An Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra that’s Gone Blue in the Face

Fresh from the wrist of Daniel ‘f***ing’ Craig (see the post below for the reasons behind this reference), and flashed shamelessly in the current Bond movie, the Seamaster Aqua Terra 38.5mm may well be a portent of things to come as far as watch sizes are concerned.  Over the last couple of years, the size pendulum has begun to swing away from heavy ‘look at me’ ordinance to more modest proportions.  This has led some of the more prescient and, perhaps, courageous, watch commentators to predict that the sock drawers of the world will be full of post-42mm Dinosaurs by the end of this decade. 

The only difference between this mid-size – yes, they do call it a mid-size, but that is a term relative to average watch sizes of the day – Acqua Terra and the rest of its siblings is the colour of the dial: a deep and rich royal blue that goes well with corporate and after-dark wear and proclaims its owner to be on the edgier side of conservatism.  The applied 18 carat white gold indices and hands are highlighted with white super luminova to remind you of the inner child that found all things glowing in the dark thoroughly mesmerising.

Dual sided anti-reflective coating on the crystal allows everyone to get an eyeful of the stunning teak dial, while the case has an exhibition back to show off the co-axial calibre 8500 that powers the watch.    

Everything worth saying about the Aqua Terra has already been said on this blog. They are the doyens of the Seamaster family, offering excellent water resistance and robustness without all the tool watch excesses.


Omega Planet Ocean 600M Skyfall - Should this Be the Last Bond Watch??

The new Omega Planet Ocean 600M Skyfall is beginning to trickle into Omega boutiques and dealerships to await the spin and brouhaha of yet another Bond movie release.  While Omega may be excited over the seventh appearance of a Seamaster in a Bond movie, for many of us, maybe, it’s just a bit ho hum?  Especially so when the Bond character has lost so much of its sauce and has been subsumed into a world of also-ran action heroes. The question has to be asked, should Omega continue the Bond/Craig association now that it has vastly improved the quality of its product since the inception of the relationship and enhanced both the status and price of the brand? 

In 1962, Sean Connery transformed Flemming’s flawed Bond character into a smooth-talking, fornicating, epicurean, car-loving, chain-smoking, benzedrine-swallowing, alcohol-abusing sociopath who rogered and killed his way through a number of thrilling adventures. This fusion of such highly desirable personal qualities and character traits with a propensity for random violence struck a beautifully resonate chord with young male and female audiences of the nineteen-sixties. It was just what the doctor ordered: a counter-culture figure thumbing his nose at the ultra conservative, ‘Thou Shalt Not’ moral dictates of the older generations.

After Connery left the role, George Lazenby blundered his way through Her Majesty's Secret Service and nearly killed the franchise off.  Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan oversaw the complete ponce-ification of the Bond character, creating prissy, oleaginous caricatures of our beloved cold war hero. From the perspective of retaining anything originally ‘Bond-like’ in the character, the latest in the line of Bond actors, Daniel Craig, is arguably the most miscast of all.  Exuding about as much savoir vivre as a British tourist on a budget airline flight to Rhodes, this foul-mouthed Liverpudlian with the vulcanised muscles can be seen to have completed the transformation of Bond into that of a video game action creature.

The James Bond ‘character’ is about as relevant today as a Remington typewriter is to a teenager, and we need not look further than the mishmash of animated violence and product placement that was Quantum of Solace to see what the future holds for Bond.  Bond now conforms to the dialogue-starved American action hero genre, albeit with a few extra toys. Notwithstanding some talent for acting, Craig is limited to aping all the other Hollywood bone-heads who play action heroes in their customary and roboticised fashion.  While there is talk about Bond iconography and legacy representing an important thread in contemporary Bond productions, it is all but gone and indications are that Skyfall will be no different.

Given, if played in the Connery style, a twenty-first century Bond would have about as much credibility as a Newt Gingrich moral sermon, but, surely, if so little depth is offered in the characterisation of the contemporary Bond persona will there not be equally little to latch on to by the multitudes of uncertain and impressionable young adults seeking status and self confidence through the purchase of Bond-related brands and consumables?   

