Timepiece Chronicle

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Omega Introduces the Globemaster: The World's First Master Chronometer

Omega Introduces the Globemaster: The World's First Master Chronometer

©Omega Ltd

©Omega Ltd

Today Omega announced the arrival of a new introduction to their Constellation family: the Globemaster. Featuring a 8900 Calibre movement with an unprecedented resistance to magnetism of over 15,000 Gauss, it is also the first Omega and the first watch ever to be officially certified Master Chronometer. What is a Master Chronometer and why is it important to watch making, I hear you ask? To fully appreciate what Omega have done, first a brief history lesson on the Chronometer.

In the early 1700s the British Admiralty struggled to figure out a way to measure longitude, as this was the key to accurate and safe sea travel over long distances. In 1707 a prize of £20,000 (around £2.75 million today) was announced by the British Government to solve the longitude problem, but it was not until 1730 that John Harrison created the first Marine Chronometer, H1.  Every 15 degrees that you travel away from your starting location on a map meant an hour's time difference, so you could accurately determine your present location by knowing the length of a journey, where you started from and your current distance from that location. Harrison successfully created an accurate clock that wouldn't be affected by temperature, pressure or humidity and was transportable on board a ship. Sea travel was changed forever.

H1, the first Marine Chronometer created by John Harrison. Photo courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich.

H1, the first Marine Chronometer created by John Harrison. Photo courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich.

A Chronometer was a tool that had to perform accurately otherwise lives would be lost and the marine Chronometer was a necessity on ships for hundreds of years. A stringent testing regime to establish constant accuracy was created and for years was performed at the Kew Observatory in London for all English Chronometers as well as other scientific instruments such as barometers, thermometers, sextants and later wristwatches. However with gradual advancements in radio technology, the necessity for a mechanical ship's clock waned and the notion of a mechanical sea clock was unfortunately deemed obsolete. Kew and other observatories around Europe continued to test the accuracy of timepieces submitted to them. If these timepieces were deemed accurate enough they could be referred to as "a Chronometer". In 1914 Rolex succeeded in producing the first Chronometer rated wristwatch with a score of 77.3 out a 100 at the Kew Observatory. This marked the beginning of the end for the practical use of a Chronometer in nautical travel. Its new focus was the accuracy of timepieces.

There were many organisations and institutes that would perform the chronometer trials, but since the early seventies the industry standard for all chronometer ratings has been the Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres (COSC). According to COSC a Chronometer "is a high-precision watch capable of displaying the seconds and housing a movement that has been tested over several days, in different positions and at different temperatures, by an official neutral body". Up until the announcement of the Omega Globemaster, the only way for a Swiss timepiece to be deemed a Chronometer was to be tested by COSC.

Mr Hayek announcing the partnership between Omega and METAS in December 2014 ©Omega Ltd

Mr Hayek announcing the partnership between Omega and METAS in December 2014 ©Omega Ltd

It is not diamonds or gold on a watch that determines the future of watchmaking. It is technical innovation that does.
— Nicholas Hayek, CEO Swatch Group

A Step forward in Time

Back in December 2014, Omega announced that sometime in Mid-2015 they would be ceasing to use the COSC Chronometer certification and instead will be creating a new process in partnership with the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS).  The Master Co-Axial Calibres that were released at Baselworld 2014 that would pass this new process will be designated as "Officially Certified", however it seems that the Omega Globemaster at Basel this year bears the moniker "Master Chronometer". The Vice President of Production and Procurement at Omega, Andreas Hobmeier, explained the new parameters for the METAS certification. Rather than just having the movement tested (The current method used by COSC), the submitted piece must be part of a complete watch and tested to within an exacting tolerance of 0 to +5 seconds a day during and  exposure to a magnetic field of a least 15,000 Gauss. The finished watch will be then tested to its declared water resistancy and its stated power reserve. Something that I'm sure will make a great difference to jewellers selling multiple brands is that the new Master Chronometer rating is a more stringent test than COSC. This immediately differentiates these watches from any chronometer-rated competitor claiming superlative status. 

A 1954 advertisement for the original Omega Globemaster Chronometer. Photo courtesy of the Omega Museum. 

A 1954 advertisement for the original Omega Globemaster Chronometer. Photo courtesy of the Omega Museum. 

What's in a name?

The new Omega Globemaster Master Chronometer. ©Omega Ltd

The new Omega Globemaster Master Chronometer. ©Omega Ltd

The Globemaster name goes back to 1952 when Omega came into a trademark dispute in the United States over the name "Constellation", Omega's newest line and also the same name of a series of transcontinental planes run by TWA. Omega decided to use the name "Globemaster" both for its luxurious jet setting connotations and in honour of the Douglas C-74 and C-124 Globemaster transport airplanes used at the time by the US Air Force.  These watches were Constellation Chronometers in all but name and the name Globemaster didn't appear on the dial until later with a series of non-chronometer certified models.  The name was retired in 1956 when the trademark dispute was settled and the Globemaster was outshone in reputation and name by the Constellation.

The new Omega Globemaster is another triumph of Omega's design team when it comes to creating a new line based on an classic series (see last year's Deville Tresor). The case has been enlarged from a 33mm to a 39mm, which doesn't sound like a lot but firmly brings this watch into the 21st Century. There are two changes that really make this watch stand out: the fluted bezel and the gorgeous sapphire crystal case back.

The gorgeous sapphire crystal back with solid gold red rotor and Observatory medallion. ©Omega Ltd

The gorgeous sapphire crystal back with solid gold red rotor and Observatory medallion. ©Omega Ltd

An open case back is nothing new for Omega as all their 8500 and 8900 series movements all have one, but this piece has a solid gold medallion in the centre of the rotor displaying the traditional Constellation Observatory. The fluted bezel will draw comparison to the Rolex DayDate and DateJust, however I feel that the angle and shallower depth of this does differentiate it clearly, especially with the exquisite pie pan dial. The solid gold pieces will of course have a bezel made of the matching precious metal but the stainless steel Globemaster will have a Tungsten carbide bezel instead.

The fluted bezel and pie pan dial on full display. ©Omega Ltd

The fluted bezel and pie pan dial on full display. ©Omega Ltd

The Pie Pan is so named because it kind of looks like an upside down pie pan dish, if you turn your head to the side and squint. The press photos are only showing the 18K Sedna Gold case (Omega's red gold alloy that doesn't lose its colour over time) however it will be available as well in 18K yellow gold, stainless steel, and stainless steel and 18K yellow gold with a gorgeous silvery opaline dial. A blue dial will be available in the full stainless steel and bi-metal versions as well. The current release date is set as November 2015 but I hope that a few trickle out to boutiques and select stores before then because I just cannot wait for this watch.



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