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Collecting Vintage Omega Watches

Collecting Vintage Omega Watches Featured Articles

The second determiner of value is the dial – obviously originality is important, but color is particularly prized. Black and two-tone (tuxedo) dials were rare up until the 70s on dress models, usually made for special order only, so black-dialed Constellations and similar watches will fetch a significant premium. Silver or champagne coloured dials are the most common. As a result, black redials are extremely prevalent. Many less-than-honest sellers will have a dial refinished to black to raise the value. Lately there has been a spate of colored “exotic” dials coming out of Southeast Asia, mainly bright blue, green and red. While there were a few extremely rare exotic dials produced over the years, the vast majority you will encounter are modern redials. The same goes for exotic color sport models – blue or white dial Speedmasters for example. New replacement dials are available from Omega in various colors, so technically it might be a legitimate dial but won’t be original to the watch, nor would it be vintage. Watch out for giveaway descriptions like “NOS dial”, “professionally refinished”, “restored dial” etc.

Chronometer models always fetch more money than standard models – in the case of Constellation almost all were chronometers (aside from some ladies models and ultra-thin automatics), but there were small runs of chronograph and Seamaster automatic chronometers over the years. Rarity means value.

Collecting Vintage Omega Watches Featured Articles

When talking about rarity in Omegas, everything is relative. A rare Patek will be one of perhaps 5 or 10 examples, a rare Rolex one of a few hundred. A rare Omega is in the thousands – with millions of watches produced over the decades, something that was made in a run of 20 or 30 thousand pieces is relatively uncommon compared to a series of several hundred thousand. So when someone touts his or her particular watch as “rare” don’t expect it to be one of a handful that will never come up again. It’s more likely just an uncommon model that the seller didn’t happen to see on eBay at the time he put up his listing. I always laugh when someone claims their watch is “rare”, as it came from a batch of “only” 65 000.

The least desirable Omegas were generally produced from the late 1970s to early 1990s. In the 70s the quartz-crisis put Omega on the verge of bankruptcy. Quality went downhill fast. The 1980s were a low point in Omega design, and most watches produced during this era were bland quartz models with little to distinguish them from the crowd. The exception would be the Speedmaster Professional, which continued more or less unchanged through to the present, and some early Seamaster “pre-Bond” automatics that still have fans. My advice would be to focus on the pre-1975 period. You’ll find lots of dirt cheap, ugly Omegas from the 1980s – they really aren’t worth considering unless you really adore a particular model.

Collecting Vintage Omega Watches Featured Articles

Collecting Vintage Omega Watches Featured Articles

Fakes, Frankens and Frauds

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Like anything else that is desirable, fakes and cobbled-together watches abound. The most popular outright fakes are the Seamaster 300 and Constellation models. There are a number of “tells” that can give them away, so research and due diligence is key when looking at these models. A genuine calibre is NOT an indicator of legitimacy, most fakes use original Omega movements. Some fakes are quite obvious, others are frighteningly convincing, particularly if you can’t handle the watch in person before buying. Frankens are another category, where a watch is put together using genuine parts, but not in their original state. Usually newly manufactured service parts fall into this category as well. An example would be a non-chronometer watch with a chronometer dial, or an old model that has been overly “restored” with new parts.

Collecting Vintage Omega Watches Featured Articles

Collecting Vintage Omega Watches Featured Articles

A note about the prevalence of so-called NOS (new old stock) watches. A company in Australia called Watchco was building “new” Seamaster models (300, Ploprof, SHOM) from original movements cased in new service parts. The movements are vintage, taken from less-desirable models (Devilles and Geneves), put into newly manufactured Seamaster cases with new dials and hands. The only thing vintage is the movement while everything else is new. They aren’t fakes, as they use genuine Omega service parts produced by the factory to repair and restore old models. If you were to trace the serial through Omega it would show that the watch was not a Model XYZ to begin with.

NOS is a misnomer, because a true NOS watch is a vintage item that was never sold or worn from new, and has been in storage for decades. What they are is refurbished with new parts. I don’t have a personal problem with these “Watchco” specials (in fact I have one, a Seamaster 300) but buyers need to be aware that they are not vintage, nor are they NOS. If you want a new-old Seamaster 300 or Ploprof you can wear every day they are great, and their prices are generally reasonable, but they aren’t collectible like an original vintage item and they have very little chance of growing in value. Think of it as a re-issue, or a resto-mod with non-matching numbers. You will also raise the ire of vintage purists who will tell you it isn’t a true vintage watch.

