Saturday, July 29, 2006

A note from Time Flies on his Omega c.3303 failing...

I received this email from Greg Bxxxxxxxx (Time Flies) tonight...:
[note: because this is such a long email I have bolded the key parts]

From: Greg Bxxxxxxxx (Time Flies) [I've omitted Greg's email, contact me if you wish to get in touch with him

Subject: A note from Time Flies on his Omega c.3303
Date: July 29, 2006 4:48:17 PM CDT


Long time, no talk.

Well, here is another experience for your Blog or whatever. You are free to quote me anywhere -- on forums or wherever you find it useful. I don't participate in watch forums very much since I retired almost two years ago. I spend my time flying, fly fishing and working with the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I have also been doing quite a bit of bush flying.

I took a chance -- against your advice -- but the dollars didn't mean that much to me. I don't mean it the way it sounds. Every penny is worth a penny. But, in the great scheme of things, purchasing an Omega Olympic edition Seamaster Chronograph with the c.3303 was sort of a 'cheap chance' when I look at what I spend owning and maintaining two aircraft!

I bought the watch in February of 2005. I wore it flying quite a bit and as an 'every day' watch on and off since I purchased it. I used the chronograph feature a lot, as does any pilot, even when not using it for flying. I time a lot of things. I have not had a single problem with the chronograph. Despite using it quite a bit, it has always reset properly and I noticed no other aberrations in its function. Three days ago, I noticed the watch seemed to lack power reserve and also felt the watch head wobbling on my wrist -- a more noticeable wobble than the old Valjoux 7750 characteristic wobble. So, I took the watch off my wrist and shook it a bit and you could feel and hear the rotor 'free spinning' with no ratcheting (winding) sound during or at the end of the rotor rotation. The number of rotor rotations was amazing ( maybe 20 or 30 or even more) with just a little shake of the watch head. Then I tested the power reserve and there is none with the watch starting from a dead stop (power reserve at zero after running down after winding). The rotor is not winding the watch and something has disengaged in that gear train. At least, it has a two year warranty. But, even if it is fixed, I will likely just put the watch in a drawer. I don't have time to fight Omega, which is a shame. But, I have other more interesting things to do and enough watches to wear.

As a side note --- I own a bunch of watches as you know, or assume. And, I have owned a substantial number over the years. The three most reliable mechanical watches I have owned, in terms of accuracy and being totally free of problems despite heavy use and being knocked around are my Speedmaster Professional, a Breitling Navitimer I bought about five years ago after Breitling made some pretty dramatic changes in manufacture (buying Kelek) and quality control, and the ultimate tough watch, for me at least, a Tutima NATO with the wonderful Lemania 5100 (one heck of great watch for what I use watches quite a bit -- bush whacking, flying and fly fishing).

So, I wish I had listened to you. But, I was willing and could afford to take a chance. I lost the game. But, I think Omega is genuinely 'lost'. It is a damn shame since I have owned Omegas since I966. I would not buy another currently marketed Omega. So, Omega lost me. It is a story of losing.

Hope all is well, and again, you may post for me or quote anything I have said, not that my take on the situation or my experience matters to you or anyone else. If you do quote me, I would appreciate a quick note telling me where you have quoted me just for grins. I might check it out, and who knows, I might register again for a watch forum.

Thanks for your help and conversation over the years. I send my best regards,

Greg Bxxxxxxxx [I've omitted Greg's email, contact me if you wish to get in touch with him]

(aka "Time Flies", "K2UM", "Pilot-4ES", "Old Phantom II Driver" and whatever other monikers I have used


BTW, that list of three watches that have proven to be tough customers for me is relative to owning (I honestly lost count) maybe a hundred watches and that includes, AP, JLC, IWC, Omega, Breitling, VC, Rolex (had trouble with every one of these I've owned -- but that is only four), Blancpain, Panerai, Ventura, Glycine, Tutima, Sinn, and the list goes on and on. Heck, I can't even recall all of the manufacturers right now! You can just about name any "fairly big name" in watch marques and I've owned at least a couple their models along the way. By the way, I had no problems with my Panerai watches. I have not owned a Patek (no interest) or some of the unique, what I will call 'designer' marques.. The vast, vast majority were new purchases -- probably 90 of the 100 or so I had. I had trouble with every one of my JLCs despite them being part of their "Masters Series"; every Blancpain was a bust, the IWCs all ran very slow or were temperamental as hell if they used JLC ebauches; and every Rolex I've had developed winding or rotor problems and their service sucked to be honest.

