For this week’s Speedy Tuesday we have a cool story on how one of our reader’s bought a dead stock Omega Speedmaster Professional from 1977. Omega Speedmaster collector Alexander experienced something that a lot of us can only dream about: finding an unsold (and basically unused) vintage Speedmaster, complete with box and papers. Without further ado, here is Alexander’s story.
I have been collecting vintage watches long enough to know that unless you cross your path with a watch lover like yourself, talking too much about your hobby could become boring for the ordinary people. Since 99.99% of the world’s population tends to think about watches like a gadget to tell time or worse, just a fashion statement, I always try to talk as little as possible about it with people that don’t belong to the other 0,01%. Even though one day, in 2011, after a business meeting, a colleague started to talk to me about his uncle, a jeweler, that passed away a few weeks before.
His uncle worked in an old fashioned jewelry shop for more than 60 years. The first 20 years as an employee and the last 40 as the owner of the place. Given that his descendants were not interested in keeping the business open, the family took the decision to close it down and sell everything inside the shop to provide some economic support to the surviving wife.
My colleague told me that almost everything in the store was easy to sell back in bulks to the distributors. His uncle was a nice guy and his suppliers had him in good esteem, so they were more than happy to help the family. But, and here comes the good part of the story, they found in his uncle’s private office an old Omega Speedmaster that for some reason never got sold.
I was invited to come over to check the watch because he knew I collect Omega watches, so maybe I could be interested on seeing it. It goes without saying that I accepted his invitation.
A couple of days later we went to the former jewelry shop. The front of the store had the usual traditional glass counters, but totally empty. Then we went through a small door next to the storage room in the back, to the office of his uncle. On his desk, there was a black cardboard box, with the word OMEGA and the logo in silver.
Besides my colleague who assisted me, there was also a person who used to be the senior sales guy. He was there to help to clean up the store. Since he was there anyway, I could not resist to ask him about this Omega Speedmaster Professional. He told me that the watch was a demonstration piece in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. They kept it at the counter to show the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch to customers. Unfortunately (for the store, not for me) at that time the buzz for the space race was all gone, and quartz (and automatic) watches were way more popular than a manual-wind chronograph. So the Omega Speedmaster Professional did not sell that well at the time. And when they sold one, they ordered a new one from the Omega distributor. With the pass of time, this particular ‘demo’ Omega Speedmaster Professional became a “no sell”-unit and the jeweler put it in the safe to free up some space in the counter for newer products. He actually forgot it about it. Years later, the store was not an authorized Omega dealer anymore and they shifted their focus on jewelry and cut the watch sales completely, including all other brands they had.
Going back to the Omega Speedmaster Professional watch that was sitting in front of me on the desk. It was a little odd to unbox a watch that was kept in a safe for decades. Not the typical unbox process that you experience when you bought a brand new watch. The outer cardboard box showed some minor wear. It protected the light grey and black Omega plastic box for many years though. When opening it, a pristine Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch was exposed. Besides the watch, the box also had the unstamped warranty card, and two booklets titled “CHRONOGRAPHS Direction of Use” and “You and your Omega” inside, as well as the blank Omega price tag typed with the model number 145.0022, movement 861 and the serial number 39.9xx.xxx.
The case was perfect with the original polished and brushed facets. Just how it left the factory in the 1970’s. The dial was spotless and the tritium markers were like new. The stainless steel bracelet ref. 1171/633 was never adjusted and the clasp was spotless. Not the slightest sign of wear, you could even see the trail of the polishing wheel used in the Omega factory. Upon closer inspection, I could see the red dot on the caseback as a proof that it was never opened before. Even the caseback had some glue traces from the original sticker.
The pristine Moonwatch dial gave me some hints of the production date of the watch. I assumed that the Omega Speedmaster Professional was from the second half of the 1970’s based on the non-step dial, short tritium markers and typography. It was also prior to the 1980’s due the 1171 bracelet and not the 1171/1 used on early on that decade. I had the perfect Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch, bought directly from the original store that ordered it from Omega over 30 years ago. Along with the story of why it was sitting in a safe for so long.
However, I still didn’t knew the correct production year model of my new Moonwatch. Since I noticed a small amount of a black sticky substance between the caseback and the case, plus my curiosity about the production year, I took it to my trusty watchmaker. He was able to carefully unscrew the caseback to check the number on the movement and to see what the black residue was. Luckily, he allowed me to stand next to his workbench during the whole process so I could witness everything. Upon opening the caseback, a shiny copper colored caliber 861 movement was exposed. The inside of the caseback was stamped 145.022 76 ST HF. Based on the Moonwatch Only book (page 307), this was the last case type made by Huguenin Frères SA, before going bankrupt. According to the movement serial number 39.9 million (it also matched with the Omega price tag found in the box), the watch was built in mid-1977. Mystery solved.
The watchmaker was very impressed with the fact that the original oil was there. He also told me that the caliber 861 movement was never serviced or even touched before. The only issue was the original gasket that transformed into this black residue. He removed it and installed a new gasket to ensure a tight seal.
It was the perfect Omega Speedmaster Professional, frozen in time for more than 30 years waiting to see the sunlight outside a watch store. I don’t consider it a NOS (new old stock) watch, I think that this definition better suits a contemporary piece that was never used by the owner. In this case, the Omega Speedmaster Professional just never left the store, was never sold and never worn by a person (other than it being tried on briefly in the store). I had the opportunity to feel the unboxing process that many proud new owners had back in the 1970’s, for sure a once in a lifetime experience. I have this 1977 Speedmaster Professional for about 7 years now, and I am still reluctant to wear it, I don’t want to break the charm. I love vintage watches among other things because of the history attached to them, but in this case I have a blank page that I don’t want to stain.
More information on Omega via their official website.
Ever since he was a young child, Robert-Jan was drawn to watches, even though it were digital Casio and quartz Swatch models at the time. In the mid-1990s, his interest increased when he started to read about mechanical watches in... read more