If the Bond character is just another characterless Hollywood action figure, the only solution  is to morph the character into the fabricated public ‘identity’ of the actor playing the character. Thus, like all the other non-comicbook action heroes, Daniel Craig becomes the character (James Bond) and James Bond becomes Daniel Craig; a transmogrification achieved with so little apparent effort from everybody concerned, if Quantum of Solace is the standard by which we judge these things!

Following the above line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, Bond and the whole 007 roadshow becomes simply a vehicle for a morphed Daniel Craig persona.  But, where does this place Omega in terms of its product placement deal with the makers of Bond movies?  Omega’s marketing Department would argue that if Craig is Bond and Bond is Craig and Craig is an Omega Ambassador then it doesn’t matter, as long as this composite ‘property’ stays in line and doesn’t compromise the brand. Recent events, however, may have had the Omega marketeers thumbing nervously through the celebrity rags praying they don’t encounter another Daniel Craig faux pas.

As famous for never showing his teeth in a publicity shot (this hides his imperfect bite and makes him appear strong and intense) as he is for playing the Bond role, Craig has recently shown a propensity to pepper his public conversations with that decidedly non-Bond word “f**k”, or derivatives of it. Commander Bond as we know would have a ready supply of euphemisms to use in place of the ‘F’ word - like ‘butter the muffin’, ‘go on bush patrol’, ‘jump some bones’, ‘park the Aston in the garage’, ‘deploy the wedding gear’, ‘open the clam’, or, over brandy, the slightly obscure ‘engage one’s brains for a change’ or ‘storm the trenches’, but ‘f**k’..........never!!  It just ain’t 007, but it IS Daniel Craig.

In interviews, Craig appears unconcerned with plucking the ‘f**k’ word out from his limited public vocabulary when stuck for adjectives. Recently, he took a swipe at the Kardashians, calling them f***ing idiots”.  Irrespective of the fact that truth in this case could be considered a defence of such comments, one could expect the Omega ambassador to perhaps tone down the language a tad. Earlier in the same interview that touched on his embarrassing Jonathon Ross interview, Craig lamented, "I wish I did have f***ing jazz hands, but I don't”.   In a December interview last year, Craig lashed out at politicians, calling them “sh*theads” and, in a show of political acumen that would shame any Fox  Televison commentator, offered the profound insight, “That’s how they become politicians, even the good ones. We’re actors, we’re artists, we’re very nice to each other. They’ll turn around and stab you in the f**king back.”   Ah yes, that’s right, artists and showbiz types are models of rectitude, are devoted servants of the public weal and should rule the world!!!

In an interview promoting the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, Craig, reflecting on his entry into the Bond Franchise, explained, “The deciding factor for doing “Casino Royale”, even though I was umming and aahhing, going [puts on moody voice] “I don’t know if I want to do it”, was that they showed me the script and I thought: F**k, I’ve got to do this.” Such powerful use of the English language by a model British thespian, and a compelling argument for him to have properly finished his secondary school education before  he ran away to be famous.

So, let’s answer the original question about the Omega Craig/Bond association.  Perhaps we could answer it with a few more questions? For example, does Omega really want to associate its rising Super-Veblen brand status with a foul-mouthed tool head?  With the price points now achieved on a range of its models, is the Bond fan base a market that Omega wishes to dominate?  Given Omega’s recent history of superb brand husbandry, boutique expansion and product relationship coups, hasn’t  the Bond/Craig tie-up run its course? Is the relationship at the point where it will debase or contradict the elevated status of the brand?  Hmmm.......that would have to be nope, probably not, yep, and yep.


Omega Aqua Terra Captain's Watch

Change your accessories and you can change your look, a long-held fashion principle that stands up well when applied to the Omega Aqua Terra.  A change of hands to the colour blue, add a touch of yellow to the tip of the seconds sweep, combine splashes of red and blue to the lettering, tint the minute index blue and, wallah!, you have sportified an otherwise subdued, but classic-looking AT. 

This new colour palette has been created to mark Omega’s inaugural sponsorship of the Ryder Cup. Team USA Captain and Omega Ambassador, Davis Love 111, will wear this special “Captain’s Watch” when he hits off on Friday, September 28th this year. 

The Ryder Cup is one of the more interesting tournaments on the bi-annual golfing calendar, in-as-much as the players are not competing for prize money the size of the annual deficit of Argentina, but, rather, just for the sport of it and the prospect of giving the USA’s traditional “Old Europe” rivals a drubbing.

