Buying a vintage Omega: Advice for beginners
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  1. #1
    sgk
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    Buying a vintage Omega: Advice for beginners

    I am relatively new to vintage Omegas and am impressed by the classic appeal of Constellations, Seamasters and Geneves of the 50's and 60's. I have often seen a number of new enthusiasts like myself ask the same question that I did when it comes to buying vintage Omegas, especially online: What to look for when buying vintage Omegas? I read this question as 'How do I buy a Vintage Omega?'

    I thought I would make a post on the process I employ when buying online, and hopefully it will come in handy to those starting off in this precarious, yet satisfying hobby.

    Just a couple of notes:

    1. I write this from the point of view of acquiring pieces in a state as close to original as possible, i.e. how these were manufactured by Omega. I am not writing on buying from purely an aesthetic point of view, as that is up to the buyer's taste and wishes.
    2. I write this based on personal experience and am in no way an authority on the subject. Read and buy at your own peril


    Understanding the market and models:

    I think it is important for those who are new to this 'world', to gain an understanding of how the different models were aimed at different tiers of the market. Ordering the product lines loosely: Constellation > Seamaster/De Ville > Gevene.

    However, for me there are Geneves which might trump Constellation/Seamaster models, e.g. 50's models with Geneve cursive font and cal .5xx. Of course, when Gold comes into the picture then these pieces will command higher prices.

    There are also certain dials which command higher prices. Original (not re-done) black dials are harder to find and thus go for higher. Elaborate hour markers such as slim or full arrowhead are also more sought after. I am particularly fond of dauphine hands, and others are as well.

    Certain calibers are also harder to find and command a premium. I am still a novice in this respect, so will leave it at that.

    As you can see, the ranking of the product lines I did earlier can be pretty much thown out the window when it comes down to a particular piece. But I think it still holds as a rough guidline. The best way to learn about the market is to go to ebay and do an advanced search in completed listings on each of these product lines. Study which models sold for good money, which didn't, and why that was. This will also make you really good at seeing redials.

    Now that you have found a piece you like:

    Pre-requisite:
    Always get high-res pictures of

    • Dial facing straight (no fancy angle shots, just straight)
    • side profiles of case
    • outer case back
    • movement with serial number and caliber number visible
    • inside caseback with all markings visible


    If not, then you are gambling your money. I am not saying I haven't done that.

    Case:

    • Always look up case ref number on the vintage Omega database to make sure the calibre corresponds and also get hints on whether dial and hands are correct for the model. Not all info is available on the database though.
    • Assess dings and scratches and be especially wary of cracking where lugs meet main case body and the caseback as well. All I can say is you need to be comfortable with the state of the case. In general, many say the case should be sharp, but apart from Constellation medallions on casebacks, I am still not experienced enough to value how sharp cases are. Generally, I avoid cases with noticable pitting and rust, especially in screw-in areas and casebacks. If you seen pitting inside the case and dial has blistering or cloud shaped patina, then there was probably water inside at some point. All in all, some dings are going to be there, and the market where my wallet is at, I can live with that.
    • Crystals will have light scratches and these can be removed with Polywatch. I really appreciate original crystals with logo in the center. Though a cheap fix, it really raises the value of the watch for me.
    • Omega crown is essential. Period crown is ideal. Due to unavailability of certain period crowns, Omega does provide alternaive replacements. Of course, a hard to find period crown will increase the value of the watch. This is something that you will need help with from Omega forum members, so post.


    Dials and hands:

    • At first glance I always assess whether the dial looks as old as the case. If it does, then I proceed with examining text, otherwise generally pass.
    • Text is tricky! I am not going to give details on all that here, as it is a whole thesis on its own. But, if you do as I say about studying completed listings on ebay, you will be able to tell at a glance if things look correct or not. You will recognize the serf font used by Omega. However, there are very good redials out there. So I always recommend posting potential purchases on this forum and getting opinions. For Constellations, Desmond's blog is a must read. Here is the link: http://omega-constellation-collectors.blogspot.no/
    • For me, Omega does either dauphine or stick hands. I stay away from anything else. I am not saying they are wrong. I am saying I am not good enough to venture there


    Movement:
    • No rust whatsoever!
    • Color of the movement parts should match each other. Again replacements do happen because all mechanical things wear away with time. I am not skilled enough to say anything more on this. Again, when in doubt, post on the forum.
    • Caseback usually has the years when services were done scratched on there. Will give you an indication of service history if you don't get info from seller.
    • ALWAYS FACTOR IN THE COST OF HAVING IT SERVICED. You will have to have that done unless seller specifically states it has been serviced and there is a receipt.


