While we love complicated wristwatches here at Analog/Shift, there’s something to be said for simple and elegant three-handers from the middle of the 20th century.
These watches often get passed over by collectors in favor of their sportier brethren—undeservedly so, we think. Of course, those Speedmasters and Submariners tend to evoke tales of heroism and derring-do. Ed White floating in the darkness of space, the Omega Speedmaster on his wrist his only companion; or a nameless Navy diver sinking into the silent depths, the barely-audible ticking of a Rolex Submariner and a stream of bubbles as the only signs that he’d ever been there.
The stories that these simple three-handers tell aren’t as fantastical, nor do they inspire the same feelings of awe. But theirs are the stories of quiet triumph, of survival in the face of adversity. The men who wore them, scarred from the ravages of the Second World War, strapped them to their wrists when they returned to lives of peace and quiet.
In the years following the Second World War, the major Swiss manufactures shook themselves awake after years of head-down, nose-to-the- grindstone production of spartan three hand watches for the world’s militaries—the predecessors of these watches. After the war, they transitioned away from the fulfillment of defense contracts and returned to producing elegant timepieces for civilian use. But the war left its mark on watches as well as men; the ornate Art Deco cases of the 1930s gave way to the simple, almost industrial executions like the watch we offer here.
An Omega Reference 2639-11, it’s part of the Reference 2639 family, which saw as many as sixteen different expressions through its relatively short production run. The proportions of the Reference 2639 lent itself well to a bevy of interpretations, many of which bore interesting dial and hand variations. This one, a later version, has a spidered black and silver two tone dial that’s burnt by the radium that adorns it.
Its case back has perhaps one of the most interesting engravings we’ve ever seen—stylistically, at least, with a monogram in a bold Art Deco font commemorating a Christmas Eve in 1955.
Powered by the Calibre 266 (based on the Calibre 30T2 that saw Omega through the Second World War), this Reference 2639-1 ticks away with a steady sweep of its subsidary seconds register, sedately marking the hours and minutes of daily life, just as reliably as it did in the 1950s.
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