Buying, Selling, & Collecting: Is The Dynamic The Most Undervalued Omega Chronograph?
One thing’s for sure, it’s the most fun.
If we were playing some kind of (nerdy) horological word-association game, and I said Omega chronograph, no doubt you would shout in (nerdy) excitement, “Speedmaster!” And we would absolutely win that round of the fictional (nerdy) game. But, of course that isn’t the only chrono from the brand that brought us the Moonwatch. In fact, there’s one collection from Omega’s past that has appeared on and off since the 1960s. It’s called the Dynamic, and today we’ll be examining a short-lived chronograph variation from the late 1990s – the reference 5240.50.00. We’re toeing the line between neo-vintage and vintage, and looking at perhaps the most underrated and undervalued Omega chronograph – well – ever.
The Dynamic line from Omega has historically been fraught with fits and starts. It’s known to have been the home of the wonky, and the left-of-center designs for the brand – the kind of weird that makes the Rolex Milgauss look tame.
It began with the first series in the 1960s. The watch, which featured an almost psychedelic dial design and an ovular shaped case persisted through the 1970s. It manages to capture the essence of those two decades with its wonky experimental styling. The second series launched a revival of the Dynamic name in the mid-1980s, this time featuring a funky bezel and quartz-powered movement. One thing that flows through the entire Dynamic range (that’s a little joke for the audiophiles out there) is that the early, series one and two, watches focus on legibility. They are time and date models – i.e., not chronographs.
The series two ended as all things do, but that wasn’t the end of the Dynamic.
In 1997, Omega completely reimagined the idea of the Dynamic collection’s place within the greater catalogue. What was once an almost futuristic, ultra-modern, artistic expression of a watch would now be pared down significantly, relaunched, and effectively rebranded. Enter the Omega Dynamic Series Three. This time, there wasn’t just a time and date model, but two watches. Omega went way off script and introduced a Dynamic Chronograph, though both watches share the same core aesthetic touchstones. Each has the same black dial, same stylized Arabic numerals, same 38mm case sizing, and the unmistakable Dynamic wordmark above six o’clock.
It’s important to mention that the third series of the Dynamic, while a shocking change to the collection in general, did not translate to a long production run. By the time the new millennium rolled around, the Dynamic was all but gone, and remains so to this day. And that’s a shame, because in its absence it has become forgotten to all but a minority of forum-reading enthusiasts who have been singing this watch’s praises for the better part of a decade now. I will say that I didn’t quite understand the hype until I got the watch in my hands (pours a hefty glass of Omega-flavored Kool-Aid).
Contextually, it’s important to look back at the modern design ethos of the first two Dynamic collections from the ’60s,’70s, and ’80s to truly understand what Omega did with this one. Unlike the mid-century futurism of its predecessors, the dial design here is meant to evoke shades of WWII pilot’s watches – which, of course, means legibility. Everything about this dial is meant for easy reading. Just look at the thick, yellow, printed (and fully lumed) Breguet-style numerals and broad sword hands. Somehow, Omega was even able to utilize a typeface for the Dynamic wordmark that gives off the same Breguet-style vibe.
There are so many visually interesting elements at play with this piece. Of course you have the yellowed numerals, which are coated in tritium – as are the hands. Interestingly, Omega switched to Super-Luminova around 1998, shortly before the watch was discontinued. This is why you might find models with white numerals, and models with yellow numerals. There is a decided difference in tone between the yellow of the Arabics and the yellow of the chronograph seconds hand with an arrow at the base. This yellow matches the numerals on the railroad-style minute track and yellow in the 30-minute totalizer.
The Omega wordmark and logo stand alone beneath 12 o’clock. This is the sort of watch where you’d think that all of the displayed information would result in a cluttered design. On the contrary, the fact that there are only two subdials, along with a great use of color contrast, makes this watch feel incredibly balanced even with the smaller 38mm surface area. I also attribute this to the fact that there’s no bezel – no tachymeter or pulsometer scale. Pilots don’t need those and, frankly, neither do I.
Honestly, they just don’t make ’em like this anymore. When I say that, I am mostly referring to the 38mm case sizing. So many watches today, and especially chronographs, have ballooned in size to upwards of 43, or even 44mm. Much of Omega’s Automatic chrono offerings sit at that very 44mm-and-above sizing which, honestly, isn’t great for most normal wrists.
The Dynamic offers so much by way of design, fit, and finish that it makes you wonder why it hasn’t become ultra-collectible, or skyrocketed in value. In many respects, I think it’s only a matter of time, but there are also some interesting drawbacks to this watch by way of its mechanics, which may very well be holding it back from elite collectibility.
Inside beats the Omega Caliber 1138 (no relation to George Lucas’ debut film), which is basically a modified ETA 2890A2. Which isn’t not a chronograph movement. And therein lies the rub. The movement has a Dubois-Depraz 2030 chrono module fitted on top, the result of which is a rather tall for the size, 13mm in thickness. For many, this nugget of information is not a deterrent, but it might give pause to those whose only interest in Omega chronographs is tied to the historical significance of the Moonwatch and famed calibers like the 321.
Functionally, I feel no difference when engaging with the pushers on this watch than I do with any other chrono that has an integrated movement. The action is smooth and everything works as it should. It’s when you turn the watch to view the profile on the crown side that the modular nature stands out, as the crown and pushers are very clearly not level with one another. Even looking at the watch straight on, the pushers appear taller than the average chronograph. They’re more like old TV antennas.
In terms of case finishing, the Dynamic rocks. It’s a tool watch through and through, as evidenced by an entirely brushed, satin-finished aesthetic. I really appreciate that, as the trend today is to combine brushed and polished finishing in a way that turns what should be sport-centric, or toolish timepieces into more luxury-leaning products. There’s no polish here, folks, and that idea flows right into the bracelet which has a retro, almost ’60s-era feel to it. In fact, it looks basically identical to the bracelet design Omega brought back this year for the new Speedmaster Moonwatch. I liked it there and I love it here. It’s extremely comfortable and suits the watch perfectly.
I wish I could say the same about the clasp. Now, for the record, I have nothing against a stamped clasp design. I love vintage watches, and that’s basically the norm there. Here, my beef is more with the clasp enclosure itself. The opening to latch and unlatch is not only unmarked but difficult to open. When you have to click it shut, it takes a few tries to find out if it’s centered and able to close. Basically, I don’t have the utmost confidence that this won’t fall off while on my wrist. But I guess we chalk that up to vintage charm?
For a watch with such a short production run, there are a few interesting variations that can potentially increase overall collectibility. One is the yellow vs. white numerals or the tritium vs. Super-Luminova dial. The other is a small design flourish in the 30-minute subsidiary dial. On the watch photographed here, the minute track is relegated to the exterior of the subdial. There are also versions of this watch where the minute hash marks are positioned at the interior of the subdial, with the numbers circumventing the minute markers. These are the kinds of things that make the watch hunt fun. You can choose which version suits you best.
On the wrist, the Omega Dynamic disappears. It is such a fun wear and makes me wish that all modern chronographs were sized this way. The style of the numerals, the multiple pops of yellow, make this such a pleasing wrist experience. When I put this on, I find myself checking the time just so I can stare at the dial.
Would it shock me if Omega brought back this ghost of the near-millennium? This is the brand that just released a new Speedmaster with every possible chronograph scale on the dial, so no, it would not shock me. If it doesn’t, and these remain a relic of the past, I do believe they’ll become more collectible over time. And I don’t think of these as pieces you put in the safe. They’re too much fun for that. If you have the chance to track one of these down and acquire it, my advice is: Wear it and enjoy it.
Photos, Kasia Milton