Omega 2011 Baselworld Releases

Omega has released a Baselworld video to excite the apetites of watch aficionados and Omega collectors.  Run the video below and see if you can identify new releases amongst the watches featured. 

One piece you will not see is the new Flightmaster re-release.  That release will be left until later this year.

The new Seamaster Planet Ocean 45.50 mm Chronograph, calibre 9300.

This newest of the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean family is a thick and chunky 45.50 mm in diameter, as is the case with many contemporary professional dive watches. The stainless steel brushed/polished case is offered with either the much-admired matt aluminium orange bezel or the more subdued matt black ceramic option. 

Case design varies little from earlier PO chronographs, their visual appeal enhanced by thoughtful attention to the case middle. The sculptural lines of the curved lugs, bevelled and black polished against a brush finished background, provide an impressive frame for the visage of the watch. Quality of case construction is second-to-none with meticulous edge finishing and detailed treatment of unexposed parts. A brushed screw-in case back with a sapphire crystal completes the ensemble.  Matching bracelets are available to those looking for the full stainless steel treatment.

Of course, the feature that has generated the most comments, and indeed compliments, is the two-register dial with the chronograph sub-dial at 3 o’clock.   This act of combining the twelve hour and sixty minute counters unclutters and balances the matt black dial and recalls an earlier period when chronographs routinely sported two sub-dials. While I much prefer broad-arrow hands in non-chronograph watches because of visibility issues, I have to reluctantly admit that they enhance the design narrative of the  watch.

The calibre 9300 family of chronographs is as yet unproven (a review of the movement appears in this Watchtime article), and we must look to the calibre 8500 series for hints about the potential of this movement.  In its short life span, the calibre 8500 has earned a reputation of being at the vanguard of a generational change of ‘new tech’ production series movements.    The employment of new diamond-like carbon coatings on the twin barrels to combat wear, the use of advanced metallurgy, ceramic bearings on the automatic winding system reversers, an innovative gearing system that improves efficiency along the entire gear train, the tri-level co-axial system and Si14 silicon balance all work harmoniously to produce unheard of amplitude deviations that beat competitor movements hands down.  

The calibre 8500 series of movements are the twenty-first century successors of the best in production watchmaking and are poised to overshadow twentieth-century technology in the likes of the Rolex calibre 3135.  Much of the fruits of this impressive renaissance of Omega in-house movements transfers to the new calibre 9300 series.   Only time will prove the reliability and robustness of the chronograph module, but investment made in the design and creation of this calibre offers hope that it will live up to modern expectations of how a tool watch should perform. Priced at around $7500 - $7700, depending on the bezel, this new collection represents real value over its predecessors.

With black ceramic bezel

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Titanium Liquidmetal Blue Dial

Powered by Omega's calibre 8500, this 42mm titanium cased model with liquidmetal bezel has been long awaited by Omega collectors. While going against the trend of smaller cases at Baselworld this year, the blue dial reflects the trend towards less cluttered dials. 

The markers, coated with white super-LimiNova and emitting a blue light are a nice size, the bezel is clean, the lines of the case are classic, the blue luminescent broad arrow hands add a little drama to the dial and the overall effect is that of a stylish and balanced design. 

 The minute hand emits a green light, as does the dot on the diving bezel. This feature makes it easy for divers to keep track of time at a glance. The new hands treatment is designed to provide better readability in a variety of conditions.

The blue rubber strap, while perfectly functional in an underwater setting, adds a measure of urban chic to the overall look of the piece. The watch is also available with a titanium bracelet.

The 37.5mm Planet Ocean White 

The amazing Hour Vision Skeleton Platinum Limited Edition

Eighty-eight lucky customers will get to pay around US $48,000.00 for the privilege of owning this limited edition Omega De Ville Hour Vision Skeleton.

First popularised by Parisian watchmaker, Andre-Charles Caron, in 1760, skeletonised watches are the product of ateliers specialising in the high horological arts, where old style crafts specialists cut, bevel, decorate and polish movements to reveal the inner beauty of their workings. A skeletonised watch requires intensive labour and attention to detail, as the intent is not so much to produce a time-telling instrument as it is to create an aesthetic object that can be appreciated for its beauty and high craftsmanship.

Having a long history of creating special pieces, Omega is no stranger to skeletonised watches. In the last two decades we have seen numerous examples offered by Omega, including the skeletonised Speedmaster Apollo in 1994, the Seamaster 50th anniversary model in 1998, moon phase limited edition Speedmasters in 2003 and of recent times the skeletonised central tourbillion models.

A co-axial calibre 8404 with silicon balance spring powers the Hour Vision Skeleton, the base calibre of which is in-house calibre 8500. This model has all the features of the 8500 with the added privilege of being able to peer deep into the mechanism.

Skeletonising has been executed in a contemporary manner, avoiding the flourishes and filigree of the classic craft. The bridges have been severely cut-away and are finished in a strong grain pattern with finely curved bevelling of the edges. The jewels take on the visual effect of nodes and encourage the eye to travel from one point to another and investigate its meaning. The keyless works are a joy to observe in motion as it the silicon spring balance. An 18k gold skeletonised rotor contrasts with the metals of the movement addling a little dazzle to its oscillations.

