Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Vintage Omega Seamaster Review

One of the downsides of collecting watches is the price of admission. While it’s true that there are a lot of truly fine poor man's watches out there (and there are folks who can convincingly argue that some examples of these bargain models match their pricier counterparts in all respects), the big names don't come cheap. You like Rolex, Omega, Tag Heuer, etc., bring money and lots of it. A cheap example of one of these will set you back at least six or seven hundred dollars (and that for a quartz model no less), while the good stuff is well up into the thousands of dollars. If, like me, you just don't have that kind of cash to throw around, (my kids and my money go private school), the situation could get really depressing. Fortunately, there is another way go. Take a deep breath, step back and consider the used watch market, or if you like the classier term, vintage market (to make it sound a little less like buying a used car).


It should be noted that even in the vintage market, some brands hold their value so well that there are few bargains to be had. If you are expecting a Rolex for $200 you will be sorely disappointed. Other brands, however, are very reasonably priced and if you take your time and look around, you can do very well. A few words of caution, however. The fact that a watch is old does not mean that it isn't a fake. The reality is that there are fake vintage watches out there (Seamaster 300 fakes aren't uncommon) and it isn't hard to mistake one for the genuine article. Similarly, there are a lot of so-called frankenwatches (a seemingly acceptable watch that is actually an amalgam of several other watches) floating around. The bottom line is that you should make a point of learning something about the vintage watch you are interested in. With the amount of available data online (Omega, for instance, has an online database of its vintage watches and movements) and the existence of enthusiast forums where one can ask an expert a question, researching a vintage watch isn't terribly hard anymore. Other caveats with a vintage watch, don't assume that the water resistance is functioning and expect the lume to be burnt out. Lastly, make sure that you have access to a competent watchmaker. It is reasonable to expect that a vintage watch will need a cleaning if nothing else. If all of this is too much for you, stick with new watches (not that there aren't plenty of fakes there either though).


On to the Omega. This particular model is a 1966 Seamaster DeVille. It is powered by a model 611 hand wound movement with a date display. The watch is a traditional sized man's watch, small by today’s standard at 35mm (including the crown) but it still looks quite good. The watchcase is Omega's Unishell design that opens only through the dial side which can make servicing tricky. The crystal is an acrylic one that fortunately was not scratched. The watchband is a Hadley-Roma that I added for about $25. The Omega was very clean when I got it, and when opened, it had a jeweler's date mark on the inside of the case indicating a servicing had been done two years ago. Not surprisingly, the original lume was not functioning.


The only substantial change that I made to this Omega, aside from adding a strap, was to have the lume re-done by Kent Parks at Everest Watchworks. A non-operative lume on a watch just plain bothers me and Kent is a wizard with this sort of job. Now it looks great, probably better than new considering the advances in lume technology and I am very satisfied with the result. You can't even tell that anything was changed under normal lighting. Only in the dark is the change apparent and even then, in keeping with the watch's character, the lume is just enough to be read. It would look ridiculous if it glowed like a Seiko diver after all.


Now none of this would really mean much if I had paid through the nose for this Omega. That, thankfully, was not the case. The total bill for the watch, the re-lume, the new band and a thorough look-see by my jeweler came to about $250. All told a good deal.


Blogger John F. Opie said...

Hi Ed -

Great post. I've been collecting vintages for the last several years now and it has allowed me gain enormous experience with watches of all kinds for less than what I would have paid for a new high-end watch.

And that's a great Omega you have there. Not exactly on my list, but if I had run across it, I'd have looked at it closely. :-)


2:41 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Thanks. Glad you liked the review. I've been getting into vintage watches more and more lately.

3:45 PM  
Blogger haptown said...

Hi Ed,
Nice watch collection, I stumbled upon your blog while doing a little online research about Molnija pocket watches and Vostok wrist watches. I've bee looking through your archives and admiring your watches and ejoying the reviews.
I also love watches and have a very modest collection of watches. I only have two mechanical watches, one is an old Molnija that was given to me about eight years ago (the movement still works but the hour hand moves feely if the watch is picked up) and the other is a chinese made Berenger (made by Dakota) pocket watch. This one keeps excellent time and is designed so that you can see the movement at work from the front and the back.
My most expensive watch (but not my favorite) is a Tag Heuer that I found in a little junk shop near Crawfordsville, Indiana while visiting family up there. I only paid $25 for it and I felt like I was cheating the guy but on the other hand it could be a fake. If it is it is a very good fake. Is there a way to tell? And is there a way to find out what model my Tag is and date of manufacture? Sorry this has gone on and on.
Really enjoying the blog!!


4:50 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

I glad you like the site. It sounds like the Molnija just needs to have the hour hand re-mounted. Any jeweler should be able to do it. Shouldn't cost much either. I don't know about the Berenger but I like display backs. As for the Tag, if you could send me a picture of it, I might be able to tell you its age. My e-mail is ebrandwein@yahoo.com.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Keith D said...

