By Ben Newport-Foster
The recently announced Omega 1948 Limited Editions are almost the perfect combination of modern watchmaking and vintage design. Except for one thing, which I’ll talk about later.
At 38mm wide and around 11mm thick (11.2mm for the center seconds and 11.65mm for the small seconds), these watches hit all the right marks for what a heritage edition watch should look like. More often than not, brands will try and up-size a vintage design to accommodate for modern tastes but it almost never works. Thankfully Omega knew what works best and the smaller (for today’s wrist) size perfectly captures the feel of a vintage Seamaster.
My favorite out of the two, and I’m sure the favorite of many other watch fans, is the small seconds. I much prefer the elegant leaf hands on the small seconds to the Superluminova filled dauphine hands of the central seconds. Yet choosing between the two watches is quite the challenge, especially as both lack the hallmark of a poorly designed heritage piece, the date window. I’m by no means a date window snob, but when you are aiming to evoke the feeling of an era, it pays to stay true to the designs of the time.
Both watches have a gorgeous opaline silver dial with an applied 18kt white gold Omega logo (vintage style, of course) at 12 o’clock. Some may complain about the extra lines of prose on the dial but a) compared to the epic poems found on Rolex dials, this is practically a haiku and b) these longer descriptors are part and parcel of modern Omega design so best get used to it!
These watches are beautiful, but sometimes Omega just can’t leave well enough alone.
In 2012, Omega released a commemorative Seamaster to celebrate the upcoming London Olympic games and to celebrate the 64th anniversary of the Seamaster. It was a beautiful watch that, like these two new limited editions, evoked the very best of the Seamaster. Then Omega had to go ruin it with an ugly gold medallion with that dreadful London 2012 Olympic logo engraved upon it. Cut to six years later and Omega have gone and done the same thing; they made a beautiful heritage piece that is appropriately sized, has a gorgeous dial…only to then mess it all up with an ugly case back. This time the offending case back is a flat sapphire crystal back with an etching of a Chris-Craft boat and a Gloster meteor plane (The very first jet plane used by the Royal Air Force). Aside from the tenuous connection to Omega, I find the etchings very distracting and I feel that a plain steel case back would have served the watch much better.
What is interesting on the case back is the NAIAD lock system, which first debuted in the 2016 release of the all-ceramic Planet Oceans. This is an Omega patented locking system that allows watchmakers to perfectly align the decorate elements of a case back (engravings, serial numbers, etc) every single time. Fans of vintage Seamasters will no doubt recall that the crown mechanism first used on the first Seamaster 300s was also called Naiad; the Naiad crown system was Omega’s alternative to the screw-down crown and worked by allowing increasing water-pressure to push against a spring mounted crown to increase the water resistance. (There is a reason why almost everyone uses screw-down crowns nowadays. The Naiad crown was prone to leaking in shallow water!)
Inside the two watches are the Calibers 8806 and 8809 that both beat at 3.5hz, has 35 jewels and are both METAS Master Chronometer Certified. There is a 5-hour power reserve difference between the two movements, with the 8804 just beating the 8806 with a total of 60 hours, but other than that the movements are nearly indistinguishable.
If you’re interested in either of these watches then you better act fast. The October release date may seem like forever away, but I assure you that these will sell out fast (if they haven’t already). The center seconds will be available for 5,700 CHF and the small seconds for 6,200 CHF. For more info, visit Omega online.