There’s no doubt that, when talking Omega watches, we all now that the brand has quite a savoir-faire in terms of chronographs. Think Speedmaster, what certainly is one of the most emblematic watches ever created. Well, if you go back a bit earlier in the history (quite a lot earlier in fact), you’ll see that there’s more to discover. In 1913, Omega produced one of the world’s first wrist-chronographs and helped change the way these pieces will be later worn. Today, at the Omega Museum, the brand unveiled an incredible reissue of this antique watch, with equal military roots and, best of all, some historical, refurbished vintage movements inside.
OMEGA’s first pocket-chronographs were unveiled by the Brandt brothers in 1885. 13 years later, in 1898, their first pocket-chronographs with the OMEGA name and symbol appeared in stores. Then, when the century turned, the company’s reputation flourished once again. In exactly 1900, OMEGA produced its very first wristwatch. This naturally led to the company’s first, and one of the world’s first wrist-chronographs in 1913. Most of these wrist-chronographs were sold and advertised as military watches. Numerous models were delivered to the Royal Flying Corps and used by some of the most famous wartime pilots and military personnel. This was the inspiration for the piece we have today…
First of all, there’s the look of this First Omega Wrist Chronograph (or FOWC). A large, properly antique looking piece. Remember that back at the beginning of the 20th century, most wristwatches were actually converted pocket-watches. Meaning, oversized before the word even existed! For this re-edition, Omega chose a 47.5mm case with historically relevant wire-lugs (inspired by the thin wires of metal soldered to the case of pockets watches to make them wearable on the wrist).
The case of this First Omega Wrist Chronograph is made of 18k white gold, measures approximately 16mm in height and features an 18k Sedna gold crown and pusher – something that recalls old watches where the chromed parts aged and showed the brass underneath. As you can see, only one pusher is present – thus being a so-called mono-pusher chronograph – and this pusher is unusually located at 6… for a good reason that you’ll discover later.
On the back, the First Omega Wrist Chronograph shows an officer caseback (or hinged cover), reminiscent of antique pocket watches. However, once you open it, a sapphire crystal protects the movement. The edition number and the Omega historic logo are engraved on the white gold hinged cover.
The dial is also an ode to the past, yet without falling in the trap of the faux-patina and brownish markers. Instead, Omega went for something that is again historically relevant and superb: a white “grand feu” enamel dial with blued “Breguet-style” hands and painted Gothic numerals. No lume has been applied but all inscriptions are in line with what Omega was doing back in 1913 – antique logo included.
To place the numbering and markings on the dial, the process began with a plate that was engraved with the watch’s display. Black enamel was then smoothed over the plate, filling in the engravings. Then, a silicon stamp reached down to pick up the black enamel display from the plate and transfer it over onto the white enamel dial. The dial was then baked again to integrate the colours – so-called “petit feu” process. This First Omega Wrist Chronograph Reissue is a classic bi-register chronograph with small second at 9 o’clock, 15-minute counter at 3 o’clock and central chronograph second – also made in 18k Sedna gold.
Let’s now move to THE pièce de resistance: the movement. No need to say that Omega impresses here as they found 18 antique calibres 18″ CHRO – usually found in pocket chronograph and found in the 1913 early wrist chronograph – refurbished them entirely, changed the jewels, made new parts, refinished and re-decorated them to create calibre 3018. This explains the weird location of the chronograph pusher.
According to Omega “Several hundred hours of handcrafted work went into transforming each of the 18’’’ CHRO movements. The refurbishment was a skilled process undertaken inside OMEGA’s Atelier Tourbillon and all machines used were original, ensuring that the watchmaking remained true to history.” The main issue with such old movements is that none of them is entirely equal and parts can have different dimensions. For this reason, each movement has been re-build with new parts specifically crafted for each of them. The plates, bridges and steel parts are then decorated, assembled and the movements are finely adjusted.
These refurbished calibre 18″ CHRO or calibre 3018 have traditional specifications – no co-axial escapement or antimagnetic parts here. You’ll find a Breguet balance spring and bi-metallic balance wheel, ticking at a slow 2.5Hz frequency, a horizontal clutch and column-wheel as well as a rather short 40h power reserve. This is, of course, a hand-wound movement and the chronograph is actuated by a mono-pusher system.
Each of these First Omega Wrist Chronograph Reissue is delivered inside a handcrafted leather trunk. This artisan box includes two additional leather straps in novonappa gold leather and burgundy leather, as well as unique strap-changing tools, loupe and a travel pouch. It will be produced in only 18 pieces and priced at CHF 120,000 (before taxes) – and all of them are probably already sold or reserved… More details on omegawatches.com.
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