The Wristwatch For A Drummer

[Annotation by Richard Bleksley]


The Omega Incabloc Oyster Accutron 72
Is the only wristwatch for a drummer
It tells true and it ain’t no bummer


Omega is one of the world’s best-known watch brands. The company, founded in 1848 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, is now, after many mergers and takeovers, a part of the Swatch Group.

[Gerry Conway's OIOA72]

An Omega was the first watch on the Moon, but the company insisted that this be a manually wound model, since they feared (incorrectly) that self-winding would not work in zero gravity.

Omega watches feature in the James Bond films, and the company commemorated their fortieth anniversary with a special edition of 10,007 units with “007” printed on the face.


Incabloc is the name of a shock absorption system for mechanical watches, in which special springs are used to enable the delicate components to move slightly under shocks and to return them to their original positions afterwards. It was introduced in 1933 by Universal Escapements of Switzerland, though the name “Incabloc” was not registered as a trademark until 1957.


Oyster is a line of watches made by arguably the most prestigious watchmaker of all, Rolex. Rather surprisingly, the company (under the name of Wilsdorf and Davis) was actually founded in England in 1905, but moved to Geneva in 1912, because Mr. Wilsdorf wanted his watches to be affordable (!), and costs were rising in England.

Rolex has been a pioneer in many innovations, such as waterproof watches, calendar watches, and self-winding watches. It was also in the forefront of the development of quartz watch technology, although it has made very few quartz watches.

Ian Fleming’s original James Bond wore a Rolex watch, as did the movie Bonds up to the Pierce Brosnan films.


The Accutron movement, developed by Bulova and first marketed in 1960, derived its motion from an electronically driven tuning fork vibrating at 360Hz, whereas conventional mechanical movements were limited to 2Hz – Accutron watches hummed instead of ticking. Since the precision of a watch’s timekeeping is dependent on the speed of its “prime mover”, this offered an unprecedented level of accuracy.

Although Bulova watches still bear the Accutron name, the tuning fork movement was dropped in 1977 in favour of quartz movements.


The Omega Incabloc Oyster Accutron 72
Can stand for more than mere immersion
It thrives on whiplash, lurch and shock
Trad, mainstream, bop and rock
Baby Dodds had an early version


Warren “Baby” Dodds (1898 – 1959) was the first of the famous jazz drummers. A native of New Orleans, he played with such early jazz luminaries as Jellyroll Morton, King Oliver and Louis Armstrong.


The Omega Incabloc Oyster Accutron 72
Man, what a creation!
It’s a mine of information
A vernier scale, the date in braille
Sidereal time, the rate of crime
And the growth of population


A vernier scale – named after its inventor, the French mathematician Pierre Vernier (1580 – 1637) – is a measuring device that uses a secondary sliding scale to pinpoint measurements that fall between the markings on the main scale. Capable of very precise measurements, it is used on such devices as sextants, micrometers and theodolites.


Sidereal time, used mostly by astronomers, is time measured by the apparent motion of the vernal equinox (the point where the Sun’s apparent path through the stars as seen from Earth crosses the equator in spring) rather than by the apparent motion of the Sun. A sidereal day is 23 hours 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds, the discrepancy from solar time being caused by the motion of the Earth along its orbit round the Sun.


      It’s got more jewels than Princess Grace
      Buckminster Fuller designed the case
      Leonardo engraved the face
      And did the calibration


Princess Grace of Monaco (1929 – 1982), wife of Prince Rainier and mother of Prince Albert, formerly the Hollywood film star Grace Kelly, was undoubtedly not short of a jewel or two.


Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895 – 1983), American architect, designer and inventor, was known for his unconventional thinking and visionary ideas, his best known invention probably being the geodesic dome. He might well have designed something original and stylish in the way of watch-cases.


Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519), as the original Renaissance man (architect, musician, anatomist, inventor, engineer, sculptor, painter….) would have found engraving the face and doing the calibration a doddle.


And those knobs and screws and toggles
The imagination boggles

The Omega Incabloc Oyster Accutron 72
Without this timepiece there’d have been
No modern jazz to begin with
Bird and Diz were tricky men for a drummer to sit in with


Bird was the nickname of Charlie Parker (Charles Christopher Parker, 1920 – 1955), one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of jazz, and often cited as the greatest saxophonist of all time. He was the principal inventor of bebop, and was also a pivotal figure in the changing perception of the jazzman as a serious artist and intellectual rather than a popular entertainer. Unfortunately none of this saved him from an early death due to the ravages of heavy heroin and alcohol abuse – which added another facet to his legend, that of the doomed genius.


Diz refers to John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917 – 1993), virtuoso trumpeter and Charlie Parker’s chief collaborator in the invention of bebop. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Afro-Cuban school of jazz. Instantly recognisable on stage with his distended cheeks and bent trumpet, he was a more laid-back and genial character than his famous partner, and had a long and full career until succumbing to cancer in his seventies.


