- By Arthur Touchot
It's so rare to have (in single sale) two watches that share so little on the surface and so much inside, that we feel it is almost necessary to highlight the next pair of watches.
At first glance, the Omega Megaquartz 2400 and the Audemars Piguet Ref. 6001ST have very little in common. One is a forgotten oddity, a rare explosion of flamboyance, unlike anything its maker offers in its current collection. The other can unmistakenably be linked to the watch that inspired it, one of the most popular watches ever made, and a watch that can be seen in most big cities on a daily basis.
But beneath the surface, the same heart beats for both of these neo-vintage watches. Get ready for a rare glance into one of the great Swiss made Quartz movements, and how it was used to power very different watches.
The Movement - Caliber 1510
In reaction to the development of cheap and ultra-precise quartz movements coming from Japan, the Swiss watch industry started building their own.
The arrival of this technology from abroad was seen as such a threat that around 20 watch brands, including Rolex and Patek Philippe joined forces to create the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH) and develop a series of Beta movements - the first totally Swiss made alternative - which they shared to create larger pieces, due to the slightly bulky nature of these new movements.
One of the founding partners of the CEH and early adopters of the Beta-21, Omega quickly began working on another ultra-high frequency quartz movement, the caliber 1510, which it would also share others. But more on that a little later.
It is worth noting that the impressive caliber 1510 movement was more accurate than the Beta 21, with accuracy down to one second per month (a minuscule discrepency quickly fixed by pushing a small button located near the crown of the watch), instead of 5 seconds per month for the Beta 21. Greater accuracy was acheived by increasing the frequency of the crystals' vibrations to 2,359,356 per second. To this day, it remains one of the most precise quartz calibers ever made.
The Omega Megaquartz 2400
The Omega Megaquartz 2400 was launched in 1974 and - together with the Marine Chronometer - was presented as one of the most accurate wristwatches ever made - and rightfuly so thanks to their new movement.
The Megaquartz was notably the first watch produced with a TSA (time second adjustment) allowing the hour to be changed independently of minutes and seconds, while seconds can be set by a seperate pusher.
In today's context, placing the quartz movement inside a dress watch may seem incongruous, but the newly developped calibre 1510 was surely seen by Omega as the industry's future, and perhaps the brand felt it needed to create a talking piece in order to present it.
In any case, the very first version of the cal. 1510 of the Megaquartz 2400 is the one presented here, in a massive gold case weighting over 200 grams, with gold hands, gold chapter markers, a solid gold strap and an exquisite aventurine stardust dial - it is believed less than 200 examples in this configuration were made.
The Audemars Piguet Ref. 6001
The Audemars Piguet Ref. 6001ST was also launched in 1974, just two years after the Gerald Genta designed Ref. 5402, and found itself in the unique position of becoming the brand's first ever quartz powered wristwatch.
The watch is unmistakenably inspired by its close predecessor, to the point one could even call it an adaptation of the original. Many of Genta's design choices were retained, including keeping the octogonal shape of the (now screwless) bezel and the seminal tapisserie dial. It even features the brand's logo at 6 o’clock, in the same position as it can be found on the reference 5402.
Just like the Megaquartz, the Ref. 6001 is a massive piece, measuring approximately 42 x 35mm, and on the wrist it is immediately recognizable as a 1970s child.
Despite their obvious differences, the Megaquartz 2400 and the Ref. 6001 capture a brief moment in time when the underlying expectations of the Swiss watchmaking industry seemed to align. Quartz was seen as the future. Rolex and Patek Philippe believed this. Omega also believed this. And many others accepted the possibility of a future led by this technology.
As a proud parent would, Omega immeditaly placed its new movement in a glamourous talking pieces, made especially for the occasion, while Audemars Piguet integrated the supplied movements a little more subtletly into their collection, placing its future even more in the hands of Genta's design.
I think this just goes to show the versatility of this caliber, which was one of the principle motivations for the industry's adoption of quartz.