Chronometer Seamasters

Seamaster chronometers are an odd bunch. Chronometer certification was mostly reserved for the Constellation line-up, and by default, any Chronometer Seamaster is going to be more rare than a Constellation. In addition, they are also less expensive than Constellations making them attractive for entry-level collector. Chronometer Seamasters come in three movement categories distinguished by their movements: 564, 752, 551 and 352.

ReferenceSizeMovementComments
168.02435mm564Common
168.02236,5mm564Common
168.03538mm564Uncommon
168.02336,5mm752Common
168.03438mm752Uncommon
167.070551Rare, Factory redial
2577352Rare, Bumper
Chronometer Seamaster References and Movements

Of these, the cal 551 can be considered an edge case, because it is actually an Omega Geneve that has had dial changed by the factory. It has been listed here, because some completionist collectors may want to add it to their collection. This blog post focuses less on the day/date versions, because my personal interest resides in the date versions.

Omega Seamaster 168.024

This is probably the most popular of the chronometer seamasters due to the classic oyster-style case familiar from 14700 and 14744. They are characterised by a massive case with beefy lugs and they came with a beads of rice bracelet, a must have for an Omega dress watch enthusiast. It is possible to find these watches with and without cyclops on authentic Omega crystal. Apparently, cyclops was an option you could choose when buying the watch at the time.

The caliber 565 non-chronometer reference 166.010 shares the same case. In the end, there isn’t that much difference. While there is not certainty whether the chronometer version ever shipped with black dial, it is possible that there have been crosshair dial versions both with crosshair piercing the text and crosshair not piercing the text. I haven’t personally handled these watches or seen authoritative take on their existence. I treat all black dial Seamasters without visible radium / tritium plots as redials.

Omega Seamaster ‘Sparkle’ 168.022

The 168.022 comes in a large 36,5mm case and has a nice radial finish. It comes in a few dial variations, with most notable being the ‘Sparkle’ dial. 168.022 features a cal 564 movement and wears well.

The 168.022 have few different variants. Among these, there are a champagne dial and a white dial sparkle. The watches can have T SWISS T dials to indicate presence of tritium plots, but they can also be without tritium plots. Redials are easy to spot, because the dials are hard to reproduce. One should watch out for overly polished cases and cases where the radial finish of the bezel is gone. I haven’t personally seen a legit black dial version yet. They may exist, but July/2021 I assume they don’t.

Omega Seamaster 168.035

These watches are for the quirky 70s cushion case lovers. They are slightly bigger and wear a lot differently from the 36,5mm case Seamasters. The watches measure at 38mm diameter, but they wear a lot smaller due to the short lugs. In addition, the lug width is 22mm and the bracelets are nearly impossible (read expensive) to find loose. It is possible that there have been black dial version of these, but as of now (9/11/2021) this is unclear.

Suspicious black dial variant of the non-chronometer version 166.065. I was initially fooled by the tritium plots, but it may be that the dial is not original.

Bracelets

The 168.022 and 168.024 share the same case with Seamaster 60 ‘Big Crown’ ref 166.062 and various De Ville Chronographs (145.018, 145.017 and 146.017 among others). In addition the bracelets go to the Seamaster 120 case 135.027 / 136.027. Unsurprisingly, because the 1069/524 goes many, much more valuable watches, it is highly sought after by collectors and thus getting scarce and valuable. Interesting history behind 1069/524 is that there are also unbranded ones manufactured by JB Champion which can be used to provide extension links.

It is common to find collectors with 100s of bracelets that they have detached from watch heads and hoarded overtime. One can only speculate the reasons, but one of them is that selling a bracelet and watchhead separately will typically yield more money. As the result, it is not that common to find a chronometer Seamaster on its original bracelet as somebody has collected it into their dragons hoarde of vintage omega parts or mounted it on a more expensive watch.

Bracelet/EndlinksReferencesLug Width
1069/524168.022, 168.02319mm
1098/540168.022, 168.02319mm
1125/560168.022, 168.02319mm
1170/604168.035, 168.03422mm
1036/511168.02418mm
Chronometer Seamaster Bracelets

Omega cal. 564 Movement

Cal 564 movement is beautifully crafted. The movement should be easy to wind and setting time should be smooth. Only thing to watch out for is a broken quickset date. The parts are not available outside of Omega and they are quite expensive. If one finds a watch with broken quickset date I’d consider not repairing it. In my eyes, broken quickset date doesn’t lower the value of the watch considering how easily they break.

The cal 564 movements are true workhorses. If the movement is not broken, they will wind and run despite years of neglect. For wear, service is recommended.

