In terms of the most recognizable watch brands in the world, one of the few names that can compare to the notoriety of Rolex is Omega. Their extensive portfolio contains a number of iconic models, made memorable by some of history's greatest achievements, and some of pop culture's most enduring heroes. The current lineup of Omega watches includes names familiar even to those with the merest passing interest in horology; and for the real aficionados, they speak of adventures on land, beneath the waves, and some that are genuinely out of this world.
Omega has existed since 1848 and has evolved over the last 170+ years into one of the true greats of the Swiss watch industry. Their classic yet innovative designs have been favored by a diverse assortment of personalities including President JFK, Elvis Presley, Tom Hanks, Cindy Crawford, Michael Phelps, and George Clooney. On-screen, you will see them worn by Tony Montana in Scarface, and most famously of all, they have been the brand of choice for the James Bond since the mid-90s.
However, perhaps their greatest claim to fame, and one that outdoes just about every other manufacturer on the planet, is Omega's status as the brand behind the first watch worn on the moon. Since 1963, they have been the official timepiece supplier to NASA, and the Speedmaster chronograph accompanied Apollo 11’s astronauts on their inaugural trip to the lunar surface.
If that wasn't enough, they were also the only company with the foresight to recognize the genius of George Daniel's Co-Axial escapement, arguably the biggest revolution in watchmaking since the 18th century. By transforming the traditional lever escapement’s sliding motion, as its pallet fork’s teeth lock and unlock into a radial movement, the Co-Axial eliminates the inherent problem of friction that has long hindered the performance of the standard arrangement. In doing so, it has ushered in a level of long-term accuracy and resilience previously unheard of in mass-produced luxury watches. Omega bought the patent to the Co-Axial escapement in 1999 and has since gone on to build most of their modern timepieces around the system. Together with their own Master Chronometer rating certificate, this advanced technology helps puts the brand at the very forefront of what is possible in mechanical watchmaking.
Today, the Omega catalog is comprised of four main collections (the Speedmaster, Seamaster, De Ville, and Constellation), and each one is split into a number of sub-groups. The company offers world-class dive models, industry-leading chronographs, supremely elegant dress pieces, and rugged everyday beaters, with price points ranging from the extremely attainable to top-end expensive.
Below we have put together a quick buying guide on Omega watches as an overview of the manufacturer's biggest hitters. While it doesn't touch on every available piece, it gives a good starting point for what can, at times, be a confusing selection. We’ve also elected to avoid the limited edition models, as there may not be enough space on the internet to list them all.
Arguably the most well known of Omega’s collections thanks to its association with the Space Race, the Speedmaster was introduced in 1957 and became the chronograph against which all others would be measured. The first to move the tachymeter scale from the dial to the bezel, thus offering unparalleled legibility, plus its bombproof engineering was enough to win it the NASA gig. Following on from those early days, the Speedy name has been used for a wide variety of different models, including everything from faithful reissues of that moonwalking original to quartz-powered analog/digital display pieces for a new generation of astronauts. There is a broad collection to choose from, and we have isolated a few of the most important.
With the possible exception of the Rolex Daytona, there is no other chronograph out there to match the Moonwatch's fabled appeal. It is virtually a direct recreation of the model Buzz Aldrin wore during his historic feat, complete with a hand-wound movement and Hesalite crystal. One of the most well-loved watches of all time, every collector should own a Speedy at some point.
Although also called a Moonwatch, this smaller, more retro-designed Speedy is actually subtitled 'The First Omega in Space' (FOIS) and is centered around the model worn by Wally Schirra on his 1962 Earth orbit flight aboard Sigma 7.
Omega has been among the pioneers of using ceramic for watch cases, the material forming the basis of their 'Of The Moon' range in colors of black, white, blue, and grey. The Grey Side of the Moon models are available with a standard dial, or one taken from a slice of ancient meteorite, acid etched to expose its unique natural pattern. Larger than the standard Omega Moonwatches, it also benefits from the automatic Co-Axial caliber 9300.
A natural progression of the classic mechanical Moonwatch, the X-33 is a 45mm titanium-forged, analog/digital LCD timepiece powered by a multifunctional thermo-compensated quartz chronograph movement. Able to display a timer, MET (Mission Elapsed Time), PET (Phase Elapsed Time), three alarms and a perpetual calendar, it has been approved by the European Space Agency (ESA).
