In today’s modern world of convenience and next day delivery, a lot of what we hold value to is usually fleeting and manufactured to only work for a certain length of time. Phone contracts, Amazon next day delivery, car leases, the list can go on. Confession time: I like old things. I like things with a story, a history and something created during a time which was made to last. Old things are quirky and different. They can set you apart from the everyone else. They hark back to a by-gone era before the internet, connected devices and the ‘The App Store’ and I feel there is a romanticism about that. Next time you are going about your daily life in public, count how many smart watches you see compared to something ‘Vintage’. Ask any other ‘Watch Geek’ and I can almost guarantee that they will appreciate an older or ‘Vintage’ timepiece, something with ‘Patina’ that tells a story of its own. Now, there are multiple ways in which collectors can go about adding a timepiece of that category: auctions, antique shops, the internet. The most touching way I believe is inheritance. There is something special about inheriting a watch of that nature; a rite of passage almost.
Since I have been exposed to this hobby, the most unique element of inheriting a watch that I have found is that the vast majority of those who inherit a watch hold it to a higher sentimental value than financial. Usually, the watch reminds the new owner of the former. The physical watch is an embodiment of the person and their story. Handing it down to the next generation can be seen as a continuance of the watches story, a new chapter as it were. In handing down and receiving such a gift, it also serves as a reminder that these time telling devices, if looked after properly, will out last you and have the capability to be handed down the generations. Now here is my watch: a white dial Omega Chronostop from 1969. This watch was my Father’s watch. Now, as the story goes, ‘I bought the watch when I posted in Germany’. My father served in the British Army from the age of 15 and when he was in his early 20s, he was stationed in Germany with the Royal Engineers as apart of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). At the time, even though he cannot remember the exact price he paid, he did say it was a princely sum for a Sapper at the time. Around the equivalent of 3 months pay, but I guess there was something aspirational at the time of buying ‘a nice watch’. The reason my Father chose the Chronostop was also out of practicality. I assume this is both a combination of his personality and profession. He needed a stopwatch. My father at the time was into athletics and represented his Unit at the time competing in the 400m. ‘I needed to time my laps during training, I used to start the chronograph, run my lap then stop the chronograph and read my run time’.
The Chronostop at the time was considered an entry level luxury sports watch. Originally released in 1966, it was a manual wind, mono pusher chronograph. Internally, the 17 jewelled Omega Caliber 865 Movement beat at 21,600 bph, had internal shock resistance, antimagnetic properties and was incredibly accurate. The movement itself was the base movement for the Omega Speedmasters of the era merely without the 12 hour chronograph module which gave the Speedmaster its iconic design. The model was originally marketed towards the ‘Younger Generation’ as it was entry level in price, but as Omega was regarded as one of the worlds premiere watch manufactures, the quality and craftsmanship in the model was still incredible. The raw movements were ebauches supplied to Omega by Lemania. The Chronostop was a quirky model in terms of functionality. In order to reset the chronograph, all the owner has to do is release the depressed chronograph pusher and the chronograph seconds hand will flyback and reset to zero. Due to its functionality, the model gained popularity with doctors and nurses, aiding them to take heart rate across a minute, as well as racing drivers who were set on timing their drag races. Omega later went on to release a ‘Drivers’ iteration, where the dial was orientated 90 degrees and the watch was to be worn on the underside of the wrist enabling drivers to check the time without removing their hands from the steering wheel. For me, I feel the highlight of the Omega Chronostop was in its implementation as the official watch used by the Olympic adjudicators of the 1968 Mexico Olympics, that also ties in with my Father’s personal story of the watch.
Back to my Father. He wore the Omega pretty solidly throughout his career and only really stopped wearing it roughly in the 1980’s during his posting to Hong Kong. He remembers having it serviced a couple of times and having the original black band replaced, but eventually it was an accidental submergence in a swimming pool that resulted in the watch being retired to the desk drawer. The watch remained unused until 2015, when on my 23rd birthday, he handed me the Omega over birthday cake and cup of tea at the breakfast bar in the family home. It wasn’t working at the time, but that didn’t matter. I had stepped through that rite of passage; I had been handed down his watch. It was scuffed up, strapless and dusty, but it didn’t matter, it told me his story. It took me the best part of a year to find a watchmaker I could trust to service and restore it with Omega parts. In the end, all it needed was a clean and service as the movement was fine. Aesthetically, I had the crystal chronograph pusher and crown replaced and the dial was cleaned. I have been fortunate within this hobby and like to think I have a unique collection, but this is actually the one watch that matters most. This is the one which I hope to hand down to the next generation, but I have a while before that so until then, it’ll continue to tell me both the time and it’s story.