Collecting Vintage Omega Watches Featured Articles

Collecting Vintage Omega Watches Featured Articles

Omegamania

In 2007, at the height of the watch market before everything came crashing down during the recession, Antiquorum held an Omega themed auction in Geneva in association with the brand. The results from the auction were, in a word, spectacular. Watches seemingly doubled or tripled in value overnight, with many vintage pieces fetching huge prices. Some items fetched ten times their market value. Unfortunately it was a product of an inflated market and a lot of hype. The Omegamania prices were impressive, but not representative of the market in general. Things have calmed down a lot since 2007; only the finest and rarest collectibles from the top brands have maintained or gained value since 2008.

Unfortunately many collectors, particularly sellers, still reference Omegamania prices. Wouldn’t you get excited if your Constellation, which you thought was worth about one or two thousand went for tens of thousands at auction? Problem is it is still only realistically worth that 1 or 2 grand. As a result you will sometimes encounter overzealous sellers who demand exorbitant prices for something that is not particularly rare or special. Remember that Omegamania was a product of the time and the presentation, and does not represent the current market. Believe me, I wish things were that hot (my collection would be worth a lot more if they were) but they simply aren’t in today’s conditions.

Collecting Vintage Omega Watches Featured Articles

Collecting Vintage Omega Watches Featured Articles

Summing Up

All of this might be a bit overwhelming to the budding collector. It’s a lot to digest. The only way to really get into collecting is through copious amounts of research. The more I learn, the less I feel I really know, and that is part of the fun of collecting. The history is what I find fascinating; these are objects that are a direct link to the past, and a golden age of mechanical design that preceded the Quartz Crisis. You have to be passionate about watches and have a willingness to learn and absorb information. The real thrill in vintage watches is the hunt for that perfect example, whatever it may be.

Jason Cormier is a sales associate at Matt Baily, a luxury watch store in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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  • Greg S

    Fantastic article Jason, you really should consider writing that book! Cheers.

  • Kris C

    Very cool. I have a high appreciation for this brand, although I’m not of the ilk that goes nuts for it either. I know forum members that would step over their mothers to own a vintage Proplof, regarldess of the fact it has all the aesthetics of a punched onion. To each his own, I firmly believe.

    Great write up, this should be very useful to anyone currently in, or thinking about getting into vintage Omega watches.

  • fromagesfondus

    Great article! Truly passionate!

  • Eric S

    Thank you, Jason, for a highly informative and well-written article!

  • AnnaBonanno

    Hello Jason, I was wondering if you could help me find out about a family heirloom. Its an Omega Seamaster 18K gold watch&band. cant seem to find the information anywhere. havent had it opened yet. back of the watch is stamped 18K 790 and 0060. Back has Omega symbol & stamp (Omega Watch-O) & says “swiss made”. Back also has a stamp toward lower right corner; looks like an unclosed slanted rectangle, open on the left side & peaked on the lower right corner. Inside it appears to be “AG0” with “0” being a degree sign, although hard to see. Additional engraving looks like large circle & smaller circle over bottom of it. The face is white mother of pearl with gold 3D numbers & hands. There’s a small hand below them with two intersecting lines. I’m not sure if that is a chronograph or not. The face says Omega Seamaster & has the Omega 3D gold symbol above it. One dial on side of the watch. Under base of hands on face are letters but they’re hard to see; look like they start with “HHN…” or “HNN….” The band&buckle are 18K 790 but has “Arbiter” engraved where it attaches to the watch. I’m writing to you because you’re the first person Ive found that truly knows vintage Omega watches. The watch was passed down by a great uncle that grew up in Naples Italy and moved later in life to Argentina. Any help would be appreciated.

  • TylerSelph

    Talk about a rare Omega watch. I think I just saw one on eBay? Vintage Omega 91 diamond ladies watch. Never even seen one before. Can anyone help me identify this watch? Circa?  Was this watch mass produced, limited edition, custom made? What might it be worth? The seller doesn’t know much about it. Thanks for your help…
    Tyler

  • kellyrogers0521

    Wow! These pieces are great. I hope you could also make an article regarding <a href=”http://www.kalmarantiques.com.au/Catalogue/Watches/Omega-watches.aspx”>vintage ladies Omega watches</a>. Wishful thinking.

