State of the Speedmaster Market

In March 2018

Much discussions over on OF on this subject here. Here is my bullet points as I see the market:

  • The best examples are held by collectors who are not selling
  • Most watches on the market are sold by dealers or collectors who like to churn thier collections for profit.
  • Dealers continue to ask higher prices, but they may or may not be selling
  • Private sellers are asking too much as well
  • If you want to actually sell a speedmaster, it will sell for more than 12 months ago, but not as high as some are asking
  • The 1970’s Speedmasters are hard to find, demand is rising and I expect these to rise in value, but not by a huge amount as they are not much to begin with
  • 2998 prices are all over the place. Lack of extracts and difficulty to verify is making buyers nervous of the very high prices ($100k) asked by some. A 2998 will still sell well for under $30,000
  • 105.002’s are so hard to find – so few have sold its very hard to know what one would sell for today. Possibly in line with a 2998-61/62
  • Oddities, like blue dials and racing dials, NoNasa, BA145.022-69, and the Soyuz are all selling like crazy – these are quite a different market to the black dials – so they should be when you think how few there are.
  • There are very few nice watches on the market at the moment
  • The watches that are available, need to be inspected closely

A pair of rarities

On the left is the very rare blue soleil dial, and on the right the black racing. Very few examples of each are known, perhaps between 10 and 20 of each are known.

Prices of both are headed towards $100,000 – but data is thin.

Watches Of Knightsbridge March 2018

Watches of Knightsbridge are presenting an auction of watches on March 17th here. Also you could go to my friend @ewand ‘s post over on here and see the photos, and his very good assessments. However after seeking legal advice I can now point to the images from this page, allowing you to have it all on the one page.

I have spent some time studying this sale. It would be easy to dismiss the speedmasters here as all being overpriced and not good quality. But I think that is an error (one I nearly made to be honest). Because after going through them in depth, I think they all have something to offer, and while we might say they could be a little high, I suspect they will all sell and therefore (by definition) they are priced within what the market will pay. In general the photos are sharp, but not able to help me full appreciate the watches, with dust, lint or crystal damage that without further images from different angles it is hard to make judgments.. More photos of each lot would have helped make judgements on the states of the dials and location of damage. The Ed White is especially interesting, and I think completely misjudged. See below for my ideas. The other watches are fairly run of the mill, possibly from owners possibly from the dealers of Portobello, but they often flip watches untouched so not a bad thing.

I think WOK are offering a range of watches not easy to see elsewhere. I don’t think they are cheap, but they are there.

The photos shown here are not hosted by me, nor copied from Watches of Knightsbridge. I am happy to enable you to see the WOK images by embedding them, not hosting and therefore there is no infringement of copyright.

I have to say I look forward to any WOK sale as they always produce an interesting, varied and packed sale, with lots of interesting watches that do not often come up in the bigger auctions. The catalog is always a pleasure to read for its variety. Here I will only concern myself with the speedmasters, as that is all I know.

This post is a preliminary look through the catalog, and I hope to add more information later. Because of the standard of curation we need to view these in hand to fully be able to value them. (Again, not a criticism – I like this sale for that, it means we see a wide range of qualities and therefore more watches). It is great to see all these early speedmasters in one sale.

  • Photos look good, until you try and get solid information from them. (Good from far, Far from good). Watches all have one or two  images (Except for Lot 194), that is hard to glean value influencing information. This sale needs to be viewed and when I have I shall adjust these notes.
  • Auction fees here are 24% incl VAT (Reasonable compared to the grownups).
  • Estimates are quite narrow.
  • Most bezels are unusually poor.
  • A good selection of what might be original watches, that do not show dealers preparation.

Lot 193 105.003-65 £6000-£8000

NAAFI receipt, decayed dial. Many correct parts with possible exception of crown, and maybe pushers

At first glance this does seem a lot of money for a damaged watch.

I don’t think those decayed, but matching(!) hands and dial will ever look good, but they might, and appeal to a real patina junkie. Mrs Fruit looked over my shoulder and remarked that it looked like it has lived too long in a dirty ditch, and I think that is a better description than Tropical. “Ditch Dirty”.

I love this watch, and I think it will sell. The auctioneers describe this watch as having a good condition tropical dial. This should tell you a lot about this auction house’s standards, the standards of the people in it, and their demonstrably limited knowledge in assessing watches. How can you call this a “Good Tropical Condition” ?

Please do not interpret this as an insult – I am merely pointing out that anyone looking at this sale cannot (demonstrably) rely on anything the staff say – so, you HAVE TO DO YOUR OWN DILIGENCE.

