Dear Omega, Bring Back The Glorious De Ville Chronograph 145.018
Sometimes, there are watches you love that are not always top of mind. Once you are reminded of their existence, however, you instantly know what makes them so brilliant. The Omega De Ville Chronograph 145.018 is one of those watches for me. Every time I see the watch, it’s like falling in love all over again. The piece fits into the mold of sporty 1960s chronographs but with plenty of characteristic elements that make it stand out. It is one of those beloved chronographs from Omega’s rich history that is very popular amongst Omega collectors. But as this watch is quite a rarity and Omega currently does not have a model like it in its collection, I would love to see it return. Time to find out why.
As I explained in last week’s article about the Zenith A277, I had an absolute blast writing the Buying Guide series over the last 12 months. The series was a great way of finding out about some of the great classics from a wide variety of brands. One of my favorites from the series was the Omega De Ville Chronograph 145.018. This phenomenal chronograph was a watch that Omega produced for only two years from 1968 to 1970. Despite its very short production run, the watch has gained a dedicated following of collectors that love it. Personally, it’s my favorite Omega chronograph after the Omega Speedmaster models from that time.
A special era for Omega
The story of this particular De Ville Chronograph is one of both its movement and design. Let’s start with the latter and the context around it. Omega decided to make the De Ville a separate collection in 1967. Before that, it was part of the Seamaster series starting in 1960. The brand introduced the first watch with “Seamaster De Ville” on the dial in 1963. My father actually owns a Seamaster De Ville, and that watch obviously has a special place in my heart. Looking at them though, you will find that they are not really that different in their appearance from some of the classic Seamaster models.
That all changed in ’67 when Omega decided to make the De Ville a separate collection. With it, Omega wanted to be able to respond to the latest trends more quickly and show a more varied mix of designs to appeal to a younger audience. Indeed, the De Ville collection became popular quite quickly with its standout designs, but Omega released a ton of hits in its other collections too. The late 1960s and 1970s are a great time for Omega fans because that’s when the brand really created some of the most iconic designs of that era. Watches like the Flightmaster, the PloProf, the Speedmaster Professional 125, and the Speedmaster Mark III were just some of the many remarkable designs that Omega created that have since become industry icons.
The golden age of designs
But the brand didn’t stop with those now-iconic watches. I created an article last year discussing some of the best Omega designs from the 1970s. In it, I discussed some of the lesser-discussed Omega models that stand out because of their designs. Of course, they are widely known by Omega fans, but to a larger crowd, they are not always well-known watches. For the article, I was fortunate to work together with British Omega collector “Stevie” also known as steviemac1040 on Instagram. He provided the pictures of the watches, and they perfectly show how Omega was pushing the boundaries of design.
As a result, the brand not only created some amazing classics but also propelled watch design in general to a whole new level. Many of them came courtesy of Aquastar founder Frédéric Robert, who joined Omega in 1967. He worked on the brand’s sports watches for a number of years and is largely responsible for Omega’s typical 1970s design signature that was colorful and extravagant but always originated from a functional starting point. One of his greatest contributions to the world of dive watches was the colorful minute hand. As a diver and sailor himself, he recognized that divers focused a lot more on minutes rather than hours, so he introduced the colorful minute hand for dive watches. Robert’s creations are a great topic to discuss another time, as they have had such a great impact on the world of watch design as we know it today.
The Omega De Ville Chronographs
But let’s get back to the De Ville Chronograph 145.018 of today’s story. In order to show how great this watch looks, I once again asked Stevie for his help, as he owns a De Ville 145.018 that is in absolutely gorgeous condition. On top of that, he creates some of the most amazing images out there for his Instagram account. He was kind enough to let us use them for this article to show the brilliance of this watch. The De Ville Chronograph 145.018 was definitely not the only beautiful De Ville chronograph that Omega created. The brand also produced the unique De Ville 146.017 in 1969 and 1970 with a date window at 9 o’clock and a rarely used caliber 930. Although a bit strange, it is another great example of a chronograph that feels comfortably familiar but definitely has a great twist to its design.
