Omega Globemaster Annual Calendar
In 2015, Omega did what it does best and confused one of its model lines further with an additional subcategory. Think Seamaster Aqua Terra, but this time for the Constellation, and you’ll have the Globemaster. Inspired by the Constellation watches of the fifties and sixties, it’s a fine timepiece at a price you’d expect, that sits in the shadow of its Rolex equivalent—but now there’s this, the Globemaster Annual Calendar, and it’s a bit of a bargain.
The Globemaster has, since launch, been one of those watches that on paper is everything you could ever want. It looks good, with a nicely balanced mix between contemporary and classical, has a great spec and is well-finished—but you just don’t ever see them. The fact of the matter is that it starts at £5,480, which, given the quality of the watch and the calibre 8900 inside, is not unreasonable—but it does, however, start to clash with other alternatives.
The obvious comparator here is Rolex. A DateJust, a watch whose residuals will most likely be stronger, whose brand recognition is not inconsiderably better, asks for less than £1,000 more. If you’re that deep into your savings, may as well go that bit further. Or, if you’re into saving a bit of money, you can lose the date functionality and pick up an Oyster Perpetual for £4,500 instead.
I have no doubt that there will be many of you for whom this news is frustrating, because in many ways the Omega is better than both of those watches, however you and I both know that’s not how the game is played, and when push comes to shove, most of us would probably do the same. That’s not conjecture—the number of one sold versus the other tells the whole story.
It’s going to take more than flashy decoration and vintage harking to persuade buyers to jump ship to Omega. Like I said, on paper the Globemaster is a better watch; the fact you can even see the movement is, in my eyes at least, a value add that Rolex simply does not have. Added to that the co-axial escapement, developed by one of the greatest watchmakers in recent memory, George Daniels; the unusual and historic “pie pan” dial with radiant sunburst and beautifully contrasting markers; and the uniquely finished case that adds a sense of rugged solidity, and you’ve got a watch that should—but can’t—stand out in the crowd.
But there’s a solution. If Omega can’t fight fire with fire, brand with brand, then it has to hit Rolex where it hurts most. When Omega was in its heyday, it was a brand known for pushing the boundaries of excellence and accuracy, experimenting with tourbillons in its concept time trial pieces and even developing what we now know as the Photofinish for the Olympics.
Rolex, on the other hand, borrowed other people’s ideas, refined them and then released them as their own. Water resistance, automatic movements, self-changing dates—these things all existed before Rolex, but it was Rolex that brought them to the masses. Given that Rolex’s most complex watch is the 2012 Sky-Dweller, an annual calendar starting at nearly £12,000, complication is the Achilles’ heel upon which Omega can strike—and funnily enough it’s the Sky-Dweller’s annual calendar complication it’s chosen to attack.
Lying somewhere between the self-changing date and the perpetual calendar, the annual calendar is a semi-autonomous complication that requires the user to make an adjustment only once per year on the transition between February and March. For every other month, regardless of if it has thirty days or thirty-one, the watch will remain accurate, skipping right around to the first of each month exactly as it should.
It’s no easy feat, Patek Philippe’s 324 S annual calendar variant famously requiring eighty more parts than its full 240 Q perpetual calendar calibre, and yet Omega has chosen to fit one inside its underappreciated Globemaster. Here’s the kicker: this Globemaster Annual Calendar costs just £6,780.
I know, I know, £6,780 is not small change, but in the context of complications like the annual calendar, it’s an absolute steal. As mentioned before, Rolex’s Sky-Dweller is almost double, and Patek Philippe’s 5146 collection is over double again at just under £32,000.
And somehow Omega’s calibre 8922 gives you all that functionality for just £6,780. This means that people considering a plain Jane DateJust can now contemplate buying one of watchmaking’s most hallowed complications instead. Now, that is a tricky decision to make! If you like mechanical watches for more than just the name on the dial, the proposition of a watch that can mechanically track just about every single day of the year is a temptation that, for the budget, would likely be one you’d never even dreamed of before.
Ponder the mechanical know-how required to make the date on a watch change by the appropriate amount every month. The watch has to know which months have thirty days and which ones have thirty-one at any given moment. This is achieved with a program wheel; much like a perpetual calendar, the calibre 8922 is calibrated to “read” how many days each month has from a wheel with twelve teeth, the length of each tooth determining the number of days in the month.
Where a perpetual calendar tracks forty-eight months or four years to keep February adjusted correctly for the leap year, an annual calendar tracks just the one year—as the name suggests—allocating thirty days to February to be corrected manually by the one or two extraneous days. This of course means that the user must be able to keep track of which month it is to be able to set the watch appropriately, and in the case of the Globemaster Annual Calendar, that’s with the month indicator around the edge of the dial.
There’s an extra few millimetres in the case of the Annual Calendar over the standard Globemaster at 41mm, eeking out a bit more room for the italicised text for each month. Everything else is much the same, including the view through the back, the same 8900 base in use with the annual calendar mechanism added dial side. A medallion with the observatory motif serves as a reminder of Omega’s illustrious past, of its ninety-three wins and seventy-two records achieved at the hallowed accuracy trials held at observatories across Switzerland.
But the Globemaster Annual Calendar doesn’t just hark back to the past—it’s a pretty techy piece by the standards of mechanical watchmaking. There’s an extra-hard tungsten carbide bezel—whose fluting, to be clear, isn’t a Rolex invention and has been used by Omega since the early 20th century—as well as a silicon balance spring—anti-magnetic to 15,000 gauss—two barrels mounted in series for consistent torque, instant change on the date and bi-directional winding for maximum efficiency—and it’s all chronometer certified by METAS, Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Metrology. All that for £6,780. Starts to sound rather tempting indeed.
It’s a frequent and obvious conclusion that Omega’s watches will always have to stand out against those of Rolex—but that doesn’t make it any less true. The Globemaster Annual Calendar, however, does more than simply offer better materials, more impressive tech or unique styling—there’s huge added value in the inclusion of a complication that would otherwise be on most people’s dream watch list. Do you think you could pass up on that?
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