Released as a special edition, the Captain’s Aqua Terra may not improve your handicap, but it will enable you to whack up a few divots with a tad more confidence.  To me, it adds a bit of colour to this perfect day or weekend sporting watch and will look great under the cuffs of a dark navy suit accessorised with a power red tie. 

All of the customary AT features accompany this red, silver and blue edition, including a display black that enables you to marvel at the engineering and finish of the in-house calibre 8500.


Omega De Ville Chronograph Co-Axial Calibre 9300/9301

It’s the horological equivalent of a rags to riches story. From very humble beginnings as a line of blue collar, entry-level watches promoted in the early 1960s by Omega’s US agent, Norman Morris, the Omega De Ville collection has risen steadily in status to rival most of its siblings in the Omega and other high-value brand stables.   It is fitting that the new in-house calibre 9300 and 9301 movements (depending on the depth of your pockets) will purr under a De Ville dial.

The De Ville 18-carat red gold chronograph is classic ‘Veblen’ merchandise and mirrors the ‘riches’ accumulated by anyone able to afford the top end of this line. Veblen was coined by economist, Thorstein Bunde, to describe a range of high-end merchandise that is perceived to be exclusive as long as prices remain high or increase. And, priced at around 29,000 US dollars, the De Ville solid red gold chronograph satisfies most, if not all, criteria for a bona fide Veblen object: it’s pricey; it will be produced in comparatively fewer numbers; it houses some exciting twenty-first century micro-mechanics; it has classic styling and it looks ‘expensive’.   

Rolex have appreciated the Veblen effect for decades, churning out millions of watches with robust, albeit ugly-looking movements priced at the retail end from 6,000 to 10,000 US dollars (much more these days) and costing a fraction of that price to produce. The good thing about the De Ville 18k chronograph is that while huge margins are built into the price it is far, far from ugly - on the inside or the out.

If you don’t have the spare change to land the red gold version of this 42mm heavyweight, then the stainless version – either with strap or stainless steel bracelet - may suit your budget at around the 8300 to 9000 USD mark.  Still Veblen, but at least there will be some funds left over in the kids’ college accounts that could be designated for their original purpose!

The styling of this piece defers to watch design of the nineteen-twenties to forties: big, plump, polished and brushed case body, and rounded lugs with a long curve, giving an organic, Art Nouveau quality to the overall design. Roman numeral markers on the dial add a touch of classicism, and simple, tapered and faceted gold hands and understated sub-dials preserve the subtlety of this prestige piece.  A number of dial combinations in black, silver and blue are available, depending on the model you choose.

All of the expected hallmarks of a dress chronograph are present: twenty-first century two sub-dial movement with silicon balance and tri-level co-axial escapement with some of the best performance and stability numbers in the business; column wheel chronograph mechanism visible through three cut-outs on the bridge; exquisite cosmetic and functional finish of the plates, rotor and bridges; blackened screws, barrel and balance wheel to add a bit more colour contrast, and an exhibition case back to remind you of what you are getting for your money. The 18 carat gold version offers an 18 carat gold rotor and balance bridge, with the stainless model featuring a rhodium-plated rotor and balance bridge. A further feature of the piece is the ability to change the hour hand without affecting the minute hand and sweep.

While the De Ville dress chronograph speaks the Veblen lingo eloquently, it is one of the best, if not the best, in its class.


OMEGA Seamaster Planet Ocean Ceragold™ Collection

Bezels are probably more prone to accidental damage than any other part of a professional dive watch, and the Swiss watch industry has devoted a king’s ransom in research and development money to further the quest to make them more robust.  The use of ceramics, hard metal innovation, and more recently Omega’s introduction of liquid metal technology are testament to the pursuit of the indestructible bezel. 

With the introduction of liquid metal versions on some Seamaster Planet Ocean editions, Omega is a little further along to track to the ultimate bezel than its major competitors. Liquid metal set the standard for professional dive watches, and Omega’s new offering, Ceragold, may well set it for those who like to keep their head well above water. As with liquid metal bezels, Omega has pioneered a new method for forming the metal diving scale. It involves a complicated series of manufacturing steps, described here on the Omega website.

