This year Omega marks 75 years of the Seamaster Collection and caught up with the ever-so-passionate and knowledgeable watch collector, Gregory Selch, to help us dive deeper with a part of his collection.
THM: What do you have to say about the Omega Seamaster?
Greg: When people talk about the Seamaster, it’s generally about it being a tool watch and how deep it can dive. But there’s so much more to the Seamaster. The Seamaster, of course, is one of the brands, one of the lines that Omega has. I don’t know exactly when it came into being, but they are considered to be more water-resistant. I’ve seen dress watches that say Seamaster, but it’s one of their most popular lines, along with the Speedmaster, which is also a different line.
Greg: They are both divers, and people know them well. They are Seamaster 120 and Seamaster 300. These two watches refer to the depth that they could go. But, nobody dives that deep, ever. If these watches ever go in salt water, it’s very rare, but they can. The Seamaster 120 is a smaller watch, but it’s essentially the same size as a Rolex Submariner, with a different kind of look but beautiful bracelets. The movements, whether they’re manual, wind, or automatic, are just beautiful. They’re usually copper-plated, beautiful, corrosive-proof, and so on.
THM: If I’m not wrong, I think it was in the 1960s when the Seamaster 120 was introduced which was a more elegant, dress version for the Seamaster collection.
Greg: Yes, and later they went bigger, but at the outset, they were smaller watches, understanding that in the 1950s, diving watches were not normally very big. Some were Italian, like Panerai and they were big. But most watches were small, because if you dive, things look bigger through water, and so you don’t need to have as big a watch. On the other hand, you need a big watch that is going to be able to take a lot and you might have to turn something with your hands. But these watches are fantastic. In my opinion, Omega is one of the greatest brands to collect, especially for people who don’t know a lot about it, because there’s a lot of information out there, and they made millions and millions, not only just watches but different lines, different models and so on. You can find out a lot of information about all of them because they sell them all over the world. They were a huge company, and there’s a book that they put out with almost every single model with a description and all kinds of information. For any other brand, it’s almost impossible to find that much information in one book. So it’s a great place to start if you’re collecting.
THM: Which watch are we exploring next?
Greg: Next, I have something, it’s called a, it’s known as a 30T2. They did change the movement at a certain point, but originally, this was Omega’s best watch. It was a very big watch. The one that I have is about 39 millimetres, which as you can imagine is a huge watch. When it was a new watch in the 1940s, this was an enormous watch, and its movement was so good. There’s a story in the Omega book about somebody getting this watch and showing his son, and the son just saying, what’s so special about this? And the guy opening it up and saying, this is just the greatest movement ever. You’re just thinking to yourself, this is a watch that’s built around a movement. It’s a great movement, easy to repair, and there are lots of them available. You can find chronometer-grade versions and others in different sizes.
THM: Well, that’s an interesting one. What’s next?
Greg: The next one I brought is a Tritium Seamaster. With a tritium dial, it has little T’s next to the Swiss-made. It’s a kind of material that they would have used for the glow-in-the-dark. But everything about this watch, from the lugs to the crosshair dial, is beautiful. Even though it’s a snapback, it’s very water-resistant. These watches are fantastic, and they’re not hard to find, but they are in good condition. But try to find them with a dial that hasn’t been restored, if you can.
THM: I think Omega stopped manufacturing with tritium around 1997. And after that, everything was super-luminova. You have one of these watches. What if you had to open it up and get it repaired? Is the radiation a problem?
Greg: Tritium is not very radioactive. There’s somebody I follow on Instagram who is a scientist at the University of Illinois. He did a study with a Geiger counter to study the power of the radiation from different watches, especially what they call the radium dial watches. Radiation is what we get from the sun every day. That’s what gives us the sun tan. Radiation is powerful but it can be dangerous. What he did with the Geiger counter is he found out that even a banana has radiation coming from it. It will click on the rate on the Geiger counter. A banana, a watch too. Radium is not something that we should be afraid of unless we are breathing it in. This would be a very bad idea, but having it on your wrist is probably not going to do too much. Tritium is neutral, so it doesn’t have much. And that’s why they switched to it at a certain point. There are other things that they did, but superluminova is very bright and it’s blue.
THM: So what do we have next?
Greg: The next one I wanted to talk about is this amazing chronograph. It’s not a Seamaster, but it’s a doctor’s chronograph. It’s in rose gold. But what I loved about it when I saw it was the lugs are huge and they match what we call the beefy lugs that would be on a regular Seamaster. So a Seamaster has these very, very big lugs that make it look like it’s rugged and it can take it. Here’s a beautiful dress watch in gold that has the same lugs. And inside it has a caliber 320, which is a two-counter version of the 321, which is what they use in the original Moonwatch. It’s a famous movement. Omega even reintroduced it recently. So this has the same movement and around the outside of the dial, it has something called a pulsations dial. The pulsations would let you know, depending on what category the rate at which your heart is beating. So that’s how you know it’s a doctor’s watch. You take somebody’s pulse and you can count off how many pulsations using the stopwatch and it’ll tell you in a split second how fast their heart is beating. It’s just a trick.
THM: What’s next?
Greg: This is the Speedmaster that I brought. It’s a 1969 but it has no markings on it that say first watch on the moon or anything because they hadn’t gone to the moon yet. It’s got the calibre 861 movement. Both of these movements were made by a company which was owned by Omega entirely. And they’re a separate company, but it’s an 861 as opposed to the earlier moon watches. One of the things I wanted to say about this for collectors, the Speedmaster to me is perfect. Why? Because if you buy a diamond and it’s two carats or greater, there’s a certain price that you pay based on the color and clarity. But there’s a certain price you pay when it’s two carats or over. But what if you buy a diamond that is 1.98 carats? It’s a lot cheaper. Does it look the same? It looks the same as something that’s two carats. It’s 1.98, but the price is a lot lower. Buying a moon watch, a Speedmaster, or if you like a watch with two instead of three sub-dials will be a lot more accessible for getting the same thing as everybody else wants a caliber 321 Speedmaster with three dots. You’re going to pay a premium price for what everybody else wants.
THM: Well, that’s right. Collect knowledge before you start collecting watches, because this is an interesting piece of information.
Greg: I love several brands when it comes to watch collecting. From Rolex, Universal Geneve, Movado Zenith. But Omega is one of the greatest because they were essentially competing with all of these companies at the same time. So, if you can find something that is exactly like a Submariner from the early 60s, try to find an early 60s unrestored Submariner, with the original bracelet for something that’s a reasonable price that somebody could afford. And you don’t know if it’s been fixed if it’s been done. But on the other hand, their Omegas, Seamaster 120s or 300s, it’s much more durable. It’s much more of a serious watch. And they are much, much more accessible because of the fashion element and the desirability. So, that’s the way the market works. Desirability makes the price go up. Rarity makes the price go up. But if you can get a rare that is less well-known, the prices are lower.
THM: What are your thoughts on the new collection?
Greg: I love the new watches. A couple of years ago, I bought a watch just because I thought it was ironic. It’s a giant watch with a coaxial movement, something that Omega spent an absolute fortune to develop. They’re doing a lot of reproductions, but they are not reproducing these old movements with all the problems that the old movements had. They’re using modern lubricants and techniques of making things to make them better, which is fantastic. Omega is one of the great companies
Find the balance between the hyped watches and the rare watches and look for that special timepiece.
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