1968 Omega Chronostop Caliber 865 (Ref. 145.009)

Omega Chronostop Feature

If it is not yet clear that I have an affinity for odd watches, this most recent one will certainly solidify that sentiment. While working on such odd pieces does have one significant drawback (parts) they provide a unique restoration experience and I am always trying to look for my next one. This Omega Chronostop was on my list for a while. It’s not particularly expensive, but a one-minute register (one would have a hard time really calling this a chronograph) from Omega just seemed and looked so odd that I had to work on one. Starting in the late 60s it is estimated that about 124,000 of this caliber were made. It was a very short-lived production, the likes of which have never really been seen again.

After a good search I found this great piece. The near perfect blue dial is what brought me to it. The deep blue color with and orange minute register against the stainless really makes this watch pop on the wrist. I knew immediately that there were a few things wrong but correctable on this watch. Firstly, the movement ring was wrong which caused the movement to move a bit in the case. Then there was the issue of the pusher. A prior watchmaker had substituted the plain button pusher for a women’s omega crown, which beyond looking awkward, functionally wasn’t perfect. And finally and not uncommonly, the crystal while original was scratched up. With these external parts ordered I got to the guts. This movement adapted a Lemania movement for a simple one-minute register. It is a great watch for anyone wanting to ease into the mechanics of the chronograph. The drastically simplified chrono-works make this a walk in the park compared to that Tissot Navigator I did a few months ago or a Valjoux 22, 23, 7750, etc.

Once the movement was cleaned, inspected, and reassembled (and after I got past the always-mesmerizing color of vintage Omega movements), I set about getting the case right. The pusher issue turned out to be a bit worse than I had imagined. In addition to the crown, the tube was not right and was over-tightened into the hole in the case. Furthermore it was installed with an improper tool that left a scar on the case. This required a bit of elbow grease and a file to pry loose but once done, the brand new tube and pusher installed like a charm. After putting in a new genuine crystal I got the movement in with the new ring and it is back to its former glory.

Omega Chronostop Crowns Omega Chronostop Crystal Omega Chronostop Movement 1

While one very much like this but with a date (but in less great cosmetic condition) sold for almost $1500 http://gearpatrol.com/2014/08/19/timekeeping-selects-omega-chronostop/ finding great examples at far less is most certainly achievable for anyone interested in owning such a great head-turning, and unique piece of Omega history.

Omega Chronostop Flat Omega Chronostop Back

Omega Chronostop Movement 2Omega Chronostop CU Omega Chronostop CD Omega Chronostop Angle Right Omega Chronostop Angle Left

 

1972 Omega f300 Electronic Constellation (Reference 198.002)

Omega f300 Feature

A few months back I wrote about the famous Bulova Accutron and the bitter rivalry between Bulova and Omega. What I love so much about this watch is that it is a piece of historical irony on your wrist. After their bitter rivalry, Omega went on to use the very technology they fought against in the Horological Space Race. It is more or less an Accutron in Omega clothing. If nothing else, it really speaks to the advanced technological feat that Bulova achieved with their tuning fork movements. Omega swallowed their pride and put a Bulova movement in their Chronometers. To be fair it was not technically a Bulova movement but was a movement made by ESA with technology licensed from Bulova. It is in tiny wording on the inside of the case back, but Omega did pay homage to the Accutron movement and its creator in the way any Swiss watch company would (secretly and in a way that most customers wouldn’t know they borrowed the technology from an American company.)

Omega f300 Caseback

The more detailed story behind the movement in this piece is that in 1970 an ex-Bulova developer named Max Hetzel licensed the tuning for technology from Bulova and improved it to make it more robust and reliable. Nicknamed the Mosaba (Montres Sans Balanciers) the ESA tuning fork movement improved on the positional fix of the tuning forks allowing for little to no deviation in time keeping due to slight positional errors. Additionally, they greatly decreased the length of the index finger (which anyone who has ever worked on an Accutron can tell you is a blessing.) This fragile tendril on an Accutron could easily be knocked out of alignment by a shock making them particularly fragile.

Omega f300 Movement 1 Omega f300 movement 2

The f300 tuning for Omegas are fantastic pieces that provide the great styling of a 70s Omega with the seductive hum of an Accutron. It’s a perfect watch for someone who wants the innovation of the Accutron with the name of an Omega.

I got this watch in relatively rough external shape and was unsure of its running ability. The gasket was melted, and the crystal was incredibly scratched and unoriginal, but I knew that with enough care it could be a great looking 70s showpiece. That it was on the original band was a huge bonus. I figured that if I could get the right parts and clean it up enough I would have a great complete and original piece.

