Meet Me in St. Louis: Up Close With The Oris Wings of Hope Limited Edition Timepieces
The Hölstein-based brand is using its platform to raise awareness for a grassroots organization dedicated to healing the world through aviation.
Right now the world seems very chaotic, but there are so many things that give us joy (like watches) and plenty of people doing things that give us hope. Oris has partnered with many organizations to bring change for the better, but their recent collaboration – the Oris Wings of Hope Limited Editions – is probably the most touching and inspiring pairing to date.
Oris recently invited a group of journalists to visit the organization’s home base just outside of St. Louis to learn more about Wings of Hope’s mission. To say we were deeply moved would be an understatement. And now we want to use our Watchonista platform to raise awareness about the organization.
Learning to Fly
Wings of Hope is a St. Louis-based aeronautical humanitarian non-profit. Founded 60 years ago, the organization uses the power of aviation to bring medical support to remote and underserved communities in more than 50 countries. In 2021, more than 65,000 people used the group’s programs and services.
Since 1962, Wings of Hope’s employees, volunteers, and board members have used aviation to bring patients medical services (and vice versa), while also setting up an infrastructure where those communities can eventually provide these services for themselves. “It teaches a man to fish,” says Wings of Hope’s President and CEO, Bret Heinrich.
For years now, Oris has been committed to making watchmaking more sustainable and climate neutral. The whole idea of sustainability extends to setting up goals and best practices for the long haul, and this means investing in more than just environmental organizations – it requires an investment in communities.
Spread The Word
Founded in 1962, the group has been quietly going about its business while at the same time, being twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Aviation legends like Astronaut Lieutenant General Tom Stafford and actors Harrison Ford and Kurt Russell are honorary council members. Yet chances are that as you are reading this story, it may be the first time you’ve heard of their mission. “We often say that Wings of Hope is the nicest two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee that very few people have heard of,” says Heinrich.
This brings us to the importance of Wings of Hope’s relationship with Oris. Donors and volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization and last year, 350 volunteers gave their time. Fuel costs are covered by donations. Additionally, sometimes donations come in the form of aircraft, and if these can’t be used at one of Wings of Hope’s 11 field bases, they’re sold to fund the mission. This way, 86 cents of every dollar given to the organization goes directly into funding its programs.
“Making the Wings of Hope watches available to an international audience is a great gift,” adds Heinrich. “Broader familiarity with Wings of Hope will allow us to move faster in building relationships that we count on to be able to save and change lives.”
We realize that emotion is important when choosing a watch. We found ourselves frequently tearing up whilst visiting the Wings of Hope HQ and listening to the stories of employees, volunteers, board members, and even a young patient who the group had flown in from Iowa for a procedure with Shriners Hospital in St. Louis.
Overall, we were energized by the fact that this collection of people has come together to do good things. It was obvious that the Wings of Hope team loved their work but also had a deep respect for their co-workers and the communities that they served.
Who wouldn’t want to wear a watch that provided a daily affirmation that there are people helping to make the world a better place (and are having a grand time doing it)?
How do the Oris Wings of Hope Limited Editions connect to the group’s goals? It turns out that listening is key. Says Heinrich, “Oris asked us what we envisioned in a watch and we asked our pilots – they want simplicity.”
Eyes on the Skies
The Oris Wings of Hope Limited Editions consist of two models, both based on the classic Big Crown pilot’s watch. One comes with a 40mm stainless steel case and is limited to 1,000 pieces. The other version features a 38mm solid 18-carat yellow gold case and is limited to 100 pieces.
Both timepieces have a clear and legible, mid-century dial design. To complete that 20th-century feel, both are presented on Cervo Volante sustainable deer leather straps.
Despite the vintage look, they are very forward-thinking. Both are powered by calibre 401, Oris’ latest in-house high-performance five-day automatic movement.
Wings of Hope has also been able to adapt its vision to the challenges and opportunities of the present. We spoke to Kelli Fabick, a member of the group’s board of directors and a great-niece of one of the organization's co-founders, Joseph Fabick, about Wings of Hope’s plans.
“Everything in our mission is tied to aviation,” says Fabick. “Having that point of view keeps us focused.” She explains that when something is outside of their wheelhouse, Wings of Hope partners with established groups with local ties and expertise to provide services.
Having a strong point of view also helps the group innovate. Planes can reach remote communities that are not accessible by roads or are great distances from medical services. But takeoff and landings can also be hampered by weather. This is why, says Fabick, they are investigating in drones to deliver medicine and other supplies. “We’re also looking into supporting telehealth. Sometimes it’s difficult to get a doctor back to a community. Follow-up is crucial. If we can provide that virtually, I think that will be able to help so many more people. And it’s probably a little bit less disruptive to groups like indigenous communities in South America.”
Closer to home, Wings of Hope is also investing in education programs to encourage the next generation of pilots to get their wings. SOAR into STEM is a four-week learning experience that provides middle and high school students with project-based learning, connections to the STEM curriculum, and an opportunity to witness the inner workings of a humanitarian organization.
“The culture of Wings of Hope is to blend the voices of volunteers and employees in a way that feels seamless,” says Fabick.
The Wings of Hope Limited Edition in stainless steel is limited to 1,000 pieces and priced at $3,700. The Wings of Hope Gold Limited Edition is limited to 100 pieces and priced at $17,000. Both pieces come in a special presentation box with a numbered certificate.
To learn more about this incredible organization, visit the Wings of Hope website.
(Photography by Kat Shoulders)