Someone once wrote that the watch industry is just like Hollywood; in cinemas and with watches, remakes are always popular. I was recently reminded of this film comparison when reading about the ongoing “Speedygate” scandal.

World media outlets have been enthralled by the story, which you could easily adapt into a TV series (maybe one of the streaming platforms will pick it up?). New comments and facts are coming to light as I write, which are all adding up to a very interesting story.

For those of you who are not familiar: it all started with a sale.

In November 2021, a 1957 Omega Speedmaster 2915-1 “Tropical Broad Arrow” went under the hammer at Phillips auction house in Geneva. The price it achieved, 3.115 million CHF, was record-breaking as it was three times higher than the estimated selling price. It was also the highest price that an Omega watch had ever sold for (the previous record-breaking Speedmaster was “only” 408,500 CHF).

After the auction, the world of collectors was in an uproar: no one expected the price of this model to exceed one million, let alone three. There were also doubts about the watch itself. According to the auction catalogue, it was one of the earliest examples of the legendary Speedmaster and it was made on 22 November 1957. However, some Omega enthusiasts said it looked familiar. It resembled the watch that was on offer a few months previously for 50,000 CHF, which didn’t sell as it was considered to be too expensive for a so-called frankenwatch.

There were some discussions about this on internet forums, but it all ended fairly quickly before dying down altogether.

The first person to revisit it was José Perez, alias Jose Pereztroika, the founder of the Perezcope blog where the watch detective follows the historical models that appear at auction and expresses doubts or reveals falsities regarding their authenticity.

In April this year, published its theories on the Speedmaster that was sold. In their opinion, the watch was a frankenwatch made using some parts from several historical Speedmasters and other parts that were brand new. This publication reignited the discussions, but neither Phillips nor Omega officially commented on the allegations.

The matter really began to gain traction when the Swiss newspaper “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” (“NZZ”) wrote about the events in detailed chronological order. At that point it wasn’t clear who had bought the Speedmaster for such an exorbitant price. The day after the publication, Omega made the surprising announcement in “NZZ” that the buyer of the watch was the Omega Museum, and three employees of the company had been involved in the whole operation (the director of the museum and two other employees had been dismissed, after which criminal proceedings were initiated against them). The whole thing was supposed to show that historical Omega watches are becoming more and more sought-after, which is why the mysterious collector was willing to pay over 3 million CHF for one. We now know that this mysterious collector was in fact the director of the museum. The employees involved in the scandal played a double role: buyer and seller. With help from associates from outside the company, they made a watch using original and reconstructed parts, certified its authenticity, then bought it from themselves using Omega’s money.

Following the story in “NZZ”, both Phillips and Omega said in separate interviews that they had been victims of an organised crime group.

So it turns out it’s not just collectors who can be deceived; it can also happen to auction houses and even brands themselves.

This doesn’t mean however, that the Speedmaster sold by Phillips is worthless. On the contrary, there is a large group of collectors who buy frankenwatches. The problem is that this Speedmaster is not worth over 3 million CHF. According to experts, it is worth a maximum of one-tenth of that amount. That, and the fact that someone tried to convince collectors that this was the “holy grail”.

Apparently, the “Speedygate” scandal is already being dealt with by the police, so the story feeds the imagination so much that screenwriters have a story served to them on a platter. How will the story end? Hopefully, with a happy ending.

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