Seamaster Soccer Timers are a series of chronographs produced by Omega from the late 1960’s to the early 1970’s. They share a distinctive look with highly recognizable red and black subdials. They come with a white or grey dial and are generally grouped into no bezel, fixed bezel, and rotating bezel variants. Ironically, there is little to link these watches to the sport of soccer other than an extra track on the minute totalizing subdial which acts as a 45-minute indicator. Forty-five minutes is the length of a soccer half, and supposedly these watches were originally created for soccer referees in the 1970 World Cup. I cannot find any advertisement or other documentation to this effect so perhaps the story is apocryphal. If you have more information please share it with me.
Strangely enough, the massive Omega museum book A Journey Through Time refers to a Soccer Timer with the term soccer only once on page 545. There is no reference to the 1970 World Cup and the 145.020 with a fixed tachymeter bezel is incorrectly labelled as a 145.016. A rotating bezel roulette wheel 145.019 is described as a “Pilot” on the next page with no reference to soccer. Antiquorum’s Omegamania sale listed three examples of the fixed bezel 145.020 and used the term “Soccer Trainer’s Watch” to refer to one with a pulsometer scale and “Soccer Timer” to refer to the other two which had tachymeter scales.
The only vintage advertisement that I was able to locate that shows a Soccer Timer dial does not make any reference to soccer but does note that the 145.020 reference came with tachymeter, telemeter, pulsometer, and decimal scales.
The other notable feature is that the watches share a caliber 861 movement, which was launched in 1968 as a replacement for the 321. It replaced the column wheel with an easier to manufacture cam-switching system, changed the steel braking lever to Delrin plastic for shock absorption, and increased the frequency to 21,600 VPH from 18,000.
The Soccer Timer is a Seamaster chronograph. This is a somewhat awkward position in the Omega lineup since the public’s perception is that Omega chronographs are synonymous with the Speedmaster. Although Seamaster today is used to designate dive watches, in the past the term was used more generally to convey water resistance – not unlike Rolex’s use of “oyster.” In fact, even modern versions of the Speedmaster retain the Hippocampus (sometimes referred to as a Seahorse or a Sea Monster) on the screwdown water resistant caseback. The Hippocampus is the Seamaster line’s logo.
Seamaster chronographs did not develop a consistent design language like their Speedmaster brethren. They ranged from the dress chronographs of the 1950’s and 1960’s to the cushion, rectangular, octagonal, and TV shaped chronographs of the 1970’s. The Soccer Timers are representative of early 1970’s Omega chronograph design with their cushion cases and 3/6/9 orientation of the subdials due to the manual wind caliber 861. The no bezel and fixed bezel versions were almost identical to Seamaster chronograph references that did not feature the Soccer Timer dials.
I will start by discussing the differences between the white and grey dial versions of the Soccer Timer within the context of the no bezel reference 145.016 since this applies to the other references as well. I will then discuss the bezel variations within the fixed and rotating bezel references. After a bracelet discussion, I will cover the influence of the Soccer Timer aesthetic on other Omega Watches. Then I will discuss other soccer related watches such as the 1979 FIFA references and what I term “Oddballs.” I will conclude by returning to Seamaster Soccer Timers by discussing how to spot common problems.
“Soccer Only Timer” 145.016
This is the quintessential Omega Soccer Timer. The case is 38 mm wide and the lug to lug is a modest 43 mm. The cushion shape and bright colors gives the watch a strong wrist presence yet the short lug to lug allows it to sit well on any wrist. The front facing portion of the case is brushed in a sunburst pattern. My example has a circular brushing, possibly from prior lapping. The beveled transition to the side and again to the back of the case and the back of the case itself are polished while the sides are brushed.
The screwdown caseback has six notches and there is a small central engraving with Seamaster, the Hippocampus, and the Greek letter for Omega.
There is a large marked crown and round pushers allowing for comfortable winding and a crisp actuation of the chronograph function typical for the 861 movement.
The acrylic crystal should be marked with an Omega logo in the center.
I will go into detail about the two dial variations because all of the Seamaster Soccer Timer references keep the same color scheme. The grey and white dials are similar except for the color of the dial, the hands and the position of the lume. Both versions have an outer track just inside the dial where there are five minute marks on the outside and inside and ⅙ second marks in between. The beat rate of the caliber 861 is 21,600 VPH so it is accurate to ⅙ second for the chronograph. I love that kind of attention to detail.
