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:
- 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.
- 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:
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.