While the past four years have been plagued by prophesies of impending financial doom, the market in quality vintage Omega watches has remained buoyant. Prices continue to rise for authentic Omega models in a range of different lines. So as to remain faithful to the theme of this website, we will, however, focus on Omega Constellations.
The vintage watch market can be divided into four markets: Global Internet (on-line auctions, sales forums and specialist on-line auctions run by auction houses); Internet retail (on-line vintage dealerships with stock at fixed prices); High-End Auction Events (such as Christies, Antiquorum, Patrizzi, Doctor Crotts and Sothebys) and Bricks & Mortar Retail (geographically located dealerships). Generally, prices realised within the Global Internet market are the cheapest and it is a source for inventory for both Internet Retail and Brick & Mortar establishments. Risks are higher and due diligence is essential. As a rule, Bricks and Mortar Dealerships and High-End Auctioneers (particularly when an event is hyped up) are the most expensive sources for collectors. Risk at B&M establishments can be seen as the lowest in most instances.Global Internet prices are used in this review.
Increasing gold prices have had an effect on all quality Constellation stock, prices for guilloche dialled model 2648 calibre 354/352 RG examples in good condition, for example, having averaged between USD 3,100 and 3,500 over the past year. In general, caution needs to be exercised when buying 18k gold watches, because of the potential downward fluctuation in the price of gold. As a rule of thumb, a 1952 – 1965 vintage Constellation watch head will contain between 1,400 to 1,600 USD worth of gold based on a global gold price of USD 1,700 per troy ounce. Astute collectors calculate the premium they wish to pay above the base gold value by assessing case sharpness; dial originality, style, colour and quality; movement status and condition; compliance with factory specifications; aesthetic value and perceived demand for specific models. White gold examples in all models up to and including the Omega C-Shape Constellation have achieved a premium of at least 50% above their red gold and yellow gold contemporaries.
The most sought-after Constellation models in terms of appearance are guilloche dialled models in 352 RG, 354 and 501/505 calibres; Deluxe models 2699 and 2700 are also eagerly sought-after; pie pan dials in all models are in high demand; deluxe execution pie pan models with solid gold dials up to model 168.006 attract strong interest (the differential between gold value and market price for calibre 354 and 501/505 Deluxe pie pan Constellations has increased to over double the 18k content of those pieces); authentic black dials in all models are quickly snapped up and Omega ‘Globemaster’, or ‘No-Name’, Constellations attract strong demand particularly from the U.S.
While, generally, there is plenty of inventory available across the various digital and physical markets, an increasing premium is being paid for the top end or best quality/condition stock. For example, a stainless steel, authentic 168.005 pie pan model with a sharp case, excellent original dial, original decagonal crown and pristine movement commanding around USD900.00 two years ago now fetches in the vicinity of USD1400.00, or more, depending on the level of demand generated. Six years ago, I purchased a pristine 168.005 stainless pie pan for less than USD600.00. The rise in values of top condition Constellation models is also impacting on medium quality stock, the price of which has risen commensurately.
As supply of quality, top end Constellations comes under pressure because of demand and attrition, current trends indicate prices will continue to rise. Curiously, there is an emerging market for Constellations that exhibit interesting and even patterns of dial patina. Dial degradation is a fact of life for any nineteen-fifties or sixties watch that has been worn and not coddled, and there is a growing body of collectors who enjoy even, but attractive patterns of patina. Black Constellation dials printed over copper plate and showing copper flecks that look like stars in a night sky; ivory dials that present a marbleized effect and other interesting and even displays of age do well in the middle part of the market as long as the pieces meet factory specifications.
There is real interest in Constellation C-Shapes of all metals, particularly 18k models with Milanese bracelets, and a growing interest can be seen in the chunkier integrated bracelet models. Prices for mid-500 series powered models (including calibre 751) have increased over 30% for quality examples in the past three years.
As values increase for well preserved Constellations especially those powered by the classic calibres, so do the opportunities for the fakers and frankenmeisters to turn a profit. Fake gold Constellations and stainless versions of dog leg lugged models continue to circulate as do ‘put-together’ or franken versions of more popular models. With the substantial investment now required even for a good stainless steel model, I strongly urge you not to buy until you know exactly what you are buying. Front-end research is imperative, and the resources on this site, if used properly, can mean the difference between a pleasant acquisition experience and a nightmare.