Türler Dials

Aside from the 2577, all of the watches can be relatively commonly found with Türler print. This is also a common thing that dodgy entry-level Rolex investors add later on, sometimes with a Sharpie and often completely ruining the dial.

Meister Dials

Based on my experience, Meister dials are applied in similar fashion as Türler, but less common (in my experience) than Türler dials. All the same, they can be found. Another favorite thing to add when preparing to make maximum profit.

Conclusion

The chronometer Seamasters are a nice category of vintage Omega watches from collector’s perspective. There are enough references and variants to offer plenty of challenge. Their overall collectibility is still quite low, which makes their prices still quite affordable aside from the elusive bumper chronometer. They are also common enough that there is a market and not all of them are yet in watch collectors dragons hoardes. In addition they are great watches to wear with eloquent dressy designs that stand time.

Tag Heuer 980.023 / 180.023 / 180.123 Review

Heuer (subsequently Tag Heuer) made some amazing dive watches. This review focuses on the dive watch which was in production for nearly 20 years in different variations and is known as ‘Deep Dive’ or ‘Spirotechnique’. This is certainly not the first post about this topic and definitely not the last.

Diameter42mm
Lug to lug46mm
Lug width20mm
MaterialStainless Steel
Basic information

The watch comes either automatic or quartz, with depth rating of 1000m or 200m and under various brand names. The distinctive features of the watch are its large bezel and crown at 4’o’clock.

The most famous incarnation of the watch is the variant known as ‘Spirotechnique’. This is a watch initially produced by Tag Heuer and later produced by Auricoste for the diving equipment company La Spirotechnique. This watch was issued to Marine Nationale combat divers and the issued watches are the most sought after pieces especially if they come with provenance such as decomissioning paperwork.

The other pieces don’t share the same fame, but have other merits. The other variants come either Tag Heuer or Heuer branded. ‘Deep Dive’ variant 980.023 boasts depth rating up to 1000m. The automatic version 180.023 has depth rating of only 200m can also have the Spirotechnique logo on dial. The ‘Nightdiver’, or reference 180.123 has full tritium dial, but is otherwise the same as the 200m automatic.

Reference980.023
980.023N
980.023L
180.023
180.123
906.21.05
ManufacturerTag Heuer
Heuer
Tag Heuer
Heuer
Auricoste
MovementESA 536.121 
ETA 955.114 (N/L)
ETA-2824-A2ETA-2824-A2
Thickness12mm (L)12mm (N/L)
13mm
12mm
Various references

The Dial

The dials of the different watches are nearly identical. They differ in branding, movement and whether it was produced for La Spirotechnique or not. The Deep Dive dial has a crystal retaining ring and extra gaskets which explains the extra depth rating.

All of the dials have tritium hands and indexes and no radium or luminova variants exist. I haven’t owned or handled the Heuer variant, but I wouldn’t hesitate adding one to my collection if one showed up.

The Movement

The ref 180.023 & 180.123 automatic versions use ETA2824, which is offers no surprises either positively or negatively.

The older Heuer branded quartz versions (980.023) use ESA movement, which can be difficult to source parts for in case of movement failure. However, the newer Tage Heuer branded ETA variants are replaceable quite easily and there are no worries from the maintenance perspective.

The Case

The case has uniformly polished finish and there is no play between polished / brushed surfaces. The bezel is a dominating feature of the watch as it is both big and tall. Despite of the polished surfaces, the watch pulls off that rugged tool-watch appearance that is very popular among vintage collectors today.

In spite of the relatively modern (read large) size, the watch wears comfortably. This is due to moderate lug to lug and low 12mm profile. My personal preference is a tall case back that extends bellow lugs and the non-Heuer variants lack this feature. However, it wears exceptionally well on nearly any strap or bracelet.

The edges of the lugs aren’t particularly defined, and the case is vulnerable to extensive polish. The crown side has two distinct surfaces and over polished cases typically loose the definition here. Same applies to the lugs, which also should have two distinctive edges diving the lug. On badly polished examples the lugs are nearly round and the definition is lost.

Polished case

Finally, the various references seem to have come with different crowns. Some of the 980.023N and 980.023L seem to have a smaller Tag branded crown whereas the crowns on the automatics seem to be larger. It may also be the watches I have handled have had service or aftermarket crowns.