Sure enough with a cleaning, a genuine Omega crystal, and a fresh battery this chronometer is humming once again. It has a few scratches, but is in unpolished condition, and is a fantastic piece of Constellation history.

A great source for more information about this movement can be found at: http://members.iinet.net.au/~fotoplot/acctechesa.htm

Omega f300 Leaned Omega f300 Band  Omega f300 Front

Omega f300 Side

 

Omega Seamaster “Pre-Bond” Caliber 1111 (ETA 2892-2)

Omega Pre-Bond Feature

In an earlier post, I discussed my general aversion to wearing metal bracelets on a watch for a prolonged period of time. This most recent watch provides an all too common example of everything I described in that post. Band aside however, this is a great vintage Omega that was in dire need of some TLC.

A friend of mine complained that his watch was running fast and that the band pins kept coming out. The problem had gotten so bad that he could no longer wear the watch. I took the watch in and got to work on it. First I fully disassembled the movement to check for wear and damage. Fortunately only two pieces needed to be swapped out. The gear that transmits power from the rotor to the mainspring and the bearings that the rotor revolves around had never been replaced since this watch was purchased in the 80s. As a result they had experienced significant wear and needed to be replaced.

After a full cleaning, reassemble, and regulation the watch was running back within chronometer specs. Even knowing the timing read out, the timing machine can only tell you half the story, and after its run and regulation on it I put it on a final test winder. It ran perfectly through its power reserve but the problem appeared to be that it would not wind itself at all. I removed the caseback and noticed a problem: the retaining ring that connects the rotor to its bearings was off its track. As a result the rotor was not turning properly. After correcting the problem, I put it back on the winder only to find the same problem again. This time however, the ring had come off entirely. This time my solution was to buy the proper tool to secure the ring. As soon as it arrived, I secured the ring properly and sure enough it solved the problem and the watch is running and winding perfectly.

Omega Pre-Bond Movement Assembly 1 Omega Pre-Bond Movement Assembly 2 Omega Pre-Bond Movement Assembly 3

 

 

Next I got to the band. The time on the winder had caused the loose pins to jut out just a bit. I removed these one by one and replaced them with pressure pins. Although this did not decrease the give in the band, it made sure that my friend could wear it with a bit less fear of it falling off. This is unfortunately just a temporary solution. Once the metal stretches, it is almost impossible to get it to stop. Using ever so slightly larger retaining pins will only work until the metal stretches out some more. There are really just two long-term solutions: get a leather band made for it, or track down another better condition band. Neither of these options are cheap, but they can increase the wearability by decades.

The piece itself is famously known as the Seamaster 200m “Pre-Bond.” This name came because the next Seamaster model was featured as James Bond’s watch in Goldeneye in 1995. Fitted with an ETA 2892-2 (or Omega 1111) Chronometer movement, this watch is a solidly built piece even though it is not one of the old-school in-house Omega movements that I love. It is still a well-engineered and very intuitively designed movement, allowing for simple assembly (and plenty of readily available parts if needed.)

All back together, it is running well and the band will hold together. That being said, I was unable to do much to improve the external condition except for a cleaning. Most importantly however, for its owner, a very sentimental piece is wearable and running well.

Omega Pre-Bond Side Omega Pre-Bond Buckle Omega Pre-Bond Back Omega Pre-Bond Crown Omega Pre-Bond Flat

1955 Omega Seamaster Caliber. 471 Ref. 2828

Omega 471 Feature

To polish or not to polish is a tough decision that is not made lightly. Proper case work is a delicate and time-consuming process that can enhance the appearance of a watch and bring a neglected or battered watch back to life. Unfortunately a generation of unscrupulous jewelers and watchmakers decided that force plus a polishing wheel equaled a polish job. The problem with this approach is that it removes too much material and deforms the original lines and case patterns. It also produces a horrific surface that is flat and shiny but reflects light in several different directions creating the dreaded “over polished” look. This most recent piece was an example of a watch that suffered bad polishing and then a rough wearer. The Seamaster logo and “waterproof” had been mostly polished out of the caseback, while the front was clearly the victim of years of abusive wear. Even with this history, its rose gold dial and hands remained very well intact and stand out as a great contrast to the life outside the case.

If you look at this full size image you can just make out the Omega logo that has been polished almost entirely out

If you look at this full size image you can just make out the Omega logo that has been polished almost entirely out

After a great deal of thought I came to the conclusion that there are two kinds of vintage watches: collector pieces and wearer pieces. When buying and servicing collector pieces, the goal is to absolutely minimize your impact and preserve the originality of the piece inside and out. With wearer pieces the goal is to restore a watch to the best of your ability to its original beauty. While I am a strong believer that reluming and redialing ruin a watch, case work can go a huge way in really bringing a piece back to life for a wearer. I made the decision to let this one be until it goes to a new owner. That new owner can make the decision that makes them happy.