    Seller:
    I always check seller's selling record, especially reading reviews on Omega watch sales. Many people will say avoid South America, but I have actually sourced a number of good pieces from there. Needless to say your own judgement rules here.

    I will also give you my guiding principle when buying vintage online: Buy at a price that you can have it serviced and break even if you sell tomorrow.

    So here is a long, but I am sure incomplete, post to get you started. I am sure other members will post with much more details and correct any mistakes I have made.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by sgk; July 18th, 2012 at 13:58. Reason: typos, forgot some info
    Kittysafe, Emre, Martijnvb and 2 others like this.

  2. #2
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    Re: Buying a vintage Omega: Advice for beginners

    Extremely good information for a budding collector.

    Thank you.
    Tom

  3. #3
    Member KringleKriss's Avatar
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    Re: Buying a vintage Omega: Advice for beginners

    Nicely written and good effort!!

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  5. #4
    Member Kittysafe's Avatar
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    Re: Buying a vintage Omega: Advice for beginners

    Really great info, thanks!

  6. #5
    Member billiybop's Avatar
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    Re: Buying a vintage Omega: Advice for beginners

    If I might add my two cents, here is MY method for buying a Vintage Omega;
    I find one I like on eBay or where ever and just buy it. Then take it to a watch repair shop I trust
    and tell them to overhaul it. Parts for these old Omegas are still easy to get.
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  7. #6
    sgk
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    Re: Buying a vintage Omega: Advice for beginners

    Am glad you guys appreciate it :)
    I wrote it late last night, so I have corrected many typos. I also forgot a very important point that billybop rightly points out: Remember to add the cost of service into the price you are willing to pay.

  8. #7
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    Thank you for this. Very helpful.
    Current Rotation: Seiko SARB017, Seiko SARB035, Seiko SKX013, Seiko World Timer (c. 1970).
    Box Sitters: 1972 Zodiac Astrographic (Yeah, baby!), Patek Calatrava (I bring that out for special occasions).

  9. #8
    Member Emre's Avatar
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    Re: Buying a vintage Omega: Advice for beginners

    nice writing, thanks for sum up

  10. #9
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    Re: Buying a vintage Omega: Advice for beginners

    Overall this is pretty decent advice. I'd like to add a few comments in bold bellow.

    Quote Originally Posted by sgk View Post
    I am relatively new to vintage Omegas and am impressed by the classic appeal of Constellations, Seamasters and Geneves of the 50's and 60's. I have often seen a number of new enthusiasts like myself ask the same question that I did when it comes to buying vintage Omegas, especially online: What to look for when buying vintage Omegas? I read this question as 'How do I buy a Vintage Omega?'

    I thought I would make a post on the process I employ when buying online, and hopefully it will come in handy to those starting off in this precarious, yet satisfying hobby.

    Just a couple of notes:

    1. I write this from the point of view of acquiring pieces in a state as close to original as possible, i.e. how these were manufactured by Omega. I am not writing on buying from purely an aesthetic point of view, as that is up to the buyer's taste and wishes.
    2. I write this based on personal experience and am in no way an authority on the subject. Read and buy at your own peril


    Understanding the market and models:

    I think it is important for those who are new to this 'world', to gain an understanding of how the different models were aimed at different tiers of the market. Ordering the product lines loosely: Constellation > Seamaster/De Ville > Gevene. While the seamaster devilles are very collectable there are quite a few devilles that are not as popular as most geneves (especially the small dress watches with 62x movements)

    However, for me there are Geneves which might trump Constellation/Seamaster models, e.g. 50's models with Geneve cursive font and cal .5xx. Of course, when Gold comes into the picture then these pieces will command higher prices.

    There are also certain dials which command higher prices. Original (not re-done) black dials are harder to find and thus go for higher. Elaborate hour markers such as slim or full arrowhead are also more sought after. I am particularly fond of dauphine hands, and others are as well.

    Certain calibers are also harder to find and command a premium. I am still a novice in this respect, so will leave it at that.

    As you can see, the ranking of the product lines I did earlier can be pretty much thown out the window when it comes down to a particular piece. But I think it still holds as a rough guidline. The best way to learn about the market is to go to ebay and do an advanced search in completed listings on each of these product lines. Study which models sold for good money, which didn't, and why that was. This will also make you really good at seeing redials. be very careful with this approach, it can be good once you have a basic knowledge of what models should look like but I've seen recased pocket watches go for high ammounts or average quality redials sometimes go for nearly as much as want an orginal dial in good condition should because a couple of uneducated buyers got in a bidding war.

