A modern tribute to one of Omega's most memorable and polarising watches of the late 60's, the modern Seamaster Bullhead combines high quality finishing, superb movements and unique design in one of the rarest of all modern Omega watches.
Strange Because It's Cool, As Good A Reason As Any
The modern Seamaster Bullhead Limited Edition series are a tribute to the original design, released in 1969 and famous for its quirky and unusual layout. While some strange looking Omegas such as the Ploprof are strange for technical or ergonomic reasons, the Bullhead is not really an improvement in ergonomics, design or practicality. It's just unique and weird for the sake of it, and that's one of my favorite things about Omega.
The original Bullhead was released in 1969 as a novelty, and novel it certainly was, but popular it was not. Most buyers would much rather invest in the far more sensible and purpose built Speedmaster Professional, featuring a near identical movement in nicer package. 30 years later, watch collectors came along, and being the strange people they are, decided that this quirky Seamaster Bullhead was really cool and worth owning. This lead to the once unloved oddball earning a cult following among watch nerds, and a price tag to match it.
This revival of popularity did not go unnoticed to Omega, who released the modern version in 2013 with three unique models produced in 669 units each, followed by a fourth at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 with another 316 units.
That makes for a total of 2,323 watches in total spread across all four variants, a quite low number by Omega limited edition standards, but it must be remembered, this is a weird watch, for weird people. There are only so many people in the world that want a watch with oddly placed pushers on top, a pair of crowns on opposite sides and a desire to answer the question "what on earth is that?" for anyone who asks. Thankfully I'm one of them and will happily continue explaining why the Bullhead is such a great modern piece.
Case & Strap
The Seamaster Bullhead case is a unique design which is heavily inspired by the original Ref 146.011 of 1969, yet improves upon the vintage version in may ways to offer better practicality over the original.
The first focus was on water resistance with the new version featuring a decent 150 meters, up from the 60 meters of the original. While the original did have a screw-in case-back, it used a hesalite acrylic crystal while the modern watch features sapphire. Attention was also paid to the pushers which are now larger and more finger-friendly square shapes rather than the narrow pushers of the 146.011.
The second focus was ergonomics, and this is apparent in the changes to the design of the crowns over the original. Accessibility to the simple knurled crowns was always a pain-point of the 1969 version, especially when equipped with a bracelet, so to combat this, Omega designed two larger carefully knurled crowns which differ top and bottom.
The top crown, which is used for both winding and setting, which is why it has a collar to the knurling, allowing the wearer to gain purchase on it when pulling the crown out. The shape and angle of the pushers also aids in your ability to get two fingers on this top crown without too much trouble.
The bottom crown is used to move the internal rotating bezel under the crystal and is an all-knurled, tapered design accessible from both above and below the strap to allow for fine control. This crown turns very smoothly and with less play than the original. It's worth mentioning that all four variants of the modern Seamaster Bullhead have their own unique inner bezel, with three distinct functions on offer.
The case itself is very similar to the original with a vaguely shield-shaped tonneau design featuring radial brushing outwards from the crystal and a polished bevel around the edge. The case is slab-sided with a brushed finish which makes it look far thicker than it really is, at only 14.9 mm from front to back. The lack of an external bezel is the reason this watch remains quite compact compared to watches like the Seamaster Planet Ocean.
The rear of the watch features a brushed surface again surrounding a Seamaster hippocampus case-back in solid steel, or a special Rio 2016 commemorative case-back on that particular limited edition.
The four Seamaster Bullhead models all have a unique leather strap paired with them, and while they are all compatible with each other, there is no bracelet option available for the modern Bullhead. Straps are actually quite normal and easy to change, with regular 22 mm wide spring-bars between the lugs which are hooded from the front. The straps taper down to an Omega steel deployant clasp.
The movement powering the modern Seamaster Bullhead is the Calibre 3113 automatic Co-Axial Chronograph movement.
This choice of movement represents a very significant departure from the 1969 version, which utilised the manual-wind Calibre 930 movement, a two sub-dial with date variant of the venerable Calibre 861 which powered the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch for decades.
As good as the Calibre 930, and Calibre 861 it is based on were, the practicality of having to manually wind a watch with a relatively inconvenient crown location no doubt had an impact on sales of the original Bullhead. As a result, going with a modern, high performance automatic chronometer movement was the right move for the potential buyers of the modern iteration.
The Calibre 3113 movement is fundamentally very similar to the Calibre 3313 Co-Axial movement used in a wide range of other models and is based on the F. Piguet 1285 design.
The Cal 3113 oscillates at 28,800 vph, is chronometer rated, and features a column-wheel operated chronograph mechanism, a vertical clutch assembly, hacking, and no date. It features a bi-directional automatic winding system with a 52-hour power reserve.
As these watches were not released until 2013, the Calibre 3113 movements they are powered by are the Cal 3113C variant, and do not suffer from the issues found in earlier Calibre 3303/3313 series movements. All Seamaster Bullheads feature the three-level Co-Axial escapement rather than the earlier two-level version, and benefit from the upgrades made from this family through the late 2000's.
