Note the difference in appearance between the two above. The watch on the right, while cleaner and brighter looking, does not hold my eye in the same way as the one on the left, which seems to get better the more I look at it. I am aware there are collectors who disagree with my views.
A vintage speedmaster is more attractive, to me, when it shows a thin coating of age, or Patina, on the dial, hands, perhaps the bezel in the form of fading or colour change, and even the case if it is not damaged. The watch on the left shows a nicely aged dial and handset. The dial and hands are in good condition and the bezel though chipped, is faded blue and of the correct period. The service bezel, as on the watch on the right, would look wrong to me if fitted to the older watch.
We avoid service parts because they do not look the same as the original parts – it is as simple as that. Side by side, as above, it is obvious. The new luminous material, called Supeluminova, is very much brighter than the older Tritium.
When serviced, especially at Omega themselves, some parts that we as collectors admire, are changed in the desire to return to the customer a watch that can perform as new, or better than new. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the astronauts watches.
These were returned regularly for service, and as a result many have service dials, hands and bezels in order to maintain the watches at the highest level of performance.
All Speedmasters may have been serviced, opened up, and had parts changed while in to the watchmaker for maintenance. Some very rare examples are completely original and collectors value these in quite a different way to the Price Chart’s principles. The watch on the left above is a one family owned watch. I had thought it was going to be untouched, but on inspection it had been polished, so I had to refinish the case. The case had some corrosion, and if sent to Omega, would have had the case replaced with a service case – again lowering the value to me. To be clear, a damaged, polished original case is worth more in a watch than a service replacement.
I recently acquired what I think is an untouched 105.012, see here
What Bienne (used?) to do ….
A Speedmaster may have been through extensive changes, with many original parts changed, such as the dial, handset, and bezel. Here is a 2998 that has been to Omega and experienced the “astronaut” style servicing – including a replacement case! This would make perfect sense for the factory, in its endeavors to give a service customer the best possible watch it could.
Which Service Parts are less valuable than others?
A watch with an older service, and parts replaced before tritium was phased out still show some nice aging and can make some very attractive and collectible pieces, but not valuable when compared to the original specifications. (With the notable exceptions of the blue and racing service dials).
The watch above was service sometime before 1994 when Tritium was phased out in favour of superluminova. This watch is actually an interesting service “snapshot” of the time. Still worth much less, but more than a 2998 with parts replaced today.
So you see there are degrees of “Service Damage”.
The most common thing we see in the market place are watches that otherwise correct have replaced hands, and/or bezels. This is a relatively minor problem, solved for the most part by spending cash.
A service dial is a huge devaluation, and everything else would have to be good to warrant spending the time effort and cash on a new vintage dial – these are almost impossible to find in the vintage “Non T” executions.
They do exist! For a short time, possibly in the 1980’s, watches when sent for service had their entire 861 movements replaced. The ones I have seen are 48m serials in 145.022 cases.
I would not buy a watch with a replaced movement.