The paths never taken by Omega
July 14, 2016
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Trying to explain "what really is Omega", its no easy task. But it could unveil in the form of many things... definitely more then James Bond and Man on the Moon.
With little exception, wherever you look at, trying to document yourself about Omega's history, every piece of article will start with a reverence for what dictionary will return for "Omega", followed up by "accomplishment", "achievement", "perfection", etc. Nothing wrong, if it wasn't just a mereological element in a much bigger picture.
The very source of inspiration for many of the last 15 years articles, was the Omega official website, summarizing their history so unattractively, that you would hardly want to read it a second time. But things have changed, and this obsessing cliché is now smartly redistributed in crumbles on their new looking website, making the content more vivid.

The thing is, we could attribute and emphasize the right to the above epithets to so many good watchmaking companies, established well over 100 years ago, without being the last letter of the Greek alphabet - Ω. Sadly, the watchmaking industry has been faced to so many changes, forcing competition towards limits, that only a few still stand to advocate these merits today.

But the real contribution to the Henri Rieckel's trademark suggestion was the expansion of the Louis Brandt vision, through his descendants, by transforming the Établissage into a real Manufacture.
To enumerate a few milestones:  With the introduction of the first long distance electrical transmission (1884), the factory was able to produce over 100.000 complete watches per year (1889), employing more then 600 people (1889). The company continued efforts to set high standards, and the introducing of interchangeable parts and their revolutionary Omega 19" caliber (1894) was considered a huge success. Not by coincidence, it became one of the earliest Swiss reference watches (1898), while the Gordon Bennett balloon race that opened the way into timekeeping events (1909), and the long series of Chronometers for rails, wheels, water and air, inevitably transformed Omega into one of the most important Swiss watch Manufacture.
The 1932 onwards highlight moments have had their share of attention in many public spaces, and although they are a sine qua non condition for their immense success, I will refrain developing a middle view opinion here, as they require but also deserve a much in depth study, space and dissemination.
This vast legacy could portray, in short, "what is Omega", as well as the ability to retain its unique character and control over its own destiny.

But did you know that although Omega would dominate the industry for a long period, in its long innovating history, there are a few milestones in the opposite direction too ?!

I have made a small selection of the most curios paths never taken by Omega, by including watches or complications that became a reference in the watchmaking world that Omega sadly never realized or further developed:


1. Repeater Carillon
- Omega is proudly assigning to their history the first minute repeater wristwatch ever delivered (1892). Although it is attributed to the Louis Brandt & Frere, precursor of Omega, this watch was fitted with a LeCoultre ebauche modified by Audemars Piguet. Following the success of the wristwatch, Louis Brandt & Frere brought their contribution to the repeating mechanism, and brevet +7832 was granted in 1894. It didn't take long for the first Lépine and Savonnette minute repeater pocket watches to be delivered. The Carillon Minute Repeater patent was granted half a year before the successful Omega +8760 setting mechanism, but the minute repeater production was short.
Although the Carillon Minute Repeaters, Chronograph Repeaters and Minute Repeater Perpetual Calendar Chronographs did command a great interest in the 20th century, for yet unknown reasons, Omega never labeled a repeater mechanism after 1903.


Louis Brandt 1892 First world Minute repeater wristwatch


2. Quantième or Calendar pocket watch
- At the beginning of the journey, complicated mechanisms were a constant preoccupation for the company, but probably with the success of the 19" caliber, such projects have been abandoned in favor of the less complex but far more profitable calibers. It is tempting to take this judgment because the 1893 patent +6010, also known as the Louis Brandt & Frere "Big Date", bear testimony that success takes sacrifices. Although sister brands offered a modest substitute of the calendar and moon phase complication, the 1893 patent never seen the production line, or better yet, it was never incorporated into an Omega labeled product.
Omega regained appetite for such complications only in 1984, when, in unclear circumstances, a perpetual calendar pocket watch cal. 972 was released, signed either Omega or Louis Brandt, and limited to only 15 pieces.


