In the case of premium luxury brands, there will always be an entry level, a sense of belonging but not quite being there. It’s what the Boxster is to a Porsche’s 911, the Ghost to a Rolls’ Royce Phantom, the E-class to a Mercedes S-class. You’re given a gold membership invitation for an exclusive club when there are platinum and diamond doors just within arm’s reach. You are a karate student with a brown belt, inches but a world away to a seasoned master’s black. Close but not close enough. In the world of luxury watches, this makes all the difference. Unfairly, yet accurately, this characterizes the Omega Chronostop Reference 145.008. Released in 1966 as a third-fiddle to the technically superior- and significantly more expensive- Speedmaster and Seamaster chronograph models, it was designed for the young and up-and-coming; a whiff that there’s more to come.
The Omega Chronostop's History
Upon its release in 1966, the Chronostop was equipped with all the bells and whistles afforded to a top-of-the-line sports watch of that era. With an extremely accurate 21,600 half beats per hour running speed, shock resistance and internal anti magnetic protection, it immediately garnered the top prize in the prestigious Federation Horologer competition. More notably, the Chronostop came equipped essentially with the same manual wind, 17 jewels Omega caliber 865 movement, as the technically superior Speedmaster models. Though it was merely missing the additional 12 hour register and external anti magnetic dust cover, possessed instead by the Speedmaster,it was valued only at about half the price. Though at the time of its release it was considered as an expensive luxury watch a, the Chronostop is now regarded as one of the best bargains among vintage watch collectors. A total of 124,000 units were produced, and yet, it has become increasingly difficult to lay hands on an original piece, with prices going up to $3,000 for a prime specimen.
Taken from the 1968 Omega Chronostop catalog featuring the three variations of the turning scale series
The original Chronostop Reference 145.00 came with a Tonneau-shaped case with black, tritium point, luminous hour and minute baton hands. Its chronograph function had a sixty second stopwatch with an orange-colored dial, operated by pushing a button located at the 2 o’clock position. Always upholding its reputation as a high performance watch, three additional variations were released for the Chronostop Reference 145.008 from 1966 to 1969. All variations had a 41-millimeter stainless steel, waterproof tested case (120m) that came with either a leather or steel strap. They also shared a similar rotating inner bezel controlled by the crown located at 10 o’clock. All the variations displayed times to 1/5 per second.
The first variation was the Omega Seamaster “Pilot” Chronostop, featuring a 24-hour bezel with a second time zone. Released in 1967, the second variation, the Omega Chronostop Regatta, added yacht timers, especially designed for yachting enthusiasts. The countdown Chronostop came with a blue and red rotating yacht bezel. Lastly, the Seamaster Chronostop Jumbo Diver, released in 1969, was used extensively by amateur divers for the ease with which they could check their diving times, courtesy of the 0 to 60 scale. This variation came housed in a rare oversized (pristine) case, with an 865 manual winding movement exclusive for this specific variation.
Omega Seamaster “Pilot” Chronostop; B. Omega Chronostop Regatta; C. Seamaster Chronostop Jumbo Diver
The 1960’s were a time in which Omega was regarded as one of the premiere watchmakers in the world. The quality of the build and workmanship of its watches arguably remain unmatched to this very day. Upon its release, the Omega Chronostop was marketed as a Technical Watche, powered by the in-house Caliber 865, with raw ebauches provided by the legendary watch movement manufacturer Lemania.
The Lemania Caliber 865 movement
The manual wind caliber 865 movement was released in 1966, specifically targeting the younger, less affluent buyers. Its 17 jewels provided it with an extremely accurate 21,600 bpm. Some may criticize this watch for its limited “stop-second watch” function, which allowed to record times up to one minute only, with the wearer having to rotate the inner bezels as a marker for minutes, making the process of recording longer times quite cumbersome. Nonetheless, it is significant to note that the 865 movement was, for all intents and purposes, a simplified version of the Calibre 861 found in the much more expensive Speedmaster line.
