Thoughts About Buying an Heirloom Vintage Omega Constellation

Omega Constellation Grand Luxe
I receive frequent communications from people who wish to purchase a vintage Omega Constellation with the intention of passing it down to a favoured son (or daughter). This is a thoughtful and admirable act that can encourage an interest by future generations in family history and add to the cache of family treasures.

Providing that a benefactor has delivered the first recipient a rich or happy childhood uncontaminated by major trauma or tyranny, an heirloom watch can act as a powerful anchor that propels the wearer back in time to savour shared and cherished moments.

In more egoistic terms, an heirloom watch is a way to be remembered. Let’s face it, most of us would like to be remembered fondly after we have shuffled off this mortal coil, and very few of us would like NOT to be remembered at all. As Mother Teresa said, “One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anyone”.

If you are thinking of buying a vintage Omega Constellation for the purpose of it becoming a family heirloom, below are some ideas about how to make it a truly cherished object:

  1. Go for a precious metal case if at all possible. Apart from being non-corrosive, gold or platinum adds extra allure to the treasure aspect of an heirloom.
  2. Choose the best calibre series. I recommend purchasing a watch powered by the mid-500 series of calibres: either a calibre 551, 561, 564, or 751.
  3. Aim for the most sought-after model. For example, a pie-pan dialled case number 168.005, a dress model 168.004 with factory welded rheinor gold bracelet, a 168.002 Grand Luxe, or a 168.017 C-Shape with milanese bracelet.
  4. Source a watch with original box and papers if at all possible. If not possible, research and acquire an authentic box from the period and seek an extract from Omega’s vintage archives.
  5. Consider having your name and that of your wife expertly engraved on the case back, along with the date you acquired the watch. While it may discount the value of the watch by about five percent, it increases its heirloom value and forever establishes a connection with the original benefactors.
  6. Consider documenting by hand on a piece of parchment the reasons for your choice of heirloom and add a portrait of the benefactors.
  7. Buy one or two parts movements in good condition over time so future watchmakers will have a source of parts if repairs are needed. Make sure they are housed in special containers and are packed in cotton or a material that will not corrode the plating on the movements.
  8. Consider having a wooden box especially fashioned to contain papers, watch box, watch, parts movements and any other memorabilia.
  9. Keep the piece in good condition with regular servicing (Around every five years)

Finally, Wear the watch as a special occasion or dress watch and encourage the intended recipient, with gentle reminders like “One day this will be yours”, to covet the piece. Hopefully, if you've done your parenting well the intended recipient will not consider bumping you off for the value of a watch!

16 comments:

  1. Thierry Giraud4:35 am

    I would add to your very valuable comments : keep it away from potential stealing i.e. in a safe box or at the bank

    ReplyDelete
  2. Agree completely.

    What a tragedy it would be if some larcenist burgled one's home and took it.

    Thanks for your comment.

    Cheers

    Desmond

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  3. Anonymous11:14 am

    I can appreciate the concern for theft, but I collect in a number of areas, and am a gemologist as a hobby. Particularly for watches, I believe that they should be worn regularly. I rotate my watches and try to wear each one from time to time--naturally I have my favourites. The automatics I keep in a box that rotates them for winding several times a day to keep the movements working. The manuals, I wind by hand every day. You can't do that if they are locked up in a bank safe deposit box. Life is full of risks and I think this is one of them. That's what insurance is for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I tend to go for the safe box over the bank, and I agree that vintage watches should be worn and not coddled. After all, wrist time is part of the fun and enjoyment of owning some good vintage pieces.

      Some watches, I believe, particularly if they are precious metal do need looking after and are best worn on special occasions so as to preserve them from gouges and damage.

      Good point about the insurance. I have heard numerous stories of collectors being cleaned out, made all the more tragic by under-insurance or not having insurance at all.

      Thanks for your post.

      Delete
  4. Anonymous2:14 am

    Hello I have the same watch displayed here without the diamonds. It has the same band. I think it is 1959 model
    Still as new with original box . What do you think it is worth ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Besxt send me some pics so I can determine the model. Click on the complete profile link and then on email.

      Prices for these models vary significantly

      Delete
  5. Anonymous8:09 pm

    Hello I have the same watch with the diamonds. It is 1962 years model. Caliber 561 I also have the box in metal. Do you know what is worth?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very difficult to value a watch without high resolution pics of the dial, case, inner caseback and movement. Also with gold watches, weight is a major consideration.

      Cheers

      Desmond

      Delete
  6. Thanks for the great insight. I'm new to watch collecting and I'd love to add a Constellation to my collection. Since I'm a newbie, any insight on where I can get an authentic Constellation (pie pan)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probablt the better places to obtain an auythentic Constellation are on the sales boards of watch sites like Timezone, Purist pro, Omega Forums, Watchuseek etc. Chrono 24 is quite mixed in its considerable offerings and tends to be overpricey.

      Ebay can be a resource, however it's an extreme challenge of buyer beware because of fakes and franken watches.

      Useful to join one or two forums so you can post your appraisal of a watch and invite comments. Forum members respond better when one provides his/her views on a particular piece and asks for feedback.

      It's always good to start off with a clear idea of the model number you're looking for e.g. 168.005 Cal 561 Pie pan, rather than survey the entire field.

      Good luck in your search.

      Delete
  7. Thanks for the insight! Much appreciated. I've started the search and there seems to be a great deal of inventory. I just have to settle on which model would be a good fit for me. Any recommendations?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The most robust pie pan Constellations (calibre 551, 561 and 564) have a number of models from the 14381 and 14393 to the 167.005 and 168.005, as well as the 167.015 and 168.025. These are good models to check out

      Cheers

      Desmond

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  8. Anonymous9:40 am

    Des,

    I'm wondering how much value does having matching box and papers add to a heirloom piece? I'm thinking about a 168.004 - 14k hidden crown cal.561 as a Christmas gift/ fun investment and I've seen boxes alone priced at $300.

    The 168.004's that I've seen are around $1500, are we talking an extra $1k for the accouterments? I understand the idea of having the whole package, but is it really going to appreciate in value more so because of it?

    Cheers,

    Laz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think boxes and paper add around 4 - 500 to the value of a watch, but it must be a good example. If the watch is sharp, with crisp lines and good dial, together with a clean movement, then a stainless model 168.004 would be worth in the vicinity of 1700.

      A good 168.004 with domed dial should be worth around 1200, give or take a hundred. Immaculate examples may fetch more.

      Certainly a full ensemble will appreciate well, as long as the watch is cared for.

      Regards

      Desmond

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  9. Greetings, I recently received a 1966 Constellation with a 561 calibre. It was recently services. The serial number is within the year marks and the case is gold capped. All in all, it is a very lovely work of art. My question is, how often should I have my watch service to assure another 50 years of continue watch pleasure

    Respectfully,
    Armando

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amando,

      Having the watch cleaned, oiled and replacing the case back seal every four to five years should ensure the watch keeps on ticking into the next generation!

      Congratulations on your acquisitiion.

      Regards

      Desmond

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