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
You may also enjoy:
A History Of Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas Line, Culminating In 2016’s Worldtimer
Exceptional Movements In History: Zenith El Primero
In A Royal Oak And Nautilus World, Why I Love The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Deep Stream Chronograph
Breguet Marine: A Great Bracelet Makes A Big Difference
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Congratulations on your beautiful Omega acquisition. Your story resonates with me. I bought a close relative of your watch – an Omega DeVille GMT Coaxial, chronometer, ref 4833.31.32. I bought it new in 2006 from an Omega boutique. At that time, I passed on a Rolex, Cartier, and JLC to buy this watch because of the (then) new coaxial escapement. Anyway, I wore this watch for a few years, then stopped wearing it for 12 years, and recently dusted it off, had it serviced and now I am wearing it all the time. I love everything about it, especially how the white dial can look eggshell, silver or white at various times of the day. Tim Mosso said this reference is rare. I have many more expensive watches but currently this is my favourite. Looking back, had I bought the Rolex, it would be worth more today but my Omega is definitely much more beautiful. I find myself looking at the dial quite often during the day. Anyway, just wanted to say “hey” and wish you well with your Omega chronograph. May you always wear it in good health!
What Tim said is correct. After Quentin sent me his story, I looked into this reference. My findings tell me that for one the black dial is more frequent than this one and for another it is the rattrapante version that Omega was pushing back in the day. Interesting watch to bring up after all this time!
I think both watches – mine and Quentin’s, are both rare. Not super rare but rare enough that one can live for 50 years and travel the world and never see these Omega references. I think both watches and all the earliest attempts by Omega to industrialise George Daniel’s coaxial escapement go unfairly ignored by the general watch collecting/enthusiast community.
I’m not exactly sure how unfair that was, Don. The earliest attempts didn’t function well. It took Omega a while to get it figured out. But once they did, wow, great stuff. This watch, which was about six, seven years after the Co-Axial made an appearance, is a real specimen of its time. Enjoy it!
My Omega also had some problems. It just stopped working completely and then I just put it in storage for 12 years. After a full service at the Omega Service Center in Zurich, it runs perfectly and keeps excellent time — better than most of my more expensive watches. It has been running continuously for several months now. At first, I was quite perturbed by Omega and disenchanted by the Daniel’s coaxial escapement concept but now am looking forward to buying another Omega, but this time with an in-house, modern, refined, and proven coaxial movement. Cheers!
You’re absolutely right, Elizabeth. At least initially, George Daniels’ escapement didn’t play well with the ETA 2892 or the FP 1285. Fortunately, Omega agreed to step up and provide the necessary upgrades to iron out the kinks free of charge. Service issues with the caliber 3313 are largely in the rearview and the movement is now rock-solid.
By the way Elizabeth, since making its debut here on Quill & Pad, my Omega De Ville Chronoscope has been on a bit of a star trip. It’s taken to wearing teeny-tiny Jean-Paul Belmondo style shades and smoking little, itty-bitty unfiltered French cigarettes. It’s even demanding more wrist time (ironic, since I’ve scarcely taken it off since it arrived). Guess I’ll just have to start wearing it in the shower …
Not sure I’d wear my Omega in the shower just yet 🙂
My Omega has 100m WR but no screw down crown. The seals were changed and pressure tested during the last service but walking in light rain is as far as I’ll push it. Yes, now I feel my ETA movement plus the coaxial escapement is rock solid.
Thanks, Don! As Yogi Berra famously said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” I’m glad I chose the road less traveled and opted for the Omega De Ville Chronoscope. At a time when some collectors are plunking down upwards of $10K for a discontinued Tudor chrono with a Valjoux 7750 movement, owning an Omega with a beautifully finished FP 1285 base, Co-Axial escapement, free-sprung balance & C.O.S.C. certification for just a fraction of the cost makes me feel a little like the cat that swallowed the canary …