The Omega Railmaster is a great example of why everyone loves nouveau vintage. It is a remake of a watch introduced in the late 1950s, which falls into what most acknowledge was the golden age of design in watchmaking. But while it’s a faithful reproduction of the original Railmaster, it is built to modern standards with state-of-the-art movement and case construction. The Railmaster reissue was introduced two years ago in Basel with a choice of a steel bracelet or a leather or fabric NATO strap, and is now available in a denim version that is perfect for summer.
The original Railmaster was unveiled in 1957 to compete with the Rolex Milgauss, which had extraordinary magnetic resistance, and as a result worked reliably around machinery. It was particularly meant for scientists and engineers as a timepiece made to stand up to the powerful magnetic fields encountered in a laboratory. Magnetism can wreak havoc on a mechanical watch, distorting the balance spring and impacting its ability to maintain a stable frequency, and thus keep accurate time. The original Railmaster used a soft iron inner case and a thicker dial to shield the movement from outside magnetic fields with strengths up to 1,000 gauss.
The Railmaster was a working man’s watch, according to Omega, and that heritage is what makes denim the ideal strap material. Denim was once manufactured purely for the benefit of hardworking laborers. Denim jeans or overalls were the choice for miners, factory workers, farmers, and railway workers. The strap is blue-denim-accented with brown leather attached to the underside and is designed in the NATO style, which signals its casual, functional purpose.
Even the dial is blue-jean style: It is vertically brushed in a blue-jean color, with hands and indexes coated in light-gray Super-LumiNova, a combination that is both rugged-looking and functional (the 2017 issue also has a vertically brushed finish in black or gray). The lollipop central seconds hand and Railmaster logo are designed to match the colored stitching found in denim jeans, as are the leather loops on the strap, but the stitching near the attachments on the strap is white. The minute index on the dial is, of course, a railway track design.
The movement is the state-of-the-art Master Chronometer Caliber 8806, which is 15 times more resistant than the original Railmaster model. It can withstand magnetism of 15,000 gauss (more than the Milgauss), and it does it not with an iron inner case, like the original, but with a movement made of anti-magnetic components, like a silicon balance spring. It is certified by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS). There is also a special case that features what Omega calls the “Naiad Lock”—designed to enhance water resistance, not magnetic resistance—based on technology Omega developed in 1957, when the Railmaster was first introduced.
The Railmaster Denim has all the craftsmanship you’d expect, including a premium Omega movement, and is reasonably priced at $4,900 for the steel on NATO denim strap and $5,000 for the steel-on-steel version.