Meet Samir Shah, The Vintage Omega Collector
The Vintage OMEGA Collector

Samir Shah, a successful Mumbai dentist, is the owner of what could be one of India’s largest vintage watch collections dominated by Omegas

Samir Shah has been complimented only once for his choice of watch by a client in his over 30 years as a leading city dentist. “Most people don’t notice watches, especially vintage watches,” he says. Not that it has ever mattered to him. He collects vintage watches, especially Omegas, because it is a very personal pleasure; just like horse riding, another of his passions. Every fortnight, he decides on the next bunch of watches that will adorn his 6.5-inch wrist. How many Omegas does he have? He wants the keep the exact number a secret but reveals that he could keep wearing a different watch every day for a couple of months.




Shah, believed to be among India’s biggest, and most well regarded, collectors of vintage Omegas, is a trim man with silver hair that he wears in a ponytail. When I meet him, he is wearing a fitted T-shirt and jeans; his watch distinguishes him further. It is an Omega Constellation on an integrated bracelet.


Shah inherited his passion from his grandfather, who gifted him his first watch, a Seiko 5, in the early 1980s, a decade when Casios were on fire. “It was uncommon then, especially among children. I was intrigued by the mechanics of it,” says Shah, who picked up HMTs and Ricohs in the early 1990s while still a student of dental medicine. Later, as a young dentist, he would spend his Sundays at Chor Bazaar, entranced by the horological riches it contained.


Chor Bazaar was different those days, says Shah, 53, and so was watch collecting. “You had some excellent watches on sale, but both information and money were scarce. I would spend hours there studying movements, typography, dials before committing to a purchase,” says Shah. “Today, all I have to do is google for information.” He bought a “ton of Swiss watches, all kinds of vintages” before a watch seller at Chor Bazaar asked the “doctor sahab” to spend a bit more and consider an Omega, which was less common and more sought after.


With the purchase of his first vintage Omega, a time-only Jumbo Seamaster and his subsequent immersion into the history and heritage of the brand, Shah had found his niche.


Shah is not exclusively wedded to Omega, or to vintage models from the Bienne, Switzerland, based manufacture. He also has uncommon mid-century dress watches from several Swiss brands, including some envy inducing Movados; more recent launches from Rolex and Girard Perregaux, as well as some of Omega’s modern-day timepieces. He has the greatest regard for the likes of a Rolex, or Lange, or Longines, but vintage Omegas have always hit different, says Shah.


“Two things drive me as a collector of vintage watches, especially Omegas. One is, there are only so many of them around – it is a finite supply. They stand for an age of breathtaking innovation, precision, and avant-garde designs in horology – and to me, Omega, as a brand, is representative of that age. It has never been a one-trick pony,” says Shah who rattles off a list of the brand’s horological feats with zealous eloquence. The first minute-repeating wristwatch in 1892. Its longstanding association with the Olympics as the official timekeeper. The Seamaster, the Constellation, the Moon watch. And, more recently (relatively), the revolutionary Co-Axial escapement. Developed by the master horologist George Daniels in 1980 and introduced by Omega in 1999, the Co-Axial escapement produces less friction and requires less lubrication, making it far more reliable than traditional watch movements.


“There’s this one story that bears repeating,” says Shah. “Back in the late 1940s, Omega submitted 1,000 serially numbered production line chronometers for a prestigious test and each of them made the cut. That meant every Omega wrist chronometer being produced at the time was precise to another level. It is a distinction no other watchmaker has been able to achieve.”



Shah’s collection has several delights, but some watches in particular stand out. These include an exquisite Cosmic Triple Calendar Moonphase, produced in the post-war years; an early 1950s Red Star model, powered by the same 30-T2 movement that was adjudged the most precise movement ever recorded at the Kew Teddington Observatory in UK; a clutch of Omega Constellations and Seamasters, and even the elusive later day Dynamics that embody ’70s flair.


Shah’s most recent purchase was a Flightmaster, but he says that the trails have generally gone cold over the last decade, at least in India. According to him, the drying up of the once rich vein of vintage Omegas in the country has a lot to do with vintage watch dealers who would, in the early 2000s, gather them from across India and sell them in places such as Hong Kong where they fetched much more money.


Today, even a man as steeped in the brand as Shah has to watch for ‘Franken’ Omegas. “With Omega, I just know if something is off with the lacquer, typography, text, minute track and so on, but it is getting increasingly difficult to spot fakes,” says Shah. If you are dipping your toes into vintage Omegas, he has, besides the usual caveats and tips, some succinct advice: if it looks too good to be true, don’t buy it. Two, buy the seller, not the watch. Shah deals only with a few trusted dealers, mostly in Mumbai, who have been his eyes and ears for over two decades and bother him only if they have something worth his while. “In fact, if there is a vintage Omega worth buying in India right now,” he says, with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, “it will come to me first.”

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