Now lastly, you could look at this the other way round. What is a papered Ed White worth with a nice dial? Well a nice one has to be around £15,000 today – could this watch, with a nice dial be worth that? So then we start to think, could we buy this for £8000 or even as much as £10,000 and then go shopping for a dial? The dial might cost as much as £5000 and it would still make sense. So I can now see where WOK’s valuation comes from. This does assume that the rest of the watch that we cannot assay is good, the movement the  case etc.

The question is, who has a nice spare dial, and then who wants the un-original watch? (After all the watch will always be known as a dial substitute, and is identifiable by the paper, even if we do not have the full number. On the internet, nothing vanishes.)

I think a dealer will buy this.

Lot 194 145.012-67 £5500-£6500

Correct parts. (Except the movement attachment screw)

This might be quite nice, the dial has a potentially pleasant fade. A fair DO90 bezel, though a bit faded. There are plenty of photos on the site to enable a much deeper assessment.

I really want to like this watch, its on the line between patinated and shagged. The dial needs inspection, or at least some photos which I am sure WOK will send you if you ask (they are very good about supplying additional photos). However with 24% fees the high estimate puts it above some better watches sold in the last few months, and I so not think this will fly. UNLESS on viewing that dial looks nicer than it is.

There is a mark at the 7 minute marker that is on the crystal or on the dial – which it is will make a huge difference to the price.

The movement shows plenty of signs of work, and could be tidied up. The movement is attached to the movement ring incorrectly, and so demonstrates a non-qualified service history – which could indicate some deeper problems in the movement.

Lot 195 105.012-66 CB £6000-£7000

CB case, with Extract. Good bezel, except where it is chipped, slightly “meteor”. Appears original pushers which is attractive.

I have a feeling this will look good in hand.

Good evidence of Facet lines. Dial plots are yellow and slightly incomplete but not bad. In fact I think the dial is good apart from the slightly inconsistent plots.

Hands dirty and signs of multiple removals.

It is always better to buy a 105.012 with original pushers rather than service, and always better to buy one with an extract. There are simply too many alternative calibre 321’s from that era that are potential donors for transplants.

Ignoring the price this is a good buy.

For the price? Well a little strong but I think it should sell as it is a pretty much an up together watch, with a lot of good attributes. Hard to find a better one on the market today, without saying this is a fine example. Its good, and there are not many available, and this might push the price beyond what a private sale may yield.

Lot 196 145.022-69 4500-5500


The watch looks a bit dirty, which is a good thing, it could be original and therefore less fiddled with. It will be interesting to see where this ends up. The subdial is creeping, but I would expect to have to service this anyway. I would like to know the serial, to check if it is in the brown series, (2911 or 2960). I think the dial is slightly brown.

The DO90 bezel is either dirty or damaged. That makes a huge difference to the value, obviously. If all those marks simply wipe off, then we have a great watch….if its is damage….then not so much.

Either the dial is spotted or there is a lot of dust on the crystal or inside. Once again, we need to see more or inspect in hand.

The plots look to be devoid of lume but it may be the photos. I think I could like this, subject to inspection in hand.

Lot 197 145.022-69 £4000-£4500

220 bezel. I personally do not see much extra value attributed to these bezels – yet. We are all waiting I think!

This looks all correct but it seems a strong price. The lower subdial is creeping. There is a scratch over the subdial but I think it is in the crystal.

The case looks sharp.

The dial, (subject to checking the scratch) looks good. I can see this selling. Its quite nice, and appears correct. It will need a service.

Lets see if the market does value this bezel.

Lot 198 145.022-71 Straight Writing £4500 £5000

On bracelet, 1171/633.

Watch looks a little tired and original. A fine one will sell for double the estimate, but this is not fine. They are rare, and the market sometimes ignores them and sometimes they sell for a lot at auction. We will have to wait and see.

The bezel is unusually poor, so I would want to inspect the whole watch before bidding. Otherwise this looks a nice original watch that will respond well to a sympathetic service. Once again, I cannot tell the true state of the dial from the photos. There is something on the running seconds subdial that I would want to make sure is on the crystal not the dial.

This could be a good watch to buy, it needs, as ever, handling in person.

Lot 199 Smooth Lunar Box £1500-£2000

This has us all gasping at the price.

Someone might buy this for a Gold 1969 but they would be buying the wrong box. This is for late 1969 but I have seen most with early 1970’s watches. It is in remarkably good condition.

And I want it !

While we all in the collector community have smarted at the estimate, I can see this going for as much as the high estimate if not more.

It is very rare, and in very rare original fine condition. Show me another, the last one I saw sold was $850 and damaged. So I would say WOK have got it right on this. (I expect they have a low reserve so no skin off their nose).

Having said that I want it, I am not yet ready to pay more for this box than I have paid for some of my watches. But if I was feeling flush I would. Why? Because with something like this, its not about the money, its about the opportunity to buy. After buying this, the buyer will forget how much he paid, and will simply have one of the best condition boxes I have seen.