The 41mm case of the Hour Vision Co-Axial Skeleton Platinum Limited Edition is made from near-pure Platinum, and the now-familiar Hour Vision case structure allows the movement to be viewed from the sides as well as back and front. The beautifully rounded style of the case adds a sculptural element to the aesthetics of the piece and at some angles the lug joins appear as though they are piercing through the large rounded bezel.

The calibre 9300 Speedmaster Co-Axial Chronograph

This new two-register Speedmaster Co-Axial chronograph is powered by the new calibre 9300/9301series chronograph. The dial has two sub-dials instead of the three normally associated with Speedmaster. This is made possible by the innovative placement of the 12-hour and 60-minute counters in the same sub-dial at 3 o'clock allowing a comfortable and intuitive chronograph reading.

Three versions of the Speedmaster 44.25mm Co-Axial Chronograph will be offered. Firstly, in stainless steel with bevelled black dial, white transferred elements, and varnished white hands. A choice of black leather strap or a stainless steel bracelet is offered. The second option is 18 carat orange gold with a black ceramic dial and 18 carat dial furniture. The third option is for those with very deep pockets – 950 platinum with black enamel dial and 18 carat gold hands and applied markers.  

While heavy hands in PO chronographs create visibility issues, this Speedie is true to a working chronograph's specifications. The starkness of white on black and classic thin hands offer excellent functionality. 

The stainless steel version will retail in Europe for around the USD 8500 mark.  Expect to pay around USD 35000.00 for the platinum.

The long-awaited Co-Axial calibre series 9300/9301 in profile

Despite rumours to the contrary, the new 9300 series has been built from the bottom plate up. It is a 14 lignes column wheel movement, measuring 32.5 mm in width, and while superficially similar in appearance to the calibre 8500 series it has not been piggy-backed off this 29mm diameter movement. It does, however, feature a double barrel power system providing a reserve of sixty hours and is equipped with a tri-level co-axial escapement. The movement has a column wheel transfer and a vertical clutch which Omega developed especially for this series.

The chronometer grade 9300/9301 movements leave the factory for COSC testing having achieved a maximum range of 4 seconds variation in all 6 positions in terms of daily accuracy. They are are finely tuned example of contemporary watchmaking, and while only time will tell if they live up to expectations of robutsness and durability, if their sibling 8500 series calibres are anything to go by then expectations about performance and resilience can be confidently placed.

The cosmetic finish of the movement is also similar to that of the 8500, displaying dramatic radial Geneve waves in the now familiar arabesque finish with excellent bevelling of the bridge edges. The 9301 movement is the luxury finish version with rotor and balance cock manufactured from 18 carat gold.

This new calibre is manufactured on plant and machinery especially commissioned by Omega and will be exclusive to the brand. The movement measures 7.6mm in depth, which is approximately 1mm thicker than the Rolex calibre 4130.  7.6 mm is a little over 1/4 inch thick, and with clever case design this thickness should not present a problem. The 32.5 mm calibre should be able to accommodate smaller case sizes as trends begin to dictate a move away from the gargantuan styles of the last decade.  

The calibre  9300/9301 is fitted with Omega's Si14 silicon technology. There is substantial freedom in the fabrication of balance-springs made of silicon which allows the Si 14’s geometry to be modified for optimal isochronism, the quality of oscillations occurring in equal periods of time. This isochronous quality reduces the amount of deviation in the watch’s accuracy.

The new calibre 9300 beats at 4hz or 28,800 bph, which varies from the optimal co-axial rate in the calibre 8500 of 25,200 bph. The Omega technical people earlier explained to me that in respect to the calibre 8500, “We can say generally that the transition to a frequency of 25,200 bph for this type of calibre allows the optimum functioning of our Co-Axial escapement, whether for performance, reliability or long-term accuracy.”  It appears that in the larger diameter calibre 9300 with chronograph module the design team has been able to lift the beat rate without compromising performance.  

Baselworld Trends

This year, a number of makers have been inspired by the Art Deco style of the 1920's and 30's, as well as the marked classicism of the 1950's and 60's, whose simple, elegant lines have made a strong comeback.  Notice in many of the current and new Omega lines the strong design reference to the fifties and early sixties in particular.

As an overall trend, Men's watches have returned to a more reasonable 40 to 43 mm in diameter, which makes it hard to understand why Omega in some instances has opted for 45 mm diameter pieces. Ladies' mini timepieces are once again a more fashionable 25 to 30 mm, with the midi a more standard size of 34 to 38 mm. 

Simplicity is also evident in the dials, as demonstrated by  the Planet Ocean Titanium Liquidmetal blue dial. Many brands have stripped their dials to bare essentials, but they are still finely worked, with embossed, flat, pierced or even totally openworked versions, as in the limited edition Hour Vision skeleton model. 

While steel and gold remain the favoured materials, some of the most appreciated finishes are PVD- or DLC-treated. Two-tone models, a favourite until now with Anglo-Saxon clients, have slowly gained in popularity. This year's watches are bolder, with bracelets, straps and cases playing an integral part in this contrast of colours between traditional silvered tones and the lustre of pink or yellow gold. Timepieces are also more classical in appearance, with their round cases, though a few feature more artistic shapes in the Art Deco style. More and more companies have fitted their watches with in-house movements, while tourbillons, striking-mechanisms and perpetual calendars remain the most popular complications.