Bronze tribute: Oris Carl Brashear Limited Edition
During BaselWorld Oris presented the maison’s first bronze diver’s watch: the Carl Brashear Limited Edition. The watch, based on the Oris Divers Sixty-Five, commemorates a man who overcame racial discrimination and, later in his career, a physical handicap as well. We are talking about Carl Brashear (1931 – 2006), the first African-American Master Diver of the American Navy. We talked to his son Phillip about the origins of the watch and the legacy of Carl Brashear.
A watch as a tribute to your father. Where did that idea come from?
“From a fellow countryman of yours, Gijs van Hoorn of Oris. He was looking for a new starting point for the Oris Sixty-Five diver’s watch and, after some research, found my father: Carl Brashear, a renowned American diver. The watchmakers at Oris designed the watch to make it what it is today.”
When did you become involved in the watch development process?
“I was approached by Rolf Studer (Co-CEO of Oris since January 2016, ed.). He told me that Oris wanted to release a diver’s watch as a tribute to my father and asked for my permission. Once I had given that permission they started designing the watch. It wasn’t until December 2015 that I first got to see the design. It was love at first sight.”
What was your initial reaction?
“The first time they contacted me I didn’t take the idea of a watch to pay tribute to my father seriously. I didn’t know the Oris brand and I had never heard of Rolf Studer, either. But after I talked to Rolf some more and researched the Oris brand I became excited about the idea.”
What part of the watch reminds you most of your father?
“For me the case back reminds me of my father the most. It shows you his helmet, his name and his favourite saying: ‘It’s not a sin to get knocked down, it’s a sin to stay down.’ My father was a huge boxing fan and when a boxer knocks you down it takes a lot of strength and perseverance to get back up and get back into the fight. That’s what he was trying to say.”
What does this watch mean to you?
“The film Men of Honor (with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert DeNiro in the leading roles, ed.) turned my father into an international celebrity. Ten years after my father’s death and nearly 20 years after the film Oris takes my father to a higher international level by creating a watch in his name. Thanks to Oris Carl Brashear is now a legend.”
There’s a film. There’s a watch. What is the next step?
“Wait a minute! First there was a film. Then a ship was named after my father. Now there is a watch. And in September this year the legend of my father will be on display in the Smithsonian museum in Washington, DC. This means Carl Brashear will be in everyone’s thoughts forevermore, because his legacy will be visible to everybody.”
Did Carl Brashear wear a watch himself?
“Definitely. One of his proudest moments was when he bought his first Rolex Submariner. That watch is still in our family today. But had my father had been alive today he would most certainly be impressed that a watch was made to honour him.”