When looking at some of the finer distinctions that speedmasters are now being valued for, it is much easier when you can see a comparison.
Here we can easily spot the blue bezel on the left and the brown dial on the right, both made easier to see because of the direct comparison. Often it is hard to know the true colours if there is no other comparison, but here we can definitely see that the dial is brown and the bezel blue.
The worlds most expensive speedmaster sold at Phillips Auction House. You can see the original Hi Res from the Phillips listing here
This sold for a huge sum, CHF408,000 including premium.
Here is a better photo of the Phillips watch:
We can see it exhibits correct 2915-1 characteristics, in that it has the correct dial with a dome, short sub dial indices, AML, and SWISS MADE, and a flat oval in Omega. The Condition Report, (not the catalog description, notes the dial is re lumed with tritium).
It has the Speedmaster engraving at the edge of the back:
The catalog is glowing in its description, and I must admit it does excite me:
“The present Speedmaster example is however one of the extremely scarce -1 iterations, and furthermore preserved in extremely attractive condition: the dial is virtually flawless and has turned a perfectly balanced and harmonious dark chocolate color, the luminous material has evenly aged to an outstandingly attractive intense tobacco hue. According to the Archives of Omega, it was sold in Costa Rica on December 17, 1958. This would suggest a mid-1958 production date which perfectly matches some details of the specimen: the caseback is still blank, without Seahorse engraving, and this is possibly one of the very last examples made with this caseback. The bezel instead is a Mark II version, with rounded 3 instead of flat one. Mid-1958 is exactly halfway through the production run of the model, a detail which perfectly explains this rare “transitional” configuration.
Considering how intensively these wristwatches were used by their original owners, it is an extremely rare occurrence for a 2915-1 to arrive to us in such an unspoiled condition. In fact, it was common practice at the time to heavily polish the case during service, and also to change various parts of the watch (bezel, pushers, crown) to a later version in order to maintain and/or improve the water resistance of the piece. Luckily, this appears to be the exception that proves the rule; actually, the watch is offered even with its original box and instruction leaflet, giving additional insight into the “first purchase experience” reserved to the buyers in 1958.” – Extracted from Phillips description
So to summarise, this is a special example of the first Speedmaster, with a Chocolate dial and apparently original specification, with box, papers and an extract. It ticks all the boxes for an ignorant naive “Investor” buyer and is a testament to Phillips ability to present a watch, which is frankly, fantastic. (the presentation!).
So what should we be worried about? In no particular order:
Is the bezel original?
Are the hands original?
Has the case been Polished?
Does the whole package ring true?
The bezel is always a worry in this reference – the reproductions are very good, but more challenging is the fact that we cannot see many examples of known original bezels. The fact this is a simple steel ring, that has been engraved, makes it straightforward to reproduce, though obviously requiring skills I for one do not have. This watch has inspired a lot of discussion by Orchi on Instagram Here . He makes the point that a pantograph cannot produce a “Serif” on the letters, that is the little tail of the edge of the symbol. Now I do not know if all the bezels were made by Pantograph, it needs more investigation. Certainly I need to find out what a Pantograph is and what it can do. Here is a close up of the Phillips Bezel:
For comparison here is the close up of the Bukowski bezel:
The Bukowski watch was sold with the description of it being hidden away with one family all its life, so the weight of evidence is that this is an original bezel. As you can see it lacks serifs. Look closely at the “T”s which are straight lines across the top, no drop serifs.
So we can safely say the two bezels were not made in the same way.
Going back to the Phillips watch, what about the hands? Again we have little to go on in terms of certified originals, but these ones have a transverse curve and look like they could be original, as opposed to the service hands which are flat. The lume deterioration adds to the impression but that can be created by skilled craftsmen. EDIT: I missed the updated catalog description that actually calls this a relume – It is carefully worded to say, “some time ago…” but it is still a confirmed relume. (Thanks to Mr Inox for sending me the condition report that was not accessible to me).
What goes against this as having original hands is that they are matching in colour with the dial plots, and this is something I now associate with possible re lumes. Again comparing the Bukowski watch where we see a difference in colour between the hand lume and the dial plots.