The white dial has the lume at the outer five minute marks and the grey dial has the lume at the inner five minute marks so that they are the inverse of each other. The grey dial also has the outer track as black print on a white background while the white dial has white print on a slate blue background. The background of the dial has paint that has a textured look that resembles a plaster wall when viewed under a loupe. The white dials tend to fade to an off white and the grey dials tend to get lighter. Some dials can develop a “tropical” appearance with brown discoloration. The Omega logo is printed in all capital letters with the Greek letter above it and Seamaster in cursive below. This is in white on the grey dial and black on the white dial.
The three subdials have an outer ring that slopes down and the 9- and 3-o’clock subdials are the same size while the 6-o’clock subdial is smaller. The 9-o’clock running seconds subdial appears larger than the minute totalizer subdial at 3 because the minute totalizer subdial has a distinctive red and black pattern in the flat portion split in half vertically which draws attention away from the outer track. The same effect occurs on the 12-hour totalizer subdial at 6 o’clock except that the red and black is divided into four quadrants. Thus the running seconds appears largest, the minute totalizer subdial appears smaller, and the 12 hour totalizer subdial appears even smaller than its actual size, tapering the size along with the amount of movement of the hand in each subdial.
The running seconds has a ⅕ second track on the slanted ring inside of which is a double red ring marking the transition to the flat portion of the subdial. The background matches the rest of the dial and the hand is black in the white dial version and orange in the grey dial version. The color of the running seconds hand matches the hour and minute hands so that the timekeeping functions are grouped together by color.
The hour and minute hands are pencil type with a base that matches the dial background and a luminous strip for the distal ¾ surrounded by a black outline in the white dial and an orange outline in the grey dial. The center-mounted seconds timer hand has a distinctive elongated triangular shape and is orange in the white dial and white in the grey dial. The orange version closely resembles the seconds timer hand found in the original Ultraman Speedmaster and can also fade into a pale yellow color.
The minute totalizer track is the standard 30 minutes for the caliber 861 but has an additional partial outer track in black just within the subdial edge indicating minutes 40-45 if the chronograph is allowed to continue to run beyond 30 minutes. There is a 45 at the 6 o’clock position. This partial track gives it the designation of Soccer Timer. The outer track has an arrow at 12 o’clock and one minute marks with thicker marks for every five minutes. Minutes 30 and 15 are indicated at the top and bottom of the inner portion of the subdial, emphasizing that the 45-minute timer function.
The right side of the inner circle minute totalizer subdial is red and the left side is in black. The hand and the 30 and 15 print are white in both versions while the outer track matches the dial and the 45-minute partial track is in black in the white dial and white in the black dial. The 12-hour totalizing subdial at 6-o’clock follows a similar pattern except that the arrows are elongated and at 3/6/9/12. The outer track again matches the background color but a white hand and a pattern of the inner subdial of black in the right upper and left lower and red in the left upper and right lower quadrants is retained in both versions. So in summary the grey dial is in general the inverse of the white dial but the preserved red and black subdials help create a unified design language.
I have had the pleasure of owning two examples of the white dial Soccer Only watch. I sold the first which had a fuller case that had been polished, while the other example which I kept has a case I suspect may have been lapped at some point since it is rather perfect with no major dents or scratches and also has a circular brushing on the front case instead of a sunburst pattern.
The orange center mounted seconds timer hand on the former had a smoother and lighter paint. I suspect the former seconds timer hand may have been repainted or perhaps was a later version. Some orange hands fade to a pale yellow color which may have prompted a repainting.
The printing on the chronograph subdials also differed with the former having a thicker white printed numbers and with the numbers aligned more to the left side and the latter having a less sharp transition between red and black and a thicker black printing of the 45-minute scale.
I think the difference between the dials attests to the certain amount of inconsistency at Omega during this time period. I have not had the opportunity to examine a grey dial Soccer Only so if you have one that you want to share please contact me.
“Fixed Bezel Soccer Timer” 145.020
The Fixed Bezel Soccer Timer is in most respects very similar to the Soccer Only and differs mainly in that it contains a fixed inner bezel and is therefore larger at 41 mm. The dial comes in white and grey versions that are essentially the same as those found in the Soccer Only. The cases are also essentially the same except for the larger size. The vast majority of bezels are tachymeters with white print and appear to be in a dark blue in the white dial and black for the grey dial.
The three other non-tachymeter scales were described on page 545 of A Journey Through Time but not depicted in the book. These were telemeter, pulsometer, and decimal. I will discuss them and show some examples below.
