Omega is perhaps best known for their sport watches such as the Speedmaster (1957) and Planet Ocean, which is a descendent of the Marine (1932). Rugged and ready for duty, these watches excel in space, on land and under the sea. But Omega also produced some lovely dress watches like the Constellation (1959) designed by Gerald Genta, who is also responsible for the iconic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak we discussed. But did you know that they also created some very special watches with all gold cloissoné enamel dials between 1946-1956, often by special request.
Coming up for auction at Christie’s Important Watches sale in Geneva on November 12th is one of these rare beauties. This time-only Seamaster features the “Neptune” motif and only 5 are thought to exist. Just three of these watches have appeared in public in over 60 years, all cased in yellow gold, including this one.
- Movement no. 12337146, case no. 11046236: Antiquorum, Geneva, November 14, 2009, lot 349
- Movement no. 13232096, case no. 1198386 (only one number apart from the present one): Christie’s Geneva, November 15, 2004, lot 86
- Movement no. 13232097, case no 11198387, the present lot
Roman mythology tells stories of many gods. One of the most powerful and important, Neptune, the god of the seas, rode the waves in a magnificent chariot led by either dolphins or sea horses and is responsible for bringing the first horse to earth. With his trident, he caused earthquakes and controlled the ocean waves. In addition, he was master of land, able to raise new terrains and cause others to sink into the sea. Thus, he determined our land mass on earth. One of the gods protective of humans, he helped sailors by guiding ships to safety and making sure their nets were full of fish.
Omega’s cloissoné enamel dials were fabricated by the acclaimed Fabrique de Cadrans Stern Frères in Geneva, a company that also made dials for brands such as Patek Philippe. While all the artisans possessed notable talents, Nelly Richard, who worked for Omega during the time of production of these enamels, was entrusted with crafting most of these dials. As can be seen from the amazing detail and color she had an extraordinary gift. On the back of the dial are the numbers 89, indicating the client, and 576, referring to the “Neptune” motif by Mrs. Richard.
Cloissoné, sometimes referred to as painting with glass, is a high art and only a few can claim expertise. To make these costly dials, an artisan first sets the outline of the design with thin gold wires. This difficult process takes a steady hand and artistic gifts, but after this step, the job isn’t nearly done. Now comes the tricky part. The outlined picture is filled with colored enamel powder (ground glass) and fired at 1000 degrees Celsius. Each part of the design is of a different color and fired separately. But the colors don’t stay true, changing with the heat. Therefore, it takes an experienced person to know how the enamel will look after it’s “cooked”. Since the artist “draws” each by hand, even the same motif is a unique piece.
Though several decades old, the case shows little wear. The extended curved lugs add to the aesthetic. Little details, such as the faceted “flower-type” crown make it even more unusual and distinctive.
As we’ve discussed before, rarity, condition and freshness to market are key components that make a watch increase in value. This Seamaster “Neptune” in and of itself is as scarce as hen’s teeth and in fantastic condition. What makes it even more exceptional is that it comes from the descendent of the original owner. But that’s not all. It even has the original certificate, manual and presentation box!
Here is a unique opportunity to put this wonderful piece of history into your collection. Who knows when another will poke its head into the public again. More about the Omega “Neptune” here.