    Now that you have found a piece you like:

    Pre-requisite:
    Always get high-res pictures of

    • Dial facing straight (no fancy angle shots, just straight)
    • side profiles of case
    • outer case back
    • movement with serial number and caliber number visible
    • inside caseback with all markings visible


    If not, then you are gambling your money. I am not saying I haven't done that.

    Case:

    • Always look up case ref number on the vintage Omega database to make sure the calibre corresponds and also get hints on whether dial and hands are correct for the model. Not all info is available on the database though.
    • Assess dings and scratches and be especially wary of cracking where lugs meet main case body and the caseback as well. All I can say is you need to be comfortable with the state of the case. In general, many say the case should be sharp, but apart from Constellation medallions on casebacks, I am still not experienced enough to value how sharp cases are. Generally, I avoid cases with noticable pitting and rust, especially in screw-in areas and casebacks. If you seen pitting inside the case and dial has blistering or cloud shaped patina, then there was probably water inside at some point. All in all, some dings are going to be there, and the market where my wallet is at, I can live with that. Also look for areas on plated of gold filled watches that have worn through.
    • Crystals will have light scratches and these can be removed with Polywatch. I really appreciate original crystals with logo in the center. Though a cheap fix, it really raises the value of the watch for me. Unless it's very uncommon or sapphire It's a $10-$20 part the next time you service it. I wouldn't worry about it too much.
    • Omega crown is essential. Period crown is ideal. Due to unavailability of certain period crowns, Omega does provide alternaive replacements. Of course, a hard to find period crown will increase the value of the watch. This is something that you will need help with from Omega forum members, so post. Unless it's very uncommon It's a $10-$15 part the next time you service it. I wouldn't worry about it too much.


    Dials and hands:

    • At first glance I always assess whether the dial looks as old as the case. If it does, then I proceed with examining text, otherwise generally pass.Make sure you can tell the difference between a good condition case and one that has been heavily polished, shiny does not equal new. Also in almost all cases the movement should be in equal or better condition than the dial if it's the other way around it's a strong likely hood something was done with the dial either cleaning, repainting, or replacing
    • Text is tricky! I am not going to give details on all that here, as it is a whole thesis on its own. But, if you do as I say about studying completed listings on ebay,better to study known original watches on the forums first to get a good feel. Ebay has tons of redials of various quality you will be able to tell at a glance if things look correct or not. You will recognize the serf font used by Omega. However, there are very good redials out there. So I always recommend posting potential purchases on this forum and getting opinions. For Constellations, Desmond's blog is a must read. Here is the link: Omega Constellation Collectors
    • For me, Omega does either dauphine or stick hands. I stay away from anything else. I am not saying they are wrong. I am saying I am not good enough to venture there


    Movement:
    • No rust whatsoever!
    • Color of the movement parts should match each other. Again replacements do happen because all mechanical things wear away with time. I am not skilled enough to say anything more on this. Again, when in doubt, post on the forum.
    • Caseback usually has the years when services were done scratched on there. Will give you an indication of service history if you don't get info from seller.
    • ALWAYS FACTOR IN THE COST OF HAVING IT SERVICED. You will have to have that done unless seller specifically states it has been serviced and there is a receipt.


    Seller:
    I always check seller's selling record, especially reading reviews on Omega watch sales. Many people will say avoid South America, but I have actually sourced a number of good pieces from there. Needless to say your own judgement rules here.

    I will also give you my guiding principle when buying vintage online: Buy at a price that you can have it serviced and break even if you sell tomorrow.
    So here is a long, but I am sure incomplete, post to get you started. I am sure other members will post with much more details and correct any mistakes I have made.

    Good luck!
    J C likes this.

  11. #10
    Member gatorcpa's Avatar
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    Re: Buying a vintage Omega: Advice for beginners

    Good additions. However, I don't know if you have checked with the online authorized suppliers of Omega parts, but they've increased dramatically in price over the last year or so. My guess is that this has something to Omega beginning to tighten their grip on supplies and squeezing these independents out of the pipeline.

    Crowns and crystals for many of the popular models (pie-pan Constellations, Seamaster, early Geneves) are up around $40 to $50 each. Still a good investment, particularly for those case references where an exact duplicate of the original can be sourced this way.

    Hope this helps,
    gatorcpa
    J C likes this.

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