Collector’s Tale: A Global Quest For A 60th Anniversary Speedmaster
We were supposed to review the Speedmaster 60th Anniversary. It was to be my opportunity to wear one of my favorite watches from Baselworld 2017. However, on a recent trip to Venice, Italy my desires shifted, and I found myself determined to buy the watch. This is my personal story about acquiring my dream Speedmaster.
The fever started at Baselworld 2017, slowly at first, but warming over the proceeding months. We had witnessed a renaissance of sorts for past references. 2017 has mostly been referred to as the year of the reissue. Brands from Oris to Rolex have been digging into their yellowed catalogs for inspiration from another time. Omega, of course, has been no exception, the rich history of the Speedmaster line has always anchored the company’s product line.
It was, therefore, no surprise when Omega presented the 60th Anniversary collection at Baselworld. This lineup felt different to me and many other attendees. While most brands look to references of old and find a way to bring them into the modern era with contemporary movements, cases, and other accouterments, Omega simply did what collectors had been asking for years. They did a digital scan of the original Speedmaster, Seamaster, and Railmaster. They then introduced nearly identical references, all limited edition. The cases, hands, dials, and even case backs mirrored exactly the original reference inspiration. While the trilogy set of re-issues was a sight to behold, my eyes were set on the Speedmaster.
The journey of a collector
Most collectors go through various emotions before ultimately deciding to pull the proverbial purchase trigger on a watch. For me, it’s usually the same three behaviors; admiration (usually Instagram), recommendation (from a friend/dealer), and search perspiration (finding the actual watch). Most who have been collecting for a few years will admit to making mistakes (or dozens) in our quests to build a collection. Whether it’s the watch you paid retail for only to see prices drop, or maybe the 5711 that you sold too soon (that one will haunt my dreams), or perhaps it was the modern watch (ahem Snoopy) that you passed on only to see it become a fan favorite commanding triple retail prices.
Every year’s watch fairs breed new references that cause collectors to run to their nearest boutique or retailer and add their name to an invisible “list.” I always feel that these lists are just a way to gauge your patience and commitment. We’ve all heard the stories of friends waiting months if not years to get the call to come down and pick up their coveted dream watch.
It’s for that very reason that I don’t normally participate in this kind of gamesmanship. I’ll occasionally pop into boutiques or retailers to see if by chance they have whatever watch has me captivated at that moment. I understand that my collection is nowhere near a grail collection, and I don’t indulge retailers for “favors” or “exposure” like some. Maybe it’s my Midwestern roots, either way, I usually just lay back and if something falls into my lap, so be it.
Over the summer, I started seeing some of the Basel novelties arrive in stores. Of course, when this happens, you start to see the watches appear on Instagram, either from buyers or admirers. First, it was the Seamaster 60th reissue, followed by the Railmaster 60th. I remember trying on the Seamaster at the Geneva airport and immediately texting a WhatsApp group with much higher profile collectors. I needed to their sage guidance on if I should buy this watch? They unanimously responded, “wait for the Speedmaster.” So, I figured I’d do just that.
Some explanation of why it’s popular
The Speedmaster reference CK2915-1 was introduced in 1957, long before we sat foot on the moon and a quarter century before the quartz crisis. It was a blissful watch with its broad arrow hands and racing-inspired chrono. Over the years, the watch has become a favorite with collectors. Prices have shot through the roofs of auction hours and vintage dealers. Omega responded to these market reactions in many ways. Introducing the Speedmaster 57 and CK2998 which mirrored some of the design elements of the original but included modern touches like Co-Axial escapements or larger case shapes.
I’m on the road a lot, and I usually find myself at a watch boutique more than once a week. I’ve stopped in Omega boutiques from New York to Los Angeles and many points in-between. I usually play the role of the fool with a near comedic precision I ask, “hey uh so those 60th Anniversary Speedies, ya got any?” The sales person usually amusedly responds that the reference is sold out and therefore not available. After multiple rejections, I just became numb to the process and felt destined to my fate.
Last week, on a whim, I booked a flight to Venice to spend a Venetian weekend with my girlfriend. Too often, I come to Europe for work, and we don’t get to spend quality “non-watch” time together. This was to be our weekend to indulge in cacio e pepe, modern art, and the beautiful scenery of Venice.
“Let me stop in here really quick”
The famous last words of many a collector. Our hotel was situated a stone’s throw away from the Venice Omega boutique. Naturally, I had to drop-in and saw if they had any of these coveted “Speedies.” Upon my arrival and polite questioning, the salesmen advised that he did have a 60th Speedy in stock! I was shocked and told him that’d I’d be interested. After being seated in the lounge, the watch was brought out. There it was, in all its glory, the watch that had eluded me since Basel.
After a quick inspection and check of the price, I handed over my credit card. The store manager started began whispering something in Italian to the salesperson. The watch was on hold for someone else, and he had mistakenly shown it to me. I left the store completely dejected, but now determined to find the watch.
“Sorry dude, this watch is a unicorn”
I began to shameless text friends, dealers, anyone that would listen to my plight. The responses were all the same, “sorry dude; this watch is a unicorn.” A collector’s term for a watch that’s impossible to find.
Since I figured my dream of owning a 60th anniversary, Speedy wasn’t going to come true. I started the hunt for something vintage in the same price range. I looked at a birth year Speedy and a few other plexi crystal models. When I told Marco Gabella (Watchonista’s Co-Founder) of my plight, he called his friend, a trusted local dealer. The gentleman just so happened to have a circa. 1992 ref. 142.011 Speedmaster in from a recent trade. We went and looked at the watch; it was a nice reference for a reasonable price. After contemplating over lunch, I returned to purchase the watch. I felt satisfied to scratch my Speedy “fever.”
A very lucky break
As my trip to Europe ended, I headed to the Geneva airport to catch the now-regular 11:45am flight to New York. After passing through security, I made my requisite stop at the Omega shop. There it was! Right in the window! The 60th Anniversary Speedmaster in the vintage-inspired Omega red box. I rushed inside to ask if the watch I saw in the window was available. To my surprise, it was!
Apparently, someone had placed a hold on the watch, but it expired at 9 am, and my lucky butt got there at 9:04 am. The salesperson tried assuring me that the watch wouldn’t last the day, to which I replied, “I don’t need the day, I just need the watch.” I quickly put my credit card down, had another espresso, and off I went, completely shocked.
Back to reality
As I’m typing this at 40,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, it doesn’t feel real. Do I really have my grail Speedmaster in the overhead bin? Throughout the flight, I’ve opened the bin and checked on my good fortune. The watch is still there, and I’m excited to get home and strap it onto a gray nato. The only lingering question is, do I keep it? Do we see these crazy secondary market prices because the watch hasn’t been fully released? Or is this the next grail reference that will see its value climb as the years go on?
For now, I’ll just sit back and do what feels natural, relax.