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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/

Fixed a minor bug

In the site that stopped all the images displaying full size:

Back to big pictures

Three 145.022's. The first two exhibit a pleasing patina, while the one on the far right is in close to factory fresh appearance with its black dial and clean hands
Three 145.022’s. The first two exhibit a pleasing patina, while the one on the far right is in close to factory fresh appearance with its black dial and clean hands

2998 with Lolipop

This 2998 carries a very rare Chronograph hand with a large disc at the end, know as the lolipop.

Watches carrying these hands have asking prices up to $6000 more than similar watches with the straight chrono.

Recently a set of 2998 hands including a lolipop was offered at nearly Euros 6000.

2998-4 With rare lolipop chrono hand.
2998-4 With rare lolipop chrono hand.

The Three Asymmetric Cases

I am trying to photograph the three examples of an asymmetric speedmaster together and here is what I have so far. Placed side by side it might not be immediately apparant to a novice that the value of the watch on left is twice that of the one on the right.

The three examples of asymmetric cased Speedmasters. From left, 105.012, 145.012, 145.022
The three examples of asymmetric cased Speedmasters. From left, 105.012, 145.012, 145.022

 

A 145.012 for sale on Ebay

I came across this, and it caught my eye. I wont know until the end of this piece if I like it, you are literally coming on the journey with me, as I assess it.

The eBay lot is here.

145.012 on ebay
145.012 on eBay, May 2015

So my initial feelings are, over touched photo, but potentially interesting. Dial and handset not the most attractive, but they seem to have a nice aging, although the plots are missing the lume. The hour recorder shows chrono creep so it will need to go straight to service, if bought.

It is hard to really get a feel when a photo has been this edited. So lets look deeper. I am liking it less and less…

As I always say, check the case reference, then the movement calibre, and then the serial – and see if they all could have left the factory together. First then the movement, because that’s what I looked at next.

(EDIT: Really I should check the case ref. first as you will see)Movement. Note the number.

Movement. Note the number. It is not correct for a 145.012

Oh dear, we are in trouble now. 2052xxxx is way to early for a 145.012, so better check inside the case back….

A service case back! Note the 145 0012
A service case back! Note the 145 0012

Note the reference is a “Double 00” reference, which indicates a factory supplied service part.

So this is a franken-watch ! Certainly the movement is from around 1962, long before the 145.012 was ever made.

I wonder if the whole case is a service case, although I think not as it shows too much wear:

Side view showing either dirt or corrosion
Side view showing either dirt or corrosion

The seller needs a little investigation now. No one gets one of these by accident.

The description suggests he is a non English speaker. Not being racist, but several of these assembled watches come in from middle Europe, so it might be a factory sending into UK to a “friend” to disguise the origin. Here I am just thinking aloud, my anti-scam radar on full alert.

Now I dig into his ID history and found he changed it in 2003 from a strange name, “buddhikaweerasena” which does not sound Eastern or Middle Europe. More like 419 territory to me.

Then checking further, I look into the sellers history, (as we always should) and I see  he sells a lot of watches. So he is a dealer, (certainly he passes the IRS’s definition of over 20 trades). As a dealer I think he should be ashamed of himself to offer this watch up as though it is an original piece.

Pieces like this have a place, but must be sold under full disclosure. A fine 145.012 might be worth this much, but this is a dubious condition, assembled non original watch. I think it cannot be worth more than $2200-3000 as parts.

But that’s just me – I expect too much from people I realize.

Anyway – DON’T BUY THIS WATCH !

Its a monster.

Auction Results, Geneva May 2015

Lot 396 Antiquorum 2998-4 sold for $9,400  reviewed here

2998-4 for sale Antiquorum May 2015. Photo from listing.
2998-4 for sale Antiquorum May 2015. Photo from listing.

Lot 217 Phillips 2998-5 Sold for $26,800 reviewed here

2998-5 in Phillips May 2015
2998-5 in Phillips May 2015

Lot 60 Christies 105.003-65 Sold for $9500 Reviewed here

Lot 60
Lot 60

Lot 61 Christies 105.002 Sold for $12,200 Reviewed here

Lot 61. Photo from Christies listing
Lot 61. Photo from Christies listing

Lot 215 Christies 2998-2 Sold for $29,900 reviewed here

Lot 215. Photo from Christies listing
Lot 215. Photo from Christies listing

Lot 216 Christies 2998-2 Sold for $12,900 reviewed here

Lot 216. Photo from Christies
Lot 216. Photo from Christies

 

 

145.012 Market Report

Prompted by the recent sale of this 145.012 I thought I would have a hard look at what has been selling recently, to make sure the price chart its accurate. I must confess that this is my least favorite reference, as it offers little in the way of evolution or historical interest – each of the previous references were either used first in space, or were the first to carry improvements – particularly the 105.012. In other words, if I wanted an asymmetrical cased 321, then I would want a 105.012.

Here are some examples sold off ebay in recent months, that illustrate to me the price for a running 145.012 has moved to a solid $3300+. All the following watches have something wanting, but had very strong bidding. It is clear that good photos encourage higher prices – some of the photos obviously better than others.

