Thursday, 30 May 2013

Omega Railmaster Co-Axial Automatic (36.2mm) - REVIEW

Fate had conspired against me on this one. But Kharma was in my corner. I have wanted one of these since they were released, but never had the spare cash to snag one. I was even presented with the chance to purchase any Omega watch at a staggering 70% off the retail price, but both my VISA and Amex cards were on life-support when this offer was made, so I had to pass on it.
The Omega Railmaster Co-Axial was released alongside the First Generation AquaTerra series in 2003 and it was a faithful re-issue of a classic Omega watch that was first released in 1957. Back then, the Railmaster was primarily pitched at engineers and other professionals who worked in close proximity to machinery emitting high magnetic fields and, as such, these watches contained an iron cover over the movement to protect against magnetic interference.
In the 1950s, Rolex had produced their legendary Milgauss model and IWC had recently released the Ingenieur in an effort to cater to this niche segment of professionals and also to show that they could produce a cutting-edge wristwatch that was robust enough to handle more than just the everyday activities of the nine-to-fivers.
Here's what a mid-Fifties IWC Ingeneur looks like;
The Real Source Of Inspiration For The Vintage IWC Ingenieur
And here's the Rolex Milgauss from the 1950s, with its distinctive lightning-bolt second hand;

Picture scanned from "Vintage Rolex Sports Models: A Complete Visual Reference & Unauthorized History" Revised & Expanded Third Edition by Martin Skeet & Nick Urul, Schiffer Publishing, 2008

And this is what a Fifties Omega Railmaster looks like;
picture courtesy of (special thanks to J. Wong)
Omega’s decision to re-introduce this classic design in a modern interpretation was a stroke of genius, in my opinion. The dial is clear, sparse and sharp. With no date window, this watch is designed for those times when all you need is the time.

New York, December 1956
"She fell for her photographer. I'm told it's an occupational hazard among fashion models. Should'a seen it coming. Too much of a coincidence to wind up working with the same shutterbug on six different shoots. On the upside, I just got that bonus. And I know just the thing to take the edge off a bad break-up.
Think I'll get it in 'Tahitian Pearl'."

This Railmaster re-edition was released around 2003 and was soon available in three sizes. Initially, Omega released it in a 39.2mm and a 41mm diameter version, with the 36.2mm model arriving on the market soon after. I began to notice back in 2002 that some watch brands were bringing out larger and larger watches. I blame Breitling and, to some extent, IWC for this. It was these two brands that went beyond the standard 42mm sizing which had been the maximum diameter across most brands. And even then, this size was reserved for dive watches and chronographs. Most dressy watches were still being manufactured in a 36mm to 39mm case. This seemed to suit most people’s wrists.

The original 1950s Railmaster  measured 38mm in diameter, which was slightly larger than the standard 35mm diameter of most watches back then. Thirty-five mil was considered the average, all-purpose size. However, here we are in the 21st Century and there aren’t many manufacturers that produce a men’s wristwatch with a 35mm diameter. Some brands have even begun to release watches in this size for the female market.

And so, the early part of this century saw most brands pushing dress watch sizing towards 40 millimetres. Omega was no different. Much of their dress watch range hovered at about 39mm. I should perhaps mention what I consider to be a dress watch, since my opinion differs from that of many other watch collectors to some extent. I view a dress watch as the kind of watch that most men wore throughout the 1950s and ‘60s. Plain designs, legible dials, and perhaps a little window with the date. All easily visible.

As far as I know, the original Railmaster was produced for only a short time, about three years or so. As such, these vintage Omegas are highly sought-after by watch collectors. Personally, I think Omega should have kept this watch in uninterrupted production, much like Rolex did with their Explorer model. Even though they have made various design changes to the Explorer since the 1950s, the DNA of the classic Reference 1016 model is still somewhat evident in the current iteration available today. In my opinion, the modern version positively ruins a classic design, but I'm certain that Rolex's sale figures would prove me wrong.

Anyway, back to the Railmaster that I'm reviewing here. But first, I should give a brief rundown of the movement that powers this wristwatch. Get comfy, folks, this may take a while.

A little word about the Co-Axial Escapement...

English watch-maker, George Daniels (1926-2011), was considered to be the finest horologist of the 20th Century. Sometime in the 1970s, he began working on a new kind of watch escapement. The escapement is the part of a watch movement which-...nah, I'm not even going to try to explain it in watch-making terms. Not because I don't think you'll understand it, but because I don't know it myself.
I don't know how it works, but I do know what it does. A main cause for any major deviation in the timekeeping of a wristwatch will usually have to do with friction, due to the breaking down or drying up of the lubricating oils used throughout the movement.
The part of a watch movement that suffers the greatest amount of friction is the escapement. 
Here's a picture of what a normal wristwatch escapement looks like compared to the Daniels Co-Axial Escapement;

picture courtesy of

Basically, the pallet stones, which are attached to the pallet fork, are shaped in such a way as to significantly reduce the amount of friction that occurs within the escapement of the movement. This has a two-fold effect. Firstly, it considerably reduces the amount of oil required to lubricate this part of the movement and, secondly, this allows the watch to run accurately over a longer period of time, thus lengthening the service intervals required on the movement. Follow this link to an animation video over on which shows how these two escapements differ;

