Wonders of Vintage Omega

Vintage watches have been undoubtedly in vogue these past three years, with record on top of record being set and eventually toppled by some other great rarity. With Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Rolex Daytona topping 17.8 million United States Dollars at a Phillips auction, in partnership with Bacs & Russo, vintage watches have certainly increased in popularity and, as a result, price. Every advanced collector wants to get their hands on a great vintage rarity, but some collector’s wallets simply won’t allow that to happen. Even minor, mediocre brands are fetching a couple thousand plus in decent condition. You may ask, “Where are the bargains?” More specifically, you might want the combination of a great looking watch in good condition from a truly well respected brand. The answer is of utmost simplicity; Omega.

Vintage Omega’s were luxuries in there time and they remain luxuries today. On each vintage watch, you can see evidence of extreme care, especially when you take a peek at the stunning movement. In fact, movements were almost never finished to the extremes they are today; but that is not the case with vintage Omega’s. The dials come in many variants, from black with Breguet numerals to waffle dials with a stunning champagne-colored patina.

Public Domain

Public Domain

Omega produced many different watches throughout its history. I would personally recommend excluding your search to just a few categories; Omega Seamaster, Omega Constellation, Geneve, and military watches featuring the esteemed 30T2 movement which made a name for itself due to its service in World War II. (Speedmasters are a whole different ball game, and I’d avoid those if you are not advanced in knowledge of Speedmasters specifically) You should avoid watches that feature quartz or electronic movements, and generally post 1970 Omega’s are not as desirable with several notable exceptions.

Collecting vintage watches is not for the faint of heart, as redials and franken-watches nearly outnumber the legitimate timepieces. You should always look for crooked lettering, low quality printing, or misshaped indices. Make sure you see the movement. Even if the watch isn’t necessarily dubious, you should avoid watches with extreme damage to the dial, over polished cases, or damaged movements. You should also deal with only sellers you trust. If you are unsure, always visit the wonderful community of connoisseurs on www.omegaforums.net. They can aid in identifying watches you don’t want to buy, and they will certainly let you know if what you have found is a good choice!

Omega Seamaster

The Omega Seamaster was debuted in 1948, and was originally intended to be an everyday watch for the working man. It also featured a case which was highly moisture resistant, but by no means a dive watch. It would certainly be a stupid idea to decide to get your vintage Omega wet in any sense. Early Seamasters were chunky, but with a small diameter by today’s standards. The lugs were thick and they were overall very solid watches. During the 1960’s, the Seamaster evolved to become a thin watch with the capability to do everyday tasks. It certainly wasn’t as dainty as timepieces from other brands, for example, Piaget. They retained a domed plastic crystal which distorts the dial beautifully when viewed from an off-axis. You can find vintage Seamasters in good condition easily for under $600 on sites like eBay.

Omega Constellation:

The iconic design of the Constellation was released in 1952. Intended to be a luxury watch, the models (up until the late 60’s) featured stunning “pie pan” dials and elegant Cornes de Vache lugs. Officially, this dial was dubbed “douze pans” which means twelve facets. The casebacks featured the motif of an observatory, indicating their status as an observatory chronometer. You can find these models, predominantly in solid 18k gold, on the internet from $700 to $1700.

Joe Haupt from USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Joe Haupt from USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Omega Genéve:

Omega intended the Genéve as an entry level dress watch in the late 60’s. However, the Omega Genéve Dynamic was created as a fun, oval-shaped sports watch with a bullseye dial. These watches are exceptionally interesting and can be had from $300 to $800

Omega Military-Style Watches
Military style watches from Omega can be a joy to wear and collect. Make sure to look for the best example possible with a well-regarded movement such as the 30T2, and you are set. However, be very careful of redials and watches with replaced parts, as these can be a nightmare to restore to original condition. Most importantly, buy one that you like in particular, as there are many styles and watches that have aged differently over time.

Colin Carpenter