One of the most expensive watches ever sold at auction, an immaculate original Omega Speedmaster from 1957, has turned out to be a fake. It’s a fake so good that it fooled Omega themselves who claim that three former employees were part of the elaborate scheme.
In November 2021, the watch sold at auction for $3.4 million at Phillips, 25 times over the presale high estimate of $131,000, but it was “Frankensteined” together using parts from other vintage watches, as reported by Bloomberg.
The watch was bought by Omega for their in-house collection.
One former member of Omega’s museum and brand heritage department “worked in tandem with intermediaries to purchase the watch for the Omega Museum.” This person allegedly told company executives that the watch “was a rare and exceptional timepiece that would be an absolute must” for the company’s collection.
The watch is a very sophisticated forgery according to Omega, having mixed components from various timepieces with potentially fabricated parts. They’ve gone so far as to allege that former employees may have been involved in the assembly.
Omega did not identify those it believes responsible.
“Its false legacy allowed the profiteers to justify a highly inflated bid made through intermediaries,” said Omega.
The company doesn’t know who brought the watch to Phillips for the Geneva Watch Auction XIV. Phillips themselves haven’t identified the seller due to their own client confidentiality rules, but did say that they would do so at the request of authorities.
“If, having reviewed the evidence, we think there are grounds for criminal prosecution, then we will have no hesitation in referring the matter to the authorities to prosecute,” a Phllips representative said.
Phillips was reportedly unaware of the alleged criminality under investigation having carried out their own due diligence before putting it up for auction. They had obtained confirmation from Omega regarding the date of manufacture of the numbered movement, the date it was sold, and the serial number.
“Until last week, nobody had ever suggested this Omega watch was not authentic,” a Phillips spokesperson told Robb Report. “The watch was inspected by specialists, experts, and even the manufacturer at the time of sale and nobody raised any concerns over it.”
This story is still unfolding, but it serves as a reminder that purchasing on the second-hand market comes with risks. Some of these hobbled together watches are so good they can even fool the manufacturer let alone a consumer.
The watch in question was so valuable as it seemed to be an immaculate, first-generation example of the Speedmaster. Distinguished by a tropical dial, “Broad Arrow” hour hand, metal bezel with a tachymeter scale, and an oval Omega logo.