The George Daniels Co-Axial Escapement was thought by many in the horological industry to be the greatest leap in watchmaking technology in 250 years. Yeah, that's right. Two hundred and fifty years.
From what I've heard in the watch industry over the years, Daniels shopped this new escapement design around to various watch-making houses and none of them showed much interest.
He continued utilising this design in wristwatches that he designed and built himself (from scratch) for collectors until The Swatch Group decided to implement his creation in some of the De Ville models of the Omega range in 1999. A limited edition run of 2,100 watches were made. A thousand in yellow gold, another thousand in rose gold, and one hundred models in Platinum.
Since it wasn't a completely new watch movement that Daniels had created, Omega used the pre-existing (and tried & tested) ETA Calibre 2892 as the foundation for fitting the Daniels Co-Axial Escapement to. This newly-modified watch movement was then given the Calibre 2500 designation. So confident was Omega of the reliability of this new movement that it stated that the Calibre 2500-fitted De Villes would require maintenance servicing every ten years, effectively doubling the service interval of current mechanical watch movements, which needed servicing every three to five years.

It is a truly elegant design. The pallet stones barely touch the teeth on the escapement pinion and escapement wheel. This is where the vast reduction in friction occurs and this is why this movement can go longer between servicing. 

Union City, New Jersey, February 1957 
"I've had this car less than a month. Now they're sending me to the Turkish Desk in Istanbul till further notice, dammit! I'll have to put this baby into storage. Spicy food won't do my ulcer any favours. Wonder if I can get buttermilk in Istanbul?"

It has to be stated that the movement did indeed have some teething problems in its first few years. This is to be expected with any new technology, especially one that is retro-fitted to an existing technology. However, Omega technicians were able to regularly consult George Daniels for advice with regard to issues with the Calibre 2500 as they occurred, and he was more than able to make suggestions which corrected the initial problems. In recent years, Omega has revised the service interval recommendation down to six-to-eight years instead of the original ten, although I personally feel that one could still stretch a Calibre 2500 out to ten years without any issues. 

Over the last three years or so, Omega has produced its own in-house movement with the Co-Axial Escapement totally integrated within the design. This new movement is the Calibre 8500. The brand has now returned to making its own calibres the way it used to during the Golden Age of Watchmaking in the 1950s and '60s.

George Daniels passed away in October 2011, yet he left behind a legacy in the world of horology that will be difficult to surpass.

Okay, that's enough (fractured) history for one day. And if there are any watchmakers reading this, my apologies for any and all technical inaccuracy. Hopefully, the links I've provided will explain it all better than I did.

picture courtesy of Omega.I figured there ought to be ONE decent picture of the watch in this review.

This watch's full name is the Omega AquaTerra Railmaster Co-Axial. The case design is identical to the AquaTerra range which is part of Omega's Seamaster line-up of watches. The model number is 2504.52.00. 
The particular model that I'm reviewing here was one that I sold to a great customer named Reese (not his real name) back in 2009. He rode a mountain bike and did a little mountain climbing in his spare time. And he wore this watch throughout all of it. Sometime last year, he had regretfully decided to sell this watch in order to thin down his collection. Because he's a true gent and stand-up guy, he called and offered me first-dibs on it.
How could I refuse? I didn't know if I'd ever get another chance at one of these in such clean condition, despite the minor scuffs added by his mountain climbing, and his price was fair, too. Very fair.
I snapped it up.

The Box
While I always appreciate a nice box for the watch, I sometimes prefer if it's not so flashy since it's just going to get packed away someplace. Omega make a nice box for their watches. I suppose it's all part of the cost. The nice thing about their boxes is that you can actually remove the insert that the watch sits in and then use the box to store other stuff, like M&Ms or pencils.
Most of their watches come housed in a nice red leather (actually, in twelve years of selling watches, I never thought to find out if they are genuine leather or vinyl) box. Some of the more expensive or limited edition models are usually presented in a polished woodgrain box. 
I would be happy to include a photo of the box, but, as I mentioned above, it's packed away someplace. Anyway, a quick Googling of 'Omega red box' should bring up a tonne of photos. 
Besides, I'm reviewing the watch, not the box.

So anyway, about the watch.
First things first, though- if you need a watch with a date window on the dial, stop reading now and go do something more important. This watch has no date display.

The Case
As stated above, this watch was available in three sizes, but Omega also brought out a staggering 49.2mm hand-wound version as well. Here it is, the Railmaster XXL, slaughtering my 6.5 inch wrist. Lousy photo taken with my iPod Touch back when I used to sell wristwatches;

At almost 50 millimetres in diameter, this watch takes no prisoners. It houses a Unitas 6497 pocket watch movement that was developed in the 1950s. This alone would explain its size. While I do think it's a great watch to wear on those days when one is feeling a little more flamboyant...

...those kinds of days could be few and far between. Still, if I were ever invited to The Mad Hatter's Tea Party...

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, sizes. While the 39.2mm model would have worked quite well on my small wrist, I preferred the old-school styling of the 36.2mm version. Luckily for me, that's the size that my customer, Reese, was selling me. His wrists are a tad larger than mine, but he too prefers the olde worlde sizing of this model, since it harks back to the Golden Age of Watchmaking of the 1950s and '60s.

