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OMEGA - ALPHA MALE

All luxury watch makers have their claim to fame. But "the first watch on the moon" Isn't a boast likely to be eclipsed any time soon

Constellation, Seamaster, Speedmaster Co-Axial Escapement, in the watch world these are landmarks in watch history. A company started by Lois Brandt back in 1848 went on to become Omega in 1894, at first assembling pocket watches from other makers is now synonymous with accuracy, quality and design. Omega won many prizes around the world for making chronometers (meaning very accurate timekeepers), and by 1905 42% of all chronometer certificates issued by the Observatory in Geneva were for Omega watches, in 1962 it was over 50%. Omega went on to become the official Olympic timer in 1932, a duty they still perform today.

Other milestones in Omega history include a score of 95.9 out of 100 for accuracy at the 1924 Chronometer competition at Kew-Teddington, England, the first use of a photo electric cell to time a race (1945), the first to make photo finish camera timer (1947), quartz timing technology with printout (1952), this continues up to more recent times with the first automatic chronograph divers watch able to go down to 300 meters (1993), and the only company allowed to use the Daniels Co-Axial Escapement in its watches. 

The models mentioned above, Seamaster (launched in 1948), Constellation (1952), Speedmaster (1957), and the Co axial (1999), have now become modern icons. When the Seamaster was launched it allowed the average person to afford a quality automatic, it has evolved into the Seamaster 300 as used by the British Navy in the 1960’s, and gone onto be the watch of worn by James Bond since 1995. The Constellation allowed people to attain a chronometer, which was far out of reach at the time, chronometers being the domain of the bigger brands like Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. The Speedmaster was designed for racing car drivers to use but it was so well designed, that unchanged it was adopted by NASA as the Moon watch, and is still used today.

Some of the above watches now command high prices at auction as collectors and investors buy them up, but you do not need to own a few oil wells so you can own a little piece of Omega history on your wrist. I have always been an admirer of Omega watches, when I started buying them for myself, 18ct gold 1950’s Constellation’s cost about £250 and good condition early Speedmaster’s were less than £500, today those same watches are £2000 and £3000 respectively. So if you can spot the next trend the opportunities are there to find some good quality timepieces with a good history behind them.

Ladies watches from the 1940s to 1960s can be bought for as little as £40 at car boots and flea markets, later models automatics and gold versions start from about £100, a good serviced example from a watch dealer can be yours from £150.

Men’s watches is a little harder, as the main models command decent prices, but if you like 1970s style, you can get a good example of a Constellation Automatic in steel from £550, a good gold plated example from £350, the same applies to Seamaster’s. If you would settle for a manually wound a Geneve or Deville in steel, they start at £250. Mega Quartz, and Tuning Fork versions are also worth seeking out but make sure they work correctly before buying, as service costs at the moment are higher than the value of the watch, this particularly applies to gold plated examples. Working models can still be found at car boots. If you have a little more in your budget look at 1960’s models with automatic movements and day date these in good condition are from £500, or for the same money look at 1940’s and 50’ manually wound models but the cases must be over 34mm across excluding winder, a little more gets you an automatic bumper movement early post war but again these are size sensitive. Saying that if you like small watches models from the 30’ and 40’s usually have a great vintage look, with fancy lugs and interesting dials can be yours for £150 to £350.

The criteria I would use in buying is, find models with unusual good condition original dials, preferably blue, black or two tone, pay less for plain silver and gold coloured dials. Look out for big size cases, with not too many dents, and that have not been polished, and buy something you like, at least that way if it does not go up in value you will still love it. Also it is best to save up to buy the best example you can afford rather than the cheapest damaged example. If you buy right when everyone else jumps on the bandwagon you can smugly say you had yours years ago and watch its value rise.   

 

Michael Delage-Pandeli for Vintage Explorer: 11th Sep 2013 11:34:00

 

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