An Important Read for Vintage/Gray Market Purchasers:
ALWAYS Ask for inside caseback & movement pictures!
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"Important read for Vintage/Gray Market purchasers: ALWAYS Ask for inside caseback pictures!"
- May 19, 2005 - 09:26 AM Posted by Chicagoland Chuck Maddox
UPDATED: Early 2008

An Important read for Vintage/Gray Market purchasers: Ask for inside caseback and movement pictures before you get serious about purchase of a watch!

Herb Yolles Posts: Graymarket Speedy Update - Chuck, Here's the Caseback [May 18, 2005 - 07:13 PM]

See my post below from last night. Sorry, I didn't size this pic, otherwise you couldn't be able to read the inscriptions. As always, I appreciate your opinions and analysis.


Here is Herb's initial post with a rotated cropped version of his inside case back following up at the end:

Herb Yolles Posts: Graymarket Speedy Update [May 17, 2005 - 09:11 PM]

A few weeks ago I posted a story about a "recent issue" speedy moonwatch that I had purchased from a fellow TZer and I was rather concerned that it appeared to be a graymarket watch because the serial number was absent from the #7 lug. I appreciate all of the advice I received. Well, the story gets a bit more interesting. I had the watch opened and lo and behold, what I think appears to be inside is a caliber 861 movement from about 1970-1971. The case is in pristine condition and the dial and hands appear to be new, with excellent luminous glow in the dark. The bracelet is obviously the recent version with the 2-button clasp. Below are pictures of the watch. I would appreciate your opinions on what I've been sold. I assume it is a vintage 861 speedy that has been outfitted with a new dial, hands and bracelet. I thought I was purchasing a current "recent" model, and am still upset about being "taken". The seller still hasn't shipped me the promised box. Anyway, what do you guys think? Do you see anything that doesn't look right (genuine)? As always, thanks for your input.

There is no way I can candy coat this one... The watch (inside caseback mostly) you have has been seriously altered from what Omega shipped. In fact, trying to reassemble what specifically happened to your Gray Market Speedmaster is roughly akin to trying to reassemble a cow/bull from hamburger. But let me try...
Your Speedy bears a rather early production run Lemania c.861 movement:
Note the 28m Serial number which corresponds with a 1970 model year within a year or two. Ok, no problem there, necessarily, as there are 1970 model year Speedmasters with c.861's in that range. Omega made them.

Our first ¿hmmmm? point comes here:

This is a second pattern Post-Moon landing back... We know that the first pattern Post-Moon landing back started in the last half of 1969, and went for an undetermined amount of time... At least through mid -1970, perhaps as late as late 1971 or into 1972. Again, with the limitations of the Serial Number tables we have, we are still within our "possible" range, but I would ordinarily feel more comfortable with a first pattern back on this watch.

Next we have the modern pattern bracelet.

Now this doesn't bother me much at all... Could be the old bracelet wore out, could be the watch was sold on a strap, the bracelet is one of the nicer one's Omega has produced (I'd only put the 1450 higher on the totem personally), but it's safe to say the bracelet is not original.

Since we are pretty certain the watch dates from before the mid-1990's we don't have any concerns about the lack of a laser etched serial number on the 7 o'clock lug.

Which brings us to the picture you posted of the inside caseback (reduced to fit within this margin):

There is no easy way to say this... Someone seriously refinished the inside of this caseback. That's not the way Omega ships their casebacks.

Here is an example of a simlar model (left) side-by-side) with your example (right):

145.012-67 SP Original Caseback Click for large version in new window)
Herb's Mystery Caseback Click for large version in new window)

As you can clearly see, the inscription made by Omega on an original caseback is STAMPED, not ENGRAVED. The caseback on Herb's watch is clearly engraved, likely with the assistance (although poor technique) of a lettering template of some sort. I don't really believe anyone could seriously dispute that Herb's caseback has engravings on it, and it has not been stamped with the information...

Look specifically at the "ACIER" in Herb's back... Notice how the "E" doesn't have straight angles? Look in "INOXYDABLE" look at the N, X, Y, etc... Notice how the right hand side of the letter is taller than the left? You can see the same effect in other letters on the rest of the engraving. In general the lettering sizes are inconsistant in height, the edges of certain letters, "E" in particular, are not square, and many of the letters and numbers are slightly mishapened. On the original stamped caseback the letters are consistant with one another.

