While the new limited edition “Master” Trilogy of Speedmaster, Seamaster and Railmaster took centrestage for Omega at Baselworld 2017. A quiet sleeper hit remained off the press releases and public pages for the Bienne manufacture – we are talking about the new Omega Railmaster Collection.
Historically speaking, true railroad watches were among the most stringent of certified watches before the turn of the 1900s thanks to a disastrous collision between two passenger trains in Ohio in April of 1891. Official RR (Railroad) Standards required watches to be precise to within 30 seconds per week, the earliest chronometer specs; regulated to five positions; accurate even in temperatures from -1 degrees celsius to 35 degrees celsius; equipped with fine adjustment index, double plates, high legible dial with bold Arabic numerals and broad hands. Though protectionist requirements had prevented Omega’s entry into the US market (which allowed brands like Hamilton and Waltham to flourish), Omega and her sister brands Brandt-Omega and Gurzelen had established themselves with a stellar reputation for railroad watches by the end of the 19th century that they literally cornered the market in Europe (including Turkey and Russia), as far north as Norway, as far south as Ethiopia and Nigeria, across the atlantic in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Canada, across the pacific in China and Australia even. Thus, it can be argued that Railroad watches were standard bearers of the manufacture even before their first timing chronometers in their Olympic chronographs and even before NASA’s official Speedmasters. When the Railmaster collection finally debuted wristworn versions of their epic Railroad pocket watches in 1957, Omega was merely continuing a rich history of precision railroad instruments.
Baselworld 2017 New Omega Railmaster Collection
In terms of provenance, the Omega Railmaster prototype was completed on 27th October 1955 and was delivered in final form on 17th January 1956 to Hatch Co., Omega’s official agent in Canada. The Ref. CK 2777’s calibre 283 was equipped with swan’s neck index for precision adjustment. Dial side, the matt white dial with minute track punctuated by radium dots and Arabic numerals was highly legible. Omega Railmaster watches were also produced for the Royal Air Force with an antimagnetic steel case.
By the time the 1957 ref. CK 2914 Omega Railmaster debuted, (the one whence the “Trilogy” edition is descended from), the double-case anti-magnetic was already one of the most robust references within Omega’s collection of watches. The double case itself consisted of an outer case – 60 meter water resistant Staybrite stainless steel case with polished and bevelled bezel. Reinforced crystal and screwed caseback with o-ring gasket also allowed the watch to resist up to 60 meters depth. The inner case was an “Armco” calotte with casing ring and 1mm thick soft-iron dial vs. 0.4mm for a standard for improved shield against magnetic fields higher than 900 gauss, multiples greater than 60 as required for antimagnetic watches of the day.
Case, Dial and Hands
In terms of aesthetics, the DNA of matt black oxidised dial, minute circle strokes, block Arabic numerals at the quarters, arrowhead hands or dauphine hands were set. The new series Omega Railmaster is not exactly that model, BUT it is the Rogue One to the original Railmaster’s New Hope. 40mm in diameter and 12.5 mm thick, the new Railmaster is beating a quiet path to becoming one of THE tool watches to watch for Baselworld 2017. Eye-catching cross-hair design on vertically brushed steel with slim rather than thick Arabic numerals, the new Omega Railmaster from Baselworld 2017 embodies the art deco aesthetic. The sword hands are also nicely reminiscent of those on the original models delivered to Hatch Co. in 1956. The lollipop seconds hand with faux-aged lume and dagger hour markers also reinforce its vintage appeal.
Like the original Railmaster, the new edition is anti-magnetic and though the Master Co-Axial calibre which drives it is METAS certified for anti-magnetism and chronometer specs, the caseback of the new Omega Railmaster collection is a period authentic closed case. No official details have yet been released by Omega as to the specific calibre but it’s a good chance that it’s the Master Co-Axial 8806.
The new Omega Railmaster is water resistant to 150 metres and is impressively priced to move. On leather strap, it is expected to retail for US$4,900. The premium for steel bracelet isn’t much more expensive either, priced at US$5,100. The thick applied dagger lume hour markers and lollipop seconds hand carry enough retro appeal for the hipster in you. It’s priced lower than an entry level Rolex and arguably more identifiable, Omega has literally made watch collectors an offer they wouldn’t refuse.