Why I Bought It: Collector Quentin R. Bufogle And His 2006 Omega De Ville Chronoscope Chronograph
In addition to being utterly obsessed with high-end, mechanical watches of the Swiss variety, Quill & Pad’s regular reader Quentin R. Bufogle is a freelance writer, former contributor to the former Las Vegas CityLife, occasional blogger, and author of the recent memoir King of the New York Streets.
If you would’ve told me six months ago that I’d pass on a Breguet Type XX in favor of an Omega . . . well . . . let’s not even go there. What changed my mind? Granted (IMHO), the silver-dial Omega De Ville Chronoscope Chronograph on stainless steel bracelet is just plain gorgeous. In terms of sheer aesthetics, it ticks all the right boxes (again, at least for me).
Honestly, if you sat me down at the drafting board – blue pencil in hand – I can’t think of a single element I’d care to change: from the delicate, almost Lilliputian applied numerals on the oversized subdials to the oddly placed, whimsically shaped panoramic date window and the beautifully sculpted lugs. It all just works. But it’s so much more than that . . .
In blindly following the siren call of Breguet, I’d somehow lost sight of the very attributes that had so attracted me to the brand in the first place: a history steeped in innovation and exquisite watchmaking. After all, it was Breguet!
Somehow, a 1970s cam-actuated Lémania ebauche movement just didn’t quite cut the horological mustard. Though I’d often heard the Breguet Type XX Aeronavale trumpeted as one of the finest examples of a cam-controlled chronograph this side of the Vallee de Joux, I was disappointed.
This wasn’t the Breguet that had once swept me off my feet. The Breguet of Napoleon Bonaparte, Marie Antoinette, the Queen of Naples, and an entire generation of Russian nobility. No. The Type XX with its Lémania retread simply didn’t have the chops, the gravitas, worthy of such a hallowed marque in my opinion.
As I gazed wantonly at the beautiful specimen on the Chrono24 website, something strange happened: I’d waited over two years to click on “buy.” Now – requisite funds in my money market account – I froze mid-click. Almost reflexively, my trigger finger retreated from the touchpad. Where I’d once heard the smoldering, constrained passion of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line,” I now heard the bitter lament of B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone.”
What manner of madness was this? The Type XX Aeronavale had been the watch I’d pined for – nay, lusted after! It was then I heard the ghost of old Abraham-Louis Breguet whisper in my ear: “Don’t settle for a warmed-over ’70s cam-actuated chronograph, twit! What you really want is the finest, most elegant chronograph movement ever made.”
Yes! Indeed, I did! But this begged the question – the one that has dogged me ever since purchasing my very first entry-level Swiss chronograph what now seems like a lifetime ago: WHICH ONE???
Forget that high-tech beast that vibrates like the wings of a hummingbird on methamphetamine beneath the hull of the Breguet Type XXII or the twin-engine monster that drives the Zenith Defy . . . speaking of which: ZENITH! Yes, of course, the venerable El Primero! A truly great chronograph movement with an equally great story: Charles Vermot defying the Philistines at Zenith Electronics, stashing the machine tools for the movement in a loft and thus saving that high-beat wonder for posterity (and the folks at Rolex). The world’s first fully integrated automatic chronograph movement (that’s Zenith’s story and they’re stickin’ to it).
Truth be told, the El Primero’s 36,000 vph always did render it something of an anomaly. Even Rolex had to slow it down for the Daytona. No. There had to be a chronograph movement that was even more elegant, beautiful, and yet technically sophisticated. As it turns out, there is.
A little research led me to the Frédéric Piguet Caliber 1185, a much-revered column-wheel, vertical-clutch masterpiece that’s graced the flagship models of some of haute horlogerie’s finest: Vacheron Constantin (Overseas), Audemars Piguet (Royal Oak), Blancpain (Leman Flyback). Even Breguet itself used the movement in its dazzling Marine chronograph.
Quite a resumé! Problem was, most of the pieces that utilized the movement were slightly beyond my budget. Then my research led me to yet another caliber: the Omega 3313. Excuse me, did you say “Omega?” YES, OMEGA!
Turns out the Omega 3313 – the very same movement housed within the De Ville Chronoscope’s elegantly sculpted case – uses the slightly more robust, higher-beat heir to the much-vaunted Frédéric Piguet Caliber 1185, the 1285.
Throw in a free-sprung balance and C.O.S.C. chronometer certification along with Omega’s groundbreaking Co-Axial escapement and – to paraphrase WatchBox’s own Tim Mosso – you’ve got yourself a bit of indie watchmaking in an otherwise mass-produced offering. A touch of haute horlogerie at a mid-tier price. The perfect union of classic and high-tech.
So I bought an Omega.
Stumbling upon Breguet many years ago marked a turning point in my journey as a collector. Owning the Omega De Ville Chronoscope Chronograph marks yet another. I think old Abraham-Louis would approve.
For more information, please visit www.omegawatches.com/watch-omega-de-ville-co-axial-chronoscope.
Quick Facts Omega De Ville Chronoscope Chronograph (2006)
Case: 41 x 12.9 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber 3313 (Frédéric Piguet Caliber 1285 base) with Co-Axial escapement and free-sprung balance, 52-hour power reserve, officially C.O.S.C. chronometer-certified, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, chronograph
Retail price in 2006: $5,780