The Ceragold method has the potential (if the Omega design shop has its wits about it) to be applied to a range of innovative and exciting applications. Imagine a ceramic Omega dial with Ceragold markers and Omega logo, or elegant dial designs etched into ceramic and complimented with gold filling using the Ceragold method; consider the use of Ceragold as an elegant ornamentation technique on bezels other than dive watches; contemplate Ceragold and ceramic bracelet inserts and clasps, or case back medallions. The ceramic colour and applications of Ceragold are only limited by the imagination, and here’s hoping that we see some original and inventive applications of Ceragold at future Baselworlds. 

The new Seamaster Planet Ocean Ceragold collection is designed but not meant for subaqueous environments. With prices ranging from 22,500 to 33,000 USD for these eighteen-carat gold beauties, you should not expect to see one on the wrist of a navy diver. Rather, they will find their homes in more elevated, rarefied milieus probably well above the twentieth floor.

Do not despair, however, because the professional dive features can be used in other, more creative ways. Rather than indicating elapsed diving time, the bezel of Ceragold 42 mm White Planet St. Moritz, for example, is an excellent device to check elapsed time of your high-level presentations, or to ensure your parking meter doesn’t run out. You can set a specific and acceptable duration for ducking into the executive toilet to smoke a joint, or check elapsed waiting time at your favourite restaurant.  Same thing with the 45.50 mm eighteen-carat red gold Planet Ocean Chronograph powered by the calibre 9301 (Click here for a Watchtime review of the SS Cal 9300 PO).  The helium escape valves may come in handy as metaphorical self-management tools if the pressure gets too much during power meetings or boardroom disagreements!

These luxury models are powered by Omega’s in-house calibre 8501 and 9301 movements, both of which have a matching eighteen-carat rotor that is visible through the exhibition case back. Undoubtedly they are beautiful pieces, the St Moritz conforming to the standards of a jewellery watch, and while their market will be limited, it’s nice to see them as examples of innovation in watch materials.


Speedmaster “First Omega in Space” Numbered Edition Chronograph

While there have already been comments bewailing the fact that the Speedmaster “First Omega in Space” fiftieth anniversary numbered edition is not the size of the Speedmaster Professional, perhaps said commentators may be somewhat mollified when they consider the unparalleled value offered  by this commemorative piece. Besides, it is appropriate that a watch that honours Wally Schirra’s choice - two years and five months prior to NASA officially adopting the Speedmaster -  to give his CK 2998 Speedmaster some wrist time aboard the Mercury Atlas mission of 1962 is sized as its contemporaries were. 

Of the Speedmaster offerings at Baselworld, this is the purists version. The other two, notwithstanding the allure of the Z – 33, can be seen as ‘monetisations’ of the Speedmaster’s incredible brand power.  Tracing its genotype back to the classic calibre 321 that powered Schirra’s original Speedie, the calibre 1861 under the bonnet offers authenticity and great value for money for the USD 5,300.00 price tag. 

The hand-wound calibre 1861 is still one of the smallest chronograph movements on the market and this allows a nice comfortable case height of 14mm in the Schirra Speedie. The case aesthetics are of the later period and feature the familiar faceted lugs.  The 1861 is fundamentally the same calibre as that designed by Lemania’s Albert Piguet in 1942. The main differences between its early predecessors are that of a column wheel having been replaced by a cam, a steel braking lever replaced by a more shock-resistant Delrin lever and a change of balance and beat rate.  For a chronograph movement to have been around for seventy years with so few modifications is a testament to the brilliance and execution of its design. 
The classic ‘white on black’ lacquered dial, originally inspired by the instruments on Italian cars of the period, together with the Alpha hands provides superb readability.  The hour markers and hour and minute hands are coated with super luminova.  Unlike the original, the Schirra commemorative Speedmaster has a sapphire crystal to better protect the dial from the bumps and grinds of contemporary life.

As a numbered edition, special attention has been paid to the screw-in caseback.  The Seahorse medallion (the Speedmaster was conceived as part of the Seamaster collection) is deeply embossed, and around the perimeter of the medallion in raised lettering are the words “THE FIRST OMEGA IN SPACE” and “OCTOBER 3, 1962”, The numbering is etched on the case back rim.  The watch comes with a brown stitched leather strap.