At thirty-six mil, it sits squarely on the middle of my wrist. I saw watch sizes get larger and larger over the ten-plus years that I sold wristwatches (man, there's a lot of repetitive info in these watch posts of mine!)  and, if I've learned anything in that time, it is that you shouldn't worry about fashions and trends when it comes to something like a wristwatch.
Choose wisely and you'll have it a long, long time, so you may as well go for something that suits your height and build as well as your wrists. I have seen too many guys of average height walking around wearing some huge "Hey, everybody, look at me!!!" kind of watch that just doesn't suit them. 
Yes, yes, I know, it's your money and you can spend it on whatever you like, but really, gentlemen, do you need some huge watch to announce that you've walked into the room? I prefer to rely on my personality to make an impression (good OR bad, depending on my mood).
Besides, over the past year or so, I've noticed a slight shift downward in watch sizing to more respectable dimensions for watches of similar look to the Railmaster. Pilot's watches, dive watches, yeah, they can look good if they're large, but a dressy, everyday watch like this one should be 40mm or under in diameter. Just my opinion. If you're up for it, then trawl through my  earlier "How To Buy A Wristwatch" posts for more details about your wrist and your next watch. You're welcome.

Istanbul, June 1958                                   
"I didn't even have to think about it. 'Anybody but Sheldrake' was my first thought. That guy's too tightly wound. Loves to argue just for the sake of it. I went down to the Post Office to send a reply. Three days later, Sheldrake knocked on my hotel-room door. Half an hour after that, we were yelling at each other."

The case of this watch is nicely finished, with both brushed and polished steel highlights used throughout. Notice how the lugs have an outer edge that's brushed steel, a flared section that's polished and an inner edge, next to the bracelet end-links, that's brushed.

The brushed steel case sides hold up fairly well after a few years of wear. The bracelet itself is a basic three-link design and this is given a brushed finish. I have found that brushed steel tends to hide scuffs and scratches a little better than polished steel.
Most well-made Swiss wristwatches use surgical-grade 316L stainless steel which tends to be extremely hypo-allergenic and corrosion-resistant. Rolex uses 904L, which is meant to be even more corrosion-resistant. However, let me ask you, if you ever spill something on your wristwatch that is so highly corrosive that your watch can survive it, shouldn't you be more worried about your wrist that the watch is clamped around?

ANECDOTE. Yes, this really happened;


The young man turns the Oris TT diver watch over and notices the see-through case-back of the watch.

                          YOUNG MAN
                   Can this watch withstand an
                   electro-magnetic pulse?

Teeritz sighs, ever-so-slightly.


                   Do you plan on being any-
                   where where an electro-
                   magnetic pulse will be


The Railmaster, as well as the AquaTerra models on which this watch is based, is water resistant down to 150 metres, or 500 feet. That's pretty much more than you or I are going to need. This is due to the screw-down winding crown, which offers greater water resistance than a standard push-in crown found on most watches of this styling. The Rolex DateJust models have 100 metres water resistance. Rolex learned long ago that this amount of water resistance was more than adequate for almost any recreational water activities. It's certainly good enough for a day at the beach or snorkeling. So, 150 metres should be overkill for somebody like myself.

The original Railmaster of the 1950s was designed for professionals who worked in close proximity to high magnetic fields. As the name suggests, it was aimed at railroad engineers. Therefore, in order to withstand exposure to magnetic interference, the movement inside the case was covered by a thin plate of iron. The dial of the watch was also thicker to help protect against magnetism.
The modern version dispenses with the whole anti-magnetic side of things. This watch is a Railmaster in name and outward design only. Not that that bothered me any. Omega didn't make this new version in order to appeal to engineers. As with their AquaTerra series, the Railmaster also came fitted with a sapphire crystal case-back to showcase the movement inside the watch.

The Movement
The Calibre 2403 is another Omega movement equipped with the Co-Axial Escapement. Couple of things to mention about these movements used by Omega. Firstly, it is a movement supplied to Omega by ETA, a prominent Swiss watch movement manufacturer which supplies a vast number of Swiss and German wristwatch companies with movements. ETA and Omega are both owned by The Swatch Group. I got a lot of respect for The Swatch Group, since it pretty much rescued the Swiss watch industry about twenty years ago. As the Japanese Quartz Revolution pushed its way through the 1970s and '80s, quite a few Swiss companies couldn't compete with these mass-produced, cheap watches coming out of Japan. As such, many watchmaking companies went bust. Others merged, in order to stay in business, while others still, switched over from mechanical watch movements to battery-operated quartz ones.

Uh-oh, time for another digression. Here's a fascinating story about Zenith. I don't know why nobody's written a book about it. Zenith was one of Switzerland's oldest watch manufacturers, having been started up in 1865 by a 22 year-old named Georges Favret-Jacot. In 1969, Zenith released their famous El Primero calibre, the first automatic chronograph movement in the world. Prior to that, all wristwatches with stopwatch movements were hand wound. This particular calibre was used in the Rolex Cosmograph chronograph wristwatch up until around the turn of this century. You might not think that's a big deal, but, for a company that has always prided itself on the fact that it makes all of its movements in-house, Rolex's use of an out-sourced movement is a pretty big deal and was not common knowledge among watch enthusiasts.
Then, in the mid 1970s, Zenith was struggling financially and was bought out by Zenith Electronics of the US. The reason? They had the same name. 
The auditors went in. Once they stepped into the workshops, the conversation went a little like this, but don't quote me;

Auditors- "What's all this stuff?"

Head of Watchmaking- "It's the equipment used to manufacture the mechanical movements for our wristwatches."

Auditors- "Mechanical?! No, no, no, this company's going electrical, with the expertise of Zenith Electronics behind it. Quartz watches from now on. You'd better believe it. Gonna beat the Japanese at their own game."

