A look at one of the most unusual watches on the vintage market...
As I'm sure a lot of you will know, the vintage watch market is currently in a very strong position. If you browse the websites of various vintage dealers, you’ll see that classic watches from the likes of Rolex and Omega are selling for even more than their modern-day equivalents. Whilst that might seem quite illogical, it really is unsurprising when you think about just how scarce good examples of these watches are becoming. After all, by now many are over half a century old.
Of course, one such collectible watch is the Omega Seamaster 300. In particular, the 2nd generation Seamaster 300, which was introduced in 1964 and which would be manufactured until 1970. This model would become one of Omega’s most iconic, and it was even issued to British Royal Navy divers.As such, it's hardly surprising that this is such a desirable model today. It has everything a vintage collector could want. Not only is it a really beautiful looking watch, but it was made by one of the most well-known Swiss brands and has a history of usage by the military. The cherry on the cake is that with a 42mm case, it’s the perfect size for modern tastes.
Of course, such desirability can also be a bad thing, because it can give rise to fakes.
What Is A WatchCo Seamaster?
Which brings us on to WatchCo. This now defunct Australian company used to be an Omega service centre and could therefore order in spare parts from Omega themselves. Realising the desirability of vintage watches like the Seamaster 300, they decided to make use of Omega’s extensive inventory to buy in as many Seamaster 300 parts as they could. They then sold these either as kits, or assembled them themselves into fully fledged Omega Seamasters, using either new old stock movements or donor movements sourced from vintage watches.The Seamaster we have here is one such example. But the key question is, is it fake? Because whilst this was never made by Omega or retailed by one of their dealers, all the parts are genuine Omega parts. If you are lucky enough to own an original Seamaster 300 and you send it to Omega to be serviced, then they will use these same parts to repair and restore your watch.
Furthermore, in WatchCo’s defence they were quite open about what they were doing and weren’t in anyway deceptive. They didn't claim to be selling vintage watches, but simply sold these “new” Seamasters for what they were. Naturally, they priced them lower than the genuine vintage examples that were on the market.
Omega's Reaction To WatchCo's Seamasters
Of course, eventually Omega found out what WatchCo were doing and were understandably rather upset. As a result, Omega stopped selling parts to any third party that wasn’t an authorized service centre at the end of 2015. A search on the Omega forums shows that WatchCo were still retailing their Seamasters in that year, so Omega’s decision seems clearly linked to WatchCo’s practices. They weren’t the only ones either. The same forum thread shows that U.S. retailer Otto Frei, and UK-based Cousins, also sold Seamaster parts, such as cases, dials, and handsets.
Given how easy it seems it was for anyone to acquire all the parts needed to build a Seamaster 300, it is unsurprising that Omega made the decision they did. Whilst it was unfortunate for independent watch makers, you can understand Omega wanting to prevent the assembly of these “new” vintage models.
Are WatchCo Seamasters Fakes?
So, getting back to the question at hand, are these WatchCo Seamasters fakes? Well, no, I don’t think so. Because as long as people are open and honest about what they are, I don't really see the problem. At the end of the day, they are made from genuine parts. So, whilst I think it’s a stretch to refer to these WatchCo Seamasters as “genuine”, they aren’t really fakes either. They’re somewhere in the middle, albeit walking a fine line between the two.
Of course, some people might disagree. And rightly so, because these WatchCo Seamasters lack something that is absolutely crucial to any vintage object - And that's history and provenance.
These WatchCo Seamasters just don't have the same mystique or charm that a truly original vintage watch does. Of course, some people won’t mind that. They’ll gladly pay a little less and get a newer watch in better condition. And I think that's an equally valid viewpoint as that of the die-hard collector, who wants the watch to be as original as possible. Ultimately, what counts is that the buyer knows what they’re purchasing and are happy to pay the price asked. As long as they’re satisfied then that’s all that matters.
And if you’re one such person who likes the sound of a WatchCo Seamaster, you can purchase this very watch from our friends over at Watches of Lancashire. Click here to see the product on their site.
If you’d like to read more about the history of the Omega Seamaster, and the WatchCo version in particular, here are some links to the articles we used to research this piece: