An immaculate original cheap fake Omega Speedmaster from 1957 seemed almost too good to be true—and it was.
The Ref. 2915-1, which sold for a record high $3.4 million at Phillips in November 2021, was Frankensteined together using parts from other vintage watches, as reported by Bloomberg.
Turns out that not just collectors, but even brands themselves can be duped on the authenticity of their own product—and perfect replica Omega has alleged that this example had inside help. The company claims three former employees were involved in the elaborate scheme. The final hammer price was over 25 times the pre-sale high estimate of $131,000. Swiss copy Omega reportedly bought the watch for its in-house collection.
The Swiss watchmaker claims that a former employee of its museum and brand heritage department “worked in tandem with intermediaries to purchase the watch for the best copy Omega Museum.” The ex-employee reportedly told company executives that it “was a rare and exceptional timepiece that would be an absolute must” for the in-house collection.
The luxury replica Omega appeared to be a pristine, first-generation example of the iconic Speedmaster. The watch was distinguished by a tropical dial, a “Broad Arrow” hour hand, a metal bezel with a tachymeter scale, and an oval “O” Omega logo. But the wrist candy was, in fact, cobbled together using components from mostly authentic timepieces and other potentially fabricated parts. AAA quality fake Omega alleges that the three ex-staffers who participated in the ruse may have been involved in the watch’s assembly.
“Its false legacy allowed the profiteers to justify a highly inflated bid made through the intermediaries,” the watchmaker said.
Swiss movement replica Omega does not yet know who took the knock-off Speedmaster to Phillips to sell at the Geneva Watch Auction XIV. The auction house hasn’t identified the seller due to client confidentiality rules, but a spokesperson for Phillips told Robb Report it would do so at the request of authorities.
Phillips was reportedly unaware of the alleged criminal activity when it consigned the watch and carried out due diligence before sending it under the gavel. The auction house obtained confirmation from high end fake Omega regarding the date of manufacture of the numbered movement, the model of the watch that the movement was fitted to, the date it was sold, and its serial number.
“Until last week, nobody had ever suggested this best quality replica Omega watch was not authentic,” the Phillips spokesperson told Robb Report via email. “The watch was inspected by specialists, experts, and even the manufacturer at the time of the sale and nobody raised any concerns over it.”
It goes without saying that collectors expect replica watches for sale to feature their original parts—or at least transparency regarding any modifications—and as a result, models that stay in their factory-built configurations are worth more than ones that have been altered. Phillips says that it does not offer watches unless it is 100 percent satisfied with their authenticity.
“On the extremely rare occasions where a top super clone watch is so important that it can be offered despite having a part which is not original or which is made at a later date, then this will be highlighted in the catalog notes or condition report,” the spokesperson said.
The secondary market is now rife with meticulously forged replicas and Frankenstein models that could fool even the most well-respected auction houses and watchmakers. Experts advise collectors to remember the adage that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Swiss movement fake Omega did not immediately respond to Robb Report’s request for comment.