Head of Watchmaking- "But what of all this equipment? Where will it go?"

Auditors- "We don't care, as long as it's out of here by Friday. Get rid of it."

The watch technician then spent the next week taking all the machinery apart and attaching labels to each piece. He spent another couple of days transporting these pieces back to his house where he stored them for almost two decades.
Fast-forward to sometime in the 1990s when Zenith electronics sold their watchmaking division back to the Swiss and the former Head of Watchmaking contacted the new owners to say that he had all the machinery needed to manufacture mechanical watch movements again.
Imagine if Porsche destroyed all of their blueprints for the 911 twenty years ago. Sure, you could start from scratch, and you may end up with something better or worse than what you had before, but it just would not be the same.  All of the lathes and machines required to manufacture all the parts of a complete watch movement were saved. This Head of Watchmaking at Zenith saved the company's history. And its future. And he had the technical know-how to teach the new batch of technicians at Zenith. I don't know why there isn't an entire hospital wing named after this guy, whose name I don't remember. I've got it written down somewhere. Fascinating story.

Anyway, the calibre used in this Railmaster is a base ETA calibre 2892a, modified to accept the Daniels Co-Axial Escapement. Now, I have spoken to many watch collectors over the years who snobbishly tell me that it's not a true in-house movement by Omega. BFD. I have always said that I don't care if there are two baby mice running on a treadmill inside my watch. As long as it runs accurately and/or doesn't cost an arm and a leg to service, that's all I ask from a watch movement. Since around 2008/09, Omega have returned to in-house production of watch movements with their totally in-house Calibre 8500 and its derivatives. These have been designed from the ground up to fully incorporate the Co-Axial Escapement. 
I, for one, am glad that George Daniels got to see his technology used in a new, purpose-built watch calibre before he died. It was always Omega's intention to return to production of watch movements in-house. The cynics would argue that, in doing this, Omega wants to court a large piece of Rolex's customer base. Others say that Omega wanted to return to its watchmaking roots. I sit somewhere in the middle, with a slight lean towards the romantic notion of Omega going back to its watchmaking history.

The other thing to mention about the Co-Axial movement in my Railmaster is that it is COSC-certified. I've explained this before, so I'll try to be brief. Actually, I'm gonna go point form on this;

* The Swiss government runs something called the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, or COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) , as it's known to watch nerds like myself. This institute tests watch movements for accuracy.

* Any watchmaking company in the world can send its movements to COSC for testing.

* The watch movements are tested (outside of the case) continuously for fifteen days.

* In five different positions, since gravity can affect the running of a movement.

* Under three different temperatures, since fluctuations in temperature can affect the running of a movement.

* The movement is permitted to lose as much as four seconds per day.

* Or gain as much as six seconds per day.

* If it falls within this plus or minus range, it is considered 99.9% accurate (as accurate as you can get with a mechanical movement) and it is then given a Chronometer Certificate, which states that it has passed this level of testing. 

Chronometer certification seems to be the direction that Omega have been heading in over the last few years.  Fine by me. This particular model seems to hover around four seconds fast per day, so it sits well within the accepted range. Having said that, if I were really pedantic about it, I could place the watch down in a different position at night on my bedside table in an attempt to determine which resting positions cause the watch to gain time and which ones cause it to lose time. This way, I could manipulate the timekeeping over the course of a week. But I have better things to do with my time. 

Istanbul, January 1960
"The government put a muzzle on the Foreign Press and I had a story to get out. Then I had an idea, thanks to a half-forgotten conversation I had with my brother Travis last Thanksgiving in Bridgeport. Gilles, a correspondent from 'Le Monde' gave me his copy of "L'Etranger" in exchange for a fifth of Scotch. Camus had been killed in a car accident a few days ago and I felt a twinge of regret at cutting up his most famous novel. Gilles and I drank a toast to him. Then we had another for luck while I folded the short note and glued it to the inner spine of the book. Hopefully, it would get over the Turkish-Bulgarian border where Travis would be waiting to mail it on to Old Man Bennett at The New York Times Building.
It's handy having a brother in the CIA."

The Dial
The Railmaster's dial is an exercise in minimalism coupled with extreme legibility. For me, a wristwatch has to tell the time clearly beyond all else. While I have a few vintage Omega watches that are very nice to wear throughout the day, offering a clean and legible dial, the Railmaster is what I tend to wear when I want at-a-glance readability of the dial.

Since my photos don't really do this dial justice, here's a detail from Omega's picture above.

Notice the raised section in the numeral '3' and the triangular marker next to it? It's loaded with a compound called SuperLuminova. It basically glows in the dark after exposure to either natural or artificial light. Once upon a time, watch manufacturers used something called Radium, which had radioactive properties. Radium was replaced with a less toxic compound called Tritium. Thankfully, a non-harmful solution was found in the form of SuperLuminova which, while it doesn't stay luminous in total darkness for years on end the way Tritium does, it does present no risks whatsoever to the wearer and, more importantly, the people who handle the watch dials all day long during manufacture.
The Railmaster dial has a healthy dose of SuperLuminova used on it. Each arrow-head hour marker and the triangles and numerals at the dial's cardinal points all have SL coatings. The hands are also in-laid with Superluminova, providing easy readability in very low-light conditions. You tend to find this amount of SuperLuminova on dive watch dials where legibility in low light is crucial.