This Omega 471 is a great example of one of the first automatic calibers that Omega produced. It is a fantastic piece of history that deserved a new lease on life. Unfortunately the last person to attempt this believed that Omega parts are more interchangeable than Omega lets on. This led to a slightly more costly restoration, but it was entirely worth it.

After a full disassembly, cleaning, reassembling, and oiling the movement was running crazy fast (+180-230 seconds per day.) My first instinct was to start at the power source, the mainspring. I replaced the mainspring, but still the rate was incredibly high. Then I took a long hard look at the balance and just felt that something wasn’t right. I took out a Caliber 500 movement I had and found the hairsprings to be identical. It was then I realized that this wrong heart so to speak was the cause of the problem. After getting the proper balance and installing it I regulated the watch to +/-3 seconds per day in all positions.

The 470 and the 471 were the first two automatics that Omega produced

The 470 and the 471 were the first two automatics that Omega produced

Back together; it is stunning even in its unpolished state. The rose gold dial and hands are unique and are a beautiful contrast to the stainless case. Although small by today’s standards, it is a great piece from the early days of Omega automatics.

Omega 471 Dial Omega 471 Flat Left

Omega 471 Flat Right Omega 471 Side

1966 Vintage Omega Caliber 560 with Linen Dial

Omega Linen Dial Feature

The time has finally come where I am posting about the same movement twice. This Omega has a Caliber 560 exactly like the 1967 Omega back in early July. Other than the gold plating and the movement the two watches are incredibly different. What drew me to this watch before I even saw the inside was the linen dial. I am a sucker for rare variants when they are in good enough shape. Little things like this (especially in this condition) can add a lot of value to otherwise standard pieces.

Usually this type of textured dial is a magnet for dirt and before long the white linen begins to look more beige. When I saw such a fragile dial in such great shape I knew that the movement would be in equally well preserved. Fortunately, I was right. When I got the back open I was staring at the most well preserved caliber 560 I have ever seen.

The case had no service marks, and as can be seen the movement is in incredibly good shape. Due to this watch never being serviced the oil had dried or migrated and so the rate of the watch was off by 35 seconds per day. After a full disassembly, cleaning, oiling, and regulating this piece from the 60s is beating properly and keeping excellent time.

Back together and on a new band this is a classic, rare, and near mint dress watch that wonderfully showcases the timeless elegance of vintage Omega. Omega Linen Dial Angle Omega Linen Dial Close-up Omega Linen Dial Side Omega Linen Dial Movement Omega Linen Dial Movement 2

1968 Omega Seamaster Caliber 565

1969 Omega Cal. 565 Feature

I firmly believe in the old adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” but after this last watch I think it needs a new postscript. As it relates to watchmaking it should be “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again (unless you are inflicting irreversible damage to the watch in which case either seek a professional or buy the right equipment for the job.)” Case wrenches are good up to a point. Many watches require much more torque to get the job done and that is why amazing watchmaking inventions like the Bergeon 5700z exist. Unfortunately the previous owner of this gorgeous Omega Caliber 565 did not get the memo and instead thought that with enough elbow grease (there are a plethora of special greases for watches but “elbow” is not one of them) this case would finally budge. He/she (given the evident stubbornness I’m going to assume “he”) caused irreparable damage to the case back that could have been avoided had he opted to use more suitable equipment. The problem was that the gasket had melted and re-hardened in the threads. This made it impossible to open by manual force alone. A tight fitting into the nifty 5700z and a simple turn of the wheel and the case was opened. Once inside, the absolute beauty of a barely touched pink gold Omega movement, as it always seems to do, amazed me.

I do not know why these watches sell for so cheap. They are phenomenally well made pieces, reliable, and elegant inside and out. They are also a good segue (or gateway depending on your perspective) into the middle-upper range of collecting.  What’s not to love? My only caution is to never ever buy one if you see the words “broken balance” or anything related to it or the hairspring. Although a watch like this can routinely be had in the $250-400 range, a single balance complete will set you back almost $300, wiping out any savings you might have thought you were getting by purchasing a “fixer-upper.”

The Caliber 565 is similar to the earlier 560 except for one nifty change: a quickset date mechanism. In many older watches that contain a date feature, one must manually advance the time so that the date mechanism engages to the proper date. This can be a huge pain when wearing a watch after a prolonged period in the drawer or, in my case, after fixing a watch and seeing that while the actual date is the 5th the display on the watch reads the 7th. With the invention of the clever quickset mechanisms this problem was solved. The 565 works by pulling the crown all the way out to advance the date, drastically decreasing the time necessary to properly set the date or advance it by a day at the end of some months.