Telemeter. I was able to find three examples of images of telemeter Fixed Bezel Soccer Timers, all with white dials. Two of the examples are similar in that they are on NATO straps and have the incorrect crystal and a faded center-mounted seconds timer hand so it may be the same watch. The examples all have the telemeter scale in kilometers and can be recognized quickly by the bezel having fewer numbers and hash marks compared to a tachymeter.
Pulsometer. I found one example of this on a watch sold in the Omegamania auction by Antiquorum in 2007. If you have this watch please let me know!
Decimal: I found one example in a passed lot in a Watches of Knightsbridge sale from 2015. The watch has a service dial so it is unclear if the decimal scale bezel is original. If you have this watch and can attest to the originality of the bezel let me know!
“Rotating Bezel Soccer” 145.019
The Rotating Bezel Soccer Timer has a rotating bezel controlled by a marked crown just before 10 o’clock. The inner dial comes in white and grey and follows the color scheme of the other Soccer Timers. As in the Fixed Bezel, the case is larger at 41 mm wide and 46.5 mm lug to lug.
There are three types of rotating bezel as correctly described in A Journey Through Time on page 546 and I will follow their naming convention.
“Diver” (60 Minute Count Up). This is the simplest version. It comes with an arrow at zero and large Arabic numerals at 5 minute intervals along the rotating bezel. The bezel is otherwise plain with no hash marks. The bezel is a dark blue when paired with a white dial and almost black when paired with a grey dial.
“Regatta” (60 Minute Count Down). This has a bit more visual interest. The first and last 15 minutes are set apart by having vertical bars rather than hash marks as in the rest of the bezel. Minutes ten to five have blue bars and minutes five to zero have red bars, giving it a regatta timer function. The remainder of the bars are in light grey. There is an arrow at zero and Arabic numerals at five minute intervals. I could not find any of these on a white dial so if you have one let me know!
“Pilot” (12/24 Hour Indicator). Commonly referred to as the “Roulette Wheel,” this distinctive bezel comes on both the white and grey dial. It comes with a 12/24 hour indicator that can be used to track a second time zone. The roulette is numbered from 1 to 12 on the left side and 13 to 24 on the right. The numbers in white are encased in a blue or black trapezoid separated by a red upside down T shape. Each pair is separated by a white trapezoid. The pattern is black on the left and blue on the right from 1 to 6 then switches to blue then black. The colorful bezel pops against either the white or grey dial. It is considered the most collectible soccer timer but care should be taken to see that the dial and roulette wheel have aged similarly. Although sometimes different locations on a dial can age somewhat differently, an unscrupulous dealer can fit a new old stock roulette wheel to a Rotating Bezel Soccer Timer to convert it. Be cautious if the roulette wheel looks brand new and the dial and hands are faded.
There is not good documentation for the original bracelet for the Omega Seamaster Soccer Timer variants. I can only describe what I can find on the subject by looking through sales posts and auctions listings and closely peering at pictures of the back of the end links and the bracelets. The Soccer Only Timer seems to be most commonly fitted with a 1116 bracelet and 548 end links. It is also sometimes found on an 1171 bracelet with flat 175 end links.
I found examples of Fixed Bezel Soccer Timers with 1170 bracelets and 625 end links, which seems to be the most common. There is a 1117 bracelet with 549 end links with a similar look. There is also a flat end link version with what appears to be an 1162 bracelet with 172 end links.
The Rotating Bezel Soccer Timers seem to have largely the same case as the Fixed Bezel in terms of end links. I found examples, including my own on 1170 bracelets with 625 end links. An 1162 bracelet with flat 172 end links and a 1117 with 549 end link versions are also found.
Soccer Timer Style: Design Elements of the Soccer Timer in Other Omega Watches
While some design elements of the Soccer Timer have been shared with other chronographs, the 45-minute designation remains specific to the original watches. The Chronostop was a 60 second monopusher chronograph that came in a few versions including the sideways dial “Driver” popularized by Hodinkee. The handset was similar to the Soccer Timers and the Chronostop also came with rotating inner bezels in the same configurations as the Rotating Bezel Soccer Timer.
The Speedmaster automatic 3210.52 Casino Dial was an example of Soccer Timer design. This featured with a 7750 based movement with the 6/9/12 subdial orientation and a date at 3. There is a fixed roulette wheel style inner bezel which has a purely decorative role as it does not rotate. The hour and minute totalizer subdials have the same black and red pattern as soccer timers but lack the extra 45-minute partial track. There is also the twisted lug case and external tachymeter bezel of the Speedmaster, making this a true mashup of design elements.
