An investigation by Swiss newspaper NZZ into the creation and sale of a faked vintage Speedmaster has prompted Omega to allege that three former employees were involved in fraud.
The scandal involved the sale of a 1957 Speedmaster CK2915-1 at a Phillips auction in 2021 for CHF 3,115,500.
It was a shocking result at the time, given that Phillips had given the watch a pre-auction estimate of CHF 80,000 to 120,000.
Watch expert Jose Pereztroika, who runs the Perezscope blog, investigated the watch after chatter started circulating on Omega forums and reported his findings in an in-depth article on April 9.
That prompted NZZ’s Andrea Martel to dig into the sale of the watch, which was purchased by Omega for its own museum, and was told in a statement from Omega that it was a “Frankenstein” watch, composed of an amalgam of mostly authentic parts from other vintage watches.
At the time of the sale, the watch, with is tropical dial, was described by Phillips as being among the first batch of Omega Speedmaster watches released in 1957 as part of the brand’s Trilogy of professional watches, which also included the Seamaster 300 and Railmaster.
“Omega watches with the reference CK2915, were only made between 1957 and 1959 and produced in just three different iterations, making the CK2915-1 one of the very first and most collectible Speedmaster models. The first generation model, reference CK2915, is considered by collectors as “the grail”. It was the first chronograph to feature a tachymeter scale on the bezel, rather than the dial — and the first Speedmaster to use the Caliber 321,” the auctioneer said.
Auction prices for important watches can have a profoundly positive effect on a watchmaker, and the CHF 3 million paid for the Omega Speedmaster at the time was hailed as a breakthrough for the brand, which rarely saw its pieces command the sort of prices paid for rivals like Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet.
Omega disclosed that a former employee of the Omega Museum and its brand heritage department was among the staffers alleged to have been part of the fraud.
The company said that the ex-employee had “worked in tandem with intermediaries to purchase the watch for the Omega Museum,” and had been involved in creating the forgery by building the watch from other pieces.
Omega has not named the ex-staffers it alleges were responsible for the scam, but Omega CEO Raynald Aeschlimann told NZZ that the fraud had been “to the massive detriment of Omega.”
A spokesperson for Omega has said the company does not know who consigned the watch to Phillips.
It is not clear whether criminal charges will be brought against any of the alleged fraudsters.
This article has been updated since an earlier version failed to credit Perezscope.