I just wanted to put my comments in some perspective. Personally, I think the whole Swiss watch industry has a pervasive problems with quality control and their watches are vastly overpriced. In fact, I own four great quartz watches and I always, always have a quartz watch with me when I really need to depend on timing, even if I am wearing a mechanical, you can bet a quartz is in my flight bag -- either a Microtech H3, a Breitling Emergency or a Breitling B-1 or my 16 year old Breitling quartz Navitmer (later rebadged as the Aerospace).


Some brief observations [factual statements, not opinions]...

  • Anyone who has been on TZ from a few years back will remember Time Flies. He was one of the heavy posters when I first started visiting Time Zone. Saying Greg knows a bit about watches is a bit like saying Story Musgrave knows a bit about working in space.
  • I am not entirely sure the Omega Olympic edition Seamaster Chronograph were equipped with a c.3303, I was under the impression that these watches were fit with the newer c.3301 movements, but there were so many Olympic commemoratives released that it's quite possible that Greg has it right.
  • This will be the third problem reported with c.33xx's since 21 June (5 1/2 weeks - 38 days): a Connie Double Eagle c.3313, a BA c.3303 and this Olympic Commemorative, at least that I am aware of...
  • It would seem that I'm not the only person who feels that the Swiss Watch industry has a significant problem in the area of Quality Control.

And some personal opinions:

  • With 3 failures in the past 5 1/2 weeks, with a variety of models (Speedmaster Broad Arrow, Double Eagle Constellation, Seamaster Olympic Commemorative), new models (Connie)m repeat repair (BA) and 18 month old purchase, I would think that even the most strident c.33xx fans would take pause at these continuing reports of problems with this movement.
  • These reports do not seem to be going away.
  • I'm starting to think my earlier description of "problems happening in spurts and gaps" is more accurate than my more recent "it seems the failure reports are fewer and farther apart" assessment.
  • [this might be as much a fact as my opinion:] These failures ARE COSTING OMEGA CUSTOMERS!
  • Omega's reputation as a producer of quality product, built up over a century and a half of hard word, is being greviously and possibly irreparably harmed by the shortsighted ignoring/downplaying of documented, continuing and numerious problems these Fredric Piguet based movements are suffering.
  • Sacrificing one's reputation for short term sales is a poor business practice.

I don't know what else to say that I haven't said before, likely dozens of times. Far lesser companies than Omega would have done what was right about these problems long ago. The steps which Omega has taken thus far have not been effective in eliminating the issues existant with these movements. Expecting different or improved results by staying pat isn't a logical or reasonable expectation.

-- Chuck

P.S. If you'd like to get in touch with Greg (Time Flies) email me and I'll work to make it happen.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

“Things found while looking for other things”:

From my “Things I found while looking for other things” file:

The Tissot "Nascar" Chronograph:

Does anyone else find it interesting that Swatch Group the firm, wants everyone to call the Valjoux 7750 the ETA7750 and yet Tissot (a wholly owned subsidiary of Swatch Group) puts "Valjoux" on a caseback (underneath the NASCAR Logo) of a brand new watch it's offering???

I mean I'm a regular watcher of the Cup races, Root for the olé Blue Oval's to win and everything...

But I can imagine the reaction of the typical common NASCAR fan: ‘What in the he11 is a Valjoux??!?!??!?’...

-- Chuck

Monday, July 10, 2006

Another repeat BA failure, from the UK this time...