I gave the dial a five-second burst from a torch (flashlight) and then placed the watch down on the bedside table for this shot below;

The SuperLuminova gives off a soft greenish glow which lasts most of the night. Not as long-lasting as Radium or Tritium, but a whole lot safer if strapped to your wrist for sixteen hours a day.

A quick word about the lack of date window. In my humble opinion, a date window would ruin the symmetry of this dial. The watch is better off not having a date display, despite the fact that many customers of mine considered no date on a wristwatch an absolute dealbreaker. 

The dial itself isn't quite jet black. It actually reminds me of that deep dark charcoal grey that's similar in hue to that of a blackboard. Again, to me this helps give the watch an old-school (pardon the pun) look. 
If I have a gripe about anything, it's the crystal. The watch has a sapphire crystal. It's nicely convex with a very finely bevelled edge. I just wish that Omega had given it an anti-reflective coating. While the dial itself is supremely legible, the crystal does reflect light that's bounced against it. An A/R coating would have made the watch look as if it had no crystal, thus making the entire dial stand out even more. My watchmaker friend tells me there's a mob interstate who can put an anti-reflective coating on this crystal, but I think I'll just leave it be.

As for the hands, they are perfect for this dial design and layout. The minute hand has a lume-filled arrow-head to help further distinguish it from the hour hand. The second hand mimics this with its luminous snake's-head with a longish lancette at its end. Aside from the curves of the numerals on the dial, the rest of this dial and hand layout is an example of sharp lines and jagged triangles. It is impossible to mistake the time on this wristwatch.
Two forty-five cannot be mistaken for nine-fifteen, etc.

Istanbul, May 1960    
"General Gursel made his move against Bayar and Menderes. Meanwhile, a car exploded just outside our Press Office...about a minute after I'd stepped out front to have a cigarette. Serves me right for working back late. Never again. My left arm took a lot of shrapnel, but my typewriter survived in better shape. Even landed right-side-up, although the letter 'e' key was now jammed up.
The medic at the US Embassy patched me up. Said it all looked worse than it was, but then, he wasn't the one wearing a bloodstained shirt. I spent a day in the infirmary. Gilles came to see me. Told me Levent the old janitor back at the office said he could fix my typewriter. I was a little dubious, but I had a deadline looming. Tensions in this country were running high and I had a story to file. Even if I had to type it one-handed.
When I got back to the office, the typewriter was sitting on my desk. Fixed. One of the lever rods underneath had been snapped in half from the blast. Levent later told me he rigged up a new one using a spoke from an old bicycle wheel. Son of a gun.
Of course, he wouldn't accept any payment. I told him I'd get him a bottle of Scotch. He said he'd prefer a bag of sugar.
I got him ten.
And a new bicycle."
The Bracelet
The Railmaster's bracelet is a standard three-link arrangement, similar to the kind found on many other Omega models. This type of design is tried and tested, offering excellent strength and durability, along with very good fit on the wrist. The links themselves aren't too large and this allows for a fit which closely follows the curvature of the wrist. The bracelet itself is held together by a pin and tube system.

Each of those holes has a pin running across the width of the bracelet. Generally, about eight to ten links can be removed from a bracelet when sizing it to your wrist.

A small metal tube sits within a channel drilled through the middle link. The outer links are also drilled to allow a thin steel pin to run through them. The pin is as long as the width of the bracelet. This pin is hammered into the bracelet link and the tube in the middle link provides enough friction to hold it in place. In fact, for added grip, the tube has a slight crimp in it and the pins have a slight groove around their circumference. Once hammered into place, the crimp on the tube 'bites down' into the groove on the pin to hold it all together.
It's a good system, used by many other brands although over the long term, the pins may tend to wear out as the bracelet links swivel slightly while on the wrist. However, replacement parts are available from your local Authorised Omega Service Centre.
While I'm here, I might as well do a quick recap on bracelet and correct fit. Ideally, the six o'clock end of the bracelet should be shorter than the twelve o'clock end.  This is to prevent the 'rolling' effect that can occur when you perform a simple twist if the wrist, like when you'd use a screwdriver or turn a door-knob. Your forearm is made up of the radius and ulna bones which do not turn in unison when you twist your wrist. If the bracelet is incorrectly adjusted, you end up with the case of the watch rolling towards the outer edge of your wrist. Best-case scenario, it gets annoying after a while. Worst-case, the watch presses against the bone and also puts added stress on the bracelet links. It's explained in a little more detail in my "How To Buy a Wristwatch" posts.
Another option is to put the watch on a strap. The Omega factory strap is a nice brown alligator which you might think doesn't work with the black dial of the watch, but it actually works quite well. It gives the watch an old-style look.

The Omega Railmaster is a wristwatch that I can't really fault. I've been interested in watches since I was a kid, having a mad fixation on the Rolex GMT Master, thinking it was the watch that James Bond wore in the movies. It wasn't until my late teens that I realised that he wore the Rolex Submariner model in the films and quite possibly (though never properly proven) a Rolex Explorer in the Fleming novels.
I began collecting watches in the late 1990s and have amassed a steady (and my wife says excessive) collection over the years featuring a variety of styles. The Railmaster sits in a category all by itself. The dial is all no-nonsense, almost lifted straight off a dive watch design with its clear contrasting numerals and dial. And while, at first glance, it might be mistaken for a military or pilot's watch design, a closer inspection will show that it is indeed neither of these.
While available in numerous sizes, as mentioned earlier, I knew that the 36.2mm diameter would best suit my 6.5 inch wrist. Bear in mind that 34 to 37 mil was the standard size for a watch of this style from around the late 1950s until around the early 2000s. While I was tempted to go for the 39.2mm model, I thought it too close in size to some of my other dive watches and chronographs. Once I made that realisation, I was convinced that 36.2mm was the perfect size for me.

Mediterranean Sea, August 1960
"I filed my story on the Turkish coup. Old Man Bennett was happy, since The New York Times managed to scoop every other paper in the country. So happy, in fact, that he let me come back to The States a few months later. My job here was done. Although, I'm gonna miss Turkey. I'd even just gotten used to the coffee, too. A British Royal Navy submarine was due to pass by the port at Mersin. Travis pulled a few strings and managed to get me aboard. 
The Captain, a big fella named Sinclair, said it was all 'highly irregular', but a message from his superiors soon calmed him down. The sub was headed back to England. I'd catch a flight back to La Guardia from there. Sinclair and I had a cup of tea up on the conning tower soon after we were underway. Even lent me a Peacoat to wear. 'Keep it, old boy. We have hundreds', he said when the sub arrived in England.
Half-way home. Can't wait to get behind the wheel."

Despite its bold appearance, the Railmaster is an understated wristwatch. People who aren't into watches have commented on its neat appearance. Even some watch nerds that I've met are surprised to see that it's an Omega. They weren't aware that Omega made this style of wristwatch.
The Railmaster wasn't in production for very long and I think its lack of date window was the reason for its discontinuation. I doubt that it sold in large quantities compared to its AquaTerra cousin, seen below;

Still, as I stated, I think a date window would have ruined the look of the Railmaster. Production of this watch ceased around 2009 and there were hopes that Omega would release a new version complete with in-house movement. Alas, the Baselworld wristwatch fair, held early last month in Switzerland, showed no new Railmaster model from Omega. Maybe next year.

In the end, it doesn't matter. If you hunt around, the Railmaster can be found on the second-hand market from time to time. As I've said, I was impressed when I first saw this watch, but I couldn't justify getting it because I felt that my AquaTerra, above, was too similar. Although, the more I looked at the Railmaster, the more difference I saw, despite the fact that the case and bracelet are identical in these two watches. But the dial provides the greatest point of contrast. I had often said to colleagues that it would make an ideal retirement watch, when needing to know the date perhaps isn't of great importance.
When I was presented with the opportunity to buy the Railmaster from Reese, I decided that I didn't want to wait until I retired.
It's a great all-purpose wristwatch.

A FINAL NOTE: I read through this review and am aware that it's a little silly to write about a watch that is no longer in production. There are already a few reviews on the Railmaster out there on the internet, but I've been so impressed with this watch since I got it that I just had to throw in my 2 cents about it.

Thanks for reading!


Special thanks to Mrs. Teeritz and the kids for helping out with the photo-taking.

And a HUGE THANKS to Wayne for letting me take some pics of his '57 Chevy Bel Air!

Once I found that December 1956 National Geographic with the Chevy advertisement in it, the idea for the photo vignettes began falling into place, and Wayne letting me take some pics of his car was very much appreciated.
Man, that car's in immaculate condition!


  1. That's a long, exhaustive review, but I read every word. The vignettes are perfect! :D

  2. Unlike Ted, I'm going to have to come back for the full read-through! Great stuff.

  3. A great review. This was a watch I had never even considered when looking at Omegas. Their black Planet Ocean is at the top of my 'Omega' list but, like yourself, it is a price I cannot justify.

    Have any thoughts on the Seiko Spring Drive? I've been literally DROOLING over these for a little while now, especially after watching a long and descriptive video about how they work. What do you think?

    1. Ken, these Railmasters can still be had second-hand. I'm not a huge fan of the current Planet Ocean line-up. The cases are just too thick for my wrist.
      Regarding the Spring Drives, they are the work of geniuses, but again, pricey. But they way they work almost turns traditional mainspring technology on its head.

  4. I regret letting this go- every single day...

    My biggest 'material' regret.

    Wear it well my friend.


    1. Gee, you're making me feel bad, sir. Rest assured it's in good hands. I'll keep an eye out for another one. Unless Omega beats me to it by re-releasing a Calibre 8500 version.

    2. Fear not, Tee. I'm glad it's found a good home.

      Best all round watch going round though. Classy, can do casual, better for sport than a dive watch because it is so comfortable and unobtrusive, and it glows like a new father.

      What was I thinking?

  5. Great review. The one I wish I could get is the Speedmaster, but this looks great. Loved the vignettes and photos.

    1. NA, one good thing about Speedmasters is that they have been in production for so long, and this means that a nice-condition, pre-owned model could be had for much less than a brand new model. Still not cheap, mind you, but a considerable saving over purchasing a new one.

  6. Once again, great writing. And such a stunningly beautiful watch!
    And that car..... Such sleekness.

    Is the car capable of surviving an electro magnetic pulse?

  7. I have had one since about 2007. WHY, compared with Omega's catalogue (& any other catalogue) did they EVER discontinue this watch ?! I mean, it makes a Rolex Explorer look like a girl's bangle!

    1. I've said the same thing on watch forums, Dave, about this watch and the Sixties-era Seamaster 300 dive watch. If Omega had kept the Railmaster in continuous production, it would have become an even greater classic than it is. In my humble opinion. The Rolex Explorer is a nice watch, without a doubt, but I prefer the way it used to look. The current 39mm version leaves me pretty cold. But I'm sure it sells like crazy.

