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Omega - James Lim and his Omega Speedmasters

Omega James Lim and his Omega Speedmasters

Omega was one of the first brands he noticed, and the Dark Side of the Moon was his first ‘proper’ watch.

Melbourne, Australia is a city fuelled by coffee more than most. In the city’s laneways, it seems that every second door is an artisanal coffee shop. It was in one such cafe that we arranged to meet local collector James Lim. Like many Australian collectors, James’ taste in watches tends towards the steel and the sporty. So it should come as no surprise that the Omega Speedmaster is a key focus in his acquisitions. 

What was your first exposure to Omega? 
Well, my parents owned a jewellery store in the late 80s, through to the mid-90s. It was quite close to here actually, in Port Phillip Arcade near Flinders Lane. This was back when everyone still wore a watch, and they sold a lot of more entry-level brands. That’s how I first started being fascinated by watches.  I always used to ask my mum which ones she liked and what her favourite brands were, and she always said that she loved Omega. I asked her why, and she said it was because of the quality, and the fact that they were really thin — this was the 80s after all. So from that point onwards, I started paying attention to the brand; I’d notice advertisements in magazines and stuff like that. 

And when did that awareness of the brand become more conscious? 
Throughout high school I always wore digital watches — they were tough, reliable and — well — cheap. But when I got to university I started seeing watches around a bit more, I had a bit more disposable income and I started travelling. It was in airports where I really started to notice nice watches — killing time between flights and expensive watches is a good combination I guess. I remember it was in 2004, I was in Japan on a layover to Los Angeles, and I was there for a few days, just wandering around. That was the first time I popped into an Omega boutique, and when I started to realise that they were doing something really interesting. 

James Lim et ses Omega Speedmasters

Speedmaster Alaska

Can you remember the watch that drew you in back then? 
No, I can’t! I’ve wracked my brain trying, but I’m not sure what it was. It definitely wasn’t a Speedmaster though. 

If not then, when did you notice the Speedy? 
Well, it was later still. About six or seven years ago my brother and I started buying watches, and it escalated quickly. The first Omega I bought was the Dark Side of the Moon. 

What was it about that one that drew you in? 
It was purely the aesthetics. All black with a hint of red. I was in love with everything about it. The ads, the production. It was all so slick. For two years that watch was my daily wearer, I had to replace the strap because I wore it so much. I still wear it, but not as much as I used to. After they released the Grey Side, the White Side and the other black ones I cooled off on it a bit. 

But that wasn’t your last Speedmaster — what came next?
That would have been the Cernan [The Speedmaster Apollo 17 45th Anniversary Limited Edition], in steel. I bought it, thinking that I’d wear it every day, but when I finally got it, it was too beautiful to wear.  It’s just a lovely combination — there’s something about ceramic where it meets precious metal. That glossy, seamless finish is intriguing. I remember looking at the dial, with that image of Apollo, trying to work out how they did it. I just love it. 

So what Speedy are you wearing most these days?
The CK 2998 gets the most wear. I’ve had it on NATOs, but I recently chucked it on the bracelet. I wear it the most because it looks so good on my wrist. I was initially concerned that it would wear a bit small. The thing is — and I find this with a lot of brands, not just Omega, that for what I reckon the average Australian wrist is, the standard straps don’t fit too well, they’re a bit small. For me, they’re always on the last or second last hole. I bought the CK 2998 at a boutique and was concerned about this. They said it wasn’t a problem, and ordered in a longer one — and ended up giving me a leather NATO while I was waiting for it to come in. I actually prefer the NATO now. I think the Omega NATOs are the best I’ve worn. 

James Lim et ses Omega Speedmasters

Speedmaster CK 2998

Have you ever gone for a vintage Speedmaster? 
For me, and this might sound untrained, I struggle to tell the difference. I mean, sure — there might be tritium, or a more chocolate dial or the dot on the bezel is in a different spot, but — surprisingly given some of my other watches — vintage Speedies just aren’t for me. I prefer the diversity of modern Speedmasters to the similarities of the old. 

What else is in the collection? 
I’ve got two ‘Tintin’ — one of them is NOS [New Old Stock, in collector parlance] and an Alaska project reissue that I love. I’ve got a Tokyo 2020 coming, and I’ve got the Speedy Tuesday II. 

Tell me about that one — I believe the timing of the Speedy Tuesday releases worked quite well for Australia?
Yeah, it went live at 8 PM in Australia, right after dinner. On the day of its release, I was talking with my friends and we all agreed to go online when it dropped and try to get one. I ended up falling asleep and woke up to one of my mates calling me asking if I’d got one. I had that feeling of instant regret, but luckily my other mate had reserved one on my behalf, which was really nice of him. He’s a good mate to have. I don’t wear it too much though – I like to keep it safe.

So, there’s a lot of diversity in Speedmasters and in your collection — what do you like most in a Speedmaster? 
For me, any Speedmaster that doesn’t come with a bracelet should be banned. It’s like selling a watch without a crystal or something. Even if you don’t wear it, or if you put it on something else, it should come with one. The Speedy Tuesdays are great, but they should have come with a bracelet. I guarantee everyone would wear it with a bracelet if it came with one. 
I love the size of the Speedmaster. It’s perfect. Even the Dark Side, at 44mm, is OK with me. 

Anything else? 
Look, it will never happen, but I wouldn’t hate seeing a Speedmaster with a date. 

What sort of watch nerd are you ?
Yeah, I know. What can I say – I check the date a lot. 

James Lim et ses Omega Speedmasters

Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon

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A company of the Swatch Group, OMEGA has been behind major revolutions in watchmaking technology and the timekeeping of numerous Olympic Games. Its watches are worn by world-famous celebrities and have travelled to the moon, the depths of the ocean and everywhere in between.

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