  • Raslim

    May I know where I can have my 1952 hand wound Seamaster assessed it’s value?

  • JamesHoyt

    I have two Omega watchs I purchased in 1968 &69, A Seamaster 300 (purchased at the Naval base in Rota Spain while stationed there)for $189The second was purchased on Feb 1969 , a Speedmaster Professional MarkII, (from the USS Forestals CVA59 ships store) for $250 (one months pay). I think I made a good investment.

  • TypeArt

    My mother gave me my father’s Omega watch which she says he purchased in Switzerland around 1945 as a GI in WWII. I can’t find any information regarding it such as it’s rarity or value. I brought it to a watch expert and repairman who took off the back and said it has 24 jewels, movement 565 and serial no. 27515976. It’s square but is not gold. Would anybody have any information that would be helpful to me?

  • I have an omega antique gold watch, swiss made,winding,running condition and never have been opened. Engraved at the back: To my friend and colleague ALBERT DE SOUZA from Shell Staff Br Borneo. (1917-1957).
    This watch has no exact similarity to the antique omega watches. If you want to see the pictures of this watch, I would post it to you.

  • hassanh

    Hai I have an Omega vintage watch with inscriptions at the back — www and Y17348 and also 10681547.
    The watch has stopped working due to over winding.
    Can anyone let me know how much it is worth or how old it may be.

  • mariam2015

    Can anyone tell me what year was this Omega watch made? Thank you.

  • frustin

    mariam2015 looks to be art deco in style, which would be 1920’s.

  • mariam2015

    frustin

    Thank you. I’ve been browsing the net for a similar style but can’t find one.  

    This is dad’s gift to mum decades ago.

  • howie1229

    Can anyone tell me the model, year and material of this watch, and what it might be worth – or how I can obtain any of the foregoing information?

  • KnightWatchman

    TypeArt You have one of the best, no nonsense Omega In- House movements of all time. I wonder if it is that old, because those movements were really popular in the 1960’s. You can look up the serial numbers for Omega on the net, and it should tell you the year of the watch. Post a pic on an Omega site, and they may be able to tell you about your Omega. That 565 movement, if serviced by a competent watchmaker, will outlive you, your Son, and maybe your Grandson. What a great way to remember your very smart Dad by, because he knew enough to buy a very high quality Swiss watch.

  • henry Lam

    Can anyone tell me about this watch–year made, materials, model, absence of star, and what it might be worth. I’ve search the internet and can’t seem to find the information.
    Thanks

  • Steve Brown

    I purchased this watch as a gift for my father, 20 years ago from an antique store. They claimed it was from the 1950’s and they had acquired it in an estate sale. I paid $800.

    I didn’t worry myself about whether it was worth the asking price because I really liked the watch and knew my father would too. Nothing fancy in terms of function, but elegant, understated, black dial and black (looks like alligator?) leather band with gold hands, in extremely fine condition. My father passed away before I could give it to him. I’ve had it in my drawer for 20 years, never wearing it.

    Last year I looked on Ebay, hoping to see a similar watch to get a value for it, but there was nothing there that quite matched. I brought it to a watch store/jeweler close to home hoping to have it identified – to confirm it’s age and so forth, by having the back removed and looking at the serial number. The jeweler said he wouldn’t take the back off, because it would necessarily scratch the watch. The black leather band, which looks like it was purchased yesterday, he said was original, which surprised me, because it looks in far too good of shape to be from the 1950’s. It is apparently in it’s original box, which also appears to be too perfect to be that old.

    So, without serial number, is there any way to identify the age and value of the watch? It sounds like Ebay is the go-to place for selling it as well? Thanks for any feedback.

  • Nagler Simmons

    Can anyone tell me about this omega watch?

  • Marie Markert

    I cannot find a watch like it. I have a 1950s, 18 k gold omega seamasters, 24 jeweled, would like some info. it belonged to my grandfather, we have pictures of him wearing it from the 1950s. it is a windup black faced Incabloc

  • Ivan Dimitrov

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