Few watch brands have achieved as much as Omega. They have accompanied NASA missions, timed the Olympics, assisted militaries, dressed presidents and saved the life of James Bond. As well as being the most popular producer of sports watches in the world behind Rolex, they have a wide range of models for formalwear, deep-sea diving, globetrotting and the boardroom, as well as an impressive collection of ladies pieces.
Accordingly, Omega is one of the most lusted-after names on the lively second hand watch scene. While their watches endure the generations and their prices are stable, there is an abundance of sellers and an ocean of choice. For newcomers to the scene, finding the right watch is no plain sailing. To help with your navigation, we put together our guide to Omega’s watch families, who they are best suited to, and where to buy them.
Omega’s grip on the sports watch market stems back to WWII when they were picked up by the British army. These durable, water-resistant pieces gave birth to the Seamaster range, a diver watch that was adopted by the British Special Boat Service. The sports watch was an emerging genre at this time and brands like Rolex were making ground but the Seamaster was a leader in its field in terms of durability. In 1956, in an elaborate show to prove its mettle, Omega strapped a Seamaster to the outside of an airplane and flew it across the Arctic exposing it to extreme temperatures far below freezing. It survived.
The Speedmaster was introduced as part of the Seamaster collection. It had the same bullet-proof base but the addition of a chronograph. When in 1962 NASA astronauts picked up a handful of watches from the leading brands at the time (including Rolex and Breitling) and submitted them to some of the most gruelling tests any watch has ever been through, the Speedmaster won out by a comfortable margin. It was duly selected as the official NASA watch.
Today the Speedmaster is one of the most popular and best sports chronographs on the market. Since its glory days in the sixties it has come in a huge array of models, redesigned and upgraded on almost a yearly basis. While technically the modern editions are superior, the early ones were already excellent and vintage pieces have the retro air that many sports watch fans are looking for.
For more detailed information on the “Moonwatch” you can read our editor’s In-Depth Review of a Vintage Speedmaster.
Equally popular but slightly smaller and traditionally chronograph-free is the Seamaster. It has a different style to the Speedmaster and it doesn’t have the NASA connection. It did get picked up by James Bond however and has since exploded. Amongst the many remakes is the Seamaster 300, which is based on the design from the late fifties. This is a stylish model and it’s the current James Bond watch.
For more on the Seamaster and how it stands alongside its biggest rival try our comparison article the Omega Seamaster vs. Rolex Submariner or for a more technical piece try our Inside Three Generations of the Omega Co-Axial Movement, which describes the development of Omega’s most ground-breaking technology.
Although Omega is more immediately associated with moon landings and adventurous pursuits, it has been making first class dress watches since the early stages of the twentieth century. Its pieces from the ‘40s and ‘50s were top sellers and President Kennedy used to wear a rectangular ultra-thin piece in the early ‘60s. Unsurprisingly, vintage Omega watches from this era are increasingly popular amongst collectors today and are a great choice for the retro fan.
Omega continues to make dress watches and some of its current models are held in high esteem by watch lovers. Current pieces from the Globemaster and De Ville collections are suitable for any boardroom and the minimal models are distinguished candidates for black tie. The distinctive Constellation, an iconic watch of the eighties, is another family with a number of suitable options.
Nowadays of course, there is also a tendency to wear vintage sports models with a suit, which largely came about thanks to James Bond, some of these can indeed work, particularly on a leather strap, however they are a touch less formal than the families we have mentioned.
Complications and Special Editions
Omega has made a wealth of special editions and commemorative watches over the years. These are often higher value pieces owing to their rarity and can stray quite far from traditional Omega style. Recent examples include the Seamaster Edizione Venezia, a dress watch in the Seamaster name, the wide-ranging Olympic Games collection, and the 1957 Trilogy, released in 2017, which is three near-identical remakes of Omegas three top-sellers in 1957.
For more rare and interesting Omega watches including a digital watch and a high complication, check out 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Omega.
When the Constellation was introduced in 1982 it was intended for men. As the years went by it increasingly attracted a female audience and when Cindy Crawford designed her own version in the early 2000s, the iconic “My Choice”, it became one of the most sought-after women’s watches in the world.
Omega’s original mainstream women’s timepiece was the Ladymatic and this collection has now been reintroduced and developed. It has a very feminine design and its shape recalls the early days of watchmaking.
Other women’s Omega watches include the Prestige family, which has a number of styles ranging from vintage to modern. There are also ladies versions of the sports watches including women’s Seamasters and Speedmasters.
Where to Buy
Thanks to such a healthy supply, even the most recent models can usually be found on the pre-owned market and often in barely used condition. Buying an Omega second hand is highly recommended as it typically means around 30% off the RRP. However, the key to a watch’s value is authenticity and condition, and there are a huge number of counterfeited and less-than-genuine watches out there which might be a mix of parts. This can be particularly important when buying vintage, as many older watches are higher in value and the need for authenticity increases. With this in mind, we recommend only purchasing through pre-owned and vintage dealers with a strong reputation. This means top auction houses for vintage or shops that have established themselves as an authority over the years and offer guarantees and refunds. Our collection at Xupes is up there with the best, and as well as having a hard-earned reputation we have an accredited Omega service centre that can provide detailed condition reports and make repairs and services where necessary.
For more watch reviews and buying guides, follow our magazine or for purchase options you can shop second hand and vintage Omega watches on Xupes.