Max Roach still wears the watch he wore when bop was new
Elvin Jones has two and Buddy Rich wears three
One on the right wrist, one on the left
And the third one around his knee


Maxwell Lemuel Roach (1924 –     ) was one of the first bebop drummers, and played on many of Charlie Parker’s landmark records. He has also played in the bands of Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Bud Powell and Miles Davis, as well as various bands under his own name. He is still alive (2006), but no longer plays due to the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.


Elvin Ray Jones (1927 – 2004), one of the greatest jazz drummers, played with (among others) Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Charlie Mingus, Duke Ellington, in the hugely influential John Coltrane band of the early sixties, and with his own band, Jazz Machine. Famous for his free-flowing “wall of sound” style, his influence extended beyond jazz and into rock music, in the persons of Ginger Baker and Jimi Hendrix’s drummer Mitch Mitchell, both of whom came from jazz backgrounds and were heavily influenced by him.


Bernard “Buddy” Rich (1917 – 1987), famous for the power and speed of his drumming, played under several bandleaders in his earlier years, such as Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey, but was best known for his own Buddy Rich Big Band, which he led from 1966. As flamboyant in his personality as in his drumming, he was quite happy to accept his billing as “the greatest drummer in the world.” If any drummer were flash enough to wear three OIOA 72’s, it would certainly have been him.


The Omega Incabloc Oyster Accutron 72
Has a warning-bell for free-form playing
That tells you when you’re overstaying
Your tentative welcome with the paying
Customers in the deep decaying
Cellar club with the stained and fraying
Velvet drapes and the stooped and greying


Free-form, or free jazz, is a school of jazz playing pioneered in the late fifties and early sixties, characterised by maximum emphasis on free improvisation and minimum reliance on such normal musical frameworks as tempo, rhythm and harmony – a sort of musical equivalent to abstract painting. It can be pretty challenging for the casual listener, hence the need for the warning bell.


It’ll count the bars and tell you when
The basset-horn’s coming in again
It’ll see you right while you’re trading twelves
With a synthesizer played by elves
Wear this watch and you’ll keep in step
With Ornette Coleman and Archie Shepp
Why be a loner?


The bassett-horn is a larger and deeper-pitched version of the clarinet. Mozart was fond of it, but its role in the history of jazz is negligible.


Twelves. Blues songs are most frequently (though not invariably) based on a twelve bar verse form with a standard set of chord changes. In its simplest form it goes like this (a forward slash indicates the end of a bar):

Tonic / subdominant / tonic / tonic /
Subdominant / subdominant / tonic / tonic /
Dominant / subdominant / tonic / tonic /

In practice it is common to substitute the seventh version of the chord just before a change, and the twelfth bar is nearly always played in the dominant seventh, so that a blues (for example) in the key of E might go like this:

E / A / E / E > E7 /
A / A > A7 / E / E > E7 /
B7 / A > A7 / E > E7 / B7 /

Jazzmen call anything with this structure “a blues,” even though it may sound nothing like blues music – for example, the last British Eurovision winner, Making Your Mind Up by Buck’s Fizz, is based on a twelve bar structure. The twelve bar blues form is a favourite vehicle for improvisation and jamming because, once you have decided on the key, everybody concerned knows what the chord changes are and when they come.


Saxophonist Ornette Coleman (1930 –     ) is one of the major innovators in jazz history, and was one of the pioneers of free jazz. His well-known preference for a plastic saxophone is only of his many departures from convention, and throughout his life he has produced music that is innovative, unorthodox, and frequently controversial. His influence has been very considerable.


Archie Shepp (1937 –     ) is another saxophonist associated with the free jazz, or avant-garde, movement of the sixties. In his youth he played with the leading avant-gardists Cecil Taylor and John Coltrane, but later took his own direction, bringing many African influences into his music – a reflection of his personal commitment to black freedom movements.


Get the Omega Incabloc Oyster Accutron 72
It’s the only wristwatch for a drummer
It tells true and it ain’t no bummer

So any time the brushes shimmer
On skins and brass while the solo tenor
Slowly blows the lazy phrases
You'll catch the golden glimmer
Of the wristwatch in the gloom
So softly now let’s sing its praises


Tenor, i.e. a tenor saxophone. Saxes come in four sizes and pitches, ranging from baritone (the largest and deepest), through tenor and alto (Charlie Parker’s instrument) to soprano, which normally dispenses with the saxophone’s characteristic bendy shape and closely resembles a clarinet in appearance.


      For the music in the room
      Both beautiful and true
      On plushly hushed extended wings
      Is flown to me and you

By the Omega Incabloc Oyster Accutron 72
The only wristwatch for a drummer
It tells true and it ain’t no bummer


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