Again the caveat here is that the box really is in top condition – it looks it, but before following my somewhat headstrong advice above, for goodness sake see it in person.

Lot 200 145.022-74 £2800-£3400

It is important to see if this has a stepped dial or not I am pretty sure from examining the photo it does not – it is more desirable with the stepped dial, but correct with both.

Something unusual going on where the rehaut (metal ring under the crystal) has obscured most of the T SWISS MADE T.

The bracelet is not the expected 1171 but possibly original. These 1171 bracelets are gaining recognition and value in the last 12 months, but this is not that bracelet so the value is not there.

Not bad at the lower estimate, although there are currently better alternatives for similar money or less on the Sales Forum on OF.

Fellows Auction 105.012

I am always on the lookout for a nice one owner Speedmaster at a Cinderella auction. I found this 105.012-65 in Fellows Auction in Birmingham. The sale is on February 27th 2018

I would love to reproduce the photos here, but I do not have permission to do that, and as you will see, they might not want to give it.

Estimated at 4000 to 6000 sterling plus fees. At today’s rates, that works out at USD$5585 to $8375. So not crazy price-wise. (Until you add 30% buyers premium). Lets look at it, I have to describe it without photos so do get it up on another screen.

  • 105.012-65 marked inside case back.
  • Movement 2262xxxx which is too low for a -65. Actually I have not seen a Speedmaster with 2262xxxx number so I would want an extract before paying. 
  • EDIT: Since writing the number in the listing has changed to 22827825 and now falls into line with expectations. Or I misread the site, oops.
  • Poor to fair correct DO90 bezel
  • Correct dial, in fair to good condition, dirty (Algae colour) plots, not so attractive. Close spaded T marks.
  • Service pushers, not sure about crown – but it looks ok from what I can see.
  • Case band appears in better condition than the rest of the watch, including the case back and bezel. This needs investigating to eliminate that this may be a service case band.
  • Service bracelet later than 1970’s.
  • Personal engraving on rear.
  • Replaced hands that look very white.

The auction fees are nearly 30% if you bid online. (which is why I always book a telephone bid).

The case band is really worrying, and if buying the watch needs to be inspected. In conversation with the auctioneers, they disclosed the watch is from a private source, who frequently had it serviced. While that is  good thing if you want your watch to work, it makes it less interesting for us!

It will be telling to see what this sells for, as it has had plenty of exposure, including here:

A Look at a 145.022-69 For Sale

This watch is for sale on OF (see here) and its been there for a while and I wondered why. I will go through it with you now as I write. I am curious because at first glance $5200 for this reference is not expensive. Let’s examine it. I am going to use photos from the listing but I am not going to copy the whole lot over, I suggest you click on the link and have the page open while you read.

Now the best head on photo from the listing is this: 

Now forgive me saying so, and bearing in mind not everyone is a natural photographer, but this is a terrible sales photo. So I took that photo and did this:

That’s better. Now we can get a better idea of what is here. I always find it easier to look at a watch the right way up, and also adjusting the white balance a little. One of the things I always look for in a 2911xxxx serial is the dial colour. Even if it has not gone as far as tropical, it often has a pleasant shade not seen in other series.

As far as I can see its a very presentable 145.022-69. True a little worn, but really how many have we seen for sale?

The seller has described the dial as having all the lume removed. The white balance of the photos disguises this, but it is apparent. The dial otherwise seems in fair to good condition with the printing intact. I would see this watch as a perfect candidate for a re-lume.  In the next photo the plots can clearly be seen as missing all lume, but the white paint is full. (Ideal for re lume).

Lets look at the dial, which is good on first glance but there may be something, its a bit crumbly at the edges. Also there is a little blotching around the 6 marker:

So the dial is let down by the lack of lume, the blotching at 6, and possibly 4, and the crumbly edge. Otherwise the dial looks good, the concentric rings are clear. The hands look correct and in good condition. Its not a fine dial but it is not bad. As the movement is 2911xxxx then we always look for hints of brown – but I do not think there is any here.

We can see damage on the crystal and the seller has declared it as non original. I would replace it. The claim is serviced and it may well be, which makes it even better value.

The bezel is a correct DO90. This always makes valuing these watches difficult because such a high proportion of the value rides on the bezel. If this bezel were released on its own then I expect on Ebay this would sell for perhaps $1000 – 1500. It could go for more. It is damaged but I have seen people fight over worse.

The bezel really is not so bad. I would rather have this than a service replacement.

Now also included in the sale is an original, trapeze logo 1171 bracelet. These are now selling for over $400 and could again get more.

So in summary this watch has problems of appearance, but it has been serviced and comes complete with correct parts and a correct bracelet.

