Venerable Vintage: My hunt for an OMEGA ‘pie pan’ constellation

Watch dials are generally flat. Sure, textures of various natures have been used but for the most part, the flatness of it as a whole is retained.

And that is why I love the OMEGA ‘pie pan’ Constellation – a series that ran from 1952 to 1970 – with its 12-faceted dial resembling that of a pie pan from the bakery.

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Image via Fratellowatches

Finding a genuine pie pan is tough. Very tough.

Bad examples can be classified into 4 types:

  1. Outright fake – case, dial, movement, hands or the whole thing, did not originate from OMEGA. Maybe some factory in China (they’re getting really good at it by the way)
  2. ‘Fake’ franken – watch consists of a mixture of genuine OMEGA and fake parts
  3. ‘Real’ franken – all original OMEGA parts but taken from different references/models so you get a mismatched Constellation that does not officially exist
  4. Real but unoriginal – everything is original OMEGA and the reference is correct, but the dial/case has been excessively refinished/polished such that it has lost its original colour lustre or the case’s subtle facets and curves are no longer distinguishable

This ‘tutorial’ is by no means comprehensive (one could easily publish volumes to ascertain the authenticity of every pie pan model) but it serves as a guide that points out the common pitfalls.

In sum, there are just 2 steps you need to take when hunting for a pie pan (and vintage watches in general) but each step involves hours leading up to months of sifting through crap before you strike gold.

Step one – identify the watch

Firstly, you have to identify the exact reference number you’re dealing with (every model has a unique one).

This number can be found on the other side of the caseback cover.

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Look close to the lower-mid portion: reference number is 14902. Note that different dial/case configurations DO exist for the same reference so do more research (will share some good resources further down)

Next, you’ll have to find out how genuine watches belonging to this reference look like.

A quick Google search should do this for you but pay attention to the information listed with the pictures; scrolling through Google Images will not cut it as the results are full of fakes/frankens pulled from online sales listings.

Your search term should roughly be like: (brand) (model) (reference) e.g. omega constellation 14902

In some cases, the caseback might be taken from another reference altogether so you might have the right everything with the wrong caseback (argh) but fret not, once you know how a particular reference looks like, a cross-comparison would be straightforward.

Step 2 – compare everything else

Once you’ve idenfified which reference the watch belongs to (or claims to be), and armed with a genuine picture of what that reference should look like, it’s time to do a side by side comparison, which will make you cross-eyed and give you nightmares.

The watch you are potentially buying should show itself clearly from all angles with close ups on the dial, case, caseback and movement. If you can access it in real life, all’s the better.

And that’s it really. As mentioned, it might be just 2 steps but it is a lot harder than it sounds.

To help you see why, here’s a list of the watches I’ve gone through along with some other examples.

Watch 1 – ref. 14902 (listed from a preowned watch shop in Singapore)

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Wording in Serif font at 12 o’clock seems legit, the curves and bends of each alphabet reflect what you’ll find on an authentic dial.

However, there’s no gap between ‘SWISS’ and the hour marker at 6 o’clock. See the inconsistency reflected in the gap before ‘MADE’.

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Caseback seems legit with the right pearlage (evenly spaced out overlapping circles) design, a fake caseback will have uneven pearlage (like the below) or none.

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Dead giveaway. OMEGA will never produce work of this quality (or lack thereof).

Next, I looked at the movement. Reference 14602 is supposed to have the Calibre 561 movement, which it did though you can’t see it in the picture as the engraving is obstructed by the rotor.

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The writings on the bridge – ‘adjusted to five (5) positions and temperature’ and ‘twenty-four jewels’ are reflected correctly as it should for Calibre 561.

However, the hyphen between ‘twenty’ and ‘four’ is too short, suggesting a possible replacement which could be OMEGA original from other references or a fake. Here’s a genuine one:

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Even if the hyphen issue was not present, the corroded movement spells trouble; this watch hasn’t been serviced in awhile.

Compounded with a questionable dial with its font