There are many reports of the how’s and whys of NASA choosing the Speedmaster as the official NASA mission watch, and it behooves any proud owner of a ‘real’ Speedie to know the history of the marque. A good write-up on the NASA evaluation and testing process can be found here.  A fuller history of this iconic brand can be found here. From the inception of the concept, Omega’s design chief, Pierre Moinat, wanted the Speedie to both stand out from the crowd and appear the natural choice for a motoring chronograph. He succeeded on both counts, and Omega is not boasting when it states that the Speedmaster is the “world’s definitive chronograph”.   

The Schirra commemorative Speedmaster will be available after September 2012


Basel-world 2012: The Omega Spacemaster Z-33

Ever since Omega somewhat belatedly patented its ‘Ligne Pilote’ case design in November 2010, watch aficionados knew something was up. Informed speculation leaned towards an upgraded X33 sitting in a pilot line case.....and it was right. 

Featuring a freshly minted calibre 5566 quartz movement, the Z-33 offers analogue time-telling adjustable at the crown and a range of digital functions that will be very useful to pilots - even in these days of iPads and digital paraphernalia that allow pilots to do practically everything, except perhaps have sex with their chief stewardesses. Functions include Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and two other time zones, also allowing owners to cross the international date line and accommodate forward and regressive date changes.  The chronograph function of the movement can measure elapsed time from destination, and ten separate flights can be logged and represented visually

With four pushers and a crown, the Spacemaster Z-33 is a complicated piece of kit. If you have problems programming digital recorders or setting up a new television set, this will really flummox you. But, with a little practice and a certified membership from MENSA, you should get the hang of it! 

The design is pure brutalism with a dark side that will appeal to anyone who nurtures and enjoys their Jungian shadow. The classic titanium pilot line case, a derivative of the Flightmaster cases of the late nineteen-sixties and early seventies,  features a deep linear adoucissage finish that radiates from the centre point of the watch and you can almost cut yourself, or others, with the sharpness of the perimeter edges. The 19.3 mm case is much thicker than the earlier Flightmaster cases and overall measurements are a whopping 43mm by 53mm.  

The dial is simplicity itself. A deep charcoal ground is highlighted with white superluminova indices with the outer ring featuring the classic Flightmaster five-minute configuration. Two mirror image digital displays with black backgrounds pulse out red characters.  Dagger hands, also coated in superluminova are skeletonised to allow better visibility of the digital displays.

A choice of rubber or leather straps is offered, but the rubber strap with the red outlines, in my opinion, completes the implicit ‘menace’ of the design story.  This is the ultimate electro-mechanical tool watch, and it may well become a cult piece just as the Omega X-33 has.  Available only from Omega boutiques, the Z-33 will set you back around USD 5900.00 and will be available from May, 2012.

Oh, and for those who may have described, or will describe, this wonderful piece of ordinance as “fugly’, I simply ask, have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately?


Omega Speedmaster Racing Chronograph

I’m not going to say much about this 40mm, $4800.00 entry-level Speedmaster, save that it looks racy, sporty, fun and is generally a nice piece of design. It will certainly hook in the neophytes and those who don’t know their Speedmasters from their Mixmasters.  

Said to honour the Speedmaster’s original purpose, that of a companion to well heeled petrol-heads who were into car racing, this new "Racing" Speedie comes with a choice of dial colour combinations including maroon and blue, and you may pick between a standard bracelet or black rubberised band with colour outlines. 

The subdials are finished in what is described as a “Clous de Paris” pattern. Clou is a French word used colloquially to refer to carbuncles and boils, and also to nails and other forms of fastening. I suspect the Omega marketing department had in mind one of the latter definitions, as I can’t imagine they would have us view the subdials as being finished in the manner of a Parisian carbuncle.

It’s what under the bonnet that doesn’t impress me all that much when lined up against Omega's in-house calibres.  The movement is a Valjoux ebauche worked over by ETA for Omega. Seen in sister brand Longines chronographs with a traditional escapement, the column wheel movement sports Omega co-axial and silicon balance technology. 

