You see 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 it’s genuine and not some knockoff?
There’s a lot of info about “detecting fakes,” but not all of it is good, so be careful. Some websites are very good at ranking high on Google and getting social shares, but they’re neither experienced watch collectors nor high-end dealers. So, don’t put too much trust in those fancy infographics.
In this article, I’ll show you exactly how to tell if your Omega watch is real.
This article was originally published on October 19, 2016. It was updated and newly posted on July 24, 2022.
Dial and hands
First, look closely at the dial and hands.
Omega is a reputable brand, and it had standards to live up to. The lacquer, the font, the text/printing, minute track, etc. should all be of 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 exposure to light and humidity slightly changed the color of the hands.
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 old age at least, and that’s fine. It’s suspicious if the lume in the hands or on the dial is still incredibly 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.
Reference number/case number
Omega uses these numbers to distinguish between models and types. Omega stamped these numbers on the inside of the case back, except for the Officer, which was made for the Swedish market. You can use it to research 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. Keep in mind that usually, it only shows one version, while many references came in a variety of dial/hands combinations. It also mentions what movements Omega used and what the production timeframe or the year of introduction was.
Be aware that the database isn’t always 100% accurate, and it doesn’t include all reference numbers. However, it’s an excellent resource and should be the starting point of a search for a vintage Omega watch.
The Omega Vintage Database sometimes uses an extra 0 after the decimal point. For example, the Vintage Omega Database lists the 136.041 as 136.0041.
If possible, try to determine what movement the watch has. Some models only used specific movements, and movements were only used for a certain amount of time.
The Vintage Omega Database lists the movement or movements used for a particular reference number as well. When the caliber matches the one that the database has registered, you can check another item off your list.
All Omega movements have a serial number. On most movements, you can see it on the barrel bridge or train wheel bridge. Pocket watches from before 1910 had the serial number on the dial side of the baseplate.
You can use the serial number to determine (with an accuracy of 1-2 years) when a movement was made. This should match the period in which Omega produced a specific model.
There may be a small gap in the 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.
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 or crystal is no definite proof in spotting a fake Omega.
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 one. It’s an original crown, but the watch is not identical to how Omega produced it. This is common for 1950s Seamaster automatics. Most had the “clover” crown, but many no longer do.
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 entirely 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 compelling proof one way or another. If it does match with the additional 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 about 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 buy the seller first 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 fantastic, and Omega is a fascinating brand with many exciting models. Unfortunately, that means that Omega is one of the most faked and frankenized watch brands, so be careful and use common sense.
Do you have some tips on how to spot a fake Omega? Let me know in the comments below.