The seller asks $5200. I cannot see it as expensive. Especially as I have really not seen any of this reference for sale. I feel I do not need to add that I have no connection to the seller, or the watch.

If I had to guess, I would say the sale has stalled due to poor photos that don’t show the true colour, nor the attraction that I am sure this watch has. Also perhaps the price was too high to start with and the watch over exposed at a poor time for selling.

It also may be an illustration that while the market might pay double this for a top example, one like this that can be criticised on several high value points is harder to value.

Since writing my friend Ewan started an interedting thread over on OF and out of this thread comes the concepts that this is a dull time for sales, (Pre March) and that forum sales are higher than this time last year, based on average sale. All interesting stuff, go and have a look.

State of the Market Spring 2018

Like many a well enjoyed collectable, Speedmasters have attracted those with a profit motive. Now a collector has to compete with an investor or dealer, and has few options to acquire from  private sources anymore. So we are left to buy from dealers, collectors or auctions.

The Speedmaster was, for a long while, an enthusiasts watch, or with the later vintages, a chance to buy an inexpensive version of a current model – as the 2006 version was only slightly different to the 1978 version. The c1994 version with the tritium dial was even closer to the 1978. When I first bought a Speedmaster they were around $1000 to $1500 and hardly anyone knew the difference between the models – often dealers would only differentiate between the movements, and the price range was considerably less. A symptom of this was that very few people understood a 105003 and for a long while these traded at $2500. Hardly anyone had seen a 2915 let alone traded one.

Sources of all my early watches were ebay, pawn shops, the odd watch show and charity shops. The watches were almost all from private people and wide ranging in quality price and value. Frankly eBay was by far and away the most bountiful source. The choice was incomparable.

105.012 from the Salvation Army. This was a one owner watch that while not perfect, had the aura of honesty. As a result I paid about 10 – 20 % over what the market thought was the price. This photo is post service, and as you can see I have preserved the appearance completely. This is the kind of watch a “fund” will ignore, a dealer will “Improve” and a collector will simple enjoy and value unchanged.

On eBay things started to wake up, and when Speedmasters started going for more than $1500 we saw eBay carrying four to ten private Speedmasters every week. These watches were owners watches, or their beneficiaries, and often I was buying a watch that was unopened and sometimes I never knew what I was going to get. Here is a 105.012-63, sold as a “1970’s Speedmaster”. I paid $1650 for it, and I did not know what I had – to this day it is one of my favorite watches.

105.012-63. One of my earliest purchases, for $1650 from Ebay, There were three photographs, and described as a “1970’s Speedmaster”. At the time I might have slightly overpaid for an 861, but this was an all time bargain. This is not something I think will be repeated anymore.

There were many watches, and many buyers. Most were private buyers too, but the rising market was attracting flippers, or perhaps we can call them gentleman traders. Any fool seemed to be able to make a couple of hundred buying a poorly photo’d watch from a dark corner of the countryside, cleaning it and re presenting it.

This rise in values has coincided with an economy where the money in the bank devalues as you look at it, and men (it is nearly always men) began to buy and sell watches outside of their primary occupation, and do well. They (I?) would rather see money in watches than stagnating in the bank . Many people have now decided to become watch dealers – though I wonder how well they do, and how much of their personal moral code they have had to leave behind.

What I am pointing out is that the source of Speedmasters has changed from private individuals, to dealers and collectors selling on watches that have often been tidied up, restored or prepared in some way and so lack the originality of an owned watch. As a result, true one owner watches are attracting a premium, a premium that is hard to justify in the cold light of a commercial analysis.  These watches have borrowed the term Barn Find from the vintage car market, perhaps as so many of us collectors have connections to vintage cars too.

145.012 Owned by a Vietnam Verteran, sold to me by his surviving brother. A true barn find, in spite of a changed bezel, this watch is in original one owner condition. This watch currently does not run, but I feel no urgency to touch it. See the story of it here

Recently another Barn Find sold strongly on Ebay….except it was not really a Barn Find. (Which is my point, even in this condition they are coming through traders):

105.012 Sold on Ebay for just under $5,000 with 1039 bracelet. While on first glance this could be a barn find, (the pushers look original) this watch is offered by someone who knows how to dismantle a watch – not many real owners can do that. Still I think it was a good buy even with the dial issues, which are not as bad as some. Photo from listing.