The Bracelet

The standard bracelet to the watch is your typical Heuer / Tag Heuer diver jubilee with hollow end links. It is a comfortable bracelet, made out of good steel and a good companion to the watch. It is relatively hard to find these bracelets or extra links to them. Collectors looking to add add the bracelet to a rogue watch-head should be prepared to spend a pretty penny and significant amount of time on auction sites.

This is not going to be a popular opinion: the bracelet is is nothing special, and similar quality jubilee bracelets can be easily acquired if one suffers from the steel bracelet fetish and does not care about the originality. The bracelet is flimsy and rattly, but not in the good Rolex five-digit way. Both the deep dive and the Nightdiver are extremely versatile on a Nato strap and not being able to find a watch on the bracelet shouldn’t force anyone to skip the watch.

Conclusion

The Tag Heuer ‘Deep Dive’ or ‘Spirotechnique’ is a watch that works well on a nato strap. It is a versatile watch with very utilitarian look. It is susceptible to excessive polishing, but its maintainability is relatively good due to aftermarket parts producers such as tag1000diver. Even the ESA quartzes can be converted to more modern movements with some difficulty. As such, it is a vintage watch that can be worn, even heavily, which cannot be said from all vintage watches.

References

TAG Heuer 980.023N Deep Dive 1000m

HEUER/ TAG HEUER 1000M & SPIROTECHNIQUE- THE ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S GUIDE

Blushark Orca Review

Introduction

In the past few years, we have seen the introduction a few new Nato strap styles such as Tudor knit straps, Omega seatbelt straps, Marine Nationale stretch straps and perlon straps. Compared to a standard Canvas NATO strap, these new strap styles are a little different and aim to provide better comfort, slimmer profile, better adjustment and more colours and textures.

Omega and Tudor straps are also quite expensive. The general sentiment is that these straps are high quality and built by manufacturers with access to manufacturing facilities and materials unavailable to smalltime producers. However, one might think there is only so much you can do with a fabric and there must be a point of diminishing returns somewhere.

In simplest terms, Nato strap is a piece of cloth that is used to tie a wrist watch to your wrist. The point of the whole thing is that a Nato strap is cheap and disposable, and once the strap is worn out, you chuck it and buy another. Things I expect from a Nato strap:

  • Strong
  • Cheap
  • Not made out of too fancy or weak material
  • Lasts a long time.
  • Fabric doesn’t undo.
  • Steel hardware.
  • Looks good.
  • Enough colours.

Blushark Orca

Blushark Orca is a heavy-duty strap. Its distinctive feature is the waffle weave that sets it apart from basic canvas straps. The strap is thick, so you don’t perhaps want to wear your 1,7cm thick Planet Ocean GMT on one. However, for the thickness, you get excellent looks and a thick durable strap that seems like it’ll last a lifetime.

I’ve worn my Seiko Turtle SRP777 on one, and it works just fine. While the SRP777 is not particularly high, its still 14mm. For smaller watches such as skin divers and military watches the strap is perfect. It wears comfortably and the extra thickness doesn’t bother at all. The waffle pattern is different enough and the conservative colors create a very desirable rugged look.

Colors

The available colors are fairly limited, but yet enough. Colors that particularly work well with the Orca waffle strap are: army green, khaki, navy blue and gray. In addition to these the strap is available in the both standard ‘Bond’ colors, but I don’t participate in secret agent LARPs so I never wear those.

Three Orcas and two Phoenix Natos

In addition to the standard conservative colors of Blushark also offers some brighter colors. Of these, my favourite is the gray and orange and bright orange. The gray and orange works exceptionally well with titanium / bead blasted finishes. A colour that is on my wish list is burgundy or wine red. I’d definitely wear it with my watches with red details such as red seconds hand or red text.

Price & Packaging

Individually, the price of the Blushark straps is somewhat steep at 19 USD (checked in August 2020). However, Blushark runs ‘buy 2 get 1’ and ‘buy 3 get 5’ offers, which radically change the value proposition. This coupled with free shipping and -20% after a special offer such as holiday or sale and you have nearly unbeatable price per strap a little over 10 USD a piece.

The single biggest disappointment with the Blusharp Orca strap is the packaging. Each strap comes individually packaged in a plastic foil. This is quite literally, total waste. The strap could come either in thin paper or — surprise surprise: no packaging at all. This may be difficult to implement as obsessed strap enthusiasts will return the products when encountering the slightest scuff on the hardware.

Conclusion

Whereas the recent trend has been copying Omega and Tudor straps, the waffle weave Orca is a reminder what a strap should be. With the price of single Omega strap, you can buy 20 Blushark straps. Blushark offers a serious good looking Nato strap for a decent price that definitely works well with tool watches.