Once I got the movement back together and running well I got to the case. I tried my absolute best to remove as much of the superficial damage caused by the stubborn prior owner without removing the iconic Seamaster logo. I did my best, and it looks OK. Had the person given up in their attempts this watch would be mint. This is still a fantastic piece in great shape for its age. I have certainly seen worse, but all it would have taken was an acknowledgment of futility and this watch would have been perfectly preserved. It is now a mint piece from the front that shows an unfortunate past in the back.

1969 Omega Cal. 565 Flat Angle 1969 Omega Cal. 565 Side 1969 Omega Cal. 565 Angle 1969 Omega Cal. 565 Flat 1969 Omega Cal. 565 Back 1969 Omega Cal. 565 Movement

1966 Omega Seamaster De Ville w/ Caliber 560

Although I could never personally pull off the gold watch on the gold band, I can still appreciate a piece for those who can. This 1966 Omega Seamaster De Ville Caliber 560 that I just restored is not my personal style on the outside but it is still a beautiful watch. The movement is another story. The Caliber 560 is an incredibly rare beauty that is the visual epitome of what I love about vintage Omegas. As a whole, this watch is a great original example of a vintage Omega that showcases all of the distinctive marks that one should look for when buying Omegas from this time.

Before launching into what I like about this watch, let me  get some qualms with it out of the way. My first issue is with the metal band. My major problem with metal bands is that they show their age terribly. After a few years, the band stretches to become several sizes bigger than it was and looks saggy and worn. Furthermore once they are at this point of showing age they can rarely be replaced without looking odd against the watch head. My advice? If you buy a watch on a metal band, wear it for about six months to year and then lock it away and put on a leather, canvas, or nylon band. You will thank me later if you ever want to resell it.

My second issue with this watch is the unishell case (or more accurately the two-part stem.) Usually to service a watch you either unscrew or lever off the back to get to the movement. With unishell designs the movement is accessed through the crystal. It is then taken out with the removal of the annoying two-part stem and either lifting the movement straight out or the sliding of a movement lock. The problem with a two-part stem is not the removal but the winding and setting of the watch when not in the case. Other than these two issues however this movement is gorgeous and maintaining it was a fun task even if it was done at a tortoise’s speed (a balance complete for this watch costs upwards of $300 so slow and steady wins the race every time in watchmaking.)

The movement is an incredibly rare Caliber 560. I did not know it at the time (probably not a bad thing) but apparently there were only about 3000 of these movements made. The serial number dates this watch to about 1966. It has a very simple thin case with a big dial that is very 50s-60s. This was before the transition into more bulky and prominent cases of the 70s onwards. Once again, while not my style, I can appreciate its importance and its beauty inside and out.

When cleaning vintage Omegas it is always crapshoot as to whether the beautiful rose gold finish will come off in cleaning. To mitigate this risk, I usually start by washing a small part to see the effects. If the finish comes off, I set about cleaning the entire main plate and bridges by hand with some solvent, tiny swabs, sharpened peg wood, and my trusty Rodico bar (a tacky substance that removes oil, dirt, hair, etc.) Luck happened to be on my side with this one and I was able to ultrasonically clean the whole thing. Upon close inspection I found nothing wrong and set about reassembling the movement. When it was all oiled and back together (minus the rotor) I set about regulating it. Once it kept perfect time I then set the hands and the date, put the rotor on, and got the whole thing back in its shell.

Omega 560 Seamaster De Ville Movement

One thing no once can fault Omega for is marking their watches. Most of these marks are obvious: Dial, Movement, Crown, Case, and Band. Omega however did not stop there. They also marked their crystals with a near imperceptible Omega logo. I was unable to get a view that showed it, but this one had it too. For anyone buying a vintage Omega be sure to ask the seller if the crystal is original or aftermarket generic.

Omega 560 Seamaster De Ville Back Omega 560 Seamaster De Ville Crown Omega 560 Seamaster De Ville Band

Instead of replacing the crystal, I buffed this one out a bit. I opted to not polish the case because it would have looked different than the band. I wanted to keep the continuity and so I just used a rouge-less polishing cloth.

Back together with the band back on it looks like the 60s Omega it is. It is nothing extravagant but it is a well-made cleanly designed watch that will easily run for decades to come. Its rare Caliber 560 gives it a little secret that distinguishes it from other similar models. At the end of the day, I am glad I got the chance to be able to say I worked on a rare 560.

Omega 560 Seamaster De Ville Side Close upOmega 560 Seamaster De Ville Front Omega 560 Seamaster De Ville Side