Cases are always polished, to some extent. In the case of all the watches on this page they have been polished but not destroyed. And at least the cases have not been rebuilt like the 2915-1 sold by Christies for an unforgivable $137,000 in December 2015.
So what about the price? Well when the Bukowski watch sold for $275,000 and the thoughts among my friends was it was an outlier, where someone really believed the story, (and why not) and two people really wanted it. We did not think it was a repeatable price. How wrong I was.
More I think will be revealed when this, Lot 9, a 2915 -1 sells at Christies in June. The link is here
A quick precis of my opinion on this is that the dial is round oval, where I would like to see an oval in “Omega”. The short incies sub dial is there, and the AML. The hands, from this one photograph look a little flat and I would like to eliminate the possibility they are later additions, especially given the matchi – matchi lume colour.
The bezel lacks any serifs.
So where are we with 2915’s?
Well I think I have learned a little for the bezels, and I have some direction to research. The prices are looking like they are headed upwards but there are so few available it is hard to really name the price as high or low.
…to this lovely example of a 145.022-71. I rarely sell watches, and when I do its with good reason.
In my experience these are very rare, and I have been looking for one for six years. Then last year, I found myself committed to buying two at once, and I am trying to keep only one of each reference, so this one goes.
This one has the smooth back, or “No Nasa” as we now call it. I was told that the reason this came about was a delay in Omega negotiating with NASA the rights to the wording on the watch that we all now know.
What made this watch even more special is that it is the actual watch featured in MoonWatch Only.
So now I am saying goodbye, and the watch is off to its next custodian.
I have gone through some of the early pages and brought them up to date.
The price chart is updated, but honestly it is becoming a thankless task as rising values have brought in Asset Class buyers and vested interests, all of whom have an opinion, and frankly they care more about values than the watches.
Another side effect of rising prices is that I cannot buy like I used to. My entire annual spending on watches eight years ago might buy a couple of watches today.
(All photos are harvested from the Phillips site and used pending permission – they would be removed if I am asked)
First up is the Black Racing Dial Speedmaster, the 145.012-67. It comes with its original sales document. I must confess this is my favorite speedmaster reference.
Estimate was much lower than any Black Racing has been offered on the market recently. It sold for CHF40,000 which while double the estimate was half what other examples have sold for at auction. There are several good reasons why:
The bezel is correct, but damaged. This is but one example of how damaged the bezel is – a generally shagged bezel. But it does suit the rest of the watch and I would not change it if I was the new owner. (Which I am not).
The dial condition is poor. If a dial this damaged was on an “ordinary” 145.012 it would be dismissed as unwanted by most collectors. here we see missing plots, and also chrono creep, though that would never stop me buying a rare watch like this.
Here we see more printing missing from the track
And the worst damage is up here at the top, right where it strikes the eyes. The Hour and Minute hands are missing all lume, but that is an minor issue.
The big issue for me is the lack of extract. Omega will issue an extract for these black racing dials stating the dial as having red indices. There are some black racing dial watches in circulation that do not have this on an extract and the dials might be fitted after production. I personally know of two watches in this state. So that will affect the value – maybe the new owner will get an extract showing a racing dial, which will be nice.
The condition of this watch is, frankly poor. However, I would have loved to own it for the low estimate – which tells me it is not a watch to be dismissed. Sometimes poor condition rare wachtches can give enormous pleasure of ownership, and I feel this one is in that category. Now the price of this one was very high, half what a good one fetches – this to me indicates either that prices of the good ones need to be higher, OR we are in an inflationary period where mediocre condition watches are fetching prices that the owners would find hard to recuperate for several years after purchase.
The last thing I want to discuss with this watch, is what might happen to it next. A dealer may well decide that it is worth restoring, and with over $30,000 to play with thats a lot of room to work on the dial, relume the hands, replace the bezel and go for an extract – perhaps we could see the watch in a future major auction. The good thing about these Omegas, is that there are so few of them (unlike Daytonas), that the collector community will probably notice them.
There are three other Speedmasters to look at, stay tuned to the blog and we will look at them….
How do they look now, a few months on? It is always interesting to go back over previous Auctions and see if I would have been happy to have bought them. (I did not buy these).
The first is a 145.012 Serial 25’004’098.
On initial inspection it is clear it has the wrong bezel and the wrong bracelet. The lower subdial is off centre, but as the chrono is partly run it cannot be said for certain it is Chrono Creep, but my guess would be that it is:
First impressions are very good – it has the original guarantee, the box and an extract of the archives.
It also has a correct bracelet, and I think that photo disguises a very attractive dial. The bezel DO90 is very good with some small marks. It is a very good watch, but $21,000? For me that is very strong, and I would never bid that much without seeing it.
My guess is that when held, this watch has real quality. I think the dial may be especially good, and the overall watch conveys an air of originality that not many do – helped of course by the papers. I have never heard of this reference selling for this, but perhaps it was just one of those gems we sometimes see in auctions that excite two people to fight.
While I think the buyer will be pleased with the watch, it might be sometime before we see 145.012 reach over $20,000 again.
It is with great pleasure I introduce the first the very first guest article by a fellow collector, who you might know already on Omegaforums.net as @Oddboy. He is a knowledgeable and prolific collector and I am thrilled to have him contribute his thoughts here.
As Speedmasters rise quickly in value, so too does interest in Speedmaster parts. In this article, we will explore some of the – sometimes contentious – issues around buying parts.
Of course all of us would love to buy original, first owner watches that have been tucked away in a sock drawer or shoe box in someone’s closet. The reality is that this doesn’t happen all that often. The majority of Speedmasters bought these days are from the more common outlets – eBay, auction houses, dealers, pawn shop and of course, watch forums. As these watches pass from one person to the next, we lose sight of the watch’s originality. The friction of moving through all those hands often leads to watches that are “upgraded” or “enhanced” for sale.
What does “enhanced” mean?
Old watches often have issues that need to be addressed. The movement, for example, may need parts in order to continue to function. While many of the initiated would buy a Speedmaster in a non-functioning state, the majority of us would not. While many of these parts are available at various parts suppliers or on eBay (among other sites) as well as directly from Omega (with some caveats), there are parts that are simply not available. There’s also the matter of finding the right watchmaker to service a vintage movement. However, buying and replacing old, worn movement parts is generally acceptable. The watch wouldn’t work if we didn’t do this. The key here is that the replacement parts are authentic Omega parts intended for the caliber and, ideally, the reference of the watch.
But what about the visible parts – the parts that make up most of the value; that attract or repel us?
This is where the lines begin to blur.
While not preferred, many collectors accept watches that are enhanced, as long as disclosed, and when the “enhancement” is unobtrusive. Replacing a beat up old “meteor” DON bezel with a nicer one is generally acceptable, provided that the new one matches the condition of the rest of the watch. There is a question here too of whether anyone would know if you did such a thing (hint: the experienced collectors probably will).
Replacing modern parts on a vintage watch – be it hands, bezels, dials – all more or less accepted as “returning a watch to its original form” and this practice is generally OK to all but the most pedantic purists. But is there a line? What if all of those parts – hands, bezel, dial – are replaced with sourced parts?
Even if disclosed, is the watch still desirable? (hint: it can be). We are not talking here about embellishing parts with reluming, repainting (perhaps an article in its own right), or otherwise changing the part, but rather hunting out proper, authentic, vintage parts to put onto the watch in question. Opinions on this are divided.
So, what about buying parts?
eBay, parts houses (“while supplies last!”), watch makers and fellow collectors are all sources of parts.
You can find just about anything with a little patience and a ready war chest. Many parts, especially “consumable” parts (like pushers, crowns, stems, crystals, main springs) are available with very little effort on ebay. You can find DON bezels of varying quality without too much effort as well, though the better ones – and the better prices – are often on the forums. Baton hands are also not impossible to source, but you have to be quick.
Proper tritium hands go quickly, and are not cheap. An Hour and Minute pair of hands would go for somewhere around $500 these days, and they don’t last long.
