Book Review – Flightmaster Only – The Omega’s Pilot’s Watch
I’ve been looking many times to add a Flightmaster to my modest collection, but I never dared to pull the trigger on one. That might change now though, as the same guys who wrote the Moonwatch Only book, now bring some light into the dark world of the Flightmaster watches. Their new book titled Flightmaster Only is indeed what the title promises, only about the famous Omega Flightmaster and consists of 224 pages.
With an introduction and written historical overview by Petros Protopapas (International Brand Heritage Manager of Omega) and Ilias Giannopoulos (journalist and watch expert), it can definitely be considered as a validated source of information on the Flightmaster watches.
Let’s have a closer look at this new book from authors Grégoire Rossier and Anthony Marquié.
I also reviewed the first and second edition of the Moonwatch Only book, an important source of information that should be on the bookshelf of every serious Speedmaster collector. The Flightmaster Only book is basically structured in the same way as the Moonwatch Only book, an almost academic approach to identify and describe all parts of the Flightmaster watch. With 224 pages it is less than half the size of the 2nd edition of the Moonwatch Only book, but you have to know that the Flightmaster came only in 4 different references. That’s excluding the 1958 and 1959 Railmaster models for the FAP (Fuerza Aérea Peruana or Peruvian Air Force) that were rebranded to ‘Flightmaster’ on the dial and case back. In 1969 Omega re-introduced the name Flightmaster for their pilot’s line case watches with chronograph movement featuring a second timezone and a 24-hour indicator.
If we forget about the Railmaster dubbed Flightmaster, the four Flightmaster references are:
- ST145.013, calibre 910, produced from 1969 till 1971
- ST145.026, calibre 911, produced from 1971 till 1972
- ST145.036, calibre 911, produced from 1973 till 1977
- BA345.0801 (and BA145.013), calibre 910, produced in 1971 only
To start with the latter and my favourite Flightmaster watch, the BA345.0801 is the 18-carat gold model from 1971. Super rare as only 200 pieces have been produced of this watch. 80 of them were delivered with a leather strap, resulting in having the BA145.013 reference (you guessed it right, BA was the indicator for yellow gold and ST for stainless steel). The other 120 were all delivered with a type 1162/172 style bracelet in solid 18-carat gold. This model also had the first used calibre for the Flightmaster, the 910 movement. Easy to distinct from the later used calibre 911 movement (from 1971 until the end of the Flightmaster production) by the 24-hour indicator at 3 o’clock. From 1971 until 1977, the last known year that the Flightmaster was available in the Omega catalogue (which means the production might have ceased before), there was no 24-hour indicator anymore. The second timezone stayed, of course, as it was a very useful function for pilots. The calibre 911 models of the Flightmaster consists of two references, ST145.026 and the later ST145.036. Amongst others, the water resistance improved from 60 meters to 120 meters.
The Flightmaster Only book describes each reference in detail and shows a number of possible dial and hands configurations for the ST145.013 (8), ST145.026 (5) and ST145.036 (4). I never knew that one could find so many difference in the two major Flightmaster models (calibre 910 and 911). This book shows them all, and also show that there were actually quite some differences in the Flightmaster pilot’s line case of these models. They do not use all the same case. In total, it is assumed that there are around 37500 Flightmaster watches produced from 1969 until 1977.
The Moonwatch Only methodology aside, I love how Rossier and Marquié achieved to make the Flightmaster book so comprehensive yet easy to read and understand. There’s little room for one’s own interpretation of facts. The description of all parts of the different Flightmaster cases, dials, movements, crystals, pushers, bracelets etc. are very well done, and it shows how many variations this lead to. This book will certainly help you to identify an Omega Flightmaster watch that you come across, and will make you able to determine whether it is authentic and/or original or that you are dealing with a frankenwatch. I think that is of importance these days, where people try to basically steal your money with something that has been put together. Not everyone is aware that they own a frankenwatch for sure, but just make sure you aren’t the next victim of that.
The level of detail on the descriptions of the parts, accessories and watch itself is simply amazing. The authors used the same photographer (Luca Garbati) as they did for the Moonwatch Only books, and the high resolution and high-quality close-ups clearly will help to study all these different parts and watches. Everything has been meticulously photographed and described.
Flightmaster Only can, therefore, be used as a reference book but the introduction and the historical overview by Protopapas and Giannopoulos are worth reading (and absorbing) as well. Most of you will recall the image of Russian cosmonaut Alexey Leonov wearing a Flightmaster during the Apollo-Soyuz tests, but Flightmaster Only will give you the background story on the Russians wearing the Flightmaster as well. That, and original drawings, copies of filed patents and vintage advertisements make this book really worthwhile.
Books like this do not come cheap but imagine making a mistake when buying a Flightmaster with a faulty dial or bezel for example. It will cost you a couple of factors more than the €175 for Flightmaster Only, which would have prevented you from making this mistake in the first place.
Will Flightmaster Only have an effect on the prices of the vintage Omega Flightmaster watches? I don’t see the demand for the Flightmaster model skyrocketing (no pun intended), but now that it is out there what the details are to focus on, basically what determines a Flightmaster to be all original, the prices on those good pieces might go up a bit. The Flightmaster is, like any other awkward shaped model (e.g. Speedmaster 125, Constellation Megaquartz 2400) not a watch for everyone, so therefore I believe that the prices will remain relatively sane (and that’s at least what I hope, for fun’s sake).
Did you know that: the first Omega Speedmaster X-33 prototypes in the 1990s were signed with ‘Flightmaster’ on the dial?
If you’re in the market for a nice Omega Flightmaster watch, the Flightmaster Only book is a no-brainer. If you are not into this model at all, the price of the book might set you back a bit too much to make it worthwhile. The writing is great though and the images stunning, but I can imagine that this book is not for you when you are not after a Flightmaster.
Ordering and more information on the Flightmaster Only book can be found here.