The most stylistically diverse range of watches in Omega’s whole collection, the Seamaster takes in everything from pieces made originally for scientists and technicians, to extraordinarily robust dive monsters able to withstand impossible depths. While the name itself might lead to some puzzlement, many of the Seamaster models are among the most well-known of all, helped along by a certain fictional super spy. From a huge selection of watches, below we have picked out some of the most noteworthy.
When Pierce Brosnan slipped on the quartz version of the Omega Seamaster Diver 300m in 1995's Goldeneye, it triggered a resurgence for the brand that they have been riding ever since. The latest iteration comes in 23 different possible configurations, with the steel-cased, blue bezel/dial model remaining the closest to Bond’s original Omega of choice. Now a 42mm piece powered by the Master Chronometer Caliber 8800 movement, it remains one of their most popular offerings, with the beautiful laser-etched wave pattern across the face making a very welcome comeback in recent years.
The Railmaster series was initially its own line of watches, making up one-third of Omega's original 1957 Professional Collection, along with the original Speedmaster and Seamaster. Intended as a model for scientists, it contained a soft iron interior shield to protect the movement's delicate components from strong magnetic fields. Nowadays, it is part of the Seamaster range and its Co-Axial caliber, made with naturally antimagnetic parts, means that it no longer has any need for the extra inner shielding, allowing the state-of-the-art movement to sit on display through its sapphire caseback. Simple, elegant and accomplished, this is Omega at its most practical.
Positioned as Omega's collection of ultra-capable dive watches, the Omega Planet Ocean series was launched in 2005. Boasting twice the water-resistance of the Seamaster Diver 300m, they are also offered in a variety of sizes (39.5mm, 43.5mm, and 45.5mm), with three-handed date versions alongside chronographs and a GMT. Materials range from stainless steel, Sedna gold (18K rose), or titanium, and all are modern models are driven by Master Chronometer Co-Axial movements.
Sporting the world's first polished, bi-ceramic black and white bezel, the GMT-equipped Planet Ocean 600m is one of the most all-around useful versions of Omega's versatile diver. The contrasting colors on the bezel offer the clearest indication of night and day, as well as giving the watch a beautifully sophisticated visual. Like the rest of the series, the in-house Co-Axial movement is Master Chronometer certified.
Another relatively new addition to the Seamaster family, the Omega Aqua Terra range first appeared in 2003. As a water-resistant watch with an elegantly formal aesthetic, the series is more in keeping with the original Seamaster models dating from 1948. It is also hugely diverse, with a total of 86 different watches, covering a variety of sizes (including ladies' pieces), mechanical and quartz movements, and even some impressive complications. The 41mm Co-Axial Master Chronometer is available with a selection of dial colors, all featuring etched grooves to emulate the look of a yacht's decking. Bracelets also come in steel, rubber, or leather, giving the piece either a sporty or dressy look. A handsome, somewhat minimalist watch with a cutting-edge caliber, the Aqua Terra represents exceptional value for money.
The world's first completely antimagnetic watch, the Aqua Terra 15,000 Gauss contains the Co-Axial Caliber 8508, developed by teams from ETA, ASULAB (the research and development laboratory for Swatch Group), Nivarox, and Omega themselves. Able to withstand magnetic fields greater than 1.5 tesla, it represents the brand’s commitment to completely safeguarding the performance of their watches.
An extraordinary addition to the Aqua Terra collection, this 18k Sedna (rose) gold piece includes a Worldtimer complication, with an outer chapter ring displaying the names of 24 international cities, one for each time zone. The 24-hour inner scale rotates once a day and shows the time in other locations on the dial, one half in dark blue to indicate nighttime and the other in a silvery opaline representing daylight. In the center is a beautifully realized globe on a Grade 5 titanium plate, laser-ablated to leave a relief map of the continents. The top of the Aqua Terra range, it manages to be both a highly intricate dress watch and robust enough to remain water-resistant to 150m.