  8. Great Review. I`ve just acquired a 42mm version after a long quest. With an 84XX serial number and cards dated 2010 I guess it`s one of the last. I`ve also a 42mm Chrono version which is equally stunning but I do prefer the simplicity of the standard version.

    1. Congrats on a great watch! 2010 would definitely be one of the last ones made before the entire Railmaster line was (stupidly) discontinued. One of the best Omega watches of the last fifteen years.

  9. Hello Teeritz!

    Thanks for a great review!
    I'm new in this watch world, but I feel ready to buy my first real watch, and I've completely falled in love with the Omega Railmaster (36mm). The design is just perfect and I think it will suit me perfectly. I stumbled upon the perfect one on Omegaforums, 36mm and everything, comes with a complete set, very good condition. For the price of $3075, (I know that you bought one yourself, so If it is not to much to ask for. What do you think about the price?

    Best regards,
    Felix -(A newborn watch-enthusiast)

    1. It's a good price. I've seen them sell for between $2800 to around $3200. That's Australian dollars that I'm talking about. They don't come up for sale very often, especially in the 36mm size, so I would snap it up.
      It is a great watch.

  10. Thanks for the reply!
    Getting really excited about this watch. The watch is listed on from the seller "Kringkily", just out of curiosity. Have you heard of him before? Trusted seller?
    (Just want to be extra cautious because it will be my first watch deal)
    Best regards,


  11. Kringkily is pretty well regarded over on other forums that I frequent. I suppose you could pay via PayPal if you have any concerns. From my understanding, the will freeze the payment if there are any issues. Best of luck, but I think you will be fine.

  12. Two years late to the party, but this is such a good review, and manages to be supremely interesting, that I felt compelled to comment.

    I bought a second-hand 39mm Railmaster on a bracelet in late 2013, nearly two years ago. I'm wearing it today, even though I don't wear it all that often. Since buying it I've added a Milgauss Glace Verte, an orange Planet Ocean (8500 movement) and a Seamaster AT Ryder Cup, so the Railmaster has trouble "showing up" amongst these flashier, more colorful watches when I go to grab something in the morning.

    But today I decided my dressy business outfit called for the understated elegance of the Railmaster so I strapped it on. I just looked down at my wrist and was really overwhelmed (by an "underwhelming" watch, no less!) by this piece. It is just so right in every way! The four numerals, the lack of assymetrical date window, the heavy lume, the not-quite-black dial, the spartan, no-frills nature of the minute chapter around the perimeter...

    It all works so well. Never grabs attention from across the table (which I freely admit is often the reason I DON'T wear it), but when examined reveals itself to be a perfectly reliable*, perfectly sized watch that I've never wished I wasn't wearing for any reason.

    *While I'm not at all a watch accuracy geek, I had read so much about the co-axial 2403 movement that I decided to set mine exactly with my iPhone last year and see how it did over a day. Then I promptly forgot the whole experiment. For six weeks! I eventually remembered because I realized I was never adjusting the time on this one (it lives on a cheap winder when not being worn), where after a month I always seem to have to do so on my other good watches. So I checked it out with my iPhone. Four (4) seconds fast! After 6 weeks! I've never checked it again (why would I, when I can legitimately brag about sub-second-per-week accuracy? :-)), but that amazed me for sure.

    1. It's still one of my absolute favourite watches, and it's understated nature is it's biggest draw card for me (aside from its super-clear legibility).
      Also, I think it works perfectly with business attire. Gives a suit an old-school look. Hang on to that watch, Anony. The 39.2mm model is closer in size to the 1957 originals, which were 38mm in diameter.
      Thanks for the kind comments too.

  13. I believe I will, in fact, hang on to it. Earlier this summer I was shopping for the 2012 (iirc) AT Ryder Cup Captain's watch, which I really liked for some strange reason when it came out (strange, given that I have zero interest in golf), and I found one on The 'Bay that was somewhat undervalued. Bought it, telling myself I'd get rid of the Railmaster. You see, I have this personal discipline thingy wherein I won't let myself get past 8 watches. Not a money issue, I just hate having more watches than I can wear in a reasonable rotation, and 8 seems to be the appropriate number for me. But the Ryder would make 9. So something had to go, and the something was the Railmaster.

    But I couldn't do it. The AT came in and I liked it, but I kept looking at that Railmaster and thinking, "It's just perfect." I bought it to replace a fairly similar looking IWC Mk XVI and I gladly sold the IWC as soon as the Railly came in. But I found myself unable to do so when the Ryder came in.

    So I tabled the discussion, rationalizing that the next few months would reveal organically which watch needed to go, and then the decision would be easy. And sure enough, the truth hit me just this week -- the watch I've not been wearing since the Ryder came in is the Milgauss. What a beautiful watch, and I was so excited when I got it a year ago. And it certainly gets plenty of comments from people. But for some inexplicable reason, my inner self rarely grabs it. So it's going on the block and I'll be back down to 8. The Railmaster wins again.

    1. Attaboy! Nothing against the Milgauss, although an original from the '70s would be sweet, but I think the Railmaster would be a hard watch to replace. The IWC Mark XVI is not bad, but the Mark XV was a more distinctive looking watch, and more true to the original Mark XI from earlier this 21st Century.
      I also think that an 8 watch rotation is very reasonable. It ensures that pretty much every watch gets worn.
      As you might have realised, Matt, whenever you're uncertain about which watch to get rid of, your best barometer is a three to six month period whereby you notice the pattern of watch wearing. Anything that hasn't been worn for half a year will probably not be missed. Personally, though, I haven't tested that theory yet.
      Must get around to it one day. I think I could get rid of a few without missing them terribly.