A Bullhead Seamaster Chronograph release in 2013 had a roulette wheel and a white dial with hands similar to the Soccer Timers. It features the caliber 3113 which is a coaxial escapement version of the prestigious automatic column wheel modular Piguet 1185 also used by Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin. The subseconds subdial and minute totalizer subdial are located vertically at 12 and 6 and are white instead of the typical red and white. The center-mounted seconds timer and minute totalizer hands are matched in red. The date is at 3. The roulette wheel inner bezel rotates by a crown at 6 and serves its original purpose as a second time zone indicator. This watch is part of the Seamaster line as were the original Soccer Timers and is water resistant to 150 meters. Clearly this was a more thoughtful use of the Soccer Timer design language than the Casino Dial Speedmaster.
Omega FIFA Soccer Watches
A series of watches that do not share much design language but are also Soccer Timers are the Omega FIFA watches. Unlike with the other Soccer Timers, it is well documented that FIFA officially adopted a series of four watches for their soccer referees in 1979. These watches are relatively rare having been produced for FIFA referees only. In contrast to the sparse information on Seamaster Soccer Timers in A Journey Through Time, all four FIFA watches are prominently displayed both under “Olympic chronographs and timers” (page 587) and “Other official watches” (page 251). Below are images from a sold eBay listing of a pamphlet with three watches clearly showing that they were intended for FIFA referees.
The only traditional mechanical chronograph of the group was what is sometimes called the “Speedmaster FIFA” although it did not include any Speedmaster branding. This was an Omega 1045 (Lemania 5100) chronograph. Since the chronograph minute totalizer hand is in the center, the 45-minute indicator is on the outer track. The first 45 minutes of the outer track as well as the number 45 are marked in red while the last 15 minutes of the hour are in blue. The minute totalizer hand with its characteristic wings is in red, color coding it with the other soccer timing features. The 24 hour indicator at 12 o’clock is replaced with a FIFA logo. The dial is black and the hands are white. The running seconds is at 9 with a 12 hour totalizer at 12 and a day date feature at 3. The watch comes in a tonneau case with a plain caseback. There is a second version which lacks the colorful 45-minute indicator and instead features a plain tachymeter but retains the red 45 mark on the dial.
The Omega Chrono-Quartz, sometimes nicknamed the “Scoreboard” for its shape was the third FIFA branded timer. The caliber 1611 movement has the nickname “Albatross” for the shape of its double battery clamp and the watch is sometimes also referred to by that name. This was a quartz watch with a 32 kHz frequency and was notable for being the first watch with an analog display for the time and a separate digital display for the chronograph function. In fact it has two movements driven by a single quartz resonator. At the time it was a premium offering and in fact cost more than twice as much as a Speedmaster Professional 145.022. It debuted in the 1976 Montreal Olympics and was rebranded in 1979 with an engraved FIFA logo on the bracelet below the watch. The caseback was secured with screws and on the right there is an engraved hippocampus and the word “Seamaster,” making it part of the Seamaster line despite the modest 30 meters of water resistance. On the left side of the caseback is the Montreal Olympics logo. I am not sure if this is the correct caseback for the FIFA version but there are limited examples of the FIFA Chrono-Quartz online for comparison. The hour and minute hands and date at 3 are on a dial on the right and LCD squares stacked vertically on the left side indicate the chronograph functions. Pushers on the left side are arranged with the start/stop at the top and reset at the bottom. The middle button changes the display to 1/100 of a second.
The third in the series was the “FIFA Stopwatch,” a wrist worn stopwatch without a timekeeping function. It came in a tonneau black PVD case with a bottom crown pusher at 4 with a start and stop function and a reset button at 2 that could be locked with a slide at 1. The stopwatch had a minute and hour hand with blue along 3/4 of the dial with a 45 marker. The center and last 15 minutes of the dial was in yellow with an Omega logo above and FIFA logo below the center of the dial.
A user named Dogen posted a unique Soccer Timer on Watchuseek in 2012. The picture is of a watch in a 145.0029 case with a white Soccer Timer dial. In Shane Griffin’s excellent article “Lessons in Wristory: Omega Seamaster Soccer Timer” he offers the opinion that the watch may have been a fake or a franken. Ashley Budgen in her very thorough Soccer Timer article on Omega Forums listed it as a valid reference. I will let you the reader decide whether the “Dogen Soccer II” is legitimate or not.