Louis Brandt & Frere Big Date Triple Calendar Moonphase mechanism brevet +6010


3. Sonnerie or Alarm pocket watch
- The Omega alarm movements and their appearance have been taken for granted by the collectors with the Omega SAGA distribution. Even the AJTT Caliber Nomenclature shows the 20" Reveil movement as being produced by Omega since 1896. But besides the 46.8 x 10mm size, and its appearance in the illustrated chart, any information on this caliber is scarce. This is what I would call an axiomatic argument.
I also have strong doubts about the manufacturer of this curious movement. In fact, if you would do your own research, you would have a hard time finding any similar Alarm movement dated prior to 1930's. However, it should not be a surprise if you will find similar Alarm movements to the ones represented in the AJTT Omega Caliber Nomenclature and Illustration Chart, signed Lemania, Meylan, M. Tissot, Concord, etc. To my knowledge, this caliber is attributed to A. Schild (possibly a derivative of cal. 742). I have also seen a LeCoultre and a Lemania registered model with similar specs.


A. Schild 742 (19 lig.) movement


I would have a hard time believing that Omega started to deliver Alarm watches before 1947. The real Alarm movement is described as cal. 42.9, 8 Day REV, and was introduced years after it absorbed Lemania (1932), with the L'Orient company finishing them. It is also worth saying such movements were only delivered in the form of small portable table clocks.
So, unless the Omega movement is of a different breed, the 1896 cal. 20" Reveil does not exist.

I also don't know - and would have strong doubts - about the existence of any Omega alarm pocket watch. The reasons could be multiple: the size and the thickness of the movement, the alarm complication represented on the dial, the setting and winding mechanisms, etc.
Looking at how successful other manufacturers were on delivering Alarm watches, its a pity not having such a representation in the Omega pocket watch creation.


Omega 20 lig. REV movement as displayed in AJTT Illustration chart, p.795


4. Dual Time zone pocket watch
- Unfortunately, Omega has never delivered a multi time zone pocket watch. I have also never heard of such complication being developed by Omega, either as a prototype, until modern days, when it found it's utility in wristwatches.


Omega Seamaster 300 GMT Ref. 2234.50.00. Picture via Omegawatches.com


5. Split Seconds pocket watch
- It was only in 1932, when Omega introduced its first split seconds chronograph, the famous 53.7 caliber. This couldn't have been possible without the genius of Alfred Meylan of Lemania, after Lemania joined forces with Omega to form SSIH. Although this formidable Rattrapante - still in production today - has seen various alterations, including a 100 hours power reserve version, its 53.7mm movement size alone, would place it in the Goliath movement class, far from a regular pocket watch size when mounted into a case.
A rather 38-42mm movement would have been more appropriate for a regular split seconds chronograph pocket watch. A bit surprised by lack of interest, considering their resources, and the multiple prototypes developed, including the 38.5 L chronographs that never ended up in production.


Omega Olympic ref. MG 6714 cal. 1131 (53.7 CHROR 1/10) Split seconds chronograph, 37H power reserve


6. Center Seconds pocket watch
- Omega did so good with Chronometers but forgot about one of the most beautiful and desirable complication. Yes, Omega neglected the center seconds pocket watch and it's true utility.
Before anyone gets outraged by the above statement, and ask for an immediate correction, I will try put this straight:
The 59.8 Day SC S introduced in 1941, as beautiful as it gets, adding the extra Dead Seconds complication, which by all means, will not get bypassed here on Twistoftime.com, will never fit the description. Although the 59.8 D standard movement was also fitted in large pocket watch or dashboard cases, thus crown wind, the 59.8 D SC S, was only fitted in small clock cases, as a key wind version.
The other obvious reason, is the size. At 59.8mm in size, this exceptional movement would only fit the Goliath class.
The 18" and 19" caliber Chronographs without the recessed seconds hand will fail the enrollment as well, because the sweep hand will only move as you press the chronograph button, changing it's utility.
And last but not least, the 30T2 SC pocket watch, which is no less then one of the most sought after pocket watches today, has been considered the perfect candidate, as collectors continue to slog in this long Omega center seconds drought. However, the slimmer 1940's version along with the 1970's versions fitted with either 600 and 1000 caliber family movements or the Megasonic and F300 quartz, remind more of the Art Deco style, all featuring wristwatch caliber movements, with no real pocket watch DNA, and therefore will never take place of a beefy pocket watch, like the Longines 19.71N SC or the Zenith 19-34-3-T Deck watches, just to name a few. It is hard to understand how Omega let this slip, since the 19" caliber would have been an excellent candidate.
Would it be evil to add that the Omega Center Seconds pocket watch quest does not end with the above calibers ?


