Every family has one - that suave, sophisticated socialite that turns up late to parties, quaffs all the champagne and then disappears suddenly to retain that special air of mystery that only years of living on the edge can sire. That is the story of the Omega De Ville. An elegant beast surrounded by models exuding sportiness, adventure, or flair. The De Ville is, bizarrely, the odd one out for its patent normality - a slim and stylish dress watch with little in the way to distinguish it from any other, save for its quality and heritage. And yet, for exactly that reason, it has become a mainstay in the Omega catalog.
A relatively recent addition to the Omega universe (becoming a line in its own right in 1967), the De Ville effectively provides a foundation that seems to have always been there (perhaps because the style of watches produced under this name are more similar to those that established the company in the first place than any of the globally famous models that followed). As such, the De Ville family is an excellent starting point for neophyte watch buyers, hoping to obtain a good quality, well-respected watch for a relatively affordable price. As far as pre-owned options go, the Omega De Ville models, with many such models available in excellent condition, could not be a much better choice.
The elegant simplicity of the Omega De Ville collection made it an immediate success upon its release. It has, ever since, been a respectable choice for collectors, old and new alike, and a very common heirloom watch to be passed down from one generation to the next. That trend looks set to continue as the style of the Omega De Ville - so classic and restrained as it is - never really goes out of fashion, and, instead, fluctuates between ferociously in vogue or charmingly anachronistic.
The De Ville appellation first appeared as early as 1960 on some of Omega's dressier Seamaster watches. In the modern-day collection, that role is adequately filled by the Aqua Terra line, which emerged later to fill the void left by the Seamaster De Ville watches when the moniker branched out on its own and became a fully-fledged range in its own right in 1967.
By the end of the 1970s, the Omega De Ville collection had been awarded six golden roses from the Baden-Baden design awards. The success of this new line was down to the philosophy underpinning the collection. This was a new era of aesthetic experimentation for the brand, and to set the De Ville family aside from the rest of the Omega catalog, the watches were produced in Geneva as opposed to the brand's normal headquarters in Biel.
Experimentation would once again be the order of the day, when in 1999, Omega released its first co-axial movement in the De Ville line. The decision to roll out the new technology - courtesy of British watchmaker, the late great George Daniels - in a De Ville was significant. Where the collection had previously been known more for its willingness to push the envelope in regards to design, this technological leap was new territory for not just the family, but the brand and industry as a whole.
The cost of the Omega De Ville collection is hard to pin down due to the huge amount of model references, various complications, decoration, materials, and finish - not to mention to the cavalcade of pre-owned options. If you're looking for a small, simple, smart dress watch and have a tight budget, trawling the pre-owned marketplace can yield hundreds of results without you having to break a sweat. And the best bit? The prices for second-hand Omega De Villes start exceptionally low. Even pristine models can go for as little as a few hundred bucks. And while opting for quartz will likely save you quite a bit of money, it isn't always the case. Handwound mechanical Omegas were ten-a-penny in their day and given their commonness command meager prices on the resale market. If you know a friendly local watchmaker that has a penchant for restoration, hoarding pre-owned De Villes is a neat way to build a big cohesive collection quickly without having to outlay huge sums of cash.
In the modern collection, however, prices are of course higher. The most affordable pieces can be found in the Prestige collection. A ladies model, measuring just 27.4mm in diameter with a solid black dial, quartz movement, and stainless steel case and bracelet under reference 4188.8.131.52.01.001, marks the entry-point to the collection. At the other end (way, way, way at the other end) is reference 5184.108.40.206.56.001 from the Tourbillon collection.
