The 861 Speedmaster has several advantages over its 321 predecessors:
Ease of maintenance – parts are readily available and the movements are more familiar to more watchmakers.
Choice – there are a huge number on the market at any given time, and there are four variants to choose from. Then there is also the chance of a very attractive brown dial.
Value – and 861 from the 1970’s can still be had for under $2000 (But will need immediate work). I just bought one – true it is going to have $600 spent on it but still that’s cheap for a tool watch. Not everyone wants to run around with a $5000 or $10,000 watch on their wrist. Now of course it is possible to spend much more on an 861 Speedmaster, but to justify that it has to be special. It could be exceptional condition, or an attractive brown dial. One thing that I urge caution on is box and papers – don’t buy a watch that you would not want otherwise. Because you are probably going to loose them.
There are four to choose from (click green dots to go to the page):
- Pros: Rare, attractive and interesting
- Cons: hard to find, harder to find correct. More expensive
A Smooth backed…..
- Pros: Relatively easy to find a wide choice, often carries an attractive patina.
- Cons: Can have had a tough life, or been neglected (same for all but these especially)
An engraved back…..
- Pros: Unusual
- Cons: Rare, though not as valuable as the Transitional, but no one seems to have told the dealers…
A stamped medallion back……
- Pros: Best value out there. Some have nice patina. Plentiful.
- Cons: For the moment, these will might have the least value increase in real terms, but so what? (They might end up with the largest percentage increase, but as they have a low cost.)
Each of these has its own attraction, but all will give many years of service, when looked after, That means when you buy one, get it serviced. These watches are old, and unless you have a documented service history, it will need a service. There are endless discussions on internet fora, but the one common thingwatchmakers say is a watch needs a service – and to silence the cynics this comes from watchmakers who have no shortage of business. The point is, ALWAYS factor in the cost of a service if you don’t have the paper.
How To Buy One
Here is how to buy one:
Decide what you want to pay, and perhaps set a maximum, at least have an idea.
Choose which variant you prefer
Then trawl. The internet, and specifically eBay is the best source period. It is from Ebay I have bought my best one owner watches. It is from dealers I bought my worst, (in my early days…). The thing is that most 861 speedmasters will need a service. Even a beaten up thing, if it has no corrosion and a clean movement will likely turn out to be a good watch.
Most dealers will work on a watch, spending as little money as possible to make the watch presentable. I make no complaint, but you have to be aware when buying. They will find it hard to buy a watch for $2000 and then spend $600 on an omega approved service. They might choose to do it themselves, and that is a crap-shoot. There is no harm to look at dealers pages, perhaps www.chrono24.com or www.hqmilton.com but if you spend some time you will see the price difference. At the level these watches are worth, its hard for a dealer to make a meaningful profit.
When you find a watch you like, check the basics:
- See the case back
- See the serial
- Check the serial is in range here
- Check for no corrosion
- Check for a clean movement
- Check the hands, bezel and dial are correct for the variant here
- Finally have a look at the price chart. Its not gospel so hope to get within 20-30% of the figures. Dont be over harsh or generous!
Lastly if you are still unsure, ask. There is plenty of help for those who contribute, (even if its just photos) on www.omegaforums.net
And another good post here: