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Introducing the Omega Railmaster ‘Denim’ Co-Axial

A trendy take on a no-nonsense, time-only watch.

First introduced in vintage guise part of the 1957 Trilogy, the Railmaster then got a makeover to create the entirely new Railmaster. A straightforward time-only watch with extreme magnetism resistance and a hint of retro in its design, the Railmaster was originally offered with either a black or silver dial, conservative looks that matched its styling. But now the Seamaster Railmaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer (it’s actually a sub-collection of the Seamaster) has been livened up with a striking “blue jeans” inspired dial, orange accents and a snappy denim fabric strap.

While denim today has a broad, youthful appeal, the inspiration for the new Railmaster leans more towards the common man. Omega explains, with a tinge of ironic populism, that the hardwearing fabric was once the uniform of “hard-working labourers… miners, factory workers, farmers”, and railroad workers; notably anti-magnetic watches were another piece of essential equipment for railroad engineers.

Omega Railmaster ‘Denim’ Co-Axial Master Chronometer

Just like the other Railmaster models, the dial has been given a coarse, vertical brushing, but with a pale blue treatment, creating a charming, denim-like effect. The Arabic numerals at the quarters and a crosshair in the centre gives the design a retro touch.

Omega Railmaster ‘Denim’ Co-Axial Master Chronometer 3

The hands are brushed stainless steel, while the Super-Luminova on the markers and hands is a pale grey to complement its cool-tone colour palette. Both the lollipop seconds hand and Railmaster logo are in pale orange, meant to evoke the contrast top stitching on jeans.

And the Railmaster “Denim” is also offered with an actual blue denim fabric, NATO-style strap with leather lining and keepers (a steel bracelet is the other option).

Omega Railmaster ‘Denim’ Co-Axial Master Chronometer 2

The rest of the watch has the same specs as the other Railmaster models: a 40mm stainless steel case with a 150m depth rating. The solid, screw-down back incorporates Omega’s Naiad Lock system to secure the back to the case middle; it’s essentially a bayonet mechanism like that used for camera lenses, which ensures the case back logo is perfectly aligned with the case.

It’s powered by the self-winding cal. 8806 that has a 55-hour power reserve. The movement is a Co-Axial Master Chronometer, which means it features the lubrication-free escapement invented by George Daniels, and more crucially, a magnetism resistance of over 15,000 Gauss thanks to the Si14 silicon hairspring and patented alloys used for the escapement parts.

Omega Railmaster ‘Denim’ Co-Axial Master Chronometer 6

Price and Availability

The Railmaster ‘Denim’ Co-Axial Master Chronometer on a denim NATO strap (ref. 220.12.40.20.03.001) is priced at US$4900. And on a stainless steel bracelet (ref. 220.10.40.20.03.001), it costs US$5000. Both prices are exactly the same as the black or silver dial variants.

They will arrive in stores the last quarter of 2018.


 

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Hands-On with the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon Slim

Attractive but cost-conscious tourbillons.

Conceived as a line of classically styled, affordable watches with modest complications, Montblanc’s Heritage Chronométrie recently got a facelift (starting with the open-worked perpetual calendar) that gave the watches a sleeker, sharper look.

Now it’s the turn of the Exo Tourbillon, which despite the exotic name, is actually an entry-level tourbillon wristwatch, albeit with an 18k white gold case that probably nudges the price upwards. Two versions are available, both powered by the same calibre. The simpler, and more affordable, of the two is the Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon Slim.

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon movement

At  40mm wide and 8.9mm tall, the new Exo Tourbillon is elegantly proportioned, being wide but relatively flat. The lugs are narrow, with a subtle bevel along their length, emphasising their slimness.

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon watch 2

The dial is clean and handsome in grey, finished with a vertical brushing and ringed by a metallic blue chapter ring for the minutes. Legibility is helped by the apple hour markers and two-tone hands. It’s a fuss-free but still attractive.

The tourbillon sits in an aperture at six o’clock, looking slightly small for the size of the watch. That’s despite the fact that the Exo Tourbillon construction frees the balance wheel from the tourbillon cage, allowing it to be larger than otherwise possible. Instead, the cage sits under the balance wheel, almost like a platform.

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon watch 1

From the back the view is clean, thanks to two large bridges that cover almost the entirely movement. Fortunately they have been dressed up, with a spiral striping as well as blued steel screws. The edges of the bridges and countersinks are also polished. Though the decoration is all done by machine, a necessary condition of the accessible price, the movement is visually appealing.

The Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon Slim Openworked, on the other hand, is fancier, but also more expensive. Though priced at about 20% over the model above, this is worth the added cost just because it is a lot more interesting. As entry-level tourbillons go, this is one of the most striking.

Essentially the skeletonised version of the preceding watch, this Exo Tourbillon has its bridges open-worked in an unusual, geometric style.

While skeleton watches often suffer from being hard to read, the blued steel hands stand out against the brushed grey base plate, giving this watch a surprising degree of legibility. Attention has also been paid to consistency in the two-tone blue and grey colour scheme, such that the balance wheel has been plated grey instead of the usual gold (though it would have been perfect if the gilded shock absorber for the balance staff was silver or grey as well).

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon skeleton 3

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon skeleton 1

The open-working takes its cues from dazzle camouflage, irregular patterns painted on naval vessels during the First World War that were mean to confuse the enemy by distorting the ship’s direction, range and speed. While the relationship between this wristwatch and naval disguise is odd, it makes for an intriguing look.

All of the skeleton work is clean and angular, not artisanal but neatly executed. And it’s thorough, revealing the mainspring and keyless works. Especially notable are the angular spokes of the gears, which echo the skeletonisation of the bridges.

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon skeleton 2

The bridges on the back are less open-worked than on the front, instead having several recessed portions finished with a grained surface to continue the motif.

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon skeleton 6

And unlike on the front, the countersinks as well as the larger and outer edges of the bridges have polished bevels, though of the mechanically finished type.

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon skeleton 4

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon skeleton 5

Both Exo Tourbillon watches are affordable within the category of tourbillon wristwatches in 18k gold cases, though not quite entry-level in absolute terms. While other Heritage Chronométrie complications are offered in steel cases, this pair of tourbillons is not, at least for now. A steel case would perhaps shave a third off the retail price of either model.

That being said, word on the street is that the Heritage Chronométrie will be further expanded next year, which might make for some compelling watches at SIHH 2019.

Price and availability 

The Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon Slim (ref. 118471) is priced at 33,500, or S$47,100. That’s about US$34,000.

And Heritage Chronométrie Exo Tourbillon Slim Openworked (ref. 118512) is 39,700, or S$55,800, equivalent to US$41,000.


 

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