A Brief History of Vintage Omega Style

The Omega Watch Company has been producing superior timepieces since the mid 19th century. Their watches have always been at the cutting edge of design and performance and it is this commitment to excellence that makes their products so desirable.
It is not only watch buyers and collectors who have such a high regard for Omega watches however. The innovatory nature of the watches combined with their extreme accuracy and high build quality has led to them being chosen as the preferred timepiece for lunar landings and for several Olympic Games. They also have the honour of giving the world its first divers’ watch and it is the only wristwatch that holds a certificate as a marine chronometer.

To illustrate the supreme confidence that Omega watches instil in their users there is a fascinating tale related to the first lunar landing in 1969. The state-of-the-art electronic time keeping device on the Lunar Module developed a fault as the astronauts were due to begin their historic walk on the moon. Luckily there was no such problem with their Omega watches and the Omega Speedmaster of Neil Armstrong was left on board the spacecraft to deputise for NASA’s equipment!

People involved in occupations where reliable and accurate timekeeping is paramount have come to take the qualities of Omega watches for granted and it is hardly surprising that many of the vintage models are highly sought after by watch collectors.

One of the rarest examples of a collectible Omega is the Seamaster “Bumper” model from 1950. The first Seamaster was produced in 1948 and is still going strong today, achieving increasing fame having been chosen by James Bond in the current Bond movies. The “bumper” Seamaster is something of an extra special breed, however, as, in true Omega fashion, it had an innovative automatic winding system that was quite unlike that of other manufacturers’ products.

The bumper nickname derives from the way in which the rotor, the part of the watch that winds the mainspring in automatic watches, works. In most automatics the rotor can rotate 360°. Omega’s technicians decided that a rotor which only travelled through 300° would be more efficient. As the rotor in the bumper travels backwards and forwards it bumps against small buffer springs at each end of its movement. This impact can actually be felt by the wearer and this gave rise to the bumper accolade.

Although the Omega engineers had produced a mechanism that gave unparalleled accuracy the bumper rotor was incredibly complex and expensive to produce. Only the most experienced of Omega’s watch builders were allowed to work on the movement’s assembly and it must have been well nigh impossible to find a watchmaker who could repair one if a fault developed.

Because of this the bumper Seamaster had a very short production run and the model is very rare today. The calibre to look out for is calibre 351. It has the usual 17 jewels and a 36 hour power reserve, and it has a rate of 19800 beats an hour. The phrase “beats an hour” is the rate at which a watch’s balance wheel rotates in a minute.

As mentioned the bumper movement gives superb accuracy and is very reliable. My Omega Bumper benefits from regular servicing and as such it is running perfectly. Cosmetically the watch is in exceptional condition and is completely original. The Bumper Seamasters were made with the highest grade of stainless steel of any of the Seamaster range and they were also fitted with stylish art deco markers in an arrowhead design along with art deco luminous hands in a dauphin shape. The dial is also very art deco and ranks amongst the most elegant Omega vintage dials that were produced.

It goes without saying that the dial is fully signed with “Omega Automatic, Seamaster”. Earlier models simply say “Omega Automatic”. There are various shapes of hands and minor changes to the crowns available, all the crowns being signed with the Omega logo.
The case has the refined, slightly art deco look about it which is untypical of Omegas of this period. Most of them tend to be of a much simpler shape with square corners. The case backs of the majority of Omega watches are usually signed with the words “Omega Watch Co”, followed by Fab Suisse or Swiss Made.

These highly collectible, complex and classic Omega “Bumpers” are becoming rarer day by day. This early Omega bumper model is without doubt one of the rarest and most valuable of them all.