The Seamaster 1948 homage caused more than a few ooohs and aaahs amongst Omega devotees at this year's Baselworld watch fair, and, fortunately, for those instant gratificationists who cannot wait for the 2012 opening ceremony and must have one now, this limited edition of nineteen-hundred and forty-eight pieces goes on sale on July 27th 2011.
The Seamaster 1948 is derivative, rather than an entirely faithful replica, of one of the very first of this line to be released: the calibre 343 RG powered Seamaster chronometer, model 2518. Seen below, this beefy lugged celebrity is one of the most collectible of the early bullet-proof, “bumper” calibres. And, it is an entirely appropriate choice for the 2012 Olympics, commemorating Omega’s timing of the 1948 London Olympics known as the “Austere Games”. At that time, large parts London were still in ruins; food rationing remained in force, and rubble strewn streets were still a common sight. The 1948 London Olympics was also notable for being the only Olympics where athletes brought their own food and "the Magic Eye", Omega's newly developed photo-finish technology was used for the first time.
In comparing the two pieces, the similarities, rather than slight differences, in design stories become apparent. The applied Arabic numerals at the quarter hour are almost identical, save for the six o’ clock marker that is not present in the original. The faceted arrowhead markers, again, are reasonably accurate facsimiles, the rounded Lance Alpha hands are true to the originals and the chapter ring is the same. The big difference is the size of the sub-seconds dial and the use of a flat opaline surface in place of the domed silvered dial on the 1948 version. The seconds sub-dial could not be located lower on the dial because of the 26mm calibre 2202 movement powering this larger commemorative model. However, I would have liked to have seen a replication of the domed dial as it softens the overall styling of the piece.
The case of the Co-Axial is 39mm in diameter, 5mm larger than the vintage version, and while the wide polished bezel and case middle have been reproduced faithfully, the polished lugs on the new version are marginally more curved. An 18 karat London Olympics medallion replaces the original plain case back. Designed by Wolff Olins, this official logo adds collecting provenance to the piece.
The power plant is, as mentioned above, the exclusive Omega calibre 2202 co-axial. This movement is basically a jewelled-up calibre 2500C with a sub-seconds configuration, a heavily modified version of the ETA calibre 2982. It has appeared in previous museum homage watches such as the Omega Centenary limited edition piece and also provides the power for the De Ville Prestige collection. Featuring a three-level co-axial escapement and breguet overcoil balance, the movement offers a power reserve of around 48 hours and is chronometer certified.
So, does the 48 Co-Axial stand as a worthy successor to previous Seamaster Olympic commemorative watches? I think so. Its classic design certainly stirred the passions of collectors at Baselworld, and while I would have rather seen it come with a domed dial, it needs to be remembered that the watch is a contemporary take on an old favourite. Priced at around $USD 5500.00, it is not cheap for a steel cased, 2500-based Omega, however its limited numbers and Olympic associations almost guarantee its future collectability. On aesthetics alone, I think I would take the plunge.