Auction houses too, have increased activity and turnover. We now have major auction houses scheduling two or three important auctions a year, as well as several minor houses with regular auctions. Unfortunately, like the dealers who prop up the auctions, they don’t really have the depth of knowledge that a motivated collector in this field has. They might develop this knowledge to a certain extent, as they have in the art and jewelry market, but as yet the watch market is nascent by comparison. The jewelry auction business has seen great shake ups as the wider world discovered about Ruby origins and heat treatments as well as Emerald oiling and resin to name just two cataclysms that rocked the market. A lot of people bought stones that cannot be sold for 20% of what those charmers in the Auctions sold them for. I believe we are in a similar (pre – cataclysm) time with watches and so we see high profile sales of re lumes, lasered cases, and even down right fakes. Remember, auction staff work only for the benefit of the Auction house, not you, the buyer, and the only reason the seller benefits is as the Auction houses best interests are aligned with those sellers….and just watch how quickly a seller is abandoned to the sea of contract law if the buyer fails to complete.

A visit we made to Christies New York December 2015. On the right is a 2915-1 with a re cut case. This was offered as original by Christies, but acknowledged by staff at the sale as refinished. It was auctioned without any special mention for $125,000 and subsequently the sale was removed from any records by Christies, although I was assured the sale completed to a happy buyer.

This I have no doubt will change, but buying at any auction should be done without placing 100% confidence in what the experts at the houses say. Until the Auction Houses get caught red handed selling something expensive and miss described, they wont learn. Keep watching Orchi Palar on Instagram! He is calling out auctions and dealers, though I don’t know the Rolex market well enough to know if he is right. I do however enjoy the idea that someone is watching.

We are seeing the emergence of watch funds, and this is extremely dangerous for the market. Consortia are congealing, gathering investors into hegemonous groups that go into the market and buy watches for investment, with the idea of selling back into the market for a profit in 3 to 6 years. While this might sound like a good idea we have to go back to basics and identify the flaw.

Watch funds will always miss the truly special, like this, because they lack the confidence to stick their necks out:

Three unusual dials. These cannot be quantified or priced, as they are so rare the price depends only what two people are willing to pay for it on the day of an auction. As a result, Watch Funds could catch a serious cold buying these.

Who buys watches? Men, for the most part, who want to “own” them, for the pleasure of owning them. To give pleasure, the watch must have attraction, and give pleasure to this owner each time he sees it. The fact that it has two lines of red text, or a BASE1000 bezel, is a given, not the reason he (I?) like it.

Auction houses need the dealers. They set the floor in any market, scooping up anything that the private buyers do not want and preventing the auctions from holding  piles of unsold watches. They prevent that awful situation where there are no bids, and an item is returned unsold. An unsold item is bad for everyone, even if the houses usually manage to stiff the poor seller with unsold fees. The private buyer in the auction is where the action is, but the dealers are paying all the bills. That’s why when you go to an auction the auctioneer is always so cozy with the dealers, making private jokes from the podium. The auctioneers need the dealers to hold their trousers up.

So the market is set when two private buyers fight it out for a desirable piece. True, they may be only fighting themselves for a little while, but its still a price arrived at in the open. These private buyers fight for the watch because they like it. Perhaps it was flown to the space station, or owned by an astronaut. It could be that the dial is that attractive shade of brown that tickles the pleasure buds.

To be clear, two people do not fight to the financial death over a DO90 bezel, a brown dial, or even an Arab crest, just because of the bezel, the dial or the mark. They fight because they desperately want it because it touches them in a way a piece of modern art might. It does not have to make financial sense.

A dealer, or a fund, will look for items to fill the stock. “I need a couple of straight lugs” a dealer might say, or the fund might allocate a budget for 10 brown dials. Or twenty 1970’s speedmasters.

Do you see the difference? The privates are buying because of what it looks like, and the dealers and funds are buying based on how they can describe it on paper. These funds are audited.  When was the last time you met a watch collector who is an auditor? (not an accountant, and Auditor.)

Now we come to the second problem with funds. We all know when two crazy privates fight for a watch – the price goes up to the point where all but two people in the auction think it is crazy, and even when the hammer comes down, the winner often thinks he is still crazy. With the funds, they are not spending their own money. They think that the watch will appreciate 10% a year and so if they over pay 20% on a five-year investment they still come out 30% up. And anyway, its not their money. So funds actually push the price of “ordinary” watches higher, while not being brave enough to buy the really special pieces. Because they don’t have the balls to fly that high, always needing a consensus from committee, so that no one can be blamed in five years when they sell. So while the funds might push some, the really super special watches, like blue dials, or black racings, might just escape them.

So now imagine two funds in the auction. Neither are buying the watch because they like it, its because they have decided they see growth as a result of certain conditions being met, e.g. it is brown, has a BASE1000 bezel, it is a straight lug. So now instead of the private setting the top of the market, it is a fund, a group of people with no individual taste pushing a watch that is replaceable, but they need it because in order to pass the audit is has to come from auction, and we have now a situation  were the privates have dropped out because the do not like the watch, but because the watch fills a set of criteria, the funds think it is the perfect investment piece and while they pay more than another fund, they pay way more than a private would.