Over at Watch-U-Seek's Omega forum, new member Nish reports multiple failures of his Broad Arrow Speedmaster...:

Nish Member Join Date: Jul 2006 Posts: Broad Arrow Movement

I bought a Broad Arrow a couple of years ago and wear it almost every day. Within the first 6 weeks the second hand for the chronometer became unaligned. I was told this was not uncommon with watches made pre 2002 and the watch was sent to Omega who rectified this within 3-4 weeks.

I would have thought that would have been the last time I would have experienced this issue, but the second hand has once again become unaligned at some point over the last couple of weeks. Is this normal? Is there a reason for this problem? And what can I do to prevent this happening again?

Any help would be much appreciated.

P.S. I'm in the UK so not sure if that has any bearing!

Here are my thoughts [within context with Nish's comments in the bolder text] ...

Nish Member Join Date: Jul 2006 Posts: Broad Arrow Movement

I bought a Broad Arrow a couple of years ago and wear it almost every day. Within the first 6 weeks the second hand for the chronometer became unaligned.

I'm sorry to hear of your BA's problem, unfortunately I'm not surprised...

This is #3 of the four common problems admitted to by Omega as documented by Shaun Thorton back in March of 2004:

“3. The chronograph hand does not return properly to zero.

If the return to zero pusher is pressed strongly while the chronograph is running, the hammer operating lever may bend slightly. As a result, the return to zero function no longer works properly.


On movements with the above-mentioned problem, the column wheel operating lever must be replaced with the new modified version. The new column wheel operating lever is available from Omega”

I replied to Shaun in this reply:

“I find it hard to believe that someone in testing this movement (or an example of this movement) prior to announcement of models using these movements didn't "Torture Test" them... I run across people who seem to believe that all chronographs are flybacks and press the reset button when they shouldn't. It seems to me that someone, be it Omega or Piguet dropped the chalupa when they apparently didn't put the movement through the ringer before shipping product.

In addition to being a Operator issue and a pre-annoucement product testing issue, this is either a design, engineering or materials issue which probably should have been caught prior to announcement. The lever in question is not strong or resilent enough for real-world use or abuse.”

I was told this was not uncommon with watches made pre 2002

The BA only reached dealer's shelves towards the end of 2001, however, this problem has been reported with newer models, as I will post links to below...

and the watch was sent to Omega who rectified this within 3-4 weeks.

You're luckier than some. Most people have a longer wait and more than once people have had to sent a supposedly repaired watch back for additional work because the repair wasn't effective..

I would have thought that would have been the last time I would have experienced this issue,

This would not appear to be a reasonable expectation for this movement... As I documented in this post in my blog:

SUNDAY, JUNE 19, 2005 nickmtl Asks: 3303 or 3301 are they okay when fixed ???

My Comment:

That's from a quick 20 minutes or so of looking, the rest of the time has been formatting this response. I have not posted every note I ran across from the posters above, and there are likely more people who have had problems with repairs of c.33xx's. I'm not going to gather and post all of them because I feel the above is enough to illustrate that people have had issues with their c.33xx repairs. Hopefully it isn't necessary to detail them all...”

but the second hand has once again become unaligned at some point over the last couple of weeks.

I would be lying if I said I was surprised.

Is this normal?

Normal? I don't know, but repeat problems seem to happen a lot with this movement family.

Is there a reason for this problem?

Well, if Omega is true to form, they will claim that the watch was subjected to "shock damage" or "owner misuse" or anything other than a known issue with the watch itself. Reset alignment is on of the five [the four Shaun T mentions and rotor separation] separate discrete issue that frequently occur with the F. Piguet based c.33xx movement family.

It is a known issue that Omega has supposedly identified and supposedly corrected with retrofit parts. I suppose it is possible that your initial problem didn't get the "Retrofit/Rev.B" parts from Omega, but if you were told at the time of your repair that “this was not uncommon with watches made pre 2002” I would think they'd know enough to replace the parts with the newer versions.

And what can I do to prevent this happening again?

Short of having the watch fixed and leaving it unused on the shelf or selling it, I am not sure.

Any help would be much appreciated.

