It’s safe to say that the Railmaster has been greatly overshadowed by the Speedmaster in the minds of collectors and enthusiasts. Released in the same year, 1957, the Railmaster lacked the flashy connection to racing—and to NASA—that the Speedmaster has. Nor did it attract the attention of SCUBA divers, like the Seamaster 300 (also released in 1957) did.
But the Railmaster, with its unusual purpose and case design, is worthy of attention and praise by serious vintage collectors, as well as people who just appreciate a well-made watch.
The 1950s was a decade marked by transition. Experienced soldiers returning from military service transitioned into the workforce, while watch manufacturers transitioned from producing military watches to producing watches for the men entering new trades. Like the IWC Ingenieur or the Rolex Millgauss, the Railmaster was intended for professionals who worked closely with machines that emitted strong magnetic fields and electrical currents.
In the Railmaster’s case, it was intended specifically for railway employees, but its antimagnetic capabilities made it useful for engineers and scientists working in numerous other fields as well. Omega addressed the problems magnetism imparts on mechanical watches by encasing the movement in a soft iron or "NuMetal" cage. To give the movement additional protection, Omega made Railmaster dials a full 1mm thick, which was thicker than the conventional 0.4mm used by other manufacturers.
This added protected meant that the Railmaster could withstand exposure to 1000 Gauss, equaling the Rolex Milgauss that was released the previous year. Also, since this watch was the stablemate of the Seamaster, Omega’s first dedicated dive watch, the Railmaster was water resistant up to 200 feet or 60 meters. Not the 300 meters that the Seamaster boasted, to be sure, but still enough to make the Railmaster a weatherproof watch for daily wear.
Visually, the appearance of the Railmaster has much in common with the Seamaster 300. The dials are similar, with Arabic numerals and large luminescent triangles at the poles. The Railmaster went through several variations, with different dial and hand designs, including some for the British and American railways, as well as for the RAF. However, the Railmaster’s esoteric purpose meant that it never quite caught on as well as the Speedmaster and the Seamaster, and it was discontinued in 1963. It wouldn’t be seen again in Omega catalogs until 2003, when Omega rolled out the co-axial calibres conceived by master horologist, George Daniels.
This particular Railmaster, a Reference 135.004-63, dates from the end of the model’s run. Fresh from the spa, its hands have been expertly relumed, restoring them to their former glory. We’re offering it with a rare and desirable 7912/6 flat link bracelet, but it can be sold head only if desired.
Due to limited production numbers, Railmasters don’t appear often on the vintage market. If they do, it’s not for very long, because the model has a small—but devoted—following, so examples like this one are snatched up faster than lighting. We’re sure this one will be no exception!
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