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The case of the lost and found Omega Seamaster

The amazing story and a brief history of the early Omega Seamaster 300.
by Peter Chong on August 17, 2016
Watches
Lost and Found: Omega Seamaster 300

We came across this amazing story of an Omega Seamaster. The owner was swimming in the sea and the watch, his grandfather’s heirloom, slipped off his wrist and disappeared. It was found months later, and when the watch was reunited with the owner, a light shake was all it took, and the watch seemed to be ticking. This is the incredible story.

 

The Omega Seamaster: the condition it is today. Lightly restored to operational. The owner, Alexis decided not to do a full restoration.

The Omega Seamaster CK 2913: the condition it is today. Lightly restored to operational. The owner, Alexis Lhoyer decided not to do a full restoration.

 

The watch: Omega Seamaster 300 CK 2913

The watch is the second generation of the Omega Seamaster 300 CK 2913, circa 1959/1960. The first generation Seamaster 300 looked very similar. In the photograph below, we see the recovered watch at far right, with the Seamaster 300 generation 1 and 2 belonging to another collector.

 

Three Omega Seamaster 300 CK 2913 featuring two generations of the reference.

Three Omega Seamaster 300 CK 2913. From left, is the original generation 1 with arrow hands. In the middle is the generation 2, and Alexis’s watch whichis also generation 2. The bakelite bezel has disintegrated and not replaced. Alexis’ watch is also fitted with a non-original expanding bracelet.

 

The Omega Seamaster 300 was the first dive watch by Omega, not counting the Omega Marine 1932 from 1932 which was rated to only 135 ft. The Seamaster range was created in the late 1940s and had initially bumper automatic movements with no significant water resistant ratings. These early Seamasters were probably good to 50m or so. The Seamaster 300 was introduced in 1957 as the CK 2913, with a rating 300m and was equipped with a regular automatic movement: the Omega cal. 501. The first generation CK 2913 ran from 1957 to about 1959. It had an arrow hour hand, a triangular minute hand and a center seconds hand with a lollipop. The arrangement of hour and minute hands was later repeated in the Speedmaster Broad Arrow.

The bezel had a thin Bakelite insert and is a bi-directional rotating device marked at 5 minute intervals. This is interesting as modern diving watches feature uni-directional rotating bezels to ensure safety. But the CK 2913 was done in the early days of diving watches, and the uni-directional bezel was not introduced in the Seamaster 300 until the third generation.

These were the early days of dive watches with guaranteed depth ratings. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was introduced in 1953. The Blancpain was rated to 50 fathoms, which is approximately 91m, which at that time was considered the maximum depth for a diver. And the Rolex Submariner released the Ref. 6204, certified to 200m in 1954. This commercial model comes fresh from the watch which was proven the rating to 3,150m being strapped to the outside of the bathyscape of Auguste and Jacques Piccard in 1953. This was replaced by The Ref. 6358 in 1958, a watch made famous by the Bond movie, Dr. No, being worn by Bond (Sean Connery). Christie’s auctioned one off in their 13 May 2013 sale for CHF 519,750.

It is quite unusual and rare for the Bakelite bezel to survive, and examples in good condition like the left and middle ones shown above command a nice premium. Bakelite inserts were used in the Seamaster 300 until the third generation: from the Ref. 6319 to the transitional Ref. CK 14755 until the Ref. 165.024/166.024 before it was replaced with a steel insert.

The early watches were also fitted with expandable steel bracelets, which had an elastic band fitted over the first 3 links at the clasp. These were later replaced by regular bracelets as the expandable bracelets would loosen over time, and not be servicable.

 

The second generation CK 2913, with the revised sword/dagger hands. Here the owner has fitted it with a NATO strap with French tricolour.

The second generation CK 2913, with the revised sword/dagger hands. Here the owner has fitted it with a NATO strap with French tricolour.

 

In 1959, the CK 2913 had a facelift, and the hands were changed from the arrow style hands to sword/dagger hands. A transitional model known as the Ref. 14755 was then introduced, and subsequently the model number changed to the current nomenclature, and the Seamaster 300 was known as either the Ref 165.024 (no date) and the 166.024 (date).

 

Providence: The Alexis Lhoyer Omega Seamaster 300 CK 2913

Introducing Alexis Lhoyer. A French businessman residing in Singapore. He is the founder and is CEO of WanderWine and is the protagonist of our story.

 

Alexis Lhoyer, reunited with his Omega Seamaster 300.

Alexis Lhoyer, reunited with his Omega Seamaster 300.