At the end of the day, the value must be set by the ultimate consumer, the collector. It is after all the collector who will buy the watch at the end of the fund’s investment period, unless the model is so successful that another fund comes along and buys it.

For the private buyer, like me, I am focusing on one owner watches, preferably with papers, and always with an extract. For that, I will pay a premium, one that is impossible to put in the chart.

There is an acute shortage of wonderful examples. Perhaps those of us who have some feel no pressure to sell. These are genuine rarities, and until there is a flamethrower at their backsides collectors wont sell.


A little Ebay Project you can buy…maybe!

My browsing showed this little 145.012 on Ebay.  All images are from the listing and I have no connection.  At the time of writing there is three days to go. See the listing here

I used to enjoy buying speedmasters in this state,  but the prices have risen strongly and the risks are quite high now.

This watch is presented without a bezel and missing a pusher cap.  The dial plots seem very white from the photos and the handset seems vintage and correct. The crown is not. The bracelet is scrap.

When considering a watch like this, the first thing is to wonder how damaged the movement is from the missing pusher. Sometimes this can allow moisture ingress that over time causes damage.

Well the photos are not the best, but we can see there is no serious corrosion. We can also see that although the seller describes the movement as like new, each screw shows marks. A good watchmaker will service a 321 movement without leaving those marks. I also check the column wheel just to make sure it has all its columns, and this one does. The clutch bridge is the correct shape, and thats about all I can get from the photo.

The movement number fits the range. However it is 2500xxxx and I see this in 105.012’s as well as Seamasters. I am not saying it has problem, just that here we have an incomplete watch, with no history. How happy would you be if you paid a lot and found that Omega would not issue an extract? Just remember it is a possibility.

The major negative on this watch, apart from having to find a DO90 bezel, is that the dial is not that attractive due to the washed off plots.

How much is it worth? Well three days to go and its around $2500. Thats cheap, but I think double this is too expensive – so somewhere between.

A look at a Flawed 2998

Its been a while. For my first post of 2018 let us look at this 2998.

For me, collecting speedmasters is not just about finding flawless examples, mint NOS or unworn watches. While I can see the attraction, and even the value, I find these very high quality watches hard to enjoy on a daily basis, and they sit in the safe.

A far more challenging watch, is one that is not worth top dollar, but has an attraction and draws the attention in a pleasurable way, and is not worth so much money it is too scary to wear. It is about finding a balance, between quality and attraction. And this is, or should be, different for all of us.

Here is one. And my thinking behind it.

Last autumn/winter there was a flurry of very high priced listings for 2998’s and I was not sure if this was a genuine phenomenon. There were some very nice watches (with brown dials) sold for over $75,000 and some fair ones sold for around $25,000.

As an exercise I put this watch up on Ebay in December. I acquired it some while ago with several issues, as well as some really attractive qualities, not least that lollipop. I would have been happy to sell it for $18,000. (I have been offered a single lolipop hand, missing lume, for $5000 – I did not buy it, but I think someone did, two years ago).

A sale was agreed through Ebay at $15,000. I felt at the time that was a little cheap, and thankfully the buyer (from Los Angeles, city of flaky angels in my experience) pulled out. There were several bidders and so I can say that this watch was valued by the market at $15,000

My motive putting it up was to really feel the market. I am not much of a seller, usually when I do it is through Omega Forums, where decent people live, who speak my language. I was very happy the deal did not complete at that level. As my word is my bond, I would have completed if the buyer had proceeded – but I firmly believe that this watch is worth more than $15,000 in parts.

This has all correct parts,  but there are some caveats:

This watch has Omega service alpha hour and minute hands, as indicated by the flat cross sections and square ended lume slots.

They have no transverse curvature, and square ended lume slots. We can clearly see the the sharp slots. For me there is a $2500 difference between flat service hands and original triangular lume hands. There are also correct vintage slot versions, with curved lume ends and curved cross sections that are also valuable, but I value the triangle lume more.

Now we have to look closely at the dial. It has a few issues. Here it is in natural light. I find the base colour of the dial attractive. After establishing that it is a correct dial for the reference, I split my assessment of a dial into four parts:

  • Base Colour
  • Quality of the base (that is blemishes, or freedom from them)
  • Plot condition
  • Printing condition

Its is quite nice, as an old patinated dial, but it is in fair to poor condition. It has (for me) a very attractive colour. However the dial is damaged, has scratches and blemishes and this diminishes the value. A great many collectors would not give this watch a second look.

The lume is not in good condition. Here we see missing luminous paint. I would have expected some white paint where the lume has gone,  but that has fallen off too. (or was removed).

