Ollech & Wajs OW C-1000 S, a Robust Dive Watch Inspired by the Past
A modernised version of an underrated 1964 icon, the Ollech & Wajs Caribbean 1000.
Some names might not ring a bell with a broader audience. But for tool watch enthusiasts, the name Ollech & Wajs should be familiar evoking memories of the 1960s and 1970s when the company was manufacturing respected timing instruments for professionals. Dormant for several years, it took more than 10 years to convince Albert Wajs to pass on his brand and it has been revived recently. Today we take a closer look at the brand’s latest creation, a solid dive watch with retro-style, the Ollech & Wajs OW C-1000 S.
In 1956, Albert Wajs and his friend Joseph Ollech formed a partnership and opened a watch shop in Zurich. At first, they distributed timepieces from Breitling and Omega but eventually decided to establish their own brand: OWZ, for Ollech & Wajs Zürich. Albert Wajs quickly realized that OWZ should specialize in the assembly of reliable and accurate mechanical watches. He favoured movements with solid reputations. In 1959, the first watches were launched, with a focus on pilot, dive and tool watches in general.
The brand gained fame and respect among soldiers, divers and pilots around the world, producing over 10,000 watches a year by the end of the 1960s. In 1978, as Breitling shut down its operations, Ollech & Wajs (along with Sinn) bought stocks and equipment from the famous watch brand. Albert Wajs then resumed production of the Navitimer, under the brand name Aviation, for over two decades.
The OW C-1000 is a modern take on the iconic Ollech & Wajs Caribbean 1000, fruit of the collaboration between Ollech & Wajs Zurich and the Jenny Watch Company in 1964. Equipped with a reliable ETA 2452 movement, and the 1,000m (3,300 feet) water-resistant 702 case, the Ollech & Wajs Caribbean 1000 was adopted, among others, by the diving world record holders Alberto Novelli and Cesare Olgjai, as well as field-tested by the explorer Roberto Dei who took it to the Red Sea and the North Pole and by the professional divers at Global Marine Incorporated.
The Ollech & Wajs OW C-1000 S
The new Ollech & Wajs OW C-1000 S is a modern take on the older Caribbean 1000 (the one that you can see at the beginning of this article) more than a true re-edition of the model. As such, it reutilizes some of its distinctive design elements, yet without copying it entirely. One of the reasons for this is that the OW C-1000 S shares multiple elements with the two previous watches, the OW P-101 and the OW P-104, starting with the overall case and its proportions.
What is the OW C-1000 S? Basically, an ultra-robust, deliberate, no-nonsense instrumental dive watch with a slight dosage of vintage cues. The case feels solid as a rock and transpires robustness. Above all, the inherent quality of the construction is evident enforced by the shape, the proportions and the finishing. The case is relatively compact in terms of diameter, measuring only 39.5mm. However, it is a massive block of steel with elongated lugs, a substantial height (over 15mm), a highly raised bezel, an oversized crown and a fully brushed finish. As such, it doesn’t feel like a luxury object that would have been given diving credentials. It is a diver’s tool. Period.
The old-school style of the watch is underscored with several elements, including the non-protected crown and the bezel with its thin black insert in mineral glass, with a 60-minute scale printed on its inner surface – reminiscent of vintage bakelite inserts. Same goes for the straight casebands. As indicated by its name, the OW C-1000 S is a serious diver with 1,000m water-resistance, obtained thanks to a screw-down crown with triple gasket, a reinforced screwed caseback and an extra-strong domed sapphire crystal – the latter explaining the height of the case and the fact that the dial sits low into the case.
For this hands-on session, we had the steel-on-steel version, Ref. OW C-1000 S, which features a fully brushed beads-of-rice bracelet that is inspired by what was used by Ollech & Wajs in the late 1960s and 1970s. Just like the watch, the bracelet is robust, quite thick and heavy and meant for action. It features a double-lock deployant clasp with fine adjustment. Heavy-duty material.
The dial of the OW C-1000 also shares this 1960s tool watch inspiration, with a combination of triangular applied indexes in cream, painted baton markers for the hours and simple yet legible hours and minutes, hands – all of that to provide great contrast and legibility in daylight or dark conditions. A date window is positioned at 6 o’clock and the old Ollech & Wajs logo sits at 12 o’clock.
Inside this tribute to Caribbean 1000 is a modern yet robust ETA 2824 movement, tested in 5 positions, and which is equipped with an Ollech & Wajs Zurich 1956 engraved main-plate and OW machined rotor. This movement isn’t Haute Horlogerie but works perfectly in this context of a tool watch. Tried-and-tested and ready for the job.
All in all, the Ollech & Wajs OW C-1000 is as impressive visually as it is on the wrist. It is a great example of a purpose-built, non-luxurious instrumental watch that will please those looking for a powerful dive watch. This deliberate lack of refinement and adornment is what makes the OW C-1000 S a very cool watch. And the quality/price ratio is, considering the specs and the attention to the materials and assembly, very decent.
Price and availability
Two models will be available, only differentiated by their strap/bracelet. First is the OW C-1000, mounted on a black Nylon RAF strap and priced at CHF 1,456. Second is the OW C-1000 S, which we have here for this article and that comes with a new, fully brushed bead-of-rice stainless steel bracelet, reinforcing the vintage look of the watch. This second version is priced at CHF 1,596 (prices include taxes and shipping).
More details about the new OW C-1000 and OW C-1000 S and orders here, at ow-watch.ch.
I last emailed Mr. Wajs in late Nov, 2019. He did respond which is remarkable given his age, easily in his 90’s. I did google his name but there’s no mention of his passing so I’m hoping he’s still alive to see the rebirth of his beloved watches. I did send him another email this morning. A response might be a miracle given the circumstances today and his age.
I’ve email Mr Albert Wajs occasionally in the past. I have a ton of respect for what he accomplished and O&W watches have been one of my favorites brands for many years. I’m not sure how old Mr Wajs is but some reports have him in his 90’s. I’m happy to confirm that he responded to this morning’s email which means, he’s still ticking. It does my heart good to know that.
Thanks for sharing this, Gerry!
Great article. I’m fortunate to own this watch and the build quality is first class. The watch is a tremendous value and an excellent example of how to bring the past into the present with a contemporary eye.
Love this one. I have a new level of respect knowing the history. This one goes on the want list for sure, and will bump a couple other dive watches that were of interest. Love that the entire case and bracelet is brushed. That’s just smart. This could be the new every watch for many. And the price point is pretty user friendly as well.