It's a 'cheapie' with Omega Speedmaster iconography, and while I can appreciate its positioning as an entree to the brand, I still feel that if you want a Speedmaster with real moonwatch DNA, then you have only one movement choice, the bulletproof calibre 1861.

You'll have to wait until November before this collection reaches Omega boutiques and retailers.  


Omega Day-Date Thirtieth Anniversary Constellation

The Constellation Day-Date has been a long time returning. The last fully in-house Constellation movement with the day-date complication was the calibre 1021, phased out in 1979. 

Between now and July, Omega will release various iterations of the 38 mm case Day-Date Constellation, starting with diamond bezel models that will set you back between thirteen and thirty-eight thousand dollars and culminating in the release of the all stainless model with black dial in July, priced at around $8300 US Dollars. I say “culminating” because I think the black dialled all stainless Day-Date is a classic in the making. 

Under the dial is a modified calibre 8500 movement which Omega has designated as the calibre 8602 to identify the Date-Date complication.  This family of ‘in-house’ co-axial calibres now has five years of history behind it; five years in which no major design or manufacturing fault has surfaced,  a truly remarkable track record for a new calibre.  Featuring a silicon balance and co-axial escapement, the series is one of the most beautiful looking new millennium movements on the market.

The Constellation Day-Date arrived at Baselworld 2012, thirty years after Carol Didisheim’s first Manhattan version with the famous griffes (or claws) created a sensation at Baselworld in 1982. (Click here for the story of how the griffes came about).  I’m surprised that Omega has not made more of the Didisheim link to today’s Constellations and  acknowledged her contribution to one of the most enduring designs in contemporary Swiss watchmaking. 

There is a remarkable balance to the dial design that respects the minimalist approach to Constellation dials. The curved day aperture is tucked neatly between the eleven and one o’clock markers and the date aperture unobtrusively replaces the six o’clock marker.   

While most men will eschew bezels that have the numerals set with 116 full-cut diamonds (seen in the picture above),  a wait of a mere four months will net you a silvered or black dialled version of this classic thirty-nine jewel chronometer. 


Omega’s First Baselworld Release – Seamaster Aqua Terra GMT

At last! Omega Aqua Terra GMT powered by one of Omega’s new generation movements.  The most recent AT GMT on offer was the chronograph version powered by the Piguet-Based calibre 3603, and while it had the looks, some argued that it didn't have the right movement at its heart. To be officially released during Baselworld 2012 in a matter of weeks, this AT GMT has both: aesthetics uninterrupted by chronograph sub-dials and a GMT modification built on to Omega’s exclusive calibre 8500 series of co-axials.  Designated as the Omega Co-Axial series 8605/8615 this is the first of OMEGA’s exclusive ‘in-house’ movements to carry the GMT complication. The movement is equipped with a silicon balance spring and Omega’s confident four-year warranty applies.

I have waxed lyrical on the ATs dial and case design in earlier reviews, so you will not have to endure any lapse into purple prose here, save to reiterate that a GMT complication on a clean dial is so much easier on the eyes than such complications on chronographs – no fairground busy-ness here, just outer and inner chapter rings in complete harmony with the circularity of the dial and the date aperture subtly placed at six o’clock. The GMT register is tucked neatly into the ambit of the applied markers and the GMT hand, marginally longer than the hour hand, is outlined in red to make its twenty-four hour rotation visible but not over-powering. The red touches on the dark teak dial and GMT hand add just the right measure of sportiness to this piece without limiting the occasions on which the watch can be worn.

All dial furniture is either 18k white or red gold, depending on the case metal chosen, and the hands and indices are coated with white Super-Luminova. At 43mm, it’s a big watch and I would have liked to have seen this 2012 offering measure in at around 39 to 40mm, the size of the new Certina DSI release at Baselworld this year. Non-Chronograph case sizes, in general, diminished last year at Baselworld and it will be interesting to see what the trend is in 2012.  Ultra thin watches are also making a comeback (check out the new Rado Thin-Line range) and while clunk and chunk will no doubt still reign supreme, keep an eye out for what the cutting edge and style-meisters of watch design are doing.

The AT GMT will be available in Stainless Steel, red gold or two-tone models and can be accessorised by matching bracelets or a choice of black, brown or blue leather straps. Expect the price of the Stainless version to hover around the USD 8,500 mark.