Cal. 861 (left) Cal. 865 (right)
|Production run||Year 1966|
|Casing Diameter||41 mm|
|No. of Functional Jewels||17 J|
|Vibrations per hour||21, 600 bph|
|Instant setting for day & date||No|
|Bilingual for day of week||No|
The dials for the different variations came in monochromes of black. The Pilot Omega Chronostop had “black sunskin”, the Regatta’s dials came in “matte black”, while the Seamaster Chronostop jumbo diver’s dials were simply black. All variations shared luminous batons for the hour and minute dials. They also shared the trait of having orange colored chronograph hands ,and the “Stop-second”, displaying 1/5 second divisions, enclosed in a white ring. Arabic numerals were in all three variations.
A. Omega Seamaster “Pilot” Chronostop in black sunskin; B. Omega Chronostop Regatta in matte black; C. Seamaster Chronostop Jumbo Diver in black
The Caliber 865 reference 145.008 has a diameter of 41mm, and a 5.70mm high mainspring. The case was created in stainless steel and was tested to be waterproof up to 120 meters. Imprinted on the screw-back was an Omega logo, as well as an image of a seahorse. An acrylic crystal movement was used. Designed for very rugged use, the Chronostop Reference 145.008, as previously stated, was produced as a variation of other Omega models, targeted for specific users.
Omega’s trademark seahorse image
The Chronostop is not as well regarded as more expensive Omega models from the 1960’s, such as the Speedmaster Professional. Better known today as the “Moonwatch”, it is famous for being strapped to Neil Armstrong’s wrist during the Apollo 11 mission. Yet the Omega Chronostop Reference 145.008 is, in essence, a simplified version of this vintage classic.
Speedmaster Professional Cal. 861 Ref. 145.022
When searching for an Omega Chronostop Reference 145.008 to add to your collection, look for a particular specimen that is near, or in mint condition. As most models are worn for having been used in rugged and trying conditions, it is difficult to find one without visible signs of wear and tear. It is recommended to acquire a piece having the original dials, distinguishable by the “Omega Chronostop, Geneve” signature. The movement should also bear the words “Omega Swiss, 17 Jewels”, on its pink gold bridge, to indicate authenticity. At the back, there should be an imprint of the Seamaster with the Omega logo, an image of a seahorse, and the words “waterproof tested 120m”. The watch must have been serviced only by Omega authorized service centers.If possible, ask for papers indicating that this has been done.
Remember that the Omega Chronostop Reference 145.008 was released in three variants, with a specific use intended for each of the models. As discussed above, the watch came in the guise of a divers’ watch, a regatta timer, and a pilots’ watch.
The “Pilot” Chronostop was designed with a 1/12-13/24 scale and came equipped with a feature that allowed the time of two different time zones to be read simultaneously. The function is achieved with the use of the inner 24-hour bezel set to a second time zone. It is also affectionately called the “Roulette” bezel, because of its striking resemblance to a roulette wheel. This model was intended for global travellers and commercial airline pilots. These are some of the most notable things to look for when purchasing said variants.
The Pilot Chronostop’s distinctive Roulette bezel
The Chronostop Regatta, also called the “countdown”, is distinguishable by a blue and red rotating bezel. The variant is designed with a 15-minute regatta scale that is ideally set for regatta countdowns. This comes as a function tailored for such races, as sailboats are positioned at a starting buoy when the gun goes off, and cross the starting line 15 minutes later. It is distinguished by the name “Seamaster” written below the dials. Very few of these models were ever sold, making it a very rare variant for the Omega Chronostop.
Chronostop Regatta’s blue and red rotating bezel
One of the most unique versions of the Omega Chronostop Reference 145.008 is the Jumbo Chronostop model. It features a rare inner rotating 24-hour bezel, controlled by the crown at 10:00. The one button chronograph has a 40mm signed stainless steel screw back case and reverse pie-pan dials with raised silver markers. The original dials come in matte black, while the chronograph has white hands and red chronograph sweep seconds. The acrylic crystal and crowns located at 4:00 and 10:00 should also be signed.
The Jumbo Diver Chronostop’s inner rotating bezel controlled by the crown at 10:00
What to look for and what to avoid
All inner bezels rotate with the crown at 10 o’clock, so watch out for aftermarket replacements. The Omega Chronostop Reference 145.008’s strap came in leather or steel, a collector’s item in their own rite. The demand for vintage Omega watches has driven the price up, thus unmodified samples have become difficult to come by. As a rule, Omega watch parts are ordered by caliber number, and must be accompanied by corresponding warranty papers.
From The Spring Bar Store:
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