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The Omega Golden Mercury aka 'The Chameleon'

The tale behind one of the first limited edition Omega watches.
Dial of cal. 552 Omega Golden Mercury Limited Edition
A Watch at a Glance:

1966 Omega Golden Mercury Ltd. Edition


(Please note that the photographs on this page shows the condition of the watch in 2001. The current photos can be found on Collector's Corner.)

The common lines of Omega watches, Constellations, Seamasters, Speedmasters etc., are well known by all. What is perhaps less well known is that on occasion Omega made some very limited series of watches to celebrate special occasions.

One of those models was the Seamaster XVI celebrating the XVI'th Olympics in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia. The first manned moon landing by the USA in 1969 resulted in Omega issuing the solid gold Speedmasters. Somewhat surprising perhaps is it then to learn that Omega felt an occasion worthy of a special commemorative watch was when they received the Golden Mercury prize in 1965.

Omega's Golden Mercury statuette from 1966

The Golden Mercury prize is the equivalent of an Oscar for commerce. Today the organization resides in Paris and appears to mainly give the award to larger east European companies following the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Back in the sixties Omega got the prize for "their exemplary activities favoring the Italian economy and the efficiency of their sales network". Only issued once annually worldwide the Golden Mercury award was considered quite an achievement. The photo at right shows Omega's prize, the inscription on the plinth tells the story. The award caused the official Omega importer for Italy at the time, Carlos De Marchi, to have Omega make a small series of 200 special watches made in 1966 to celebrate the occasion. The watches were not individually numbered as we would expect today of a limited edition watch. Yet the serial number of this particular watch has allowed Omega Vintage Information (OVI) to clearly identify it as one of the De Marchi watches. (Omega photo.)

The 14 carat rose gold snap back case is 33.5mm in diameter and houses an automatically winding 19'800A/h Omega caliber 552 24j movement. Note the color difference between the case and crown, which is not original. A particularly intereting detail on this watch is the dial with its 'secrets'. At first glance this is just a two tone dial with cross hairs and simple stick hour markers.

Wrong.

The dial is in fact completely monochromatic and the opposing quarters are brush polished at perpendicular angles. This selective detailing combined with the grooves milled into the top of the hour markers is the cause for the dial having a pecular response to being exposed to light. Someone at Omega HQ in Bienne must have had some fun with a slide rule, because the grooves causes some small yet counterintuitive light flashes to be reflected from surrounding light sources, when the watch arm is resting on, say, a table surface. This effect is quite hard to capture on photographs though.

However even though the dial has aged a bit the other effect, its apparent ability to change color, is readily demonstrated. In the pair of photos below the only difference between them is an adjustment of a circular polarizer placed in front of the camera lens. This little trick shows that the dial really is monochromatic and that the color change is due to differences in specular reflection.


Plain view of reflections in the dial of the Omega Golden Mercury through a polarising filter Highlight view of reflections in the dial of the Omega Golden Mercury without filters

The second pair of photos dramatically demonstrates just how impressive the changes in shade can be in extreme situations. These photos are not enhanced in any way, shape or form in order to possibly exaggerate the shade shifting ability of the dial. Perhaps not the best illuminated set of photos of the lot, but if anything could make a would-be redialer sweat it ought to be these. Attention to details like this just helps to establish the level of craftsmanship that went into the making of these vintage Omega watches.

First extreme contrast view of Omega Golden Mercury dial Second extreme contrast view of Omega Golden Mercury dial

Finally we have included a few photos of the movement: A nice specimen of Omega's 27.9mm dateless automatic workhorse, introduced in 1958 and in production up through the end of the sixties. One of the best automatic wristwatch movements ever if you ask us.

First view of the cal. 552 movement in the Omega Golden Mercury with the rotor in the 'up' position Second view of the cal. 552 movement in the Omega Golden Mercury with the rotor in the 'down' position

Oprettet af vw
Sidst opdateret 2006-10-01 09:08