 

The watch was originally purchased by Alexis’ grandfather in Germany, probably in the late 1959. The elder Lhoyer had bought two of the Omega Seamaster 300 CK 2913. He was a diver, and had wanted to leave the watches as heirloom. Alexis received one and his brother the other.

The watch which Alexis inherited was a second generation Seamaster 300 CK 2913, and had a thin Bakelite bezel, and was equipped with the sword/dagger hands. Over the course of its ownership in the Lhoyer family, the Bakelite bezel had cracked and fallen off, and when Alexis got the watch, it was already missing the bezel.

 

The incident

In February 2013, Alexis was vacationing with friends in Galle, in Sri Lanka. It was a Sunday morning, and at 2 am, they decided to go for a swim. And as he was swimming, the second or third stroke, he felt the watch slipped off his wrist. Frantic, he started to try and look for it. The water was only about chin high, but the night was pitch black, and soon he gave up hope.

He returned a few hours later at 6am when it was light, and started to snorkel the area looking for the watch. He did this for 3 hours from 6am to 9am and returned for the next 3 days, but found nothing. Possibly the waves had moved the watch, and the sand might have covered it.

 

The watch was restored, but not to the original new condition, but to the state it was in when Alexis lost it at sea.

The watch was restored, but not to the original new condition, but to the state it was in when Alexis lost it at sea.

 

This got the instructor of the Dive Shop located nearby very curious. He approached Alexis and asked what he was looking for…the area was shallow, and the bed was sandy, nothing much to see. Alexis told him the story, and as he had to leave Sri Lanka, he left his business card and email to the instructor. He resigned to not ever seeing the watch ever again, and he was heavy of heart to lose his grandfather’s heirloom.

 

The recovery

 

Months passed. Four months to be exact. Alexis got an email from the Dive Instructor saying that he found the watch. Emails were exchanged, “Are you sure its my watch?”. “Yes, affirmative”. Alexis requested for photographs, and these came in the mail.

 

The Omega Seamaster 300, as found in the sea off Galle, Sri Lanka.

The Omega Seamaster 300, as found in the sea off Galle, Sri Lanka.

 

It was indeed his watch!

 

Submerged in the sea water for about 4 months, the watch looked worn, but in surprisingly good condition..

Submerged in the sea water for about 4 months, the watch looked worn, but in surprisingly good condition..

 

Excited, he started to ask how to get the watch to Singapore, and several emails were exchanged. Then suddenly, possibly because there was no offer for a reward, the Instructor stopped replying to emails. It wasn’t that Alexis was not going to offer a reward, but the excitement of having found the watch was overwhelming. Alexis tried to more emails. And calls. But to no avail. Soon, he gave up again.

Then one evening, about 1.5 years later, while having drinks with a friend, Alexis Nicosa, the discussion went on to watches, and to Omega. Alexis then said, “Oh, don’t talk about Omega”, as he is heartbroken having lost his grandfather’s watch in Galle. Alexis (Nicosa) then offered that he knows everybody in Galle, having operated restaurants in the area. He will find the watch. Details were given about the location and the Dive Shop. Almost a week later, Alexis got a WhatsApp message from one of Nicosa’s friend, a gentleman called Mark. He had found the dive shop, and saw the watch on the shelf, and apparently just took it. Arrangements were then made to get the watch back to Singapore. This took some time…eventually, a Sri Lankan friend whose mother was due to come to Singapore for a visit offered to bring the watch back. And in March 2016, more than 3 years after it slipped off his wrist, the Omega Seamaster was back on Alexis’s hands.

The watch was in amazing condition for one which had been submerged in sea water for 4 months, and sat on a shelf for about 18 months. Alexis put it on immediately after collecting it from the friend’s mother, and shook the watch. It ran and seemed to be working!

 

The Omega Seamaster 300 CK 2913, second generation with sword/dagger hands.

The Omega Seamaster 300 CK 2913, second generation with sword/dagger hands.

 

He then sent it to a friend’s repair shop in Hong Kong, and had it restored…not to its as new condition, but to the condition when he lost it. The crazed crystal remained. He opted not to have the Bakelite insert replaced. But the expandable bracelet was damaged beyond use, and he had that replaced with a third party new expandable bracelet.

 

Note the missing Bakelite bezel insert. The location of the "pearl" to mark the bezel is visible.

Note the missing Bakelite bezel insert. The location of the “pearl” to mark the bezel is visible.

 

Quite an amazing story. Lost at sea. Found. Lost again, and through serendipitous circumstances of a friend knowing a friend, the watch was returned to its rightful owner.

 

Alexis Lhoyer.

Alexis Lhoyer.

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