The De Ville 145.018 has exactly the same effect. The watch was released together with the De Ville 145.017. The main thing that sparked the release of this specific De Ville Chronograph series in 1968 was the introduction of the Omega calibers 860 and 861. Reference 145.017 uses caliber 860 with two sub-dials and ref. 145.018 uses caliber 861 with three sub-dials. This cam-actuated chronograph caliber replaced the column-wheel caliber 321, but it has gone on to build quite a great reputation of its own. Omega used caliber 861 for the Speedmaster, De Ville, and Seamaster chronographs. One of the famous Seamaster chronographs of the era is the Seamaster “Soccer” chronograph from 1969, which also used the caliber 861.
A fun fact is that this De Ville Chronograph also started as part of the Seamaster collection. There are versions with just “Seamaster” on the dial, and some combine the “Seamaster” and “De Ville” wording. In late 1968, however, Omega made it a part of the separate De Ville collection.
A not-so-typical 1960s chronograph
What I love most about the De Ville Chronograph are its elegant looks. It takes a step away from the classical looks of ’50s-style chronographs without becoming an overly sporty watch. It’s the same elegance you will find with the Rolex “Pre-Daytona” ref. 6238. They combine the best of a sporty presence with plenty of elegance to suit a wide variety of situations. But the De Ville came with a nice quirky dial that we’ll get to in a minute. First, let’s focus on some basic specs.
The De Ville Chronograph has a modest 35mm case size, but as Mike explained in his review of the watch, it actually wears bigger. The watch has a modest 40mm lug-to-lug, which implies that it would be for smaller wrists. But as Mike explained, if you can pull off a 36mm Rolex Datejust, this is comparable in the way it wears. The watch is 13.5mm thick with a 19mm lug width, and it came on a very nice stainless steel bracelet that makes it look even better. Sure, it looks good on a leather strap, but the sporty appearance of the watch on the bracelet is hard to beat. The aesthetics combined with the legendary movement make this De Ville Chronograph hard to beat.
The different variations of the De Ville Chronograph 145.018
Omega produced the De Ville Chronograph ref. 145.018 from 1968 to 1970, so it’s not a watch that you will find easily. And because of its short production run and handsome looks, the watch is hot property among Omega collectors. That’s especially true of the version you see in the picture with the gray dial and colorful sub-dials. It is a real rarity. Omega produced quite a few different dials, with white, gold, dark blue, and gray as just some of the options. There are also De Ville versions without a tachymeter scale.
But the one that stands out for a number of reasons is the gray reverse-panda-dial version that you see pictured. Firstly, it has an absolutely amazing gray base color. As Stevie also explained and the pictures hopefully show, the color changes from light gray to charcoal depending on the light. This effect gives the watch an incredible presence. Secondly, there are the colorful sub-dials. As you can see, Omega went the playful route with one register’s font in green, one in red, and one in black. This remarkable choice adds a playful note to an otherwise serious dial design.
A return of the Omega De Ville Chronograph 145.018
As Mike explained, the story goes that Omega picked these colors as a reference to the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico where the brand was the official timer. But whatever the reason, the colors created a watch with its own quirky details, making it stand out among so many of the other classic 1960s chronographs. It also makes this specific version of the 145.018 the most sought-after. The color combination is very unique, and that uniqueness is what people are after.
But since this specific version was only made for two years, production numbers were really low. That’s why you would have to be patient, very patient, in order to find one in good condition. Prices for the De Ville Chronograph ref. 145.018 start at roughly €4.5K and go up from there for well-kept examples. If you can find the gray-dial version in this article, expect to see prices that are higher depending on the condition. Personally, I love this watch, and it is one of my favorite Omega watches ever. Along with a new steel Ploprof, it is my favorite of the many Omega icons that I would love to see make a comeback. I would put my name down immediately for one of them. It really is that good!
I want to thank Stevie for allowing us to use the pictures of his amazing Omega De Ville 145.018. If you want to see more of Stevie’s Omega collection, check out his Instagram account here. You can also check out my Instagram here.