AJTT Omega 1940's pocket watch display, including the famous CK 1107 Ibn Seoud 30T2 Center Seconds


7. Hacking Seconds pocket watch
- This apparently less important feature would have been a real delight together with a Sweep Seconds hand pocket watch. I am still puzzled how this feature only got minor attention with Omega master minds. And when they did use this feature, they much preferred the "Stop seconds" push button over the classical stop seconds mechanism, while the winding stem is moved into setting position.
Omega had to wait until 1970's to introduce a real hacking seconds mechanism to it's pocket watch collection.
Maybe it didn't even occur to you, but the first Omega hand winding hacking seconds pocket watch had to wait until 1975 for it's first performance, and that would be with the introduction of CK 131-1746 powered by a cal. 1035, and if you are not too picky, you could also add the F300 quartz Chronometer to the mix. A real treat for no big money, considering you'll find yourself a good wristwatch movement entrapped into a nice dressy pocket watch. These are still underestimated at the moment, considering they have their own place in history, not just figuratively.
The other Omega calibers imposing much more respect that have delivered such a Stop Seconds feature would be the 372 Synchrobeat, 59.8 D SCS and the 21" BORD, all Chronometers, the 1131 (53.7) Olympic Rattrapante, and a less important 38.5 L T1 prototype (Good luck finding it!). So yet again, no regular mass produced stop seconds pocket watch movement.


AJTT Omega Stop Seconds Prototype, 1940. Lepine 38.5L T1 featuring a stop seconds function through the crown pusher at 12


8. Power Reserve
- Other then Omega Museum owning all the known prototypes of the 59.8 D caliber featuring a power reserve feature, unfortunately, there is no evidence of such specimen in the wild. The power reserve feature has found its place ultimately in the De Ville wristwatch collection.


Omega De Ville Co-Axial Power Reserve Ref. 4532.51.00. Picture via Omegawatches.com


9. Jumping Hour, Retrograde, World Time, Regulateur, Duo Dial
- If you ever thought of searching such complications or features within Omega vintage collections, just after seeing them with other famous or obscure brands, you will have to refrain yourself. Besides a semi World Time pocket watch - dial only - that has seen quite an increment lately, none of the above "sweets" have been approached by the Bienne headquartered company.


Patek Phillipe World Time Pocket Watch with Cloisonné Enamel Dial Ref. 605. Picture via Christies.com


10. Omega and the "Poincon de Geneve"
- The Geneva Seal has been around since 1886, and is no less then the oldest form of watchmaking certificate in the world. The Certification has been introduced first to protect and differentiate the Geneva manufacture from the rest (yes, the Swiss rest). With Omega of Bienne, first as a movement (1894) then as a Manufacture (1903), it would have been impossible to aspire to such a certification. However, since 1917, Omega has opened a factory in Geneva too, overpassing therefore the geographical restriction of the Geneva Seal criteria.
I have no doubt, many if not most of the Omega Chronometer movements would have passed well the Geneva Seal regulations. But the real restriction would have been the fact that all the parts and parts assembly, including casing, should have been performed in Geneva. As a matter of prestige, my feeling indicates me that the supreme 1904-1930 manufacture, could have never been assembled outside Bienne. So yes, there is no Omega pocket watch (or wrist that I know of), caring the famous Poinçon de Genève.
Omega has linked its destiny to Geneva though, by adding the Cupola of the Geneva Observatory since 1952 on the Constellation family, reminding of the place where they made history. Until METAS will wipe it out.


Omega Constellation back case medallion showing the Cupola of the Geneva Observatory


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