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Okay, so I've got the next two-and-a-half-weeks off from work and so here I am, ready to mess with everybody's heads.

I was thinking earlier about the Longines L990 Calibre, which was produced by them until the late 1970s before production ceased due to, among other things, the Quartz Revolution. Nouvelle Lemania acquired the tooling for this movement and has produced a few examples over the years.
Anyway, Longines released a Heritage model a few years ago (2003?) with this resurrected movement in it to commemorate production of their Millionth(!) watch. It was a very limited edition.
So, about two or three years ago, they brought out this beauty as part of their Heritage Collection. Again, it was a limited edition and it was available in 34mm and 39mm diameter.


Picture courtesy of www.sliwinski.pl

It was a smart watch and it housed the L990 Calibre, produced by Lemania.

Here's a shot of the movement. Not really much to see in this photo, but I have to say, in real life, it was a nicely finished calibre.


Picture courtesy of www.acejewelers.wordpress.com

Which brings me to the point of this thread. Now, I understand that the tooling for Omega's classic "Golden Age" calibres of the 1960s may have been destroyed years ago, but how difficult or impossible would it be for Omega to reverse engineer a vintage, say, Cal 564 movement as a modern calibre.
Yes, yes, I know that the Co-Axial Escapement is all that they have on their minds right now, along with Cal 8500s and beyond, but, taking these two things out of the equation, how hard would it be for a watch company like Omega to reproduce a movement from their past.
I'm not asking that we start a petition or anything like that. Just throwin' it out there, that's all.
If it sounds like a newbie question, well, I am on vacation/holiday from work, so I got a lot of time on my hands.
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

I think they could if they wanted too

I'd would love to see the pull back from the current "Rolex? Me too!" attitude and make a brand new 39mm pie pan Connie

Could they? Sure
Will they? Better chances of putting Teeritz on the moon next tuesday

Actually, let's expand. I feel my answer was far too brief for my liking.

Reverse engineering a movement from their archives wouldn't be too difficult. Even if the machines themselves are no longer available, there would have to blueprints or something along those lines. If my watchmaker could rebuild a hummer movement that was wet and corroded (and he built the parts he couldn't source - yes, including a busted plastic index wheel), I don't think it's out of the realm of fantasy that a conglomerate could manage to make a small run of their own movements. Push comes to shove, ETA could tool it for them

Yeah, happier with that spiel :)
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

They could, but it would be far far too expensive, simply because the amo8nt of human interaction required on them is enormous. Back when you had highly trained but lowly paid blue collar artisans this was economically viable now it isn't (although it might be in China...) My guess is that Tissot were using old movements up. Omega could do this too I'm sure, but I don't think they will be revisiting the past in anything but limited numbers...

I agree, it is a pity.
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

they proberly could if they wanted to. matt i am no expert on making watch movements, but couldnt they make the movements the modern way now (this is just a thought)? and teeritz just wondering what made you think about them redoing a old movement. was it the inhouse side of it, or better movement side of it, or just the history side of it?
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

All goes to show that from a performance point of view, the 1960's was the zenith of mechanical movements. It really doesn't get better then a 5xx series movement. I have an old Seamaster, fully overhauled in 2010, that timed out to about +3 sec/day. As to whether a 564 could be made today, i have little doubt it could be done, but it probably would be a marketing disaster. With consumers typically demanding the latest and greatest, a company pushing a 40+ yr old design just seems like it would be a flop. Fortunately, there are still plenty of old Seamasters and Connies out their to be bought for under $1000. Pie Pans are constantly rising but c-case Connies are still under noticed and overlooked, and are otherwise fine pieces.
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

It sounds like a great idea, and in theory, it IS! In reality though, there are several glaring problems, that make it impractical. First and foremost, it wouldn't be cost effective. In order to reproduce those movements to the same standards as their grandfathers, Omega would ultimately have to charge an astronmical sum for such a watch. Why would anyone pay thousands of dollars for a reproduction of a 60's icon, when the "real deal" can be had, for a fraction of the cost. The still plentiful supply of original vintage pieces is a major stumbling block. Also, the idea itself would only appeal to a very limited demographic..........mainly "us WIS types",....... and even WE would rather have an authentic vintage piece, than a modern remake. The rest of the watch consuming world wants the latest and greatest technological masterpiece, as evidenced by the popularity of watches like the Tissot T-Touch. I agree with Z. It's just not viable. Great food for thought, though, Tee! :-!