I feel that Eric has given you good advise thus far in the thread on Watch-U-Seek you started.

I would recommend that you send a pointy but polite letter/message to Omega frankly expressing your disappointment in the reliability and durability of their product. I would also recommend including quotes from Omega Marketing materials from around the time of your purchase of the watch as well as current brochures. You know the type, with copy extolling the virtues and strengths of their products and relate to them that you are expecting Omega and it's products to live up to their marketing copy.

P.S. I'm in the UK so not sure if that has any bearing!

It is interesting to hear that you've had problems in the UK. One of the claims of the "propaganda/apologist squad of the c.33xx" [as I affectionately call them] is that the c.33xx problems are largely limited to the US market or Northern North American markets. However, I can name a number of problem reports occuring outside that region:
  • Another Cal 33xx woes....   -  Initial J  -  Mar 12, 2006 - 06:27 PM c.3301 Schumacher Legend 5800/6000 with reset misalignment error (just like yours) reported in a shop at the Hong Kong International Airport. [I had reported in a reply within that thread that Initial J's report was the third incident reported to that point in the 2006 calendar year]
  • another one   -  andrew milligan  -  Mar 13, 2006 - 12:23 PM Bought a used Americas Cup Chrono in January, but from a UK high street AD, who offered 12 months warranty. Reset failed a week later ... [Of course the used watch could have been bought in the US/NA and brought into the UK]
  • Anonymous Australian poster “P.Lilovac” reported that his BA [purchased two weeks prior to this post P.Lilovac Thoughts on my BA Mar 10, 2004 - 07:30 AM] on developed the reset problem in this post [P.Lilovac Posts: The truth hurts: Faulty BA [May 26, 2004 - 10:24 AM]. Although P.Lilovac did not register with TZ nor did not disclose his location, it was determined that he was posting via an Aussie ISP/assigned IP address]
  • Another anonymous Australian poster “sebastian.melmoth” aka “Thomas” also reported a failure of his Broad Arrow Speedmaster in this post: sebastian.melmoth Posts: Again verbose; mine was a minor reset problem, but ...... [Mar 16, 2006 - 07:35 AM] I still love my column wheel speedmaster Sebastian (or Thomas or whatever his or her real name is) also posted pictures at one point of (supposedly) his Omega Rattrapante DeVille with an Aussie address on it, he also posted via an Aussie ISP and IP address (but a different ISP/IP than P.Lilovac).

    It has been theorized that P.Lilovac and Sebastian/Thomas is one and the same person. We'll never really know because all three of those names have been banished from TZ and Chronocentric for failure to obey the rules of participation.

    In either case, there are three (and possibly four) documented instances of problems outside of the US/Canada linked to above. Your issues would add two more outside of US/North America. And I know I've seen at least one or two reports in other parts of Europe.

    So this is not a problem limited to the US or Northern North America as some people theorize.

    Again, I would document everything you can, and send a direct and frank letter with as much information as you can gather to Omega immediately. I doubt that Omega will give you a refund nor will they offer to exchange your product for a new one. But you also might be able to exact some sort of action if the UK has any sort of "Lemon law". If there is similar laws on the books in the UK you may be able to use them to seek a satisfactory outcome.

    You may find the following post within my blog of a selected list of c.33xx links I've saved over the years to be useful/helpful in your quest for information on this topic. You might find it useful to read every post within each thread for information. Also as that listing is somewhat dated, you might wish to do a search on c.33x3 and c.33xx on both my blog and the various Omega Discussion forums on the web for additional threads. You also are welcome to email me if you'd like...

    I suppose things could be worse for Omega... They could have the problems that Dell is facing with their laptops:

A Dell notebook computer that burst into flames last month in Osaka, Japan, has damaged more than just the conference table where it sat smoldering. The incident, publicized in photos on the Internet, has also hurt Dell's recent attempts to improve its image. [New York Times 10 July 2006]

At least there have been no reports of c.33xx's exploding into flames, yet.

I wish you the best of luck and please keep us informed...

-- Chuck