Arrived ! Salvation Army Speedmaster

And I still do not know what it is!

I think it is a 105.012 pre 66 because of the beveled case back, and the short pushers. However I cannot open it up easily, and so I am sending it straight to STS. The pushers do not work, the chrono subdials dont reset – its in a terrible state and it is filthy!

P6210007

A fine DO90 bezel!

Short pushers and double step back.P6210013-001

Although the back is damaged, I do not think they succeded in opening it – I did not! I know when to send to people better than me.

Look also at the filth, and the damage to the end piece. This bracelet is the tightest I have ever recieved, which makes me wonder how much use the watch has seen.

P6210010

The links are so tight, they hold together as you can see. I could not release the spring bars either. The end piece has been damaged by someone who tried: P6210011

P6210005 P6210014  P6210008

Now its gone to STS. More will be revealed!

Edit: the return is written about here

Salvation Speedmaster

I rcently saw this at auction on Ebay. It was offered by the Salvation Army and as you can see from the photos, it was almost like buying from an original owner. It is dirty, un restored, unserviced, and its mechanical state unknown.

Bought last week from the Salvation Army, via ebay
Bought last week from the Salvation Army, via ebay

Now this watch has arrived at my home, but I wont have it in hand until next week. Here is a few shots to get you interested.

back
Double step caseback, with some opening marks – these may or may not turn out to be serious. One photo cannot convey the true state. Note the dirt on the lugs. This watch was worn like a Seiko.
Salvation Speedmaster
From the head on shot, we can see a nice DO90 bezel. a narrow space T SWISS T dial, what looks like an undamaged dial under a badly scratched crystal. It caries short pushers. The hands and plots have a matching faded patina. From what I see, my guess would be a 105.012-64 or more likely, -65.

First, I know I have taken a gamble. Lets sum up the situation:

  • The watch is unopened, and the crystal is very worn.
  • It has been used hard, and then thrown in a drawer and forgotten.
  • I do not know if it works. (I told my wife not to wind it up!)
  • The watch is very dirty, possibly corroded
  • The state of the movement is unknown
  • Based on what we can see, it ought to be a 105.012-65, or -64.

So why did I, – the man who claims a “good condition” 105.012 is worth $6000 – pay over that for a watch that clearly is not?

The answer lies out in the proverbial barn….

The term “Barn Find” I first saw in Classic Car circles where a car was literally dragged from a barn, covered in dust and also possibly all maner of dung, dead things and once a tree. These untouched specimins started selling for small money, as the cost of restoration was so high, disproportionate to the evental value.

Photo from Bonhams. While this is a barn find, I think the shot was faked. It does illustrate my point.
Photo from Bonhams. While this is a barn find, I think the shot was faked. It does illustrate my point.

Then something changed. I noticed it first at one of the first Bonhams Aston Martin sales when a one owner DB4 that looked partially disolved, with its interior in boxes but complete, sold for more than a well maintained original example. The thinking, I was told, was that the new owner did not care what he spent, and would end up with a car that cost three times the accepeted value, but one that he knew all the history of, and that he could know was original. I believe the fashion has now moved even further, and that these cars are now restored without painting if possible, preserving the original patinated finish on the bodywork.

So back to the watch. One owner speedmaster watches are rare. I have one, a 145.012 that I bought from the grandaughter of the original owner. I did nothing but clean and service, and it is one of my favorite watches.

This will, I hope, turn out to be 100% original, down to that badly scratched crystal, and the original crown and pushers. There are not many watches like that

With this new find, my plan is to do a similar job.

More news later. It arrives friday…..(with the wife)

To “T” or not to “T” that is the question….

The image above shows most examples of different T markings, or lack of them, all in one reference, the 105.012.

I was asked by a complete novice what the T’s on each side of the word SWISS at the base of the dial meant. This is intended as a broad stroke introduction, not an in depth assessment. The majority of Speedmasters covered by this site have T marks. The early watches should not have them, while if later watches do not have them this may indicate a replacement dial.

