It may seem like you've seen this article before... but no! That was the large, 38 mm full-sized version and this is the smaller 24.5 mm Reference 515.027 De Ville.
Omega made a lot of special models for the Japanese market and most only came in one size, whether men's or women's, but there are a small number of exceptions. The De Ville 166.155 & 515.027 are two such watches, perfectly matching as a set with a remarkably unique design among Omegas.
The 515.027 is for all intents and purposes, a baby version of the 166.155 men's De Ville. It has the same exact case shape, the same dial designs with a small amount of variation, and even a scaled down version of the full-size bracelet.
The only thing that doesn't match the full-size version is the price. While many ladies' products charge more for less, vintage watches are an area where discerning buyers can pick up exceptional deals, and this De Ville is no exception.
Case & Bracelet
The case of the 515.027 really is a very accurately scaled-down version of the Ref 166.155 full-sized De Ville. It has this perfectly smooth rounded shape like a pebble on the front face as the bezel seemlessly blends into the sides and into a hood over the lugs. The case is a solid piece of machined stainless steel, so there is a decent amount of heft in it for a watch of this size and a lot of metal to work with if it ever requires refinishing.
The case-back is also identical to the larger version, being a screw-in type with traditional tool keying for removal. The crown is decent sized and knurled to make for easy winding. While the crown is partially hidden from the front, like the larger version it also features the same recess on the back, underneath the crown to allow for it to be easily pulled out.
The overall size is quite small at 24.5 mm diameter and about 28.5 mm from end to end. Thanks to the very thin Calibre 485 hand-wound movement the watch is only 8.5mm thick making it quite manageable on the wrist.
The hidden lugs on this watch are 13mm wide, and while there are a few floating around on straps, the vast majority are found on bracelet.
The bracelet design on this watch is a really nice touch. It is a scaled down, but otherwise almost identical version of the thin, single-link design used on the 166.155 De Ville and it looks simply superb on this watch. The bracelet carries the reference 6013 with un-stamped end-links. Some of the other ladies' size bracelets from this era can suffer from being too thin and weak but this design is very substantial and well designed. It features the style of clasp as the larger version with micro-adjust and suits the look of the watch absolutely superbly.
The movement powering the 515.027 is the Omega Calibre 485 manual wind movement. Initially it may sound like a bit of a down-grade from the calibre 1481 automatic in the larger 166.155 however it really was necessary to employ a narrow, thin, and small movement in order to preserve the design aesthetic of this watch.
The best nearest automatic Omega could have used would be a Calibre 682/682 small sized automatic, however that movement is 5.3 mm thick and 18mm in diameter. Due to the compound-curve of the front of this case there just isn't the vertical height for an automatic unless you made the case-back bulge out. This is one of those cases where form and comfort simply had to take a priority over practicality, however with a very accessible crown, winding the Ref 515.027 certainly shouldn't be hard.
The Calibre 485, while manual wind is a movement used in a great many 1970's era cocktail and ultra-thin watches, including some of the Andrew Grima designs. Parts are available and donor movements if needed are plentiful.
The Calibre 485 itself is a very compact movement, roughly oblong in shape at 12.5 mm wide and 15.5mm long while being only 3.2 mm thick. It oscillates at 21,600 vph and has a power reserve of 46 hours. The way this movement perfectly fits the shape of the case from behind is actually rather cute.
The movement should be able to be serviced by any independent watchmaker with an Omega parts account, and should any significant parts be required a donor would be worth sourcing instead.
The dial options on the 515.027 are the exact same three that can be found on the larger version and while these dials are smaller, and slightly less complex than the full-sized versions, they thankfully kept the beautiful patterns from the 166.155.
All three dials share the same printing with Omega at the top and De Ville at the bottom, with Swiss Made at the absolute bottom of the dials, painted in a contrasting color. All variants use thin, painted stick hands and have applied dial furniture for all hours.
The silver dial is simple, elegant and very attractive. It can look anything from dark grey. to anthracite, to silver, to almost white depending on the lighting conditions so it may vary greatly in sales listing photos. The dial has a vertically brushed texture with a fine grain which catches the light and reflect or absorbs it depending on the angle.
For contrast against the silver dial, the hands on the silver dial version are black, as is the text on the dial and the tops of the hour markers.
Metallic Blue Bamboo Dial
The blue bamboo dial was the pick of the full-size dials but was also somewhat difficult to find in the 166.155. Thankfully on the 515.027, these blue bamboo dials are far more plentiful and nearly half of the watches on the market have it. This dial consists of rich dark blue jagged lines, diagonally broken, against a lighter blue metallic starburst background. The way the two contrasting shades of blue catch and dance in the light is absolutely beautiful and while it's a shame this design never appeared on more watches; it sets off the avant-guard case design on this De Ville superbly.
The blue dial has white painted hands, white dial text and white tops to the dial furniture for contrast.
Metallic Black Bamboo Dial
The metallic black dial carries the exact same pattern as the blue dial except in a black and metallic anthracite grey color.
It appears to be the least common of all 515.027 dial variants and is quite hard to find an example of anywhere at this time.
Like the blue dial, it has white painted hands, white dial text and white tops to the dial furniture for contrast.
Both the 515.027 and the full-size 166.155 are natives of Japan and while some do leak out on eBay and Chrono24, the best examples still tend to be on Japanese auction sites.
The vast majority of these watches are in very good condition and that is all that you should accept when buying as it isn't worth fixing up a poor example. The cost of a bracelet is around $60 however they can be difficult to find on their own so if the bracelet interests you at all definitely try to find one that already has it fitted.
Prices range from as low as $150 when found going no reserve at auction to around $350 for a nice condition example which isn't bad at all considering the exotic design and Omega brand. It's worth noting that these prices are also around a third, to a half of the cost of a 38 mm 166.155, so if you have small wrists and enjoy the 24.5 mm form factor there is a lot of money to be saved by going for the 515.027.
The best sources in Japan are places like Yahoo auctions, and FromJapan.co.jp which also offer a freight forwarding service. As mentioned with other Japanese models, it certainly does help greatly if you have a friend in Japan or some Japanese language skills, but in a pinch Google translate can do a decent job of most watch descriptions.
These are a watch that nobody really has in the western world, something very unique and different, available at a very reasonable price point. Yet they simply don't look like a $150-350 watch on the wrist. They're authentic Omega's made to a high standard of finishing and design in a world of throw-away items, and at the price of an entry-level Apple Watch, it's hard to go wrong.