Whether you are an old hand at this or just setting out on your watch collecting journey, Omega watches need no introduction. There are very few other manufacturers still operating today that can boast the same mix of storied heritage, groundbreaking innovation, acclaimed design and cultural significance.
Omega is just about the only watchmaker to cause Rolex sleepless nights, and the brands current catalog is stuffed to the gills with a slew true horological showstoppers; some of them modern iterations of watches that have been with us for decades, others utterly contemporary and sitting at the leading edge of what is possible. Additionally, it is one of the industry’s most pleasant surprises to see just how far your hard earned cash goes with Omega, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another manufacturer that offers a more compelling value proposition at this price point.
The ‘up to $5k’ category unlocks some absolute beauties, whether you want the best of the present-day range or harbor a passion for some vintage cool. We offer a wide collection of Omega’s finest, and below we have picked out three of our favorites for under $5,000.
Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch
Speedmaster Moonwatch Key Features:
Case Size: 42mm
Materials: Stainless Steel
Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds + 12-Hour Chronograph
Dial: Black w/ Luminous Hour Markers
Bezel: Fixed. Black Aluminum Insert w/ Tachymeter Scale
Crystal: Hesalite (Plexiglass)
Water Resistance: 50 meters / 167 feet
Movement: Caliber 1861 (Manual-Wind)
Strap/Bracelet: Three-Link Stainless Steel Bracelet; Leather Strap
Well, we might as well start with a bang. Omega’s Speedmaster Moonwatch is probably the brand’s most famous creation, along with being one of the most revered and instantly recognizable watches of all time. With qualifications like that, it seems incredible that you might be able to pick up one of these vital slices of watchmaking history within our $5k budget, but it can be done, and with little effort.
You can have an example of the modern ref. 3220.127.116.11.01.005 – a model that ticks both boxes of the contemporary versus vintage debate, in that it is a modern version of an undisputed classic, complete with the beautifully period-correct Hesalite crystal over the dial. Looks-wise, the styling couldn’t be any more established in the psyche, stemming from the earliest pieces which debuted in the 1950s. The Omega Speedmaster was the first chronograph to move its tachymeter scale off the dial and onto the bezel, freeing up precious real estate and making more room for its trio of registers. Together with the watch’s relatively large 42mm dimensions and the stark black on white detailing, it set the benchmark for legibility which has rarely been bettered.
Inside is Omega’s own Cal. 1861, a direct descendant of the Cal. 861 which powered the Moonwatch between 1969 and 1996. While it can’t claim to have experienced the lunar surface (that distinction goes to the legendary Cal. 321, the movement in Buzz Aldrin’s model when he stepped off the lander) the 1861 is a wholly robust and admirably accurate mechanism. The 18-jewel, hand wound caliber beats at 21,600vph and offers a reserve of 48-hours.
All told, it is hard to think of a better place to lay down your money. The Omega Speedmaster, affectionately known to one and all as the Speedy, is among the most versatile and universally accepted watches on the market. Smart, stylish and an all-time hall of fame member, the fact you can still buy one for less than the five-grand point might just be the industry’s best bargain.
Other Omega Speedmaster Watches to Consider:
– Speedmaster Mark II – A reimagining of the classic chronograph, the Mark II has a ’70s retro vibe very much in vogue at the moment.
– Speedmaster Racing – One of the many variations on the original theme, the Racing features an eye-catching Panda dial with bright yellow accents.
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m Co-Axial Master Chronometer 43.5mm
Seamaster Planet Ocean Key Features:
Case Size: 43.5mm
Materials: Stainless Steel
Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds + Date Display
Dial: Black Ceramic w/ Luminous Hour Markers
Bezel: Unidirectional. Black Ceramic Insert w/ 60-Minute Scale
Crystal: Sapphire (Domed)
Water Resistance: 600 meters / 2000 feet
Movement: Caliber 8900 (Automatic)
Strap/Bracelet: Structured Rubber Strap
When we talk about pre-owned Omega offering a lot for your money, then the Planet Ocean models are a perfect demonstration. Introduced in 2005, the Planet Ocean series is a modern-day take on the brand’s extensive maritime legacy. As part of the Seamaster family, the Planet Ocean line was brought in to occupy the top end of the diving range, rounding out the collection alongside the Seamaster Professional (made famous on the wrist of James Bond) and the dressier Aqua Terra.
From the outset, it was clear this new offering was intended to be seen as far more than just a tool watch, despite its fearsome 2,000ft water resistance. The designs were (and remain) big and bold, with sizes now ranging from a 37.5mm piece all the way up to 45.5mm models. Likewise, the materials and color choices are geared towards the attention-grabbing – there is plenty of Omega’s own Sedna gold on display throughout the collection to increase the opulence factor, and bright orange has become the unofficial trademark color of the range. But what can we get for around the $5k mark? Well, as with the Speedy, the answer is plenty.
For considerably less, you can get yourself the Co-Axial-equipped, Master Chronometer-rated ref. 18.104.22.168.01.001, a 43.5mm steel model from the current lineup. As a watch, it is a textbook example of everything that has made the Planet Ocean so successful. It has a simple, albeit dynamic look to it, with a deep black ceramic dial, studded with large baton markers and orange Arabic numerals at the 6, 9 and 12. The hands are of Omega’s signature broad arrowhead design that are swamped with lume, all adding up to supreme legibility.
The thick, chunky case utilizes the brand’s elegantly twisted lyre lugs, first seen on early 1960s Speedys, along with an opinion-splitting Helium Escape Valve jutting out at the 10 o’clock. As for the bezel, it is, of course, unidirectional (as it has to be on a dive watch) and constructed from ceramic, with a rubberized orange section for the first 15-minutes.
Omega was one of the early pioneers in using ceramic and the brand has made great strides in its use. More recently, the company has introduced Liquidmetal – a special alloy consisting of titanium, zirconium, copper, and beryllium that has some of the properties of plastic when heated (as in, it becomes extremely malleable; hence, “liquid metal”). The brand uses this alloy for the bezel’s diving scale, creating a completely seamless look unlike anything else you will come across, and increasing both the durability and aesthetics.
At the heart of it all is the in-house Cal. 8900, the first of the brand’s movements to be awarded METAS certification, rated to within 0 and +5 seconds a day and laughing off magnetic fields that are in excess of 15,000 gauss. It ticks along at the somewhat unusual 25,200vph frequency (the optimal speed for the groundbreaking Co-Axial escapement) and gives a 60-hour reserve. Finishing is first rate, especially at this price, with Geneva waves aplenty, all visible through the watch’s sapphire case back. As an example of a modern but luxurious diver, the Omega Planet Ocean does just about everything right, and is one watch sure to get you noticed.
Other Seamaster Watches to Consider:
– Seamaster Planet Ocean Co-Axial GMT – From the previous generation of the watch above and not a Master Chronometer, the 22.214.171.124.01.002 is an amazing everyday timepiece, throwing in a dual time zone function while still managing to stay under budget.
– Seamaster Diver 300M Co-Axial Master Chronometer 42mm – The latest offspring of the James Bond Omega, the 126.96.36.199.01.001 is a master class in discreet elegance, featuring a laser-engraved wave pattern across its ceramic dial
Omega Railmaster Master Co-Axial Master Chronometer
Railmaster Co-Axial Key Features:
Case Size: 40mm
Materials: Stainless Steel
Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds
Dial: Black, Gray, or Blue w/ Luminous Hour Markers
Bezel: Fixed. Stainless Steel. Smooth Style
Crystal: Sapphire (Domed)
Water Resistance: 150 meters / 500 feet
Movement: Caliber 8806 (Automatic)
Strap/Bracelet: Three-Link Stainless Steel Bracelet
Now that we have covered the Speedmaster and Planet Ocean lines, it’s time to take you to one of the simplest and most unassuming watches in Omega’s entire portfolio. The Railmaster could legitimately be called the forgotten Omega watch, in the same way as the Milgauss was (for most of its history) the forgotten Rolex model. Both watches actually had the same party piece on their debut: high magnetic resistance, aimed at attracting the world’s scientists and engineers.
The original Omega Railmaster arrived in 1957 as one third of Omega’s Professional Collection, alongside the very first Speedmaster and Seamaster 300. But, while those two icons went ever upwards in popularity, the Railmaster’s initial outing was short lived, being discontinued in 1963. It was given a four decade rest, not returning to the lineup until 2003. Yet even that was a brief reappearance, and the model was retired for a second time in 2012.
However, 2017 marked the 60th anniversary of the Professional Collection, and Omega decided to commemorate the event with reissued, vintage-inspired versions of its trio of very first tool watches. The Railmaster was brought back once again, and found itself slotted into the Seamaster family, for reasons known only to the brand. This time around, its fortunes are improving drastically. Watch collecting has never been more popular, with an ever growing number of people enjoying the acquisition of these fascinating machines. And one of its real joys is the hunt for exclusivity.
Once an Omega watch collector has secured themself examples of the brand’s usual suspects – a Moonwatch, a Seamaster of some description, maybe a Globemaster or De Ville for special occasions, they then start looking around for models you don’t often see out and about – the oddities, the underdogs, the unique. And this is where the Railmaster lives. The model’s dark horse status, coupled with its beautifully judged retro styling has made it a sought-after timepiece for those with a deeper grounding in horology as a whole. The current range consists of just six references and offers a choice of three dial colors; silver, a ‘denim’ blue and, the classic black ref. 188.8.131.52.01.001.
In terms of overall styling, it couldn’t really be any more discreet. The 40mm dimensions are ideal for a modern watch not wanting to draw too much attention to itself. The stainless steel case, relatively thick at a little over 12mm, feels solid and dependable, and it has been given a superb soft brushed finish. The dial has a subtle vertically striped texture to its surface, with hands and markers in beige Super-LumiNova lume to replicate the look of aged radium.
Inside though, as you would expect, everything is properly modern. The Cal. 8806 was only introduced in 2017, based on the 8800 but without the date function. Another in-house engine, it too is METAS qualified and equipped with a Co-Axial escapement, taking the Railmaster’s antimagnetic properties from its original 1,000 gauss (revolutionary for the 1950s) all the way up to the same 15,000 gauss as the rest of the Master Chronometer watches.
It may have had a difficult upbringing, as models from even the best manufacturers do from time to time, but the modern-day Omega Railmaster is reveling in its present role of cult classic. A tasteful, minimalist throwback, it is one for the purists, backed up by some of the most advanced tech in the industry.
Other Omega Railmaster Watches to Consider:
– Railmaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer 38mm 1957 Trilogy – As faithful a reproduction of the original Railmaster as is possible, this piece was released as a limited edition in 2017 and restricted to 3,557 units, running alongside the standard production models
– Railmaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer 40mm – A quirky variant of a quirky watch, the ‘blue jeans’ version of the Railmaster features a dial designed to look like denim, topped off with a contrasting burnt orange seconds hand.