Another Soccer Watch is the “First World Football Day” which was made to commemorate the first World Football Day in Barcelona in 1973. An example was sold in the Antiquorum Omegamania sale and it is very rare. The only difference between this watch and a standard 145.024 is the addition of the text “1st World Football Day” above the Hippocampus and “Barcelona 31 October 1973” below it on the caseback. There is no 45-minute indicator so I do not consider it a true soccer timer. This reference with the characteristic case was nicknamed the Omega Jedi by legendary collector Chuck Maddox but is today referred to as the “Flat Jedi” or the “True Jedi.” This is due to the incorrect labeling of the reference 176.005 TV dial 1040 chronograph as the “So-called Jedi” in the influential Antiquorum Omegamania sale as covered here and by Fratello here. This label has been confusing new collectors since that time. If you look at Chuck Maddox’s “Jedi” along with what he called the “Anakin Skywalker” and the “Darth Vader” (145.023 in light and dark versions) it makes sense. If you squint hard enough at the TV dial perhaps you can see a shadow of the True Jedi there.
There is the Omega MG 6407 stopwatch. It is described in A Journey Through Time on page 580 as a “Soccer” timer. The 60-minute totalizer has an interesting swirling design with yellow on the inner subdial from zero to 35. The yellow section expands as a wedge shape between 35 and 45. The book says that it was designed for timing 45 minute periods for soccer and volleyball halves and 35 minutes for field hockey halves. It also came in a Delrin case that could be placed on a table.
Yellow Cards: Warnings and Caution
If you see a Soccer Timer with a pristine dial take a closer look. Service dials were available until recently and a number of them have made it into circulation. These are often not labelled by sellers. Fortunately they are easy to spot if you know what to look for. This was discussed by Ashley Budgen in her article on Omega Forums here.
An original dial should have “Seamaster” below the Greek letter and Omega logo at 12 o’clock and “T Swiss Made T” at the bottom of the dial. The “T” indicates tritium. If the dial lacks the word “Seamaster” or the “T” before and after “Swiss Made” then you have a service dial. These are made with luminova rather than tritium and will glow substantially longer when charged with a UV light. An original dial will also have fading of the white to an off white color or fading of grey to lighter grey or may develop a tropical brown discoloration. The edges of the paint on the subdials are not always uniform and the tritium can also age unevenly and partially flake off which is not necessarily a sign of a redial.
Center-mounted Seconds Timer Hands
The correct center-mounted seconds timer hand is an elongated triangle which is orange for white dials and white for grey dials. A lume tipped Speedmaster seconds timer hand is easier to obtain and also fits the 861 movement so there are a number of examples of this hand substituted for the correct original hand. The luminous tip is the key thing to look for. An orange hand can be faded to yellow which is correct. The white hand fades less but can develop an off white color. The paint on the chronograph seconds timer hand should bit a bit granular like the dial.
I touched on this earlier but a new old stock roulette wheel can be swapped onto a Rotating Bezel Soccer Timer to change a Diver or Regatta to the more desirable Pilot version. I personally prefer a roulette wheel that shows signs of age since this is more likely to be authentic. However, most important is that the aging on the bezel and the dial match. The shade of white or orange does not have to match the rest of the watch precisely but if the dial is tropical and the roulette wheel looks like it just came out of the factory you must consider that it has been replaced.
Fortunately Omega Soccer Timers have not yet attracted the type of intense interest from collectors that makes prices rise to the point that attracts purposeful fraud. Currently the cost of a relume, redial, lapping, or putting in Franken parts does not increase the price so much that it justifies the cost of alterations. Most Soccer Timers have thus avoided purposeful cosmetic enhancements and dealer hype and thereby remain relatively affordable and interesting watches to collect.
I have had the opportunity to examine only my own Soccer Timers which included a white dial Soccer Only which I sold, my current white dial Soccer Only, and a grey dial Rotating Bezel with a roulette wheel. If you have knowledge of Omega Soccer Timers and would like to give a correction or send a photo please contact me on Instagram @watchmedtime. If anyone has an original Omega Soccer Timer advertisement especially one proving the 1970 World Cup connection please reach out!
More reading and references
Omega A Journey Through Time by Marco Richon, translated from French by Myriam and David Lea. 2007
Omegamania by Antiquorum Auctioneers, April 14/15, 2007.