Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Omega Koku Tetsu on black sage himo

It has been ages since we've talked about railway pocket watches! But if you appreciate the historical importance and undeniable horological value of watches which have played such a significant role over the past hundred years, then this short note will delight you.

A Journey Through Time is Omega’s Bible and a ‘must have’ book in your library.  While section five, "Official Watches", bundles railway watches with shooting and military pieces, it still provides records of Omega's involvement in the production of railway watches, showing examples sold to various Government Railway authorities from the late 1800s to 1980s. An important account, but far from being complete or definite.

For that reason, we are always excited when new pieces are discovered and catalogued - like the three Omega pocket watches from the early 1950s for Japanese National Railways that we recently acquired.

All three pieces are almost identical, yet with some case, dial and hand variations, 48mm nickel ‘open face’ stem wound and set.

The case back is stamped with two kanji characters: Koku (country) and Tetsu (steel) which translates to Japanese National Railway.

The issue year is Showa 27 (1952) and issue numbers are 148, 681, 1076.

Form the inside, the case backs are stamped 141 21 and 141 22 which are Omega model reference numbers. One also bears the stamp 'GR' which is the same GR we've seen on other Omega watches supplied to Government Rail - in other words, a special issue. The serial numbers are 12.4 mill range corresponding nicely with early 1950s Omega production.

Mechanism: the trustworthy Cal. 38.5L.T1. It is important to remind you that Cal 38.5L was first introduced in 1932 and remained in production until 1966. It was an inexpensive mechanism to manufacture and in 34 years of production, Omega made 998,700 movements. I do however dislike the fact that 38.5L is non-incabloc which means a slightest drop would be fatal to balance staff. As any watchmaker would testify: finding an original balance staff in a Cal 38.5L is almost unheard of!

Hands and dial variations: I will leave this for further in-depth study once more examples become available.

Small curiosity: one JNR piece comes with a nice, well-preserved black sage himo.

All three pieces are sourced directly from Japan and trust me, it took a fair bit of arm-wrestling to convince three individual collectors to part with them. But I am very pleased that JNR Omegas are reunited, once again.

The search continues!
Omega: A Journey Through Time (ISBN 9782970056225) is out of print, occasionally available on ebay.

And slightly off the topic, but still on subject - page 213, Omega pocket watch for Bulgarian Railroads, erratum:
The caseback monogram is not АЖБ but  ДЖБ.

It is easy to confuse Cyrillic letters А and Д, but in this case there is no room for misinterpretation: the monogram ДЖБ stands for Bugarska Drzavna Zeleznica or Bulgarian State Railway (not Royal Bulgarian Railroads).
Yes, while Bulgaria in 1925 was ruled by a Tzar Boris Klemens Robert Maria Pius Ludwig Stanislaus Xaver aka Boris III, the railway was owned by the state.

And while we are on Bulgarians... here is a pic of Boris's father, Ferdinand Maximilian Karl Leopold Maria of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. All the medals aside, Ferdinand is one of a few monarch who lost 3 wars - the Second Balkan war of 1913, World War I and World War II. Not much luck picking the winners...

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