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Omega oversized steel with double signed dial 1946
This exceptionally rare 1946 stainless steel Omega is a very useful item in the context of this site, on account of it being the perfect watch to illustrate the key point that relatively minor aspects, often not even of a technical nature, can have a huge impact on market worth and collectible value.
Any genuinely near perfect, all original, Omega from this period will be a desirable object, simply because the vast majority of examples will have deteriorated mechanically and cosmetically to the point that they are no longer relevant from an investor’s point of view. What makes this one even more interesting than its siblings is its very large size, with a width of 40mm. Oversize watches by any of the top tier Swiss houses are much sought after, both because they are unusual, and on account of a current fashion swing that favours larger timepieces.
In every respect, this watch is totally original and how it should be. It isn’t a brand new, unworn old stock item, but its immaculate condition suggests that it has only ever been used on a limited number of special occasions in the past. There are no noticeable scratches or loss of definition to the edges of the lugs.
Internally, the case back outer is highly decorated with an engine turned pattern and correctly signed as “Acier Inox ( this being an abbreviation of the French for stainless steel), Omega, Fab Suisse, Swiss Made”, together with the model reference 2272 1W. Unlike a lot of examples from this period, the case back snaps very crisply onto the case body, with none of the looseness and play that are often signs of a watch built in this way that has been opened up on a repeated basis by amateurish hands.
This is very much a collector’s watch, and consequently, it is important that the criteria that are required for it to have value to the enthusiast are met here. Of these, by far that most important are the interlinked merits of dial originality and condition. This watch is unlikely to be purchased by a casual buyer, and it is all too easy for the inexperienced newcomer to unknowingly buy a collector’s watch with a major defect, and then find, because of its specialist nature, that when he comes to liquidate it in the future, no knowledgable collector is in the slightest bit interested in acquiring it. A point that we labour time and time again in my descriptions, in order for any vintage watch to be worthwhile as an investment it must have its original dial in near perfect condition. Typically, at least 40% of the value of a collectible wristwatch will be directly linked to the state of its dial, and those pieces on which the dials are either noticeably deteriorated or freshly restored are to be avoided, on the basis that they will always be regarded as second-rate by experienced purists. Sadly, in the online world, this factor is often conveniently ignored, and, if buyers don’t ask for specific confirmation of dial originality, then this is not always mentioned by sellers.
This dial is totally original and has never been restored in the past. We can often see online descriptions on which a dial is said to be “beautifully” or “gently” restored. This is complete and utter nonsense that is written with the deliberate aim of lulling the innocent into a false sense of security. The paint surfaces of these dials cannot be cleaned when dirty and discoloured, and the process of restoration is actually one of complete replacement, by which the original dial surface with which the watch started life is stripped away and substituted for a brand new one. In the act of restoring a dial, a significant part of a watch’s charm is irreversibly lost, and accordingly, a huge amount is taken from its value when selling to an informed buyer.
This dial isn’t absolutely perfect, and if it is studied under a jeweller’s eyeglass, there is the very slightest, almost invisible, degree of ageing, but in real terms, it is the best that one could possibly hope to find on a World War II era piece. Its gilt arrowhead batons are free from any corrosion, as are the original matching wide dauphine shaped hands. The signature “Omega, Swiss Made” is clearly stated in black, in between which is the name of “M.J Reglar, Wimbledon“, the London retailer that supplied the watch when new. Finding a so-called double-signed dial of this type today is exceedingly difficult, not least because the majority of watches by the important makers were sold with only the maker’s name on their dials. It is very important to appreciate that the retailer’s names were not added by these concerns themselves, but were already in place on the dials when the watches arrived from the manufacturer’s UK distributors. Interestingly, we have never heard a definitive answer to the question of whether these dials were printed in Switzerland or in their country of sale, but would guess that it was the latter, simply on the basis that this would have been far more convenient for British agents. Whatever their origin, it is matter of undisputed fact that double-signed dials have become one of the hottest areas of wristwatch collecting in the last four or five years. This signature isn’t particularly notable, unlike an evocative British colonial jeweller’s name, say, that will literally treble the value of a watch as it otherwise would have been, but it is still rare and adds greatly to the overall aesthetic appeal of the watch, and its commercial worth to the collector.
When the case back is opened, a nearly mint example of Omega’s 30 T2 PC movement is revealed, the PC standing for “pare-chocs” and informing us that this item is equipped with a shock resistance system. Introduced in 1941, the T2 PC was the third revision of the 30mm manually wound movement released by the house in 1939 to much critical acclaim. Omega enthusiasts will no doubt have noticed that I have referred to these movements by their original model designations, rather than using the more common numerical system that the company used post-1949. Under the new regime, the 30 T2 PC was renamed as calibre 260, and today, most collectors will be familiar with it in this guise. We would always recommend that anyone buying a vintage Omega takes a few moments to confirm that its movement is signed correctly, and is of the appropriate date for the rest of the watch. Here, the fact that the movement is stamped 30 T2 PC instead of 260 indicates that it was manufactured pre-1949, and a definitive production date of 1946 is arrived at when we see the serial number on the bridge, 10789066, this falling between the extremes for that year of 10660000 and 11000000. In so many ways, sensible antique wristwatch buying is little more than routine detective work, and one doesn’t have to be a seasoned veteran or have any specialist knowledge to quickly cross reference serial and model numbers and eliminate those examples that are quite obviously not what they at first appear to be.