Also look at the triangular "logo" portion of the casebacks. The "M" and "A" in OMEGA are about 80% of the height of the other letters.

That Herb's back is engraved I believe is beyond credible doubt. Someone took a good deal of time to create a template with which to fashion a facsimile of the original stamping, but they didn't take the effort or time to make it a particularly convincing facsimile.

So what does this mean? It means that someone ground or buffed off the original finish for the caseback that Herb has. [The previous text in Red is currently in dispute, follow this link to the Addendum on this topic] We'll never know if this was the original back, or a replacement. I believe the next step was to emulate the "Engine Turned" effect of an original caseback, then a facsimile of reasonably proper numbers and marks were engraved on the inside of this caseback. At least that is my assessment of what likely happened.

Without the original caseback, we will never really know for certain the original configuration of this watch. It seems very VERY odd for the caseback to have been modified in this manner, and for what purpose/reason? For all we know this watch has a circa 1970 c.861 movement with an early second pattern Post moon caseback that someone refinished for some reason. But this movement could just as easily be from a early Seamaster with a more modern case... My gosh, it could be nearly anything. I really don't know. It could be all original save the back and bracelet, or cobbled together from the parts bin. We'll never know.

It's amazing that someone would go to all the effort to obscure the origin of this caseback. Is this an instance of a replaced caseback? A Franken? A Gray-Market Speedmaster that the Gray-Marketeer went on a bender to obscure the origins of?

Place your bets and spin the wheel... It could be any of these things, all of them, some of them, or something I haven't thought of to type. And we likely will never know for sure.

Lessons to be learned... If you aren't buying new from an authorized dealer, It is IMPERATIVE that you get pictures of the inside and outside of the caseback before you even think about pulling your wallet from your pocket. I suspect if Herb had seen the inside caseback he would have said "No Thanks!" and moved along. This is important if you purchase used, or Gray-Market. Why? Because this watch has -zero- historical value, next to -zero- collectablity for a serious collector interested in originality, it's value is mainly as a wearer or as raw-materials for a custom watch project of some manner. If that's all you're interested in, then there is some value in that.

This watch is nearly certainly NOT “a "recent issue" speedy moonwatch that I had purchased from a fellow TZer and I was rather concerned that it appeared to be a graymarket watch because the serial number was absent from the #7 lug” as Herb said. It's not a Recent issue Speedy Moonwatch, it may or may not be a Gray Market watch (I doubt it's a gray based on the movement vintage), it appears the movement is from the 1968-1973 epoch, but it is in no way certain that the movement is original to a Speedmaster or necessarily this case. The bracelet is a modern (post 1999) one, and the caseback... The movement could be from any point from Late 1968 (after the c.861 was introduced) on, with a caseback altered for unknown reasons. Very uncertain provenence at best.

This should be a warning to people who purchase used and Gray-Market. Omega doesn't do this to their watches. A Speedmaster sourced from anyone else has the potential to have had what was done to this watch's caseback done to it. GET pictures of the inside caseback of any watch you purchase that isn't from an authorized dealer!

I wish the news was better Herb, and I am profoundly sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I hope this post is of interest/use to everyone else.

Caviat Emptor!

-- Chuck

Chuck Maddox

Chronographs, like most finer things in life, only improve with time...
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Early 2008 ADDENDUM:

On or about 25 January 2008 Quatre Temps posted some insights on his research on replacement Speedmaster Backs on the Omega Forum. At this point his research is at this point evolving while he continues to obtain information. Rather than keep this page as it originally existed without notice, I am linking below Portals to at least three threads on this topic:

I think I might have corrected Chuck Maddox:

It would appear that 'ETCHING' inner Omega backings has been around since the 60's...:

*AAUGH!!* There is absolutely NO method to Omegas madness!!!:

'grsa' : George Ruedin S.A.:

At this point I have little to no idea where this story will end. I'll continue to add Threads to this page as Quatre Temps finds useful threads to post on WUS. I hope this adequately brings the current situation on this topic to a point where it is as up-to-date as can reasonably be done without a huge investment in time.

-- Chuck


P.S. Unfortunately, the pictures he originally posted on Photobucket have been pulled, so his posts make little sense. Perhaps he will be able to restore the photos at some point.