Editor’s note: A little while ago, someone on a FB watch group I’m part of asked what watch they should buy (out of three versatile, black-dialled tool watches), with one option being the Omega Railmaster. I didn’t have to think about my answer. It was the Railmaster. Hands down. Read on for my reasons why …
Odd as it may seem today, but many of the enduring designs of mid-20th century watchmaking sprang from a very specific purpose: scientific exploration and the quest for accuracy. The Omega Railmaster, one of their original professional models, stands alongside other great names like the Milgauss, the Ingenieur and the Geophysic. And last year the Railmaster received a major upgrade. Not just in the near 1:1 limited edition re-creation but in this new interpretation: the Seamaster Railmaster.
Not too little, not too large: 40mm is pretty much perfect for this style of watch, but that’s not all that stands out. The case is pretty much identical in form to the Aqua Terra, except for the finishing. While the AT is all about polished lines and reflected light, the Railmaster is muted and matt, thanks to its satin-brushed finish, something that totally fits with the model’s utilitarian origin story. The crown is conical and easy to use (always a plus in my book), and the lugs are that sweeping twisted style that is such a hallmark of Omega. The case is rated to 150 metres, and doesn’t sit too high, clocking in at around 12mm. The caseback is solid, engraved with everyone’s favourite mythological creature, the hippocampus. All told, this is a nice, quality case that does everything right.
The first thing you’re likely to notice about the Seamaster Railmaster is the dial. For the simple reason that it is – as they say – a corker. The brushed metal base gives it a really distinct look, in both the black and grey dial variants. Simple, but interesting. Then there’s the arrowhead vintage-toned lume markers. The paint isn’t applied on top of the dial, but rather recessed into it, giving the watch a neater look. All the other dial elements are printed: the Omega logo and movement spec text is there as you’d expect, and the ‘Railmaster’ is in the old-school font, to match the vintage lume. Then there’s the crosshairs and Arabic numerals at the cardinal points, and a railroad minute track. The hands are simple, lume-filled batons, with a lollipop on the seconds hand. Interestingly, the seconds hand is plain metal on the black dial, but white on the grey dial, presumably for legibility. Looking at the overall picture, it’s clearly a vintage-inspired piece, but not overdone in my opinion. Also, no date.
Modern Omega movements are some of the best in the business, hands down. The accuracy and rigorous testing that their Master Chronometer movements are held accountable to is impressive, to say the least, and the Cal 8806 is no exception. It’s a bit of a shame the movement is hidden away, but a solid caseback is much more fitting with the ethos of the Railmaster. Oh, and while the original Railmasters boasted magnetic resistance of up to 1000 gauss, this guy can handle 15,000 gauss, probably without breaking a sweat.
As you’d expect, the Seamaster Railmaster comes with an option of a steel bracelet, 20mm across, brushed like the rest of the watch. It’s the sort of quality you’d expect from a brand like Omega, but it’s with the other strap options that things start to get interesting. There’s a mid-brown leather NATO for that extra vintage touch, and then there’s a very interesting fabric option, in a black and grey herringbone, with a reinforcing stitch matched to the lume. Not the usual sort of offering from Omega, but an on-trend alternative, though one less durable than leather and steel.
On the wrist
One of the things that Omega really excels at is making a watch that wears well on the wrist, and this Railmaster is no different. Size is just right, as is the height. It’s balanced, solid. There’s no mistaking this for a vintage piece on the wrist, despite that dial.
For me, the Seamaster Railmaster hits the sweet spot between vintage style and modern construction, and manages to do so with style. So if you like your old stuff and your new stuff, you’ll likely be into this watch.
Got a magnet?
Who’s it for?
People who want vintage style with modern convenience.
What would we change?
Look, maybe a clear caseback?
Omega Seamaster Railmaster Australian pricing
Omega Seamaster Railmaster on leather or fabric, $6525; on steel bracelet, $6675