Here we see colour looks smeared on. This immediately alerts us to the idea it might be a relume, and then we need to ask the question does it matter? (At this quality level).

I am leaning toward this being an older, less skilled re – lume.

If I was satisfied this is an older re-lume then I would consider re luming it myself – we would do a far better job.

The more I look the more I am inclined to call it a re lume, and that brings us to the last point, does it affect the value?

In this case I would argue no. The value of this watch as set by the market is $15,000 (I may not agree, but we have an auction value). How much would it be with skilled re laid plots? I would suggest more.

The dial as a whole does have a lot of scratches and damage. As I said, there will be many who dismiss this watch, but I would argue it has more character, and user appeal, than a fine example at double or triple the price. The damage is light, not seriously degraded. To be clear, I do not think this dial is remotely fine, my point is that as a poor dial, it remains attractive as it is without serious damage from moisture or oil, and is unlikely to degrade further from any previous chemical damage.

It also has a scratch that I am told that can be filled. I suspect that would be risky and I do not think I would try it.

Since it failed, I decided not to pursue the sale, and I have been wearing it and enjoying it since. Dare I say, enjoying it more than a more valuable one.

The lollipop hand is very rare. Many of them I have seen have this sloppy-ish lume – I do not know what this indicates, as many of them I see have this over-spill onto the circle of the hand:

I am inclined to think it is re lumed, and that many lollipopsa are re lumed, perhaps the large area makes it hard for the original lume to hang in there all this time.

The bezel is greyish, and evenly slightly degraded. I think it is quite fair and is commensurate to the rest of the watch’s condition. (A factor that contributes to the attraction – the fact that the parts appear to have aged together).

What about the case?

The back is very good, the Hippocampus is well defined. This is not always the state we see double beveled backs in, as the line between the two steps is the first to go when a watch is polished incompetently.

There are a few marks from failed openings. Here we change the lighting and highlight the case marks:

Lets check the case sides. They are quite thick, but like many straight lug speedmasters on the market we see they have been polished. This one has had the original style brushed finish re-laid.

That spot is a deep ding!

To sum up, it is a deeply flawed watch, but one that remains attractive, wearable and enjoyable.

You don’t have to agree, and that is the joy of this world, there is something for everyone.

A Drawer Find Speedmaster

I was contacted a while ago now, by a gentleman who restores Model T Fords, and other vintage cars, and asked if I would like to buy the watch he bought new for $200 in 1973.

I did, and here it is:

As we can see the watch is well used, though not damaged. The hessalite shows a healthy amount of scratches and I suspect it is some time since the back was off – I have not yet removed it myself.

Hands have clearly been removed more than once and the paint is removed near the centre – this only happens if the hands have been on and off like a rodeo rider.

But it is an interesting back….

So it is the late 145.022-69 with the transitional back, know as “Straight Writing”. (I call it SW). Interesting the mix of dates – the invoice dated 1973, the bracelet marked 71 and the caseback marked 69.

This watch appears to be used, but not polished. In the first photo we can see the endlink has rotated. This is surprisingly common in the watches I am offered, which have often been discarded for many years, perhaps after breaking. Here we can see it is marked 516. Note the crisp case edge.

And the other side with the loose fitting endlink:

Original looking pushers, not so sure about that crown!

Here it is in a nest of its own paperwork. Showing it cost $200.81 in 1973, with the original guarantee booklet, service documents and brochures.

This is definitely another watch going into the permanent collection. More on SW’s here


Watches Of Knightsbridge November 2017 Sale

WOK is having another sale, and has plenty of speedmasters, several of which are post 1978 so outside my scope. I shall look at the pre 1978 ones here.

I am going to suggest you Google them for the catalog as they were very twitchy about me referring to them at all.

This auction house is becoming more active but remember that this auction house is not (yet) on a par with the “big boys” BUT this is why I like them – they offer a larger number of watches, and greater choice and a variety of qualities. Their sales tend to feel closer to the owners of the watches, or at least I feel I am seeing more from the market and from “owned” watches rather than curated or collected watches. I fell there are more estate watches here – I could be wrong. As ever do your due diligence, and make your own decisions taking your own responsibility for them.

Also be aware that unless policy has changed, not every watch is opened, though in the case where the movement was not as expected they were quick to offer to sort everything out.

I am not allowed to use WOK photos as they have not given permission. Well they have expressly forbidden me to. I assume they have got permission for the Omega red chronograph  image on their loading page :).

Lot 203 Estimate 3800 4400


This is a rare watch, and looks good. The dial is correct and in very good condition. The hands show little damage and the bezel is also correct and good. The back is the more common version of the two, but still desirable. We can see it is original as it has the shorter slots. I like this watch, and I would expect this to sell strongly. In fact I would say this is the pick of the sale.

