Scottish minister Alexander Bryce first came up with the principles behind the altimeter in the late 1700s after realizing he could retool the barometer developed in the previous century. Measuring a given altitude, an altimeter has since been used by skydivers, mountaineers, and aviators alike to guarantee safety in their respective fields. In 2014, Swiss watchmaker Oris came out with the very first automatic watch with a mechanical altimeter when the ProPilot Altimeter came onto the scene. Now, it’s made some updates and improvements to the model, which just debuted at Watches & Wonders in Geneva.
Sporting a PVD-coated titanium bezel and caseback, the new ProPilot Altimeter features a 3D-printed carbon fiber case developed in partnership with 9T Labs in Switzerland, reducing the weight from 5.93oz to 3.46oz. Retaining the same 47mm case size, the width has still dropped down from 17mm to 16mm thick, now housing an in-house Oris 793 caliber automatic movement with a power reserve that’s increased from 38 hours to 56 hours.
The altimeter capability has also improved upon the previous 4,500-meter (15,000-foot) limit. Displayed in either metric or imperial unit options (with conversion for the other on the caseback), the bezel scale now goes all the way up to 6,000m/19,700ft. To use the altimeter function, you simply pull out the secondary crown to set the starting altitude and go from there. While 47mm might be steep for any case size, it’s almost necessary in order to include all the info in a legible fashion.
Still the only timepiece that doubles as a mechanical altimeter, the ProPilot Altimeter is just one in a lineage of “firsts” from Oris, including the ProDiver Pointer Moon which was the only timepiece to read the lunar cycle and the tidal range in a single unit. Both ProPilot Altimeter options are available from Oris’ website for $6,500.