Omega’s Olympic Watches

London 2012 Seamaster 522. Olympics 2012

Forget all of the crass, exploitative nonsense surrounding the upcoming Olympics, the stuffed toys, the cheesy logo, the inevitable tea set. One long-standing tradition held dear by Omega aficionados will not be ignored for London 2012: the release of commemorative watches available to the Olympic-loving public. If this needs validation, note that Omega is the official timer, and has earned the privilege. Kosher? 101%.

Omega has announced two new models to mark its latest collaboration with the Olympics. The “Specialities Olympic Collection London 2012” (Ref 522. is a robust chronograph available in steel on a steel bracelet, or in steel-and-red-gold on a leather strap. It is powered by the Omega 3313 self-winding Co-Axial Escapement movement with chronometer certification and column wheel mechanism. Functions include date, hour, minute recorders, continuous small seconds hands and central chronograph hand. Its power reserve is a healthy 52 hours.

To provide a fresh look, the watch features a blue striped dial protected by a domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, with anti-reflective treatment on both sides. The case, with screw-down crown, measures 44mm, and it provides water resistance to 150m/500ft.

In a more historic vein, and already creating a buzz among collectors, is the “Seamaster 1948 Co-Axial London 2012 Limited Edition” (Ref 522. At a time when no anniversary or occasion seems too mundane to celebrate, when watch stores are flooded with spurious ‘collectors’ items’, it is easy for the significance of an occasion to be lost. This timepiece honours not one but four achievements.

Few watches have a ‘subtitle’, but the Seamaster 1948 is also known within Omega as the ‘One Year To Go’ watch, having been announced in mid-2011. Its very presence counts down to the 2012 Olympics. That, then, is its first and foremost purpose. But there is more to this handsome and understated model than even that extended name reveals.

Why 1948? The year itself adds triple significance to the above, the most obvious being London’s hosting of the XIV Olympic Games that year, after two successive cancellations of the Games due to the Second World War. So, while, this timepiece is a part of the forthcoming Olympic celebrations, Omega has poignantly reminded us of the previous occasion when London was the site of the global sporting event.

In 1948, too, Omega launched the aforementioned photo-finish timer, also known as the Photosprint and colloquially as ‘the Magic Eye’, which provided split-second optical timing accurate to 1/1000th of a second. This, then, is the third significant point of the Seamaster 1948.

As glorious as these three raisons d’etre may be, watch enthusiasts know a fourth reason why this model is so significant. It was in 1948 that Omega launched one of its most enduring model ranges, with the very first Automatic Seamaster. It was a timepiece with military origins, but in civilian clothing.

Omega’s brief was to produce a water-resistant watch – benefitting from the practical experiences of creating timepieces for the armed forces – that was purpose-built to house an automatic movement. It, too, marked an anniversary: 100 years from Louis Brandt’s founding of a house for producing pocket watches – the house that we now know as Omega.

Re-imagined for 2012, the Seamaster 1948 Co-Axial ‘London 2012’ Limited Edition re-styles the look of the original to suit a 39mm stainless steel case housing the chronometer-certified Calibre 2022 Co-Axial movement. Its power reserve is 48 hours. The Opalin silver dial carries applied 18K white gold indices and Arabic numerals at the 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock positions. Above the six is a small seconds dial, with blued steel hands; hours and minutes are indicated with diamond-polished leaf-shaped hands.

Its vintage feel is enhanced by a ‘railway track’ minute ring around the dial, a vintage-style polished Omega crown, and a white gold applied ‘period’ Omega logo on the dial. The watch’s case back bears an 18k yellow gold medallion stamped with the 2012 London Olympics logo. This limited edition of 1,948 pieces is finished with a black alligator strap and stainless steel buckle.

Every watch Omega has ever produced in conjunction with the Olympics has become a collector’s item. It’s not too late to put your name down for either of the two watches announced for 2012. And what more appropriate watches could be worn while watching the event itself?

(AskMen, 2012)