;-) KAT
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

I agree with Matt's take on this. Its not just the tooling. The movements were designed in an era when they could afford more human labor for each movement. IMO, it would not be economical to do this now, given that all the retooling and infrastructure around the movement. Remember that this watch would probably only appeal to a limited fraction of Omega's market. We the WIS, are a very minor fraction of Omega's market. While they could design perhaps around some of the requirements - this would mean its not the same movement anymore.


They could, but it would be far far too expensive, simply because the amo8nt of human interaction required on them is enormous. Back when you had highly trained but lowly paid blue collar artisans this was economically viable now it isn't (although it might be in China...) My guess is that Tissot were using old movements up. Omega could do this too I'm sure, but I don't think they will be revisiting the past in anything but limited numbers...

I agree, it is a pity.
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

They could, but it would be far far too expensive, simply because the amo8nt of human interaction required on them is enormous. Back when you had highly trained but lowly paid blue collar artisans this was economically viable now it isn't (although it might be in China...) My guess is that Tissot were using old movements up. Omega could do this too I'm sure, but I don't think they will be revisiting the past in anything but limited numbers...

I agree, it is a pity.
Well you can thank Ernst Thomke for that (former Hayek right hand in 1984), he decided to destroy the tooling and the older remaining inhouse vintage movements and ordered to replace them buy the cheaper and lesser quality eta ebauches. You have to be honest, you can't compare an ETA with an older 33x-35x, 50x, 55x, 56x, 75x, 100x, 101x, 102x or 103x interms of quality, reliability and accuracy. The vintage Omega movements are far better than any modern ETA, this can't be argued. The ETA is just another middle of the range movement manufacture that produces several hundreds or milions of movements which are nothing special, common and average timekeepers. The personel you have now is just a bunch of young people that have zero knowledge in terms of vintage movements, what they call do is to to make repetitive tasks when assembling a movement and certainly not poising the balance and the balance staff to have optimum accuracy. Quality control leaves a lot to be desired. Better be too expensive and have a flawless quality item than being priced attractively and have several returns for repairs. I remember one saying in an old french movie with Lino Ventura: "Price forgets itself but the quality stays."
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

I agree with Matt's take on this. Its not just the tooling. The movements were designed in an era when they could afford more human labor for each movement. IMO, it would not be economical to do this now, given that all the retooling and infrastructure around the movement. Remember that this watch would probably only appeal to a limited fraction of Omega's market. We the WIS, are a very minor fraction of Omega's market. While they could design perhaps around some of the requirements - this would mean its not the same movement anymore.
The movements of that era were made to last, also to rebuild the whole tooling wouldn't be viable economically but it still would have better results than using an ETA base which is not comparable to the other big players. The 50x, 55x, 56x and 75x were very reliable and accurate movements, some watchmakers judge them better than their rolex counterparts for several reasons: isochronism, accuracy, reliability, power reserve and finish. True too that the WIS are a minority of the brand's turnover but they often drive the sales for companies because of their knowledge of the product and their opinions for other potential customers. Some people buy marketing and appearance whereas others buy a quality movement and a real after sales service. This makes the whole difference.
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

Of course they could do it, and I doubt it would be really too difficult. I'd guess the reasons not to do it have much more to do with business, than the difficulty in doing it. It would implicitly be a marketing/business disaster.

Bringing back exact reproductions of old products is from marketing view point is an admission of failure with respect to the "new and improved" which is a requisite for selling more product when you sell durable items. When a company stands on a product as the ultimate be all end all it runs the risk of becoming passe over time. It signals that your offerings are all about craftsmanship and not about engineering and technology. If you stand on the old, your competitors are sure to innovate to move the market forward and leave your products behind.