  • T marks indicate Tritium on the dial markers, to comply with legislation introduced around 1963
  • T marks were introduced a few years after Tritium was first used – so early tritium dials up to c1963 did not have T marks.
  • Once introduced, T marks on Omega Speedmasters are present up until mid 1990’s when Superluminova dials were introduced.
  •  Superluminova (post c1994) do not have T marks.
  • Service dials for early watches, but produced later with Superluminova, do not have T marks

We are also able to make some other statements:

  • No 2998’s had T marks. A 2998 with a T dial is a replacement dial.
1-P5220035
A 2998 dial, with no T markings
  • early 105.012-63’s had no T marks – this is rare. Some had T marks added after the dial was printed.
1-PB260019-2
105.012-63. This has a “high” SWISS marking, close to the indices, with no T marks. I believe it was some of this style dial that had T’s added.
  • All 105.003’s have close spaced T marks:
1-P1050011
Close T marks on a 105.003. Note the T’s are inside of the 28s and 32s marks, whereas the later dials have the T’s directly under the 28s and 32s marks.
  • All 145.022’s, all 145.012’s have wide space T marks
1-P5270008
The most common T marks, on a 1969 145.022

Tritium is the radioactive isotope used to cause the markers on a watch to glow and be seen at night. “T” markings indicate the watch contains Tritium, not exceeding a legislated level. The absence of T markings in early Tritium watches is because the legislation had not yet been introduced requiring it.

When the first speedmaster, the 2915,  was introduced, the dials were appointed with Radium. Gradually, as the dangers were realized, this was fazed out across the industry and replaced by the safer Tritium. These dials came in around 1961 in the 2998. They were still without T markings, until the legislation required it.

What Tritium is:

Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen, which allows it to readily bind to hydroxyl radicals, forming tritiated water (HTO), and to carbon atoms. Since tritium is a low energy beta emitter, it is not dangerous externally (its beta particles are unable to penetrate the skin), but it is a radiation hazard when inhaled, ingested via food or water, or absorbed through the skin.

First Draft

Authors note:

(This was first published on Watchuseek after a bushel of requests along the lines of how to buy do I buy a Vintage Speedmaster? I wrote this, and it was the seed of this site. Sometimes I re-read it and think that it is a better summary than the site. It was suggested I publish it here, and I may incorporate it more into the site soon. Remember it is two years old and prices and some ideas, have changed. In the meantime, enjoy it!)

A number of novice speedmaster buyers have recently approached the forum for advice, and so I have collated my thoughts while sitting around for too many hours in airports in the last few weeks! Now I write this all from memory, for my own amusement and to pass the time. I welcome any comment, and don’t be too hard, as I said, I am on a plastic chair with no watches to hand, and some very bad coffee. Please remember that in Speedmaster world, there are always Outliers. So none of what I write is in stone, simply the impressions I have gathered over time that I rely on when buying.

First off, if we stick to the title then we are in trouble before we start. The definition of a pre-moon is somewhat loose and open to interpretation. When someone tells me they have a pre-moon for sale, I assume it will be a smooth backed 861 or 321 calibre, mid to late sixties (arguably very early 1970’s), case reference 145022, or 145012, or possibly 105012, less likely but still possible 105003/2 or even a 2998. I will not discuss the 2915 here as I have never owned one, nor are they really available.

Is a Pre-moon a watch produced before a man landed on the moon? As that was 1969 there is no change in the Speedmaster model to coincide with that date. The 861 145022s were already in production from late 1968. How about smooth case back? Well if we say that, then we include all Speedmasters of both calibres from as late as 1970 back through approximately six references to 2998. That is not including the mythical 145.003 as I have never seen one, and taking all the 2998-xx’s as one reference.

Perhaps a good cut off for a Pre-Moon definition the caliber change? Not really. While it is one of the clearest model changes in Speedmaster model history, it occurred before the moon landing. More anomalies are quickly apparent. A 321 Speedmaster was the only Omega caliber to for certain land on the moon, and it was the caliber first tested and used by NASA. So it seems a bit confusing to call a caliber 321 Speedmaster a Pre-Moon when it did actually go to the moon. This topic is frequently (and to me interestingly) re-awoken on fora often, though with scarce source confirmation. I wont go into it further, my point is that calling a watch a Pre-Moon is open to discussion, and therefore confusing for the purposes of valuing and purchase.So I will choose to cover ALL smooth back Speedmaster models using 321 or 861 calibre.

Now there are some fantastic resources on the net, and all Speedmaster roads must start with the late Chuck Maddox. He documented most of the production changes and details in Speedmaster manufacture and most of what he wrote is still agreed today, though some of his thoughts have been developed by others as I suspect he would have done himself if he had remained with us.

I would say that as Chuck was an academic, I am a trader. (There the comparison stops!). For me its all about the market, the value, the demand. I follow trends. And the market is not always right, it follows fashion, and it changes, and sometimes follows fallacies. Right now I detect a growing interest in the Speedmasters of the early seventies. The prices are firming for both the early stamped case backs and the MkII’s.

This leads me to another thought. The Omega market is thin. It is not like Rolex, and nothing like the Patek market where sealed boxes are traded for cash like gold. Omegas Speedmasters can be slow sellers, and to a more sophisticated buyer. At the very least a buyer of a smooth caseback 1969 model will have some small knowledge of the watches history. Some Rolex buyers can have an almost autistic interest in minutiae by comparison, and yet sometimes I feel that a Rolex buyer is buying the watch for someone else to see, whereas Omega buyers are quite content to be the only ones looking at their watches. Clearly we all have our foibles.

For me the easiest, from a market viewpoint, is to group early Speedmasters first by caliber, so it’s a 321 up to late 1968, and 861 after. This case back to calibre relationship is the only definite and certain relationship between any two characteristics of Speedmasters. Everything else is porous, flexible and uncertain.If we make a table, it looks very unbalanced:

321 861
2998 145.022
105.002
105.003
105.012145.012

While there are five references of 321 and only one 861, there are far more 145.022’s available at a given time than all the 321’s put together. The 145.022 was made for a much longer period, and in far greater numbers. So clearly an 861 calibre is more numerous and therefore less rare and so the market values it less. For two watches, in similar condition and parts quality, the 321 will be approximately $1000 more than the 861. The older the 321, the greater the value difference.

Now case backs do get swapped, and there are NOS available, but like the caliber, if it is there, it is marked. While the mark is certain, it is not certain that a back is the one originally fitted to the case. At that we can only guess, based on the matching patina, or lack of it. Unless of course it is an obvious mismatch, like the 105002 back I found on an asymmetrical case with a 321 movement. The following table shows the case type.

Straight lugs. Asymmetrical
2998
105.002
105.003
105.012
145.012
145.022

So it is clear that a straight lug (or no crown-guard as it is sometimes called) is the rarest type of case.The last certainty is the movement serial. (Although this number can have been swapped as it is on a removable bridge). This allows us to date, to about plus or minus two years, the date of production. The serial number of the movement cannot be used to determine the case reference, although we can say that a case reference OUGHT to have a serial in a particular (broad) range.

Originality
A factory like Omega is actually an assembler of parts supplied from many outside sources, and often the same part will have more than one manufacturer. Parts from different manufacturers exhibit small differences and these have been picked up on in the Speedmaster community. These include differing scripts on the dials and tachymetre and hand shape. There have also been errors in production resulting in little anomalies, which in the Rolex market would have buyers scrambling to pay large sums, but so far in Omega this has not happened. Examples include bezels showing 220 instead of 200 and case backs stamped with two references.

Omega’s “parts bin” assembly methods, as discussed many times in fora, essentially means that Omega used up parts it had to hand in the manufacture of its watches. There are numerous transitional pieces, for example an early dial with an applied logo on a later 145.022 case reference. Because a watch has unusual parts for its reference, does not mean it is wrong. It often is, but we cannot prove it because of Omegas rather loose methods, and few meaningful records. Although its records and archive services are better than many, many other manufacturers, they are useful only up to a point. For example while Omega will issue a certificate for an early 321 movement, it cannot say into what case it was placed originally.

Just as Omega assembled watches, so we can disassemble them. Indeed each time it is serviced, a Speedmaster is (or should be!) broken down to the last screw. So it is not hard to see how a dial or any other part gets changed. The policy of the Omega service department was to return a watch looking as new and up to date as possible, so it was routine to replace the dial, hands, crown, pushers, crystal and bracelet. Nowadays I believe it is a different attitude, but I am not about to risk it. In fact I know people who swap their hands and dial for inexpensive new ones before sending the watch into Omega for a full service, replacing the valuable parts on its return.

So almost anyone, with a few hours practice, can replace the parts in a watch. Certainly they can change the parts that are important to us, the dial, hands, bezel and bracelet.So in terms of originality, the question we need to ask is “WOULD it have come out from Omega looking like that?” , rather than “DID it come out looking like that?”. It is my opinion that there are very few watches in circulation that are 100% original, bearing precisely the same parts that it left the factory with.

There are hundreds of threads debating which dial/bezel/hands went in which reference. When I am not on an airport bench I might be able to detail the way I think, but this is a very fluid area for all the reasons I state. For now, if you are a novice following Chuck Maddox’s thoughts then you wont go too far wrong.

Values
We can start with two value groups, 321s and 861s:

Calibre Lowest Highest Brown Dial
321 2300 6000* 20000
861 1500 3500 9000

*Note, 2998’s may be as much as 10,000, but they must have base 1000 bezel

This is for the head only. Bracelets are another story, $100-250 for a later 861, and almost anything ($1000+) for a good one to suit an early 321, or early 861.

