Vintage Omega Seamaster

by Eric Twardzik

For most of history, sea monsters were indicative of where you shouldn’t be going. Dig up a medieval map, and look for those corners of the globe they hadn’t quite figured out yet. In place of South America or Taiwan you’ll see fearsome, cryptozoological swimmers that stand for one thing: “lost.”

So it’s a bit ironic that these creatures had their image rehabilitated by a device that tells you precisely were where you are—in time, anyway.

An embossed sea monster is just one of the things that makes the Omega Seamaster a whimsical, yet classic, piece of design. The half-horse, half-fish Hippocampus of Greek Mythology has been embossed on the backside of the watch since 1958. It’s a fitting icon for a timepiece based on designs made for the Royal Navy during WWII and essentially serves as a secret handshake between the Seamaster and its wearer.

Fred’s 1962 Omega Seamaster.

Fred’s 1962 Omega Seamaster.

Mythological beasts and world wars (not to mention its appearance on the wrists of two James Bonds) ensure that each Seamaster bears a historied origin story before it’s ever worn. But when the model’s provenance is combined with the personal history that can only come from a vintage piece, something inimitable happens.

Fred’s inimitable timepiece happens to be a Swiss 1962 Omega Seamaster purchased from an American Indian Chief. When Fred first came by it, it still had a sterling silver and turquoise watch band. The hands told the time but the deep patina of the watch face told a different story; a tale of where it’d been and who it had known that can’t be divided into minutes or hours. It imbues a mechanical object with something that can’t be priced while simultaneously disproving the notion that a one-of-a-kind timepiece must carry an exorbitant price tag (most models in excellent condition can be found for just under $3,000).

But no matter how Swiss it is, it’s still made up of moving pieces that require attention and care. When Fred realized his Seamaster was in need of servicing (i.e. the hands stuck at 11:17pm each day), he brought it to the city’s best—Grand Central Watch.

The half-horse, half-fish Hippocampus of Greek Mythology has been embossed on the backside of the watch since 1958.

The half-horse, half-fish Hippocampus of Greek Mythology has been embossed on the backside of the watch since 1958.

As its name implies, the shop is located within New York’s premier transportation hub. It’s not exactly Platform Nine and Three Quarters, but its discovery requires a trip down the 45th Street Passage until you discover a wood-paneled shop built into its left wall. It’s there that Grand Central Watch has been restoring life to timepieces from previous decades, and sometimes, centuries, since 1962.

Those 57 years of service have allowed Grand Central Watch to build a library of OEM parts that’s nearly unmatchable. In addition to having the pieces that can restore a 200-year-old pocket watch, they employ a team of experts skilled enough to use their bare hands in minute repairs when a tool might run the risk of damage.

At the time Fred purchased his Seamaster, it lacked the date window magnifier that would have originally been part of the crystal (there’s an interesting story behind that, he’s sure). It came back from Grand Central Watch with the proper crystal and a pristine new date adjust window. He’s enjoying that once-again relevant feature of his watch along with the fact that whoever it comes to next will too.