A wonderful throwback to the original Professional Collection, Omega launched the '1957 Trilogy' on the 60th anniversary of that groundbreaking trio’s release. The Seamaster 300 from the series is an almost exact visual reproduction, with a host of styling touches from the original vintage Omega watch from 1957, but with the benefit of the brand's latest movement technology.
With the advent of saturation diving, a new problem emerged for the industry's deep divers. The mixed breathing gases they had to use contained a high proportion of helium, and the molecules were able to seep inside their watch cases. Upon the ascent, those bubbles would expand, blowing out the protective crystals covering the dials. While other brands, most notably Rolex, tackled the problem by inventing the Helium Escape Valve to let the gas purge without causing any damage, Omega went the other way and created a model so immense and solid that it didn't let the helium inside in the first place. That watch was the Ploprof, an utter beast of a timepiece, water-resistant to more than 4,000ft underwater. There are now five in the series, and the modern versions are now fitted with helium escape valves, with this orange-bezel titanium slab among the standouts. Definitely an acquired taste, but massively impressive (and just plain massive) all the same.
Once the flagship from Omega, the Constellation collection, which also takes in the retro-inspired Globemaster subdivision, is the brand's dress watch range. A focus on sophistication and refinement, it is an extensive series and features some notable complications and tasteful use of precious metals. Below are a few of its best examples.
Omega's first Constellation watch was launched in 1952 and was a tribute to the Lockheed Constellation aircraft which had served for the allies during WWII. Several generations have come and gone since then, and the current range has in excess of 150 different models in both men's and women's sizes. As extensive as the modern collection is, they all share certain stylistic touches, most prominently the four 'claws' on the bezel, the integrated bracelet design and the small star on the dial. The steel Co-Axial Master Chronometer 39mm is among the more understated models, available in a choice of colors and with Roman numerals engraved on its surround.
A far smaller collection but an extremely popular one, the Globemaster watches are exemplified by their pie-pan dials, a much-missed element from the 1950s and 60s. The 17-strong range contains models crafted in steel and both yellow and Sedna gold, along with a number of bi-metal two-tone examples. All are given fluted bezels fitting for a dress watch and a variety of either steel bracelets or leather straps.
One of the most beneficial complications for a mechanical watch, an annual calendar compensates for months with varying numbers of days, adjusts itself automatically, and only requiring resetting once per year. On the Globemaster, each facet of the distinctive pie pan dial is given a month of the year, pointed out by an additional, blued hand. The 18k Sedna gold version with the sun-brushed blue dial is an absolute beauty and an ideal watch for formal occasions.
Introduced in 1960, the De Ville is another range that previously was part of the Seamaster collection, before breaking away into its own line in 1967. It is also the series most commonly used as a proving ground for Omega's succession of innovations - for example, it was a De Ville watch that debuted the first Co-Axial movement in 1999. Containing some of the most intricate and flamboyant pieces in the whole of the brand’s portfolio, many crafted from precious metals, this is where many of the priciest offerings can be found.
Commemorating the 'De Ville' name's half-century, Omega released anniversary watches in white, yellow, and red gold, each featuring a striking white enamel dial. The period-correct Arabic numeral hour markers are picked out in Anthracite, apart from the bright red 12 o'clock, and the inner railway minute track keeps everything suitably vintage looking. The caseback is engraved with Chronos, the god of time, and the watch is powered by the in-house Co-Axial Caliber 2500.
Although we said no limited editions, this one was important enough to break our own rule. A very special watch, with a very special price tag, the 44mm solid Sedna gold piece features a centrally-mounted tourbillon, with flying hands pointing out the time on an outer minute ring. The dial is sun-brushed and treated with blue PVD, while inside, the exclusive Omega 2638 movement is given an oscillating weight of 950 platinum.
As you can see above, Omega produces wide range of models to suit just about every niche imaginable - divers, dress watches, chronographs, and everything in between. While the level of choice is certainly welcomed, and all Omega watches are worthy of a spot in any collection, the sheer number of options available among the diverse assortment of models can occasionally be overwhelming.
With that in mind, we decided to look at what we would call a 'quintessential three' from Omega. By that, we're talking three Omega watches that could be a part of the same collection for different reasons, which complement one another all while being quite different from each other too. Given the subjectivity of building any collection, there is never a cut-and-dried, right or wrong answer. Instead, take from this a bit of insight and information about each model, and why we think they're special or noteworthy in their own right.