The lowest figure is for a working watch that is worth buying. I would expect it to need at least one major part replaced, and a service. The high is for a correctly appointed top condition unpolished watch that does not need a service. The last figure is there only because I have seen brown dials sell for this, but this is a rarified world with very few buyers worldwide, but they are fiercely competitive for the right watch. Many sellers think they have the right dial, but they don’t. This again, is another subject.

Condition
The case should be clean, preferably unpolished, certainly not polished so that the sides are visibly reduced. The sides should have a brushed finish and rest a mirror finish. The acid etched hippocampus on the rear should be visible and the back not too scratched. Personally I dislike scratches from failed openings, and previous owners engraving. Pushers should be clean and straight. Bezel can be marked, often faded is attractive, but not too dented or chipped. A Dot over 90 bezel adds about $100-400 to the value compared to a watch with a different or missing bezel.The dial should be correct for reference, and free of damage from water or sun bleach. Plots should be original, and I like the browner fade, not green or yellow. The hands should be correct and commensurate with the dial plots. If I was at my desk, next to the safe, this section would be FULL of photographs!It is here we would talk about patina, but without photos I will be too verbose.

Conclusion
It seems to me, from watching completed sales in auctions, both online and physical, that most people spend $2000-3000 for an 861 and $3000-6000 for a 321.

By my own logic, the watches bought at this level are not perfect, and this is where the buyers own judgment and intuition must come into play. You must find a balance – allow new hands because the dial is perfect. Accept a spotted dial because it is rare and the case is unpolished, or the bezel is perfect dot over 90.

The outliers here are the very early straight lug 321’s which can go higher, especially the 105.002 and 2998’s. However the sales of these are few, with many offered at high prices and not completed.

A watch with box and papers is becoming a desirable thing. Ten years ago few people paid attention. However Omegas are now being bought by investors, and these buyers are suckers for paper. Although the ebay sales are not showing it, physical auction houses are selling B&P watches at rising premiums. Worth bearing in mind when looking for your next watch.in three weeks, when I get back, I can augment this thread with photos.

In the meantime, I welcome the thoughts of others, especially photos!

145.003 Whats the Story?

The 105.003 replaced the 105.002 in 1962.

I first saw references to the 145.003 in various fora, and then in “A Journey Through Time”. However I have never held one, and it is very hard to find an image of one.

While researching I found this:

cat-145.003
A prime example of why contemporary Omega literature cannot be used for reference. This clearly shows an asymmetric case labeled 145.003. Photo from internet.

Print media of the time are notorious for illustrating watches of one reference with another. In the example above what is labeled as a 145.003 is in fact more likely a 105.012 with its asymmetric case and short pushers. (Although the dial is a non pro). I suppose in the 1960’s print runs took a lot longer, and the photos of the actual watches may not have been available. Often the watches were drawn, not photographed.

Several owners have published copies of extracts of 145.003’s but so far only one I can find is marked with 145.003, all are otherwise marked 105.003. There is no mention of the reference 145.003 in the watch itself. Typically they all show extracts with 105.003 and case backs with 145.003:

In all examples I have been able to find, all but one are marked in the back 105.003. I have found one example where the number 145.003 has been added, in an obviously font – and I cannot say by whom. I have seen this double referencing by Omega in the 105.012/145.012 and it is entirely possible these are factory markings – I have seen many examples of this:

Double reference case back from my collection. Here we see clearly the two references were not applied in the same way, and probably not the same time. I believe this was done by the factory.
Double reference case back from my collection. Here we see clearly the two references were not applied in the same way, and probably not the same time. I believe this was done by the factory.

Here is the only example I can find of the 145.003 where it is marked in the back. Again, like the example above it is marked in two different styles. Unlike the example above I have never seen another.

145003 double
105.003 with 145.003 also marked in the case back with a different font. While I am ready to believe this is a factory inscription, I do not understand why it is not seen in any other examples if indeed it is a factory protocol to engrave it.

Therefore I conclude that the 145.003 is simply an new internal numerical allocation (starting circa 1967) by Omega for the 105.003, and that the number 145.003 was not added to the watch by Omega themselves.

I am a collector, who wishes one day to own every reference up to the 145.022-78. Would I want a 145.003? That’s hard, because I am still in two minds as to whether it is a “real” reference!

References:

Here in no particular order, are some links to discussions about 145.003’s:

http://forums.watchuseek.com/f20/speedmaster-pre-pro-145-003-new-arrival-64089-3.html

https://omegaforums.net/threads/omega-speedmaster-st145-003-anyone-else-have-one.9399/