At the end are two Buy It Now examples. (BIN). Unfortunately Ebay has removed the ability for the end price to be found, (Used to get it from the “print” option) so we do not know what they sod for.

All photos are from the ebay listings.

 

With Pulsations Bezel:

145.012-67 Sold Ebay  May 2015 for $5250
145.012-67 Sold Ebay May 2015 for $5250

The watch above is a very nice condition watch – but what makes it very interesting is the original pulsations bezel. Note the line between the markers and the numbers, that is missing in modern versions of this bezel. This watch carries incorrect hour/minute hand, as well as a new drop chrono hand. The photos appear edited for contrast and this makes it harder to judge the condition. For all that the dial and case look good. The seller is British and feedback under 70 but all good, and specializing in watches. The high price for this watch might be explained by the rare bezel, the good dial, and the excellent photos.

Poor Dial from Mexico:

145.012 sold ebay may 2015 $3151
145.012 sold ebay may 2015 $3151

This watch has something funny going on with the dial, missing lume on the hands, and a poor condition bezel. I would have not wanted it. The dial is the heart of the value, and this one is simply awful. The seller is a solid watch seller from Mexico with a strong history. Many of his watches have had a hard life and this is an example of one such.

From a Canadian Picker:

145.012 sold on Ebay May 2015 for $3850
145.012 sold on Ebay May 2015 for $3850

This watch sold in Canada, which often causes a slightly higher price as locals feel ready to pay higher because of import charges. The seller appears to be a picker, or estate trader, for whom a watch is just another item. This watch also has some new hands. In general I find this an abused watch, one that will need some careful restoration – and removal of that modern bracelet. It will  however be an excellent project, needing just a few things to be a nice watch. Once again I think the photos do not help.

Chicago Enthusiast:

145012 sold on Ebay March 2015 for $3333
145012 sold on Ebay March 2015 for $3333

This watch was sold by an enthusiast in USA. It has the wrong hands, (originals were supplied) and came with a bracelet. Again the photos don’t help. The bezel and case are fair, the dial hard to judge, but it looks as though the lume has gone, leaving the white paint on the plots. I am not sure this will ever be a nice watch – just an average. The white plots will always bother me.

BIN from USA:

145012 Sold on Ebay May 2015. The BIN price was $5500, but a lower offer was accepted.
145012 Sold on Ebay May 2015. The BIN price was $5500, but a lower offer was accepted.

Ironically the USA seller apologized for the photos, saying he didn’t have a very good camera. Frankly I preferred these photos over every other example I have listed. This is also, (bezel excepted) the best looking watch for me. The lume is present, the hands original, and the case in good condition. It is impossible to tell what it sold for since ebay removed that option. The bezel is new, but that is easily replaced. If expensive.

BIN from Argentina:

145,012 sold on Ebay. BIN price of $5400 and a lower offer was accepted
145,012 sold on Ebay. BIN price of $5400 and a lower offer was accepted

From an Argentinian seller, this watch is not as nice as the previous BIN example, and yet posted for similar money. The bezel is again new, but the case, like many south American watches, is heavily used and dinged. The dial is dirty and the hands look a mismatch from three different watches. It does not attract me.

Here is the page for the 145.012

Speedmaster 2998 in Phillips Geneva May 2015

Phillips are selling a lot of watches only two of which are speedmasters, and at first glance have relatively reasonable estimates. Reasonable for Geneva auctions! The sheer number of “rare” rolexes does make you wonder.

On the the Speedmaster. I will look first at the 2998, the other is a 1969 Gold commemorative, that is a bit outside my scope. I may get to it, but I cant add too much.

The first is my favorite reference a 2998. You can look at the watch on Phillips’ site here

2998-5 in Phillips May 2015
2998-5 in Phillips May 2015. Photo from Listing.

According to the catalog this watch carries a movement serial number 17301309. My observations put this number in an earlier case, in fact a 2998-1. I would expect to see an 18m serial in a 2998-5. HOWEVER ! I am just an amatuer observing the watches as they appear and reading all the information I can. I cannot be certain this is incorrect. All I can say is that it will not be me going all out to buy it because I do not think it is correct. The listing says it has an Omega extract which will be very interesting to see – if it is recent, then I must reexamine all my ideas regarding serials for 2998’s. If it is old, its not worth the paper its printed on.

Estimate is $7200 – $12,000 plus commission.

The dial looks ok, and the case does too. The bezel is correct and in fair condition. If it were not for the movement discrepancy I would recommend this watch.

A minor issue is that the hand layout does not fit the received wisdom for a 2998-5. Here is what I would expect, stick hands on the subdials:

2998-61
2998-61. This carries the same hand layout as what I expect to see in a 2998-5. I dont have one at the moment, so this is the nearest I can offer!

 Once again, when I see something a little off in a watch, I start to be suspicious. In the case of the Phillips 2998-5, the movement does not match the case reference, and the hands are slightly incorrect for the reference. SO is it original? I dont think so. But I may be proved wrong if Phillips produce a recent Omega extract.