Lot 204 Estimate 4000-4500

An interesting valuation pricing this lot above the previous. The 220 Bezel miss-print has a mixed following and while I accept this is rare, as yet, I do not see a big value – this lot may prove me wrong. This mistake bezel is very rare, and only correct in a very narrow serial range, but so far to me it is a quirk, not a valued attribute. A bit of fun, yes, but not one to pay much for.
I find the overall condition not as pleasing as lot 203 but its still in good condition with correct parts. I find the overall lume colour a little dirty and not so pleasing. I will be very interested to see how the market treats this.

Lot 205 Estimate 3000-3500


This is the first of two entry level watches – it has just enough of the right attributes to make it accessible and attractive. The bezel is a DN90 and the dial is slightly degraded, the plots are off colour and missmatched. The dial is correct, stepped.

The hands look very clean and green. I would like to see more closely but it is possible they are replacements. I do not find the colour of the hands pleasing, but that should not put you off. If they are replacements, then it would be no issue to improve them by adjusting the colour.

As it is, this is one of the cheaper watches in the auction, but it used to be possible to find a watch like this outside the the auction houses for less – it is not so easy now. So I think this is going to sell.

Lot 206 Estimate 5500-6500


From what I can see from these photos this watch is correct, but not especially attractive. The dial lume is not showing and may be missing, only better photos or an inspection will tell. The photos make the plots very white, and we need to know more before bidding hard.

The hand lume does not match between the hour and minute, or indeed the chrono tip – they are all different, and different from the dial lume. This suggests that the hands are not all original, and so we should carefully inspect the rest of the watch – especially the dial which I think needs to be seen in better light to value properly – I am concerned it looks “dry” or with very slight abrasions. In the first photo, the subdials show white around the edges – this shows in only the first photograph, but it might be they are there, albeit faintly, in real life. If I could I would enlarge the photos here and we could all see what I am talking about. Please check and ask for more photos (Do you think they would send more photos to me if I asked nicely?!)

The bezel is very good, but it has a dent at 85 and a damage at 69. These two marks stop this being a top bezel, that is one that is worth $5000. But I think some buyers will miss this. So this is a tough watch to value – the middle qualities always are a challenge to place a figure on, even the “upper middle” qualities. We just need two people who dont see, or care that the bezel is not top, and it will go for more than comparables on the market.

I like to see the extract, this definitely adds value. This watch is not flattered by the photos, and I think there is a chance it is better than the photos and so might sell to someone who has seen it.

Lot 207 Estimate 2800-3400


This is the cheapest Speedmaster in the sale. The bezel is grey and with blurred printing. However the hands are good and the dial is correct and stepped. The auction only shows one photo so it is hard to fully review.

I would say if you want a lower end Speedmaster, this one with the step dial and the, lets say, characterful bezel, might be a good choice.

Its not a fine watch, but it is a fun watch with the right parts, there is even a chance it is original! It is bound to need a service at this level – but then I think everything here does. Everything everywhere does unless it has documents.

Lot 208 Estimate 4000-4500


Very nice to see this rare reference, but this one should be approached with caution. The bezel, while correct is damaged quite badly, but it does match the dial – unless it is the crystal that is damaged, the photo looks like it is one the dial.

The dial is correct, with the AML and long indices, but it is tired. The step shows abrasion. This watch is not in poor condition, but it is one I could only enjoy at a price. The question is, what is that price? For me this watch offered at a higher price than I think a similar one can be bought elsewhere.

Lot 209 Estimate 8000-12000


There has been a flurry of 2998’s selling for big prices recently, but the high rices were for earlier models with short indices dials, and the high prices were for very attractive browns. I still think the black dial BASE 1000 2998’s price is around $25,000 – $45,000. and this watch can give us some clues why there is such a range. This watch is priced lower than all the others but with good reason.

The dial is poor, the plots are dirty and discolored. The bezel is incorrect, and the watch does not work. Its funny, because if this was presented as a barn find, people might go mad for it. But it is not a barn find, I think this watch has had a lot of internal work and not all of it good. (This is a GUESS. I suggest you have a look inside and be surprised and delighted if you find pristine screws in a clean movement).  Actually we do not know the movement number to check against other known examples.

There are going to be questions about the originality that will only answered by holding it and opening it.

At the low estimate, it should be worth buying, but bidding over the top estimate might need caution as remember this watch will always have a poor dial and still needs a bezel – and a service.

For comparables Chrono24 is your friend.

Good luck in the sale, keep all eyes open in this crazy time. Speedmasters are selling hard, they are flavor of the month, even the year. But when the music stops, make sure you are holding one that makes your heart sing with pleasure, as you may be looking at it for a while if that time comes. (And I could easily be a sour voice in the wind and speedmasters will continue their meteoric rise in value).