A Family Heirloom

I only really got into watch collecting properly 2 or 3 years ago after always having a fascination for them but not the funds nor the inspiration to become involved. That all changed one day with the decision to purchase myself a luxury timepiece, but that’s a story for another day.

2018_0907_08574400-01Today I would like to talk about a timepiece that has been in my family for quite some time, that had been sat in a drawer at my parent’s house, lying dormant, waiting to be rediscovered.

My parents, being observant, had noticed my growing number of watches and the corresponding growth in my interest for watches. As my 40th birthday was approaching, they decided to announce that they had an old watch that belonged to my Great Grandfather in the loft somewhere that they’d like to give me. It would need repairing and that they would like to pay for it. Naturally I gladly accepted!

The watch, it turns out, was a vintage Omega. Nothing fancy, just a stainless steel wristwatch with a small seconds sub-register at 6 o’clock. It was reasonably battered with some light scratching on the caseback but the crystal was far worse off. Otherwise, the dial had a pleasing patina on it and the rest of the case was in pretty good shape. I tenatively gave the crown a turn and it wound surprisngly nicely, so I gave it a couple more turns and it was running!

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My Great Grandfather’s watch on the left next to the Constellation purchased for my Father

Not too long before, I had sourced an Omega Constellation from the 60s for my Father’s birthday as he had let on that he had wanted one since the 60s, so the family clubbed together to buy one for him, so I had located a vintage Omega specialist, whom I phoned regarding the service and repair. Quickly, the service was arranged and I took the watch to them to be sent to the authorised servicing company that did repairs for Omega themselves.

Several weeks later, I had the call, it was back! I went into London to collect it and it was stunning! They had called to ask what they had wanted me to do about the crystal and whether I wanted to change the dial. I refused the new dial in favour of keeping the original, but the crystal had to go. I also agreed to some polishing to remove the light scratches. The watch had been placed on a strap with a period relevant look and a signed Omega buckle, which finished it off very nicely.

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“How much do you think it’s worth?” I asked. “On its own? Not too much, it’s a shame you don’t have the box and papers, they would probably double the value”. Smiling, I produced the original Omega box, original hand typed receipt and service booklet. “Now we’re talking!” the man said. Naturally this is a piece I would never contemplate selling, but it was nice to have the subsequent conversation about what I knew about how it came to be in the family.

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The watch was purchased for my Great Grandfather by my Great Aunt, Marion Roberts in 1952. She paid the princley sum of £20 for it, which was probably a good week or two of wages back then! It was being bought for his 60th birthday as I understand it. Sadly my Great Aunt, had recently passed on, so I was unable to ask any questions about the story. She must have been in the country visiting, as she lived in Cyprus at the time in the walled city of Nicosia. By coincidence, I had ended up travelling to Nicosia a great deal and happily, the apartment she lived in with my Great Uncle was on the south side of the island and not in the northern Turkish occupied side. So too, was the church they were married in, which I visited on the day of her funeral in the UK, as I was away on business.

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The fact that the neatly folded original receipt had survived in the state it had, also the box, which, whilst showing age, is in reasonably good condition and the service book still in a very good state too is amazing, especially as it had been in the loft for many years.

I wear the piece now and then with a suit – not too often, but I wear it and admire it greatly. It’s small, 34mm in diameter, as was the style at the time, but it still looks lovely. Depending on the angle of the light on the dial, it can look clean and fresh or give away its lovely patina.

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I discovered, by chance, that you can request an extract from the archives at Omega, as described over on Fratello Watches (I won’t go through the process here as it is well documented at the linked page). I duly sent off for my extract, which arrived a couple of months later. The date of manufacture makes sense, I now know the reference of the piece but weirdly it was delivered initially to Italy. I suppose back then, items made their way round in a much more indirect manner as they do nowadays.

Anyway, I hope to have the piece for many years to come and to enjoy as I grow older. Perhaps one day I will be able to hand it on to someone who can tell the story again. In the meantime, enjoy some more photographs of it as taken by its current custodian; yours truly.

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