A chance conversation at a family gathering led to the rediscovery of an old Omega chronograph. See its transformation and the story behind it.

After my parents married in 1973, they immediately headed to the islands of Bermuda for their honeymoon. There, on a whim, they walked into a jewelry store adjacent to their hotel and purchased two Omega watches -- one for him, one for her -- as gifts to themselves. For my parents, these two purchases were quite considerable. For a young couple just starting their lives together, spending $500 per watch was not a small sum for them.

Growing up, I remember my father wearing that gold watch almost everywhere (I don't recall my mother wearing hers), but I did not know it as an Omega. It was just watch that told the time and looked great. But sometime during the late '80s, that gold watch simply vanished from his wrist. He stopped wearing it, opting for other watches. As a kid absorbed in music and comic books, I didn't pay it much attention to its absence. Why would I?

By my mid-20s, I started to have watches on my mind, though I never dove deep enough to be an expert. My first major purchase was a big-face Breitling Oceanmaster automatic. I loved the chunkiness and weight of the chronograph and wore it exclusively for years until one day, like my father, I shelved it into a drawer, favoring lighter models and smaller faces. Not once during this period did I recall my father's gold watch.

It wasn't until a Thanksgiving conversation last year that his Omega came back into play. While discussing my desire to acquire an Omega Seamaster, he reminded me that he had his gold watch stored away. In his words, "Why go buy one when you can have mine?" I was quite taken by this, having not realized that the piece he wore during my childhood was exactly what I was looking for. He asked me if I wanted it; I said yes. For all the years I noted the watch on his wrist, I never noted the details, but when he brought it out, it was clear my father had something special.

His 1970 Omega Seamaster Chronograph with black dialed registers was exceptional. It showed heavy wear indicative of my dad's blue collar lifestyle: the plastic "crystal" was so scratched that it was tough to read the hands; the case was so oxidized that the gold plating looked worn away; the pushers and crown dented from wear and tear. Regardless, it was quite beautiful in appearance.

I knew nothing of the model, so I immediately dove into online watch forums to try and find as much info as I could on this particular Seamaster (a bit of searching lead me to other examples and reference notes: ref. 145.029, cal. 861). With no experience in servicing a watch, I turned to friends in the business for opinions on how to best approach rehabbing my "new" Omega to its original form. Some suggested leaving it as-is and simply servicing the movement, others recommended a polish and crystal replacement.

In the end, with the help of Omega specialists Swiss Watch Repair Center in Midtown Manhattan, the original Hesalite crystal was replaced and the case was given a simple polish that brought back the beautiful luster of the yellow gold hidden beneath.

While I'm still on the hunt for a deadstock Omega Corfam strap to replace the original (now well torn at the punch holes), I can't get over how well it has held up over the past 40 years and how little attention I paid to it. How we live and learn.

  • Photography:Thomas Welch/Selectism.com

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