While the word 'iconic' frequently gets overused in the luxury watch industry, but there are few models more deserving of the term than the Speedmaster. This piece is not an icon because Omega's press material says it is, but rather because it was the only watch of its era that was deemed suitable to go to space, to land on the moon, and to become a standard-issue piece of equipment for NASA (to this day, for that matter).
The first watch to move the tachymeter scale to the bezel rather than around the edge of the dial, it can legitimately be thought of as the granddaddy of the modern chronograph wristwatch. Though Omega has produced innumerable variants of the Speedmaster since its launch in 1957, the essence of the 'Moonwatch' still shines through in the current line, and among the diverse assortment of Omega watches that have been produced throughout history, no other model receives nearly the same degree of attention or praise as the Speedmaster.
As the story goes, Buzz Aldrin was wearing an Omega Speedmaster on his suit when he took his first steps on the moon. The watch would later accompany NASA astronauts on every lunar mission that followed, earning the iconic chronograph its “Moonwatch” moniker. Today, the Speedmaster name is used for a diverse assortment of different chronograph watches in the Omega catalog; everything from a faithful reimagining of that 1957 originator, to hybrid analog/digital models for a new breed of astronaut - and that's not even including the endless procession of limited editions that join the rest of the standard-production Omega watches. However, despite the variation, Omega continues to produce a version that is incredibly close to the original NASA-certified models.
While there really is no bad option when it comes to the Speedmaster (or most Omega watches for that matter), the model that most recommend would be the classic version that most closely adhered to the original models that were used in space. This means a manually-wound mechanical chronograph with a black dial, Hesalite crystal, and steel caseback. The Speedmaster is a true icon and one that has been universally loved (or at least appreciated) by watch enthusiasts since it first released more than a half-century ago.
In this case, we're opting for a classic: the current edition manually-wound model, complete with Hesalite crystal. The piece is powered by the caliber 1861 movement and it in every way looks and feels the part of the classic Omega Speedmaster. Some purists may argue that a 'real' Speedy must be powered by the legendary Caliber 321 movement (long discontinued but just recently relaunched by Omega), and while the models that went to the moon all used the Cal. 321, the version with the Cal. 1861 movement is also flight-qualified by NASA. Plus, you can expect to pay a significant premium for a Speedmaster with a 321 movement over what you'd pay for a perfectly good, and incredibly similar example like this one.
The 'Seamaster' name is one of the oldest in Omega's catalog; however, it was not until the 1957 release of the Seamaster 300 that a purpose-built professional dive watch joined the Omega lineup. Since then, countless Omega dive watches have followed, and the greater Seamaster collection has expanded to include multiple sub-collections of highly-capable professional divers. With that in mind, among the Seamaster divers series, the model that is arguably the most famous and versatile purpose-built dive watch that Omega offers is the Seamaster Diver 300M.
Made famous by Pierce Brosnan during the James Bond film of the 1990s, the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M has become somewhat of a classic. Featuring the model's signature 'wave dial' and a manually-operated helium escape valve at 10 o'clock, the Seamaster Diver 300M perfectly combines elegant styling with professional dive watch functionality.
Dressy by dive watch standards, it is a go-anywhere, do-anything package that looks equally at-home paired with formal attire as it does a swimsuit. The modern versions retain all of the model's defining design characteristics but feature all of Omega's latest and greatest technologies, such as in-house Co-Axial Master Chronometer movements, re-designed helium escape valves, and ceramic dials and bezels.
While the other two Omega watches on our list cover enough aesthetic ground to be considered tool watches that could also be worn in more formal situations, the Omega De Ville series is comprised of the brand's out-and-out dress models. Launched in 1960, the De Ville was originally part of the Seamaster collection, before becoming a separate entity from 1967 onwards.
The Omega De Ville range now consists of several sub-collections, including the Prestige, Hour Vision, and the Trésor, along with the Ladymatic women’s models and the numbered edition Tourbillon. Over the years, it is the De Ville which has seen Omega at its most experimental and you will find vintage pieces in a number of striking styles, many of which have won design awards for the brand. Additionally, the De Ville is often the series chosen to showcase the brand's new technologies. For instance, it was an Omega De Ville watch that debuted the first Co-Axial movement back in 1999.