As a result of this, you do not need to worry about the movements in these watches as they are trouble free final revisions of the design, much like the Calibre 2500D three-hand movements of this same era. These watches can be serviced by any good Omega certified independent watchmaker.
Dial & Bezel Variants
There are three unique dials and four unique bezels across the various models, but all share many key characteristics.
The dials feature a painted Omega logo at the top, typically covered by the hand on the chronograph sub-dial located at the 12 o'clock position. The text Seamaster appears next to the 9 o'clock marker and Co-Axial Chronometer appears adjacent to the date window.
All dials feature the same applied hour markers with luminous inserts in the center, and feature the same stick hands, black in the center and silver on the outer portion with lume. Both the chronograph seconds hand and the chronograph sub-dial at the top are red for legibility.
There is a sub-seconds track on the outer edge of the dial, just inside of the inner bezel on all models.
The launch model which appeared in most publicity for the Seamaster Bullhead was the white dial with 24-hour roulette bezel. This simple dial looks great and works well with the popular and colorful bezel which can be used to track a second time-zone. The white dial, Ref 184.108.40.206.04.001, came with a brown leather calfskin strap and was produced in 669 units.
The second variant is the black dial with 12-hour bezel, which has a very unique pattern to it, almost appearing like the perforated leather one would find in a sports car. Omega uses a reversed "Clous de Paris" pattern for this and refers to it as the "sport-chic" dial, though I've never seen anyone actually call it that.
The bezel on this model is a matching black with numbers for each hour and a luminous triangle at 12 o'clock, allowing for timing of events far longer in duration than the 30-minute sub-dial would otherwise permit. The flexibility this brings to the watch makes this arguably the most useful of all bezel options.
The black dial, Ref 220.127.116.11.01.001, came with a black calfskin strap with red stitching and was produced in 669 units.
The silver dial, with the 60-minute timing bezel is the third and final of the original variants, and is the most unusual dial of the entire family. The look is very similar to the perlage on the inside of a vintage Omega case-back and Omega refers to this as the "rallye" dial, although once again, I've never heard it called that.
The 60-minute elapsed timing bezel is effectively the same as a regular diving bezel and allows the timing of a second event of up to 60 minutes in addition to that being recorded with the chronograph, making it a relatively useful feature.
The silver dial, Ref 18.104.22.168.02.001, came with a black perforated calfskin strap with red stitching and was produced in 669 units.
2016 Rio Olympic Games Limited Edition
The Rio Olympic Games Limited Edition came out the year before the games in 2015 and boasts a very different look and smaller production run, although some parts are re-used from the prior three models.
The dial on the Rio Olympic Games edition is a re-use of the original white dial, while the bezel is a re-colored version of the 60-minute elapsed timing bezel found on the silver dial, with the perforated calfskin strap of the silver dial also being re-used in a matching olympic recolor.
Both the bezel and strap use blue as the underlying color, with alternating black, yellow, green and red for the indices on the bezel and stitching on the strap, making up the 5 colors of the olympic rings.
The case-back is unique to this model, featuring the Olympic rings and the Rio 2016 Games logo.
The Rio Olympic Games Edition was produced in only 316 units, half as many as the other three variants, making this the least common by far.
Choosing which of the four variants you are after is a personal decision with the only practical difference being the function of the bezel. While the production numbers of these watches are very low, there are a lot of them on the market at all times so it should always be possible to find the watch you want, the hard part is getting it at the right price.
One interesting thing about these modern Seamaster Bullhead models is that there are hardly any of them even among Omegaforums members, only 3-4 in total. The vast majority of these watches tend to be in brand new, unworn condition as they were bought as collector's items and to some people, investments.
Prices over time have slowly been increasing, initially it took some time for them to all sell out in dealers and boutiques but now that the market has absorbed them, there is some definite demand and prices have begun to exceed the MSRP in the last year.
These are modern, durable Omega watches that are rarely ever exposed to any abuse due to their price and collector oriented nature, so the case condition is really the greatest priority if the watch has been worn. All of these watches are now either due or overdue for servicing, but this can be handled cost effectively through an Omega certified watchmaker.
The best deals on these tend to be found at auction or from motivated sellers on forums. The asking prices tend to be high but occasionally when someone really needs to unload one in a hurry, prices below $7,500 USD are possible but this does require some patience, with 2,323 total units not resulting in them coming up that often.
The devil's advocate option considering the price point these modern watches sit at is the original vintage 146.011 Seamaster Bullhead, which is now about the same price as the new version. While I'm a huge fan of vintage, the 146.011s are somewhat plagued by frankenstein watches, incorrect or replacement parts, and frankly were not that great a watch to begin with. If I were to own one as a collector, I'd maybe try to find a nice vintage example, but as a piece to wear, hands-down the new version would win for me.
It's an odd watch, an expensive watch, a watch that has no real justifiable reason to be as weird as it is unlike the Ploprof, but it's also the best a Bullhead can be, and a beautifully executed tribute to the original. Featuring one of the best automatic co-axial chronograph movements, a comfortable and eye-catching design and a great deal of character, the modern Seamaster Bullhead is a watch I would genuinely love to own, though maybe not at the absolute top of the list.
Discussion thread on Omegaforums can be found here: