Omega Speedmaster Professional Link
With modern consumerism at its height, nothing could do more to lift the profile of a brand than associating it with celebrities. For Omega, Pierce Brosnan has performed miracles for the Omega Seamaster Professional Diver’s watch having worn the now famous blue face, blue bezel on a stainless steel bracelet model in all four of his James Bond movies.
Likewise, Michael Schumacher’s fifth Formula 1 World Championship title was celebrated by Omega releasing a limited edition Speedmaster. The Speedmaster was of course first made famous when it was chosen by NASA in 1965 for moon and space missions.
A look at Omega’s history however quickly reveals a watch firm that has no need for celebrities to lift its profile to celebrity status.
Omega had humble beginnings in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1848 before maturing into the monolith it is today. In that year, Louis Brandt began hand assembling pocket watches until he passed away in 1879. The firm then passed to his two sons, Louis-Paul and Cesar Brandt who continued the tradition until their deaths in 1903. During their reign, the debuted the name OMEGA in 1894, having been used as the name of one of the Brandt brother’s watch movement calibres.
After the death of the Brandt brothers, the company passed to four relatives of which the eldest was Paul-Emile Brandt at the age of 23. The age of the benefactors however was not detrimental as the young entrepreneurs cultivated the company to such an extent that in 1930, following a merger with Tissot, a new parent company, SSIH, Societe Suisse pour I’industrie horlogere SA, Geneva, was created to carry the exponentially growing watch firm.
In the 1980s, SSIH merged with another large Swiss conglomerate, ASUAG, which in turn was then taken over by a private group and renamed SMH, which still exists today. It is however the period before the merger with ASUAG that Omega produced some of its most collectible vintage watches that it is famous for today.
With that said and leaving aside the more common ‘James Bond’ Seamasters and already famous Speedmasters, the early model Seamasters and Constellations are certainly the more beautiful vintage watches that appear in most collections. Vintage Omega Seamasters and Constellations offer collectors the opportunity to purchase a piece that offers something that is normally reserved for watches such as Patek Phillipe and Jaeger Le Coultre – movements made by the watch firm whose name appears on the dial. Even better is that they are a fraction of the cost as well.
The first Seamaster series was introduced in 1948. From that first series, it was considered a noticeable watch that was purposely equipped with a self-winding movement; a further protection of the crown sealing, since the watch did not need to be wound everyday. Surprisingly, the Seamaster did not start its life out as a diver’s watch. The moniker ‘Seamaster’ came from the fact that at the time of the Seamaster’s creation, most watches were very susceptible to water damage – as the series was waterproof to 20 to 30 meters, it was fitting that its wearer could swim in ocean with it strapped to their wrist and be the master of the sea! For this reason, the wristwatch with the seahorse trademark made itself known very fast.
The depths to which Omega would reach increased over time with the Seamaster Chronometer Diver with Chronograph, water-tight to 300 meters. Whilst other brands had diver’s watches that may be usable much further down, none of them had a chronograph feature. It is however the Seamaster 600 or Ploprof as it is more affectionately known by collectors, with its very unique exterior that is the piece de resistance of the early Seamaster range. The angular monocoque case with circular bezel had a crown set entirely into the case at 9 o’clock; in addition to being set into the case it had a guard on top of it which could be locked into the case. The deeply fluted bezel could be rotated in either direction after unlocking it by pushing a red button. Jacques Cousteau was wearing this model during his Janus expedition in the Gold of Jaccio, close to Corsica in a series of experiments at 1,640 feet under water!
In 1950, the Omega Constellation was a milestone for the company and took Omega to unexpected heights. Just as every Seamaster had its seahorse emblem on the case, a Constellation had, and still has, the observatory under the night-sky emblem. The dial of the first edition was luxurious and strict lines and sloping planes with applied hour numerals in gold were its trademark. The most memorable of the earlier pieces with hooded lugs and bracelet composed of brickwork lines was the Grand Luxe. The Constellation Chronometer, launched in 1952, put Omega back into the race behind Rolex who, up until that time, had been the market leader for chronometer rated wristwatches.
Any commentary on Omega would be deficient without a mention of the famous Omega ‘bumper’ wristwatches. The nickname is a reference to the automatic winding rotors of the early model Omega Seamasters. Unlike later Omega watches, these early automatics do not allow for full circular motion of their rotors. Omega engineers at the time calculated that maximum winding efficiency could be achieved by limiting the available rotor travel to roughly 300 degrees. These superb movements were entirely hand assembled and built to remarkably high standards. Only experienced Omega watchmakers were involved in the assembly of these movements, due to their high complexity. As the rotor moves backwards and forwards, it is cushioned by a pair of delicate buffer springs. When it is in use, the wearer can actually feel the rotor impacting against the springs and bouncing back again. Unfortunately, due to the sheer complexity of the movement, and its associated high production cost, and despite its superb levels of accuracy and performance, the “bumpers” were only produced for a short time.
And to think that these humble looking and moderately priced vintage pieces are often overlooked by collectors as unexciting……..