3 Reasons Why Your First Vintage Watch Should be an Omega

Patrick Gilbertson, 23rd March 2021

It’s well-known in the watch community that vintage Omega is a real sweet spot within the market and makes a great first step into the world of vintage watch ownership and collecting. Omega is a brand that’s enjoyed by first-time buyers and seasoned connoisseurs alike, but why is this? If you ask me, the formula for why Omega is king in this segment comes down to three core reasons.

Unparalleled History and Brand Heft

The first in my ‘trilogy’ of points surrounding Omega’s attractiveness as an option to first-time vintage watch buyers is the brand’s unparalleled historical significance and resultant public image. When investing in any watch, particularly older ones, it’s a satisfying feeling knowing that the name on the dial has had an instrumental role in the history of horology. While there are a plethora of options when buying vintage, a minority of the brands available can claim such influential credentials as Omega.

While Omega has been a ‘household’ brand name for over a century, the company was originally known as La Generale Watch Company when it came into being in 1848. In 1894, the founder of the company, Louis Brandt, birthed a name that has since become synonymous with success, stature, Swiss-made quality and innovation.

1959 Omega Ad
A Yellow Gold Omega Seamaster Advertisement circa 1959 (Credit: Fratello).

The presence of Omega is visible on the wrists of major players in virtually every field of society. In the film industry, dozens of modern and vintage Omega watches have been immortalized by cult appreciation on the wrists of the very best actors and actresses ever to appear on-screen. Omega’s immense range of models has been instrumental in depicting characters in all areas of film over the last 60 years. The Omega Seamaster watches worn in the James Bond franchise perfectly encapsulate and mirror the robustness, versatility, military foundation, charm and sex appeal of film’s most iconic spy. Additionally, Scarface’s era-defining masterclass in costume design featured Al Pacino’s Tony Montana donning a bodacious 1980s Omega La Magique in yellow gold that extended the soldier-turned drug lord’s cut-throat Cuban style to a tee.

Al Pacino as Tony Montana wearing a 1980’s Omega La Magique (Scarface, 1984).

Aside from the world of fiction, Omega watches have sat on the wrists of many of the world’s greatest leaders, scientists, philanthropists and musicians from John F. Kennedy and Prince William to Buzz Aldrin, Elon Musk and Elvis Presley.

As if this luscious history isn’t reason enough to dip your wrist into the world of vintage Omega, as a buyer, the cost per unit of brand heft and historical significance greatly balances in your favour in comparison with the likes of Patek, Cartier and Rolex. A variety of yellow and pink gold Omega wristwatches in great condition can be acquired for as little as £1,800 – a fraction of the cost of vintage watches from brands of equal heritage, or even modern renditions from Omega themselves.

Variety

The next reason why vintage Omega is so tough to beat in this category of ‘first vintage watch’ is down to the abundance of choice on offer – there really is a piece to meet any enthusiast’s needs.

For those looking to add a ‘daily wear’ piece to their collection, there’s the pre-300 Seamaster – a watch that was released in 1948 as Omega’s response to post-war consumer trends that demanded a more durable, everyday-wear watch with an element of water resistance. Advancements in material development enabled Omega to equip the Seamaster with a rubber O-ring, allowing 60m of stated water resistance – far more than any other ‘cuff-friendly’ watch of the time. Vintage Seamasters often offer beefy cases with larger, more substantial lugs and daily-use additions such as date complications. These larger cases, broader hands and larger crowns add the practicality necessary for the perfect everyday vintage watch.

A 1955 18ct Omega Constellation worn casually on a tan strap.

Additionally, vintage Seamasters, particularly yellow gold references, possess a unique stylistic versatility that allows them to meet a variety of dress codes with a simple strap change. Gold Seamasters can be dressed up to the nines on a black lizard grain strap with formal wear, or equally, dressed-down with a caramel vegetable tan strap, a pair of chinos and an Oxford shirt.

For those seeking the last word in elegance and formal style, the Omega Geneve offers a beautifully minimalist design along with the thinness of Omega’s 500 and 600 series of automatic movements.

World-Class Movements

Finally, investing in a vintage Omega grants you access to the top-tier of hand-assembled, Swiss watchmaking. The movements powering vintage Omega watches are as prestigious as they are varied. With 100’s of different calibres offering a range of complications, technical advancements and world-class craftsmanship, it’s true to say that you cannot go wrong when it comes to the mechanical heart of our wrist-mounted life-companions with Omega.

Flowing praise aside, look out for models featuring Omega’s 30mm series of movements. While there are numerous noteworthy lines of in-house Omega movements, the 30mm series is potentially the best known. The first movements of the series were designed in the second half of the 1930s by Henry Kneuss and variations of the formula ran in Omega watches right up until the mid-1960s with a total of 3 million units produced. The continued success of the calibre was due to its precision, consistency, ease of regulation and simplistic, logical design which quickly became a favourite among servicing watchmakers.

Various Calibres within the 30mm series (Omega, 1996).

Another reason why the 30mm series remains a darling of watchmakers and collectors alike, is the ready availability of NOS (new-old-stock) components. If a service centre/watchmaker does not have the necessary component in stock, they can simply do an online search using the calibre and part numbers to locate the correct component, regularly at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

The 30mm series movements were used in 1950s RAF Pilot’s watches (part of the ‘Dirty Dozen’), the legendary Omega Ranchero, the Railmaster as well as many iterations of the Seamaster 300. With good examples of these aforementioned steel watches pushing 5,6 and 7 thousand pounds, it’s encouraging to know that as an enthusiast or first-time buyer, you’re still able to acquire a solid gold watch containing this movement that’s steeped in history for less than £3,000.

The majority of vintage three-hand + date Omega Calibres cost less than £300 to service from a range of well-established watchmakers and have service intervals of 5 to 10 years.

To Close

To sum up then – there are other brands that can claim equal historical significance in the world of horology. There are other brands with vintage watches that also offer value for money, with product ranges that feature similarly versatile models. There are even a small number of brands that can also offer efficient and high-quality in-house movements. However, as a prospective vintage watch buyer, it’s impossible to find another brand that is capable of offering all of these attributes at the same time. This, in my opinion, is why Omega stands unique within the vintage watch market and sits on the throne when it comes to buying your first vintage watch.

What was your first vintage watch? What are your thoughts on this 173-year old brand? Join the conversation in the comments section below.

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