberto Clemente edition is limited, of course, to 3,000 pieces. A year after his death, Clemente would become the first Latin American player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Oris will donate a portion of watch’s profits to the Roberto Clemente Foundation, a charity furthering Clemente’s humanitarian efforts.
The Oris Roberto Clemente Limited Edition and the blue dial Big Crown Pointer Date are largely the same watch, yet a few key differences will likely pull you quickly toward one or the other.
The Roberto Clemente edition has a solid caseback with a deeply engraved likeness of Clemente at bat, as well as the production number of the specific watch within the limited run of 3,000. The caseback is beautiful and ensures that the watch’s owner will never be jealous of a clear caseback. The unlimited Big Crown Pointer date opts instead for a mineral glass caseback, showing off the handsome automatic movement.
The blue dial and lumed hands of this Big Crown Pointer Date offer significantly better legibility than the Roberto Clemente edition’s white dial, although the lume is equally effective on both versions. The white face and gold numerals pair incredibly well with the light brown, leather strap.
The leather and stitching of the Roberto Clemente edition’s strap instantly recalls the look and feel of a new baseball glove, a comparison I choose to believe was intentional.
Should you Buy One?
At $1,950 and $1,750 respectively, the Oris Roberto Clemente Limited Edition and Big Crown Pointer Date both offer great value on a well-made, unique watch from an historic Swiss brand. Even if paint on small areas of the dial and on the tip of the date hand aren’t perfect under extremely close examination, and although some gold details appear too much like glitter in direct sunlight, both watches have few competitors at this price range. The overall quality of the Big Crown Pointer Date watches is excellent and both watches are highly wearable day after day. The blue dial Oris makes a compelling argument, but if you must have the only serious baseball watch, the decision is easy. Every time you take off the Roberto Clemente Limited Edition, the caseback reminds you that few people, let alone baseball players, have been more deserving of a watch.