Even cases can be found, but it starts to get harder. Modern twisted lug cases are slightly different from vintage ones. Straight lug cases are often pitted or rusted, or have damaged threads (for caseback, or for pusher stems). Sometimes the holes for the pushers are worn and pushers can’t be fitted anymore without “adjustment”. Dials, the heart of the watch, can be found too, but you have to ask yourself… why is the dial for sale and not on a watch? Quite often, it’s because the dial that’s for sale has been replaced by a better one. And often, the better one came off another watch.
In other words, some people will buy a whole watch just for a particular part. As far as pricing goes, well, it’s all about condition. A nice pre-pro dial in good condition with original lume can easily command $5,000 or more. Earlier dials (flat O, short minute marker dials) have pushed right up to $10,000. Good Professional dials will fetch $3,500 to $5,000. Less good versions of these dials will easily drop to 50% of those prices or less. The difference between a watch with a good dial and one with a worn dial can be 100% or more.
So here we are at the far end of parts acquisition… buying a watch to yank parts off of it to enhance another watch. Again, the question is always, how would anyone know?
Where is the line?
In my humble opinion, I think buying a watch for no other reason than to dismantle it is going too far – but as always there are exceptions to the rule. There are watches for sale, most often on eBay, that sell for “VAP”, or Value As Parts. These can be good buys for a heavy collector who wants or needs to gather some “spares”, especially as a number of parts for 321 movements are NLA. If the watch is too far gone to ever make to even the “Running”+ category on the Price Chart, then I would accept it being bought for the constituent parts to be disassembled and used elsewhere.
There are no hard rules about buying parts for watches. There is a code of ethics that fellow collectors expect of each other, and your morals will guide you when the community consciousness is not there to help you with that. But aside from the expectation of forthrightness, there are forces to contend with, or at least be aware of. Replacing parts can result in a more valuable watch, but more often than not, the investment does not pay for itself. Replacing parts can certainly increase your own enjoyment of a watch – especially, it can increase your enjoyment of posting in the WRUW thread. But the most rewarding kind of watch is still one that you bought that was already complete, and ideally all original. There is still no better find than the one owner sock drawer find.
Value As Parts
It is important to understand the concept of VAP.
In order to determine if an investment in parts – whether on their own, or in a parts watch – you need to appreciate the value proposition. The Price Chart has a good discussion of the Value of DON bezels and how they affect the price of the watch. This same approach can be used for any parts decisions.
For example, if you’re considering a dial for your watch, consider: does replacing the current dial with a better one increase the value of the watch? If so, by how much? By at least the price of the dial you’re considering? For example, if you bought a 105.003-65 for $8,000 but you aren’t thrilled with the dial, is it worth spending $5,000 one a better one?
If you buy the dial, you’re now $13,000 into the watch. You may be able to sell your not so nice dial for $2500, possibly less. So let’s say your watch now cost you $10,500. From a pure value point of view, was that a good buy?
Maybe. If it increases your enjoyment of the watch, then, well, only you can put a price on that. From a market perspective, you might break even. However there is an intangible cost here to replacing the dial: the watch is no longer original. Would anyone know?
Probably not (unless they recognized the dial – which happens!).
Should you disclose it? Of course.
Would you disclose it? Hmm, personal decision. I hope you would. I would. But as soon as you do, the value of the watch drops by some immeasurable amount in the eyes of Speedmaster hunters. So your $10,500 Ed White might only be worth the original $8,000 you started at even after you’ve invested in an expensive dial not to mention all the blood, sweat and tears you put into finding it and having it put on. Did the investment pay off? Probably not. Is it worth doing for your own enjoyment (or for increasing Likes on the OF WRUW thread)? Could be. The point of the discussion is to be conscious of what you’re buying into.
Part #320-1112. Looks kind of like a paperclip, doesn’t it?
On the left is a service movement and dial, that came to me in a straight lug case. The dial and handset is very attractive, though not valued by many today. It is very rare, and especially nice to see one with pleasing patina.
On the right is a really brown dial. This is an extreme change, and I have not seen one like it.