Are Vintage Omega Seamasters Still Undervalued?
By J. Heffner | @pinaplwtchs
Gorgeous Omegas, sharp photography, and a discussion of value - what’s not to love?
My perpetual love of Omega is no secret, particularly their vintage offerings. Sure, I’m a vintage collector, that’s expected, but I’ve actually never had the desire to buy a brand new Omega. Why would I? Especially when you consider the readily available antique beauties that are a mere fraction of the price.
I’ve come to learn that while these vintage Omegas are a fraction of their newer counterparts' expense, they still provide the wearer with the full enjoyment of the brand. They tell a story and are actual cogs in the brand’s colorful history (not just mere rehashes of the same old marketing ploys).
Take the tropical Mark II I owned some time back. I bet if I posted a wrist shot of a brand new Speedmaster, it would get twice the amount of attention. Yet which is cooler? A carbon copy Speedy from 2023, or a 1969 861 caliber with a fat seahorse on the back? The answer is obvious, and still, their respective prices beg to differ.
So where does this conversation lead us today? To nonetheless than the Seamaster line (you could probably tell from the title). Today we form a fresh take on an antiquated discussion - the undervalued nature of these vintage Omegas. It’s a topic I’ve discussed in detail once before, but the watch world is always changing.
A year ago I released a similar article discussing some rare 1950s Seamasters. I was re-reading that piece to prepare some points for this write-up, and this quote stuck out to me:
“For example, an Omega with a fine linen dial, applied logo, incredibly finished case, and a truly high quality and serviceable movement is still well around the 1k mark. With a similar, entry-level Rolex, you’re paying for a name, simply put. When you put those watches head to head, ignore their logo, and consider their feel, quality, and specs, they’re comparable.”
- Our article on the subject exactly one year ago
Summarized, these vintage Seamasters are built equally as well as they look. This sentiment is true throughout their lineup across decades of production. While the brand in the 1970s was much different than they were in the 1950s, quality and construction were rarely overlooked (movements, it’s a different story).
You might recognize my heavily patinated Seamaster by now
Historically speaking, Omega was one of the first brands to standardize the stainless steel watch. Something we take for granted now wasn’t the ‘case’ 70 years ago. With the introduction of the very first Seamasters, a reliable, steel, ‘do it all’ piece went mass market.
From their dials, to the case, and even the crown, these watches simply have a dependable feel. Coupled with the Seamaster being an established and respected line of references, they remain a no-brainer in the watch market, especially at their price.
The argument for the quality in their construction isn’t just limited to the Seamaster line. Consider this De Ville, for example:
Simple, timeless design / Credit: Huntington Watch Co
You can already tell from this image that this watch carries a solid presence, one you can count on. Although the design is simple, it’s one that’ll never be out of style. Omega cuts no corners in their construction, and compared to much more expensive pieces, their feel punches well above the baseline of luxury watches. Truth is, pieces like this vintage Omega are so well regarded for more than one reason.
Aside from their accessibility, the seemingly endless Seamaster configurations add immensely to their overall enjoyment. Not only can you buy multiple Seamasters for the price of an entry-level Rolex, but they can be so radically different too. Although a 1950s bumper and 1960s slimline share the same name, they are far from the same watch.
What more could you ask for?
While the line differs so greatly, there seems to be a commonality that most Seamasters are strap monsters. This black dial example is the perfect representation of how a casual strap looks great for everyday wear, yet can easily be dressed up for a ‘black tie’ event.
Interestingly, one of the similarities I see between these Seamasters and vintage Seiko is that they are the mark of a true enthusiast. This is a point I’ve raised before, but to me, there’s a stark difference between someone who just enjoys a nice watch and the collector with a very specific taste.
You see a Datejust in the wild? Yeah, that guy obviously appreciates the merit of a luxury timepiece. But you see a vintage Seamaster on the subway, and you already know that person’s love of watches goes beyond the surface level.
From this, we recognize a cult-like enjoyment that is allowed through the purchase of a vintage Seamaster. Design aside, there’s more to these than just an antiquated, no-frills Swiss machine.
Tiny market fluctuations aside, collectable Seamasters have always been a staple of the watch market. They’ve proved to be one of the most collectable, entry-level models, and their prices are reflective of this fact.
Some of the more ‘collectable’ variants are the obvious - solid gold, tropical dials, gilt, etc. As a collector and lover of these watches, I’ve been lucky enough to own some of these ‘rarer’ examples and document them extensively.
You don’t have to shell out 2Gs though in order to form a Seamaster collection that’s equally as respected. Plain Jane examples can easily be had around half of that, and they’ve proven themselves as solid buys around that mark.
I’ve found that if you do a little research and spend some time searching, you’ll discover variants worth collecting that you had no idea even existed.
Every little detail about these, from the font to the spelling of ‘Chronometre’ has a subculture of vulture-like collectors. These details are a watch collector’s dream, and when you pay attention to facets of the watch like the Omega logo, dial paint, and crystal originality, you’ll quickly discover how deep you’ve gone down the Seamaster rabbit hole. Without a doubt, the vintage Omega culture is one that easily adds to the enjoyment of collecting these beauts.