The contemporary roster has a huge number of different models available, all exemplified by a classic, elegant aesthetic. Perhaps more than the other two on our list, personal tastes come heavily into play here. There is enough diversity in the De Ville collection to appeal to just about anyone, but a favorite of ours is the classically-styled Omega De Ville Co-Axial Chronometer fitted with the brand's in-house Cal. 8500 movement. Offering an understated and timeless appearance, yet still packing all of the brand's latest and greatest technologies, this version of the De Ville is the perfect timepiece for more formal occasions and makes the perfect addition to our list of top Omega watches.
The Omega Railmaster is an interesting one for a couple of key reasons. It was Omega's answer to the Rolex Milgauss, and a fundamentally basic tool watch geared towards those working in environments where magnetism was of significant concern.
Outside of science labs and power plants, trains were the other main workplace where both time and magnetic fields were colliding in that era - precisely why Omega chose the name 'Railmaster' for this watch (and also why IWC chose 'Ingenieur' for its competitor; it's French for 'engineer'). Of the trio, the Railmaster was the least commercially successful, and by and large, it faded into obscurity. A few attempts were made over the years to revive the series, but it was the Trilogy collection, and this watch, in particular, that really brought the Railmaster back to life in its current form.
Intended to be a nod to the original 1957 model, this Railmaster features a slightly faded black dial and faux-aged luminous material used on its hands and indices. Its case is a modest 38mm across, which from Omega came as quite the surprise. It's quite rare to see modern Omega watches with case diameters smaller than 40mm these days, but with this design, the 38mm dimensions are just perfect.
Its case features a mix of brushed and polished surfaces - top-facing surfaces are polished, and sides are brushed. Staying true to its antimagnetic roots, the Railmaster is powered by Omega's Caliber 8806, which is resistant to 15,000 gauss. Though it's meant to compete with the Milgauss in terms of specs, at a visual level the Railmaster is closer in aesthetics to a Rolex Explorer or Air-King of the current era.
Of course, Omega is no slouch in the dive watch game either, and the Planet Ocean collection is certainly worthy of some attention. Water-resistant to depths of up to 600m, and powered by Master Chronometer-certified automatic Co-Axial movements, Planet Ocean models have a distinct charm to them and easily stand out from the rest of the Omega watches.
The brand has released a good number of black and blue dialed variants with orange accents, which has effectively become a signature look of the collection. Omega also make use of the screw-down helium escape valve at the ten o’clock position, which isn’t something that you see much among the premium luxury dive watches currently available.
Doubling the water-resistance of the classic Seamster Diver 300m, the Planet Ocean is Omega's most capable line of professional dive watches (excluding ultra-purpose-built models like the Ploprof). Additionally, at 43.5mm across, the Omega Planet Ocean is closer competition with the Rolex Sea-Dweller than it is the Submariner. However, case diameters and water-resistance aside, the height of the case and bezel, combined with the overall chunkiness of its design also make it a much more substantial watch than the Submariner, yet it can often be found for roughly have the price of a Sub on the pre-owned market.
The Aqua Terra is a "newer" addition to the Omega catalog that came to market in 2003. What makes the model such a success is its practical application for daily wear and its effortless style. As its name would suggest, the Aqua Terra was developed for any adventure, whether it be on land or while at sea.
The case of the Omega Aqua Terra is water resistant to 150 meters and houses a Co-Axial Master Chronometer movement. The Teak dial reminds the wearer that their watch was built for the open ocean, while a sophisticated design accommodates life while on land.
The collection is available in a countless selection of dial colors, metal finishes, and bracelet options. The newer ref. 220.127.116.11.06.001 is my top pick for its stunning blue and grey dial and caliber 8900 Co-Axial movement that offers hacking seconds, time zone function (jumping hour hand), and anti-magnetism up to 15,000 gauss.
Hour markers and hands with blue surrounds offer a subtle contrast to the stunning grey teak dial. The case and bracelet mirror the aesthetic of the dial with a handsome stainless-steel finish and a thoughtfully-designed blue rubber strap bracelet with a sleek deployment clasp.
*All images above courtesy of OMEGA.