There is an unfortunate tendency these days for discussions about price to dominate discussions about watches, although it’s not hard to understand why it happens. Let’s face it, mechanical watches, over the last five years or so and especially over the last couple of years, have become almost incomprehensibly expensive and at the same time, often simply unobtainable. Yes, there are obvious exceptions, but oh boy, do I wish there were more. Back in 2013, critic Roberta Smith, writing for The New York Times, opined that it was hard to see the art for all the dollar signs and that now also seems to be the case, a lot of the time, with watches.
However, depending on your tastes and budget, you can still find watches that offer great design and even real horological interest, without taking out a second mortgage or not-so-subtly encouraging your kids to consider community college (or trade school. At one point, fresh out of college with a lot of student loan debt and an economically useless BA in art history and philosophy, I seriously considered going to Apex Technical School and becoming a welder). What we always hope, when we look at luxury watch brands, is that we will find at the entry level the same care and thought that we find in upper price brackets, and one watch I think fits the bill and deserves a closer look is the Omega De Ville Prestige Co-Axial.
I don’t know why exactly it doesn’t get more ink and more chatter. Maybe it’s the name. “Prestige” seems a little yearningly hopeful and “De Ville” reminds you irresistibly of a giant boat of a Caddy parked in gramp’s driveway in some Geritol-scented suburb. “Omega De Ville Prestige Co-Axial” just means, “of the town” so I guess the idea is to evoke the notion of an urbane cosmopolite, and there aren’t too many of those around these days. The urbane cosmopolites seem to have largely decamped for cluttered dining room tables, Zoom meetings, and sweatpants (or PJs).
It is, in fact, pretty much everything you think of (or I think of, anyway) when someone says they don’t make ’em like they used to. It’s a round watch, with applied Roman numerals at the even-numbered hours, and dots at the odd-numbered hours. The dauphine hands are very nicely in proportion to the diameter of the dial and the watch overall, and there is just enough going on with the dial to save the watch from the sort of generic blandness that often plagues entry-level watches. In fact, the dial is rather reminiscent of Omega’s 30T2RG chronometer watches, some of which had dials very similar to this one.
The Omega De Ville Prestige Co-Axial logo on the dial shows nice attention to detail as well, with the slightly oversized D, V, and E creating a nice balance, and if the date window is to you a blemish, it is at the very least a slight one; if not, it’s a well-integrated and useful addition to what overall is a very pleasing composition. The size of the watch, at 39.5mm, is right in the sweet spot for wearability, as well.
And inside, there’s even a little treat for the movement nerds among us – the Omega caliber 2500. This was the first co-axial movement ever produced by Omega (it’s basically a highly modified 2892) and when it debuted in 1999 it was a very big deal indeed, albeit early versions had some teething issues, which in retrospect is hardly surprising for the first mass-produced, non-lever escapement mechanical wristwatch – well, ever. These have long since been addressed, I think the caliber 2500 is now in its fourth version. While it’s long since been technically surpassed by more recent, METAS Master Chronometer co-axial movements, it’s still an interesting and important piece of horological history. And besides, I think anyone who’s really into technical watchmaking owes it to themselves to have a co-axial escapement at some point. It’d be nice if you could see it through a display back but at least, as a consolation, you get a very nice, detailed engraving of Omega’s original globe logo, showing the Greek god Chronos, the god of time (not to be confused with Cronus, the titan).