Incidentally, for the buyer specifically looking for a manually wound vintage Omega, it would be impossible to make a better choice of movement than the one here. This 30mm series, in all its forms, is universally regarded as being the finest group of hand wound movements that the company has ever made, and was so reliable and precise that questions were asked (Omega Information, Issue 5, June 1947) of Omega’s technical director, Henri Gerber, as to the genuine relevance of such a piece of high precision machinery in the context of everyday life. It is perhaps the ultimate irony then that this all-time great, described in the July 1997 issue of the German magazine Klassic-Uhren ( Classic Wristwatch) as “ein Legendares Werk”, or, in English, “a legendary mechanism”, was conceived and designed by an entirely self-taught watch maker, Henri Kneuss. The example on permanent display in Omega’s own factory museum is accompanied by the note that “it is the perfect movement for the horological purist. It was simpler, more solid, more durable, more reliable and more accurate than all the others of the same dimensions from the same period”. Certainly, one could spend far more money on a hand wound movement from the 1940s that will be needed to acquire this piece, but regardless of this, a measurably superior mechanism will not be obtained. It was not by accident that the British Government, after extensive testing, chose the same 30mm unit, again in T2 form, as the one to be fitted into the Mark VII pilots’ watches that were supplied to RAF crews at the time.
However superb a movement initially, it needs to be in superb condition in order to be a worthwhile purchase today. Just as what was once the finest motor car in the world will be of little use now if its engine has been abused and its bodywork allowed to rust, so it is with a high grade vintage wristwatch. This particular movement is in the very best order, having been serviced on a regular basis since new. It is entirely original in every respect, and has never been corrupted with replacement parts. Its bright pink gold finish, very much a trademark of classic Omega movements, remains bright and free from even the slightest hint of corrosion. The signature “Omega, Swiss, 15 Jewels” is clearly visible on the bridge plate and, even when studied under high magnification, this entire unit would be almost impossible to fault. If sensibly looked after in the future, and by this we mean serviced every three or four years, there is no good reason why this watch shouldn’t still be in perfect working order a century or more from now, just as many antique pocket watches from the 18th and 19th centuries still are today. While beautifully executed to a quality standard that would never be economically viable now, an item like this one can genuinely be a watch for life, this being something that, sadly, could never be said about the mass-produced luxury timepieces sold new today.
We have fitted this watch with a high quality crocodile skin type strap that is perfectly in keeping with its upmarket, clearly vintage appearance. This is not a genuine Omega strap, the original having deteriorated by the time we acquired the piece, but we have transplanted the signed stainless steel Omega buckle from this old strap to its replacement. When considering a watch as a potential purchase, small touches like this are important and must be factored into the overall equation. A well preserved steel Omega buckle from the 1940s will have a value of somewhere between £50 and £60 GB pounds, not least because there are so many owners of watches from this period, on which the buckles have been lost, who would love to return their timepieces back to correct factory specification. Leaving aside matters of cost, the process of tracking down period buckles is a time consuming and inconvenient one, and it is so much easier, where possible, to pay slightly more initially and acquire a watch with its correct buckle from the outset.
This is a particularly fascinating watch from the perspective of academic study, because it can be argued, perfectly reasonably, that its high value is not derived from any technical merit, but from a blend of rarity and current prevailing fashion. These oversized 1940s Omegas are very unusual and exceedingly attractive, but if evaluated from an impassionate viewpoint, they don’t offer any technical advantage over their standard sized counterparts that are available for approximately half the price. If my photograph showing the movement is studied in detail, it will be seen that the large size of this watch is achieved by using a wide spacing collar, almost 4mm in width, around the movement. These oversized models did not use a larger movement than others in the Omega range, but instead combined much wider cases with packed out 30mm mechanisms that had achieved such acclaim at the time.
On the one hand, it could be suggested that a better value way of obtaining effectively the same watch as this one would be to buy a standard sized stainless steel Omega from the same period, of course making sure that it had the same movement in it beforehand. But on the other, the reason the market favours this model is its very dramatic large size, and, as a consequence of this type being in far shorter supply than the standard 36mm version, it is undoubtedly the case that it will appreciate in value at a much faster rate in the future. In the final analysis, the decision to purchase this watch over its more common sibling is one that hinges on the reason for acquiring a vintage wristwatch in the first place. For the general buyer who simply wants a single high quality classic timepiece that he can wear for many decades, it would seem wiser to opt for the 1948 steel Omega that we currently have for sale on out site at a realistic price of around £650 GB pounds. For the experienced collector looking for something more exotic, it will be worth paying an additional premium of perhaps £300 or £400 pounds to buy the larger, and obviously much rarer, piece here.
The London dealer Anthony Green Antiques offered an almost identical oversized stainless steel Omega, suggested as being from circa 1945, for £1250 GB pounds back in 2005. This can, at the time of writing, still be seen at http://www.anthonygreen.com/detailofomega2754.htm Mr. Green deserves his good reputation and is normally quite fair with his prices, but we should remember that this figure takes account of the fact that the dial on his watch is not, as he points out, original, and is instead a restored, re-printed example. The piece for sale here has its original dial in almost perfect condition, and has the benefit of a double signature. The £975 GB pounds asking price represents extremely good value for money, even if we disregard the collectiblity of its oversize case and concentrate on the superb quality of its mechanism. Omega items are certainly very undervalued when compared to others from the same period by the firm’s competitors, and it seems obvious that they will rise steadily in price over the foreseeable future. This is a very good, blue chip vintage watch that would make an excellent showpiece in a horizontal collection that centred around exotic period Omega models.
Price £975 GB Pounds