The Best Vintage Men's Omega Watches of all Time
A Brief History of Omega
Omega Watches was founded in 1848 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, By Louis Brandt. He assembled key wound, precision pocket watches, supplied to him by a local craftsman. By 1894, his sons, Louis-Paul and Ceser, had developed a in-house manufacturing process that allowed many of the parts to be interchangeable, these watches were produced under the name, Omega brand of La Generale Watch Co.
By 1903, due to the popularity of the Omega watches and the functionality of the manufacturing process, the Omega name spun off to become its own company.
Amazingly enough, 1903 was the same year that both of the brothers died, leaving the company in the hands of their four kids. The oldest was Paul-Emile and he was only 24 years old.
Paul became the catalyst that propelled Omega to new heights, finally merging with Tissot, to form SSIH, Geneva. They went on a tear after that. Absorbing or creating 50 companies. By the 1970's, SSIH became Switerland's number one producer of finished watches.
In 1983, SSIH merged with ASUAG, due to both companies having financial difficulties, and became a holding group called ASUAG-SSIH, which was taken over two years by private investors, which, re-established this company, and again made it into one of the top watch companies. The holding company was renamed in 1998, as the Swatch Group.
Through all that turmoil. The Omega Watch company was one of the most popular watchmakers in the world. Often outselling Rolex. And finding their way on some pretty famous wrists, and in some pretty important situations.
In 1917, Omega became the official timekeepers for the British Royal flying Corps, for its combat groups. America followed Britain in 1918. They have been the official timekeepers for the Olympics since 1932. Omega watches were the preferred choice by NASA, and in 1969, it became the first watch on the moon, wore by Buzz Aldrin. President Kennedy wore an Omega, as well as Prince William.
And, of Course, James Bond has wore Omega since 1995.
Omega, if you have not noticed yet, are my favorite watchmaker of all time.
The Constellation Chronometers
The Constellation series of Omega watches were once the flagship of the Omega watches. The series began in 1952. The original Constellations had bumper movements, the chronometer certified calibre 354. They also had easily recognizable diamond shape to their hour markers, and dauphin hands, which were used until the late 1960's.
In the mid 1950's, they replaced the 354 movement with the 50x series of movements. There were a few different versions of these movments, some with date, some without. By 1959 the 50x series movements were replaced with the 55x and the 56x series. One was with date and one was without.
The Constellations has some unique design ques that made them stand out in a crowd. The dials were often gold, and richly decorated. Lots of gold overall, with gold hour markers and/or gold hands. Pie pan dials, and diamond shaped hour markers. Onyx hour markers and fancy lugs, were some of the features that really made them recognizable.
Omega used several different titles for their models of the Constellations, Deluxe and Grand Luxe, II Deluxe Calendar were some of the more popular. These all used the same basic movements, and fit an finish were all similar. It is difficult for me to understand why they gave the names, and what changes they denoted.
Generally, I believe the Constellations that came before the late 1960's were the best choices. They had copper movements, and 10 sided crowns, and highly decorative dials. And this is the time frame I would be looking, if I was looking to start a collection or add a Constellation to my collection.
Omega Constellation OT 2930 SC Grand Luxe (1956-1959)
These Constellations are considered the grand daddies of them all as far as constellation collectors would generally be concerned. They are true representations of what the Constellation line embodied in the early years of its release.
It has a 35mm 18K gold case, with a press in back. It has a crown located at the 3 o'clock position, which is also in the 18k gold. It has a solid gold, Pie-Pan dial with hand riveted gold hour markers, and gold Dauphine hands. It also has a Armoured hesalite crystal lens.
The movement is either the 501 or 505 automatic chronometer. The 501 was created in 1955 with 19 jewels, and then reworked in 1957, with 20 jewels, and the 505 was created in 1957, and had 24 jewels. Both gave hour, minute and second, with a central sweep second hand.
The watch was water resistant, up to 30 meters.
The band could be leather, but the better was the gold brick bracelet, which shows up in the picture.
To purchase one of these, in mint condition, you are probably looking in the range of around 30,000 dollars. And that is a seriously rough estimate. Watch for knock offs. They can be found. If it seems too good to be true, then it most likely is too good to be true.
The Speedmaster Chronographs
Speedmasters are another long running Omega line. They began producing the Speedmaster Chronograph in 1957. The Speedmaster was introduced as a sports and racing chronograph. The watch was named the Speedmaster because of the tachymeter bezel.
In 1962, NASA contacted several watch makers and requested chronographs from each of these companies. They rigorously tested the watches, in the end, Omega Speedmasters were chosen at the watches the NASA astronauts would wear into space. Three Omega Chronographs were issued to the Gemini Titan III crews. Which prompted Omega to add the word Professional to the Speedmaster name, becoming the Omega Speedmaster Professional.
Speedmasters are still being produced today, and still are some of the nicest looking watches around, at least in my mind, but there are a few for you collectors out there, that are really the cream of the crop when it comes to Vintage, Men's Omega watches.
1957, CK2915. The first Omega Speedmasters are, of course, some of the most sought after Speedmasters out there. And there are a lot of good reasons for that. Firstly, of course, is because they are the first. That will always play a roll in a collectors mind. These watches had a smooth curve to the lugs, and the dial was black. The hands of the watch has broad arrows at their tips and were polished steel. They had the tachymeter bezel, of course. They also all used the calibre 321, which was present in all of the Early Speedmasters, up until the 1968 introduction of the 861. To find one of these, that has not been tampered with, will cost you a bit of money. It would not be surprising for you to spend easily up into the 30k price range.
The CK2998 is another popular model in the Speedmaster line. It already begins to show some of the styling you will see in the current Speedmaster Moonwatch. The lugs have a more straighter line to them, and it has a black tachymeter bezel. The dial face is black. There are a few different variations of the CK2998, the hands being the most apparent difference. One of the more sought after versions is the one with the lollipop style chronograph second hand. The numbering system for Omega changed during the run of the CK2998 in 1962, the model continued, virtually unchanged in the form of the 105.002.
The other models I would like to mention are the 105.012 and the 145.012. These are the versions used by the Apollo 11 members. They are, of course a highly popular version. They had softer lugs, in comparison to the CK2998, but were stull straight lined. The case was not symmetrical with these Speedmasters, due to the crown guard built into the case. In 1966, they also added the word 'Professional' to the dial. Making them the visible NASA certified models.
These were basically the last Speedmasters to use the 321 calibre, and even though they are NASA certified, and are wonderful looking watches, they tend to be the least expensive pre-861 calibre Speedmaster watches on the market.
All the Speedmasters are nice. The 145.022 is another nice version of the series. Look at what is out there, and, as with all collectible items, I would suggest use your judgement. Buy one that suits you and appeals to you. These watches may or may not be investment items, but they should generally not be viewed that way, at least in my personal opinion.
As a final thought. I want to say, I am sorry, but I have completely left out the Seamaster line of watches, and the Railmaster watches. All of which are wonderful examples of what was available through Omega during the early 1900's. Mostly it was done because of my lack of experience with those lines. I generally prefer to speak of watches I have some familiarity with, I really would not like to mislead people with some false information. Omega's Men's Watches have been something of an obsession with me, and when I do get the time to investigate the watches of those other series, I do intend on covering them here on this Hub.