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One Week Review - Seamaster 1948 Small Seconds - 70th Anniversary

  1. aesguerra Dec 3, 2020


    I am a closet vintage watch freak; I say “closet” because I just can’t bring myself to go the pure route and get one of the originals. Call me a wimp, but there’s something about getting a watch that is strictly mine and mine alone that’s important to me. Whether it’s my Rolex OP36 that has been served as my travel piece on many a trek around the world or my Sturmankie Gagarin that I picked up Russia itself itself, I love that my timepieces have histories that are mine and mine alone, replete with many a fun memory that comes flooding back with simply a glance at my wrist. Man, if my FOIS could talk about the many flight adventures that’s it’s seen since 2016…

    The point is, in spite of the fact that I just adore many watches from pre-1960s, I just can’t bring myself to get one. Any that I could afford are well-used examples, meaning they come with someone else’s history. And unless it’s coming with a very famous story (I’m certainly not above getting one that spent a day or two on the Moon haha), I’d rather pass in favor of one that I can call my own.

    So needless to say, when Omega released the Seamaster 1948 70th Anniversary (I completely missed the issuance of the 2012 London Olympics set), it was a watch that I KNEW I wanted. It was a long hard road in getting my hands on one, but get one I did! And while this review of the Small Seconds variant is somewhat superfluous in that new sets are hard to get a hold of (it was a minor miracle I found one NIB at an AD), maybe it’ll help someone that is out trying to get a hold of a second-hand example.

    A Re-Envisioned CK2518
    1940s flair with 2018 tech

    Let’s address the 500 lb gorilla in the room. As in 2012 with the Olympics version, this is a watch that was quite literally marketed as the Seamaster 1948, so I don’t think I’m remotely the only person that was somewhat disappointed when the SM48 70th gained proportions. The case is substantially larger than the 34mm CK2518 that it’s based on, and thickness (which the original specifications are hard to find) are likewise more. That said, the contemporization (yes, I just made that word up haha) is at least on the more restrained side. Take for example the Pie Pan Constellation, a watch that originally came in at 34mm, but came back in 2016 as the 39mm Globemaster.

    At 38mm across, the SM48-SS is indeed a larger watch, but not THAT much larger. Helping this contemporary example of the original Seamaster is a fairly constrained lug to lug distance of 45.7mm, so from a top down view, it’s actually fairly compact by modern standards. Much has been made, however, about the thickness; while I haven’t been able to find case thickness on an original CK2518 (or CK2577 for that matter), it doesn’t take a lot of logic to think that 12.3mm is far more than what Omega made back in 1948. That said, it’s similarly something that was fine by this reviewer’s eye. Having an FOIS in my steed does a lot to help me appreciate anything slimmer than a Speedmaster. Haha

    With the gorilla having been tended to, the SM38-SS bears a remarkable likeness to its forbearer! From the basic case shape to the appearance of the dagger-style hour indices and Arabic numerals on the dial, it more than exudes a passing resemblance to the original. Aside from the fatter lugs, it approaches dead ringer territory, just slightly larger. Even the cramming of so much text on the upper half of the original’s dial (with CO AXIAL MASTER CHRONOMETER replacing AUTOMATIC CHRONOMETRE OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED) was repeated (although I think the modern version looks a bit better).

    Blink and you might mistake one for the other.

    The devil is in the details. The silvery opaline dial is domed just like the original, as is old style Omega logo and script used for “Seamaster”, both of which just as well have been pulled off of a 1948 example. That old-school logo also makes it onto the crown and the strap buckle, for added vintage goodness. And while the acrylic has been eschewed for the more modern scratch resistant, slightly domed sapphire crystal, Omega took that extra step to include the raised Omega logo on that crystal. Little things matter!

    There's no missing the old-style Omega logo

    All in all, size aside, the recreation of the old school Seamaster is indeed an amazing one at that! It has all the grace and charm of the late 40s model, with zero the eye strain associated with reading a 34mm dial! LOL! But seriously, while my Rolex OP36 WEARS more vintage due to its more heyday kind of sizing, the SM48-SS LOOKS more vintage by the grace of loving attention to detail to the original!

    You Can See Me… But You Can’t
    Powering the SM48-SS is the Caliber 8804, an 8800 modified for this specific watch and its small seconds function. Finished with Omega’s usual panache of Geneve waves and blackened and blued screws, it is a beautiful 35 jeweled (over twice the CK2518’s count) with a 60 hr power reserve.

    And we bring me to my one true complaint of the SM48-70th line as a whole.

    Why, Omega? Why?

    I am a firm believer of “go one way or the other”. If one decides to show off the movement of a watch, they should do so like the majority of Omega watches that have this feature. Slap on a sapphire crystal display back and call it a day. If one doesn’t want to showcase the movement, go the route of the SM48 Olympics version and slap on a solid stainless steel caseback.

    In the case of the SM48 70th, Omega elected to put a sapphire crystal that paid homage to the origins of the Seamaster, with a Chris Craft boat and Gloster Meteor aircraft proudly etched in the crystal by laser. While a great concept, it severely hinders one’s ability to admire the 8804. That is a shame, considering the beauty of the movement; it’s something of a tease in that you get an obstructed view of the timepiece’s engine.

    Obviously, it wasn’t that big of a turnoff to where it was a make or break item, but it is a nit of mine that was worth mentioning. In this facet of the watch, I felt the 2012 SM48 Olympics got it better.

    How It Wears
    For someone with 16cm wrists, the SM48-SS taken in contemporary context wears extremely well. With a fairly low profile caseback and slightly turned down lugs, its compact size lays down quite well on my smaller than usual wrists. The calfskin strap is extremely effective due to its very-pliable nature, hugging the wrist as to conform to it, all in a very comfortable way.

    One of the most comfortable watches I own. Bonus points for the great looks!

    As for aesthetics, the opaline dial helps in making it look a touch smaller than it actually is, reflecting light much more readily than the bezel. I can easily imagine those with larger wrists will find the watch to wear with a far stronger vintage-flair than I, and I’m already a happy camper. Legibility is great under most lighting conditions, with near-to-total darkness being this specific watch’s weak point – the SM48-SS has no lume, making it a daytime creature.

    I think the only reason I included this photo is because (for once) I got free swag LOL!

    One last thing worth noting is the presentation set of the watch, which was a huge boon to me. Packaged in a unique and quite lovely leather wrapped box, it is displayed on a lined metal tray that the watch’s holder is magnetically held to. This feature is a rather cool nod to the 8804’s amagnetic property; all my other timepieces steer clear of the SM48’s holder!

    Accompanying the set is a watch strap changing tool, a NATO strap, and a spare blue leather one. I would’ve loved to have shared a picture of the blue leather strap… except Omega botched things here and included a second brown one instead. *rolleyes* With my AD coordinating with Omega, I figure that will be my Christmas gift.

    Final Thoughts
    Obviously, I would indeed recommend the Seamaster 1948 Small Seconds to anyone that has a chance to get a hold of one. It’s a bit larger and chunkier than its namesake, but those things get lost amidst the crafting of this timepiece to the CK2518 that it pays respect to. For this one reviewer, 4mm and a touch of thickness dissolved rather quickly in the myriad of things that Omega got right in remaking the classic Seamaster!

    And as to that caseback… well, I can’t see it while wearing it. ;)

    As an afterthought, this sucker could be a strap monster! Fitted with the strap from my FOIS!
    Edited Dec 3, 2020
    Alfista88, flw, munichblue and 8 others like this.
  2. Evitzee Dec 3, 2020

    Nice review, thanks.
  3. stevec14 Still bloody here Dec 5, 2020

    Nice review and a cracking watch. I keep coming back to these. The blue strap is lovely, so hope you get it soon.
  4. abrod520 Dec 5, 2020

    I came across one last December at an AD in Amsterdam, and was really excited to try it on. I found I really couldn't get along with the thickness though, for some reason on a 38mm watch I felt it sat just a little too high. I've got very large wrists though so sometimes smaller watches tend not to work as well for me as they might on the vast majority of people.

    Great review though!
  5. gbesq Dec 5, 2020

    I could wish for a solid case back with the traditional hippocampus logo, but otherwise what a stunning piece. Envious! Congrats!
  6. aleksejeremeev Dec 26, 2020

    The expression All new is a well-forgotten old one, most likely written by Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400), who said that "there is no new custom that is not old."