Hi Ed,

I don't know much about watches but inherited one from my grandfather, which does not have great sentimental value (compared, say to his hamilton railroad watch which I will never sell). I am hoping to find a way to sell it but don't know what I'm doing and I came accross your site. It is a late sixties or early seventies seamaster deville with the date. It is in absolute mint condition as I think he got it as a business gift and possibly NEVER wore it at all. It seems to wind up and keep time just great. Any thoughts about selling it? - keith (saintnarcissus@gmail.com)

4:01 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Sniff around on ebay for similar Omega's and see where prices are running. If setting up an account on ebay is a bit daunting for actually selling it, the Poor Man's Watch Forum, pmwf.com, has a good sales forum as does watchuseek.com

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ed!

Nice info on the Seamaster. I have a 60's era Seamaster that I inherited from my late father. He wore it every day I can remember...

Maybe you can point me in the right direction on this, since I know squat about watches.

1) The crystal is raised plastic and has a couple of noticeable scratches. A non-name watch repair company tried buffing them out, which did little good. Do you know if they make replacements for these and where I could find one?

2) The watchband is metal and I have misplaced one of the links, which I need for the watch to fit on my wrist correctly. Do you know if anyone sells replacement links or similar wristbands?

Thanks for the info,


4:12 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

The crystal on these old Omegas is plain old acrylic. Any decent jewelry repair shop should be able to replace it for $30 or so. As for the link, that is a bit trickier. Old bracelet parts can be hard to find as they usually haven't been manufactured for a long time. Your best bet is to search for Omega bracelet links on ebay. I've had some luck that way in the past.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ed,

I love simplicity of this watch and I have been looking for one for a while. Where did you find yours? It is in remarkably good condition. I've seen a few on the net but they are from 700-900$.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

I found this one in a little jewelry store at the 3rd ave exit of the Lexington ave 51st street subway station.

9:37 PM  
Blogger Sicong said...

Hi. Just discovered your blog and it is great! I have wanted an Omega for several years and now realize that it is a possibility. I was wondering if you could possibly load a picture or two of the watch on your wrist. I am worried that the actual watch face will look too small on my wrist. I do not have a very large wrist at all but i guess the insecurity is brought on by the current generation of watches with large faces. thanks in advance.

10:33 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

I'm afraid that I no longer own this watch so a picture on the wrist is out. That being said though, it is not a large watch in keeping with today's big watch styles. I liked it but if your wrist is more than 6 3/4" around, it might be a bit small for you.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just wondering if you are able to review the Elgin A-II 1942 military wristwatch. and also awesome review for the omega!!!!

12:15 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

I've seen those old Elgins. They were very nice indeed.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ed, an original crystal has the Omega symbol etched into it, located dead center over the pin for the hour/minute/second hand. Mine is a late 50's early 60's gold. It was a gift to my dad from an association he belonged to and he wore it til he passed in 1987. I've worn the watch ever since. Bill

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came across your blog to learn more about vintage Omegas. I've enjoyed it and can relate with a budget conscious watch collector. I've wanted to find a vintage Omega (preferably a Speedmaster)for some time. I'm pretty cheap so I only have a few decent vintage watches; a Girard Perregaux seahawk for $60, Longines Admiral for $50, an Eternamatic 3000 for free fom my Grand father-in-law. I also have several other nice vintage peices; Gruen, Wittnauer, Hamilton, Elgin, Benrus and Seiko (all mechanical watches in working order)each for less than $25. My greatest find was just recently at an auction in a small town in Iowa. There was a bag of watches and one of them was an early 1950s Seamaster with a bumper automatic movement no. 342. This was my first auction and I got it for $15. The movement looks and works great. I just wanted to share this with those are watch lovers but don't want to spend a whole lot. You have to constantly keep your eyes open and you never know what treasures you'll find.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

$15 for an Omega, you did really well! A Speedy is on my "list" too. Prices have been way too high for me thus far. Sounds like a very nice collection there though.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Mark Rudd said...

Hi Ed I have a 1969 omega seamaster similar to the one pictured except that it is an automatic and is gold probably plated as there are no gold markings If any one is interested I am open to reasoable offers. thanks Mark Rudd ruddmark2@gmail.com

5:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ed, i also have this Omega Seamaster from my late grandfather. It needs some work but i think it is worth it. My question, this is and a handwounded watch. How long should it normally take before you need to wound it again? I do this every morning, dont know if this is necessary though. Thanks, Frank, Barcelona, Spain

5:04 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Mine has a power reserve of about 30 hours I think.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all i have a vintage Omega seamaster automatic 166-003 that i would like to sell .
my email benitoneethling13@gmail.com

4:57 AM  
Blogger lingjie shi said...

This is really very useful information

4:36 AM  

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