There are successful business strategies built on doing it the way it has been done for decades or centuries. These business strategies are built around building a niche in the market where your competition is primarily going to be your past production on the used market or other producers focused on producing "traditional" goods. It works well for clothing, since clothing wears out. It works less well for anything which is supposed to be durable.

Another way to think about this is from Zenith's view point. The El Primero is basically a great 40 year old movement they've largely built their company around. With Breguet now offering a silicon balance chronograph with column wheel control and vertical clutch and 72,000 bph, if you're Zenith, you've got to be thinking, we've got to do something before our marketing position of being first becomes synonymous with just being old.

I don't think it is so much that Omega couldn't produce a '60's 5XX calibre movement today, I think it is more, there is little business value in them doing so.
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

I suppose they could if they were doing some kind of pie pan/ C case commemorative, though they'd probably either find old stocks of 564s and put them in as limited editions, or just design them to fit the 8500, since it would probably sell just as well.

I'd rather they start making tuning fork movements again... and provide much needed spare coils and index wheels for the ones that exist already. They'd sell now again due to their novelty factor I'd think... LED watches sell pretty well now, why not tuning forks? :p
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

I doubt it would be all that difficult to produce most any vintage movement if a company wanted to, but I also don't see someone like Omega doing that. They're now part of Swatch and ETA produces their movements. I'm sure they've got it down to a science and can produce millions of movements as inexpensively as possible. It wouldn't be economically worth it to tool up for a new, limited edition movement that would only be used for a few watches for one brand. If Omega does ever come out with a limited edition watch using one of their old movements it will be because someone found a stash of NOS movements somewhere.

What I think is more likely to happen is that a new company will resurrect an old movement design so they can claim that the movement is made in their country. I'm sure there are a few American companies who would like to put "Made in USA" on their watches, but about the only way they could do so right now is to use old American made pocket watch movements in new watches. If they can find a source for all the materials needed for their movements within the country's borders, I'm sure they could quickly reverse engineer an old movement and have all the bits and pieces produced.
 

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They could, but it would be far far too expensive, simply because the amo8nt of human interaction required on them is enormous.
Could they not throw some heritage marketig behind it, limit the numbers and sell them at some hughly high price to justify the expense?



/posted via mobile device\
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

I'm surprised that Matt hasn't talked about his dream caliber - a 55x/56x with the co-axial escapement.


All goes to show that from a performance point of view, the 1960's was the zenith of mechanical movements.
Funny you should use "Zenith" since they creamed Omega in the chronometer competitions back then. ;-):-d


It really doesn't get better then a 5xx series movement.
I would debate that using the Longines 29x because of the winding system and other component's design, but we've done that here once or twice already. Let's just say that it doesn't get much better than the 5xx series.


I have an old Seamaster, fully overhauled in 2010, that timed out to about +3 sec/day.
Same here - and it was a 591 which wasn't even a chronometer.
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

Could they not throw some heritage marketig behind it, limit the numbers and sell them at some hughly high price to justify the expense?

/posted via mobile device\
Unlikely to make business sense. As they and others repair/restore originals, the benchmark for pricing is going to be a repaired or restored original.

If they make "new" versions, they are always going to be price limited by the availability of used watches and watches with the 5XX series were not particularly low production and are readily available on the used market.

Whenever you do a heritage, repro, reissue watch, you are bound to suffer some market opportunity dilution from the availability of the original.
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

That ETA can revive old movements is undeniable.

Look at the Breguet 1350 (an uprated Lemania 1340) or the Breguet 3237 (Lemania 2310)
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

They already do have a Heritage collection, it is called the Museum collection. Check out the Centennary remake, it used a vintage movement for the new watch.

Could they do it, sure I don't see why not, but the board members and the bean counters and Swatch would all say NO. If Omega was still independent, then maybe they would, but I am not sure they would want too, given what they have to work with now.
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

If Omega was still independent, then maybe they would
I know, they've never been the same since the SSIH merger:-d

Sorry SD, I coudn't resist it!
 

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Re: Today's Essay Question- Why Couldn't Omega Reproduce a '60s Calibre 5XX Movement Today

It made me laugh!
I'm sure it did, but I wasn't there on that fateful day in 1931 ... old man!
 
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