6 November 2015

Ah Mr Bond, I see you no longer work in sales…


I don’t know what they’re drinking over at Omega these days, but it’s definitely not pints of lager any longer, and whatever it is it’s working.

After too many years of producing over-sized, garish golf club bling, someone at Omega seems to have remembered that it is in fact one of the great houses of watchmaking and rediscovered the brand’s class.

I’ve not owned an Omega in years. I had a new Seamaster Professional in the late 90s, a number of 1960s Seamasters I bought under the counter in a carpet shop in Kabul in 2002 (presumably, looking at the pile of available watches of all brands in the box, from the wrists of unfortunate Russians who never returned from their crack at Afghanistan) and a lovely early 80s Speedmaster, my last Omega, which I probably should never have sold.

But it’s been a long time since Omega made anything I’d be tempted to part with my cash for. No longer.

A string of beautiful new watches in the last 18 months, many drawing on Omega’s rich heritage to feed the market’s new found appetite for all things retro, has been combined with ambitious technical advances, impressive new movements and, in the case of the simply stunning new Globemaster, which is the first watch anywhere to carry the new Master Chronometer certificate, world firsts.

This upping of Omega’s game is most starkly obvious in the company’s latest Bond watch, the Seamaster 300 SPECTRE limited edition. Since paying to become 007’s jeweller some years ago Omega has decked MI6’s finest out in a variety of things but none have been as special as this.

Omega knows that its Bond watches will get vastly more publicity than anything else it makes. That being the case the company sees them as brand ambassadors in their own right; the Bond watch should tell you all about Omega. If that’s right, the future looks pretty good.

First glance tells you it’s unashamedly retro, from the pleasingly subtle 41mm case (300m water resistant) it shares with the standard Seamaster 300 to the NATO strap it doesn’t. The 12 marker goes to be replaced with with slightly larger Omega branding but otherwise face design and colours are as one of the standard 300 options, but bezel, hands (with a welcome return for lollipop seconds and broad arrow hours) are SPECTRE specific, and the 12 hour bezel allows the running of twin time zones.

I loved the thing immediately I saw it, but with a heavy heart I set about searching for the hideous “007” branding which would make it unwearable and thus unownable. Joy of joys, there isn’t any, or at least none you can see. The back of the stainless steel case carries SPECTRE engraving, and Bond’s evergreen automatic pistol logo can be found on the strap holder. One’s invisible whilst the watch is on the wrist, the other almost invisible. That’s it.

This is the first Omega Bond watch which isn’t aimed at management consultants who see secret agents when they look in the shaving mirror. It’s a watch that can be bought on the basis that it’s a lovely piece, like any other.

That retro bezel is only retro to look at, being made from ultra-contemporary scratch-proof ceramic, and the modernity is on the march on the inside too where you’ll find Omega’s magnificent Master Co-Axial calibre 8400, which is not only lovely to look at (through, in this case, the transparent back) but also very effective.

Stability and durability are the words Omega use to describe the 8400, and not unreasonably with its free-sprung balance with a silicon balance spring, two barrels mounted in series, twin directional automatic winding, a 60 hour power reserve and both bridges and oscillating weight beautifully decorated with those Geneva waves in arabesque. The 8400 is also able to resist magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss.

But perhaps the most significant thing about the new SPECTRE Seamaster is that it’s also the first Bond watch from Omega to be offered as a strictly limited edition. Only 7007 (inevitably) pieces will be sold, and that may account for some of the subtlety.

Most of Omega’s previous Bond offerings were designed to sell large numbers of more standard watches, which cost significantly less, and thus carried more aggressive 007 branding.

And on the subject of cost, the Seamster 300 SPECTRE is unfortunately a case of you get what you pay for. In the UK it’ll set you back £4785.

Unless, of course, your quartermaster issues you with one…

This article was first published on The Making Progress Blues.

James Clark is a journalist and communications adviser.