To Restore, Or Not To Restore — That Is The Question
Occasionally, we get an email from someone with a vintage watch who is wondering whether to restore it or not. Recently, someone found a Speedmaster CK2998 in his drawer and wondered if he should send it off to the spa in Switzerland.
As it may be important in judging whether to restore this Speedmaster or not, it’s important to know that this was his dad’s watch. His father bought it new in 1960 and was the sole owner until he passed it on to his son, who still is the current owner. He basically forgot about the watch and found it in the back of a drawer when he was looking for something else. Together with the original paperwork, the watch sat there for nearly 15 years.
Restoring a vintage Speedmaster
According to Omega’s website, a normal service will set you back €750 / US$750. However, the sender of the email informed me that he thinks the bezel is pretty worn, so it might need some good restoration work. However, a service (at €750) is not the same as a restoration.
During the latter process, Omega will repair or restore parts such as a dial, case, and movement components. Servicing a watch is a different procedure that involves disassembling the watch and the movement, a thorough cleaning, reassembly, and so on. Omega will not restore or repair parts individually. During a service, the watchmakers will replace certain worn parts with identical ones. When it comes to vintage Speedmasters, then, this becomes an issue. You don’t want to have a new or modern handset on a 60-year-old watch.
Restoration of a vintage watch starts at €2,200 / US$2,200, but looking at the images, I wonder if this would be necessary. As many of you readers know, the problem is the replacement parts. If you replace an original Dot Over Ninety bezel with a modern bezel, the watch loses its value (and charm). The same applies to the hands, dial, and so on. You want to be careful with what you choose to have done to your Speedmaster.
I wouldn’t have it restored
Looking at the image that he sent me of the watch, I wouldn’t have anything changed aesthetically. The bezel does show signs of wear, including some scratches, but definitely the type of wear that I can easily live with. So I advised him not to have it touched. What he could do, though, is give the watch a proper service. He could get the caliber 321 cleaned and ensure everything functions correctly. I believe that the €750 / US$750 service charge covers all of this.
He just has to make it clear that Omega should not change or replace anything on the exterior of the Speedmaster. Personally, I have nothing against swapping the Hesalite crystal and gaskets for fresh ones, but I do know that some purists out there cringe if this happens during a service. In any case, it’s important to think about what you want to have done and not done to the watch. Make those wishes clear to the person who takes the watch in at the boutique or service center.
Harming the watch’s value
His message ended with, “Am I harming the watch’s value?” If you’re into watches, I think you know the answer to this question (if not, it’s “yes”). Replace the bezel, and it will lose a few thousand in (market) value. Replacing the hands, for example, will also cause it to take a hit. So if the market value is important to you, be careful about what you choose to have replaced.
Based on the Speedmaster CK2998 that the sender of the message has, I wouldn’t replace a thing. Perhaps it depends a bit on his financial situation or the kind of bond that he had with his father, but I wouldn’t consider selling a watch like this anyway, especially if my dad had been the first owner.
If you cherish the watch and want to wear it, I would at least ensure that it is technically correct. Get a new gasket for the case, a new crystal, a new crown gasket, and service of the caliber 321. If you do that, at least you won’t risk moisture getting into the watch. Additionally, a clean movement will not wear out as fast as one with thick and old oil inside.
What could be interesting for the owner of this Speedmaster CK2998 is to send it in for a Certificate of Authenticity. Omega will examine the watch closely, noting what parts are original and which ones have been replaced during services in the past. However, if the owner is convinced that the watch hasn’t been touched between 1960 and now, it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to do this.
Would you have Omega restore this watch or just (carefully) service it? Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments.