You’ve found an interesting vintage Omega watch. Perhaps on Ebay or another auction site or even at a yard sale.
It looks great. The price is right. But how do you know if it’s genuine and not some knock off?
In other words: how to spot a fake Omega?
This is an article about vintage Omega watches in general and the steps to take to authenticate them.
- Dial and hands
- Reference number/case number
- Serial number
- Crown and crystal
I’ve added some final tips at the conclusion.
#1: Dial and hands
First, look closely at the dial and hands.
Omega is a respectable brand and they had standards to live up to. The lacquer, the font, the text/printing, minute track etc. should all be of a consistently high quality. The alignment should be perfect and there should be no misspellings of any kind. That includes the case and the case back as well.
The lume on the dial and in the hands (if any) should match. It’s possible that they changed to slightly different colors due to the exposure to light and humidity.
Also, keep in mind that lume will discolor over time. A watch that’s 40, 50 years old or even older will show some minor signs of age at least and that’s fine. I’s suspicious if the lume in the hands or on the dial is still extremely bright. It doesn’t immediately mean there’s something wrong, but you should at least investigate further.
Even if they did re-lume the dial or hands, it doesn’t make it a fake piece. It does mean, however, that it’s not 100% original anymore. You can read more about redials and how to detect them here.
The hands should be the correct type of hands that Omega would have used.
Below is a chart of Omega hands from 1954. More on the correct type of hands later.
#2: Reference number/case number
Omega uses these numbers to distinguish between models and types. The number is stamped on the inside of the case back. This number can be used to look up the watch in question to compare the dial and the hands with the one you’re looking at.
Several books use these codes to list watches but the most common resource is the Omega Vintage Database. Not all entries have pictures but the database has lots of images to compare dials and hands. It also states what movements have been used and what the production timeframe was.
Be aware that the database isn’t always 100% accurate and it doesn’t include all reference numbers. However, it’s a very good resource and should be the starting point of a search for a particular vintage Omega watch.
The Vintage Omega Database sometimes uses an extra 0 after the decimal point. For example, the 136.041 is listed as 136.0041 in the Vintage Omega Database.
If possible, try to determine what movement the watch has. Certain models only used certain movements and movements were only used for a certain amount of time.
The Vintage Omega Database lists the movement or movements used for a certain reference number as well. When the caliber matches the one that the database has listed, you can check another item off your list.
#4: Serial number
All Omega movements have a serial number. On most movements, you can find it on the barrel bridge or train wheel bridge.
The serial number can be used to determine (with an accuracy of 1-2 years) when a movement has been manufactured. This should match the period in which Omega produced a certain model.
It’s entirely possible that there’s a small gap in years between the movement and the watch. Sometimes the movement had been in stock somewhere for a while before being fitted into a watch. However, that shouldn’t be more than 1 or 2 years.
#5: Crown and crystal
Omega started to sign all the crowns and crystals around 1950. Some say it’s from 1945 onward and others say it’s sometime between 1947 and 1950.
There are a few Milspec Omegas that were produced after 1950 but still didn’t have a signed crystal and crown.
In short, if you have a civilian vintage Omega timepiece that was produced after 1950, the crown and crystal should be signed.
However, the presence of a signed crown and/or crystal is no definite proof.
There are dozens of different types of original Omega case parts. Theoretically, someone could fit a signed Omega crown to a watch that’s supposed to have a different crown. It’s an original crown but the watch is not identical to how it left the Omega factory.
Perhaps the stem or the crown (or both) had to be replaced and they couldn’t be bothered to use the correct parts. The watch might be perfectly original but it has a generic crown or an original crown of the wrong type.
That would be a little more difficult with a crystal because a crystal needs to be the exact size to fit correctly.
In other words, you should examine the crown and crystal but it’s not crucial proof one way or another. If it does match with the other info you’ve collected so far, it’s another check mark on the list.
If you checked all the items above and you’re still not sure, you could always ask for help on one of the forums. Members are usually very knowledgeable on how to spot a fake Omega and are willing to help.
Remember that prices way below market value are suspicious. There are still people who have no clue what they have but in the age of smartphones and Google, they’re getting rarer every day. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Whenever you’re looking to buy on the internet you need to first buy the seller and then the timepiece. If the description, pictures or his/her reputation raises your eyebrows, skip that one. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel right and it’s a good idea to trust your gut in these moments. There will be plenty more along the way.
Don’t let all these “rules” and warnings discourage you. Vintage watches are awesome and Omega is an interesting brand with many interesting models. Unfortunately, that means that Omega is one of the most faked and frankenized watch brands, so just be careful and use common sense.
Do you have more tips or tricks on how to spot a fake Omega? Please comment below so that I can add them to the article.