Below is a table outlining the retail prices of current-production Omega DeVille watches.
|Model||Reference||Case Size & Materials||Retail Price (MSRP)|
|De Ville Prestige Co-Axial||4220.127.116.11.02.003||39.5mm; Stainless Steel||$3,850|
|De Ville Trésor Quartz||418.104.22.168.04.001||36mm; Stainless Steel||$4,500|
|De Ville Trésor Co-Axial Master Chronometer||422.214.171.124.03.001||40mm; 18k Gold||$6,500|
|De Ville Trésor Co-Axial Master Chronometer||4126.96.36.199.09.001||40mm; 18k Gold||$17,000|
|De Ville Hour Vision Co-Axial Master Chronometer||4188.8.131.52.03.001||42mm; Stainless Steel||$8,300|
|De Ville Co-Axial Chronograph||4184.108.40.206.02.001||42mm; Red Gold||$29,000|
|De Ville Hour Vision Co-Axial Master Chronometer||4220.127.116.11.02.001||41mm; 18k Sedna Gold||$35,900|
There have been a great many models released in the Omega De Ville family and sub-families over the years, and so picking stand-outs from watches that are, at times, as similar as chalk and cheese, is no easy feat. However, if we limit our search to the modern collection, the task becomes much easier. Nowadays, the De Ville line is broken up into several sub-ranges: The Ladymatic, the De Ville, Prestige, Hour Vision, Trésor, and Tourbillon.
Of these six divisions, the De Ville, Hour Vision, and Trésor boast perhaps the most traditional line-up of timeless (and relatively affordable classics). The Ladymatic range is more niche and focused on aesthetics, while the Tourbillon collection is of similarly reduced appeal for the exact opposite reasons. The Prestige line is the truest to the De Ville family's past and is a great option for those looking for a solid dress watch that won’t upset the apple cart.
The recently released Trésor models present an interesting opportunity. Here are slimline, in-house, elegantly-styled, often unisex watches crafted from either stainless steel or gold, with the option of diamond decoration. The flowing shapes used in the design of the modern Trésor case make this watch liquid cool on the wrist, and the creative, asymmetric diamond settings on the more feminine models add a bit of sparkle without going overboard. Although newcomers to a well-established collection, the Trésor sub-family epitomizes the spirit of the Omega De Ville so perfectly that it is impossible to ignore.
The Hour Vision models in the collection are notable for being the first De Ville watches to be fitted with the new Caliber 8500 movement, which is proudly displayed thanks to a see-through caseback. A couple of very special models also feature viewing windows on the side of the case by way of a sapphire crystal middle case. An aesthetic and technological challenge, the De Ville Hour Vision was a real departure from the standard De Ville fare and marked itself as one for the history books the moment it debuted in 2007. As is often the case of future classics, the original Hour Vision was not immediately well-received, but it has chiseled its way to growing respect in the years since its launch. Now, the range offers wearers the choice between time and date models and a raft of annual calendars.
The simply named "De Ville" portion of the De Ville division comprises a single model - a chronograph, no less - in eight different color/strap set-ups. The steel options come with either a black, blue, or white dial on either a leather strap or nine-link bracelet, while the rose gold version comes on a leather strap with either a white or blue dial. Powered by the modern caliber 9300 movement, this branch of the Omega De Ville family is perhaps the most natural successor to the early models that prized elegance and performance above all else.
Probably the best thing about the De Ville collection from a consumer perspective is the vast variety available within it. There are models for men and women, and also for both the old and for the young. These easy-to-read, classic timepieces make excellent points of entry for newcomers to the hobby, while highly complicated, jewelry pieces speak to the seasoned curator.
The De Ville Co-Axial Chronograph 42mm (reference 418.104.22.168.03.001) is hard to beat. For what looks like a reasonable ticket price of $8,300, you get a lot of in-house technology under the hood, while the watch looks every bit its retail on the wrist. A nicely proportioned dial with applied Roman Numeral hour markers surrounded by a beefed-up and rather contemporary case offers the best of both worlds – eternal elegance mixed with up-to-date proportions.
For women, the choices are surprisingly plentiful, with the pick of the bunch coming from the Trésor collection. Two quartz-powered stand-outs in the 36mm range are the Moonshine gold reference 422.214.171.124.11.001 with an opulent red dial, and the Canopus gold reference 4126.96.36.199.53.001 sporting a beguiling aventurine face.
If these more modern models lack the character of the hundreds upon hundreds of Omega De Ville references to make their way through the brand's catalog over the years, fear not - as one of the most frequently tweaked and updated offerings, there will no doubt be something coming over the horizon that will satisfy your tastes soon. And if you get tired of waiting, don't forget to look to the past where some of the finest examples of easy-to-wear luxury can be found.