  14. Dadgummit! Your post reminded me it was the Mark XV I had, one of the last ones before they were d/c'd. The wife of a friend who admired it tried to buy one for him as a Christmas gift later that year, and when she emailed me what she had bought I was aghast at the new date window debacle of the XVI. The main reason I got rid of the IWC is that I wear out leather bands fairly quickly and I wanted a bracelet for it, but the IWC bracelet was very pricey and I found the Railmaster to be more desireable and even cheaper than the combined cost of the IWC plus bracelet.

    Are you a Lemania 5100 fan? I've had several over the years, but was always put out by the chaotic nature of the dials and the number of complications manufacturers felt compelled to include. For instance, the most egregious was a Sinn I had that was remarketed in the US by Bell & Ross, as Sinn didn't have US distribution. So you had the day and date at 3 o'clock; you had "Bell & Ross" above those windows, then beneath them was "by SINN." The outer chapter contained the seemingly requisite tachymeter (does any human use those asymetrical detractions for any possible purpose?), and the inner perimeter was the minutes chapter, divided conveniently into 1/5 second hashmarks! Add to this the inclusion of all three subdials (24 hour dial in case you're a submariner and wake up wondering if it's 3am or 3pm), and tiny continual seconds subdial (so useful to a man who has a giant orange seconds hand only a button push away!). Look it up for some entertaining instruction on graphic chaos!

    So to my eye the entire purpose of the thick, fairly crude 5100 is to provide unsurpassed clarity for people who are actually timing things. I use mine when running or cycling, actions that render ANY subdial-type chronograph unreadable with any precision. Not to mention the usual propensity of the minute subdial to be partially covered by the watch's hour hand whenever I'm trying to get my run in. But alas, with a cluttered, hard-to-read-at-a-glance dial, some of the instant readability of the Lemania is lost also.

    Finally, four years ago, I found my dream chronograph! An obscure model that hadn't sold very well during its life because -- you guessed it -- it lacked the myriad complications we watch lovers so fancy. Check out the Tutima 760-42 Commando II. Unbridled perfection! Date window only, at 3:30. Simple "Tutima" script at 12:00. Large luminous batons all around, with an outer ramped perimeter displaying arabic 1-12. Minutes chapter with no subdivisions. And the only subdial you actually need, a 12-hour counter at 6 o'clock.

    Now add in a titanium case (my others had been steel) and large, flat rectangular pushers that cannot be accidentally activated under any conditions but can be easily pushed with thick flight gloves on (not that I'm a flyer.) My dream watch!

    Of course, it wears big, given the inherent thickness of the 5100. But it's an elegant watch, if the true meaning of the word is considered: delivering the intended purpose with the simplest design and least affectation. I have long accepted the fact of the movement's chunky 14mm thickness for the real timing capabilities it gives me. Grilling steaks on the barbi (there, I'm throwing you an Aussie bone) in low light? This is the only movement known to man that can tell you positively when your 4 minutes per side are up.

    Okay, I just got on a roll -- sorry! I've highjacked your excellent Railmaster thread, but I wore my Tutima all day yesterday and have it on again today, so I just wanted to go on and on about it. Cheers!

  15. Don't know exactly how to post pictures to your blog, but here's a link to the Bell & Ross: compared to the Tutima:

  16. I remember the old 'Bell & Ross by Sinn' Chronographs that were around ten or fifteen years ago. I was chasing a M1 chronograph for a while, but they were hard to come by and pricey too. These days, I think about the old Bund Chronographs made by Sinn, Heuer and the super-rare Breitling versions, but I dunno if I'd actually go for one. Sad that the 5100 movements were phased out.
    I recall the Tutima chronos as well. Should have bought one when I could have got it for a grand. Ahh well. Nice chronos, they are. Clean dials, rock-solid movements.
    As for the Mark XVI, yes, I too think that the new date windows are a mess. The Mark XV was their last great pilot's watch.
    Regarding posting pictures on my blog, I don't think it's set up for photos to be added to comments. But, I'm all over the Watchuseek forums, so perhaps you might want to send the pics there via PM. Either way, don't stress over it. I know the watches you mean.
    These days, I don't mind some of Bell & Ross' designs. They've finally created their own identity after coasting on Sinn's designs for so long.

  17. Thanks for the great write up.
    Can you tell me when they started using exhibition back for the Railmasters? I've seen one with metal back. Curious to know if they were manufactured with both full metal and display back simultaneously.

    1. The Railmaster re-editions were always exhibition back only. Never saw a modern Railmaster with a steel back. Same with the automatic AquaTerra range that was around at the same time. I would steer clear of it if it has a solid caseback.
      Thanks for the kind words, too!

  18. Great write up. I always loved the clean look of this watch and came across your write up while researching. I'm in the midst of purchasing a 39mm RM. Oddly, there isn't as much info as u think u would find about such a beautiful watch. I was torn between a RM and moon watch but your post gave me that push I needed. Thx again!

    1. You're going to love this watch, Mr Lee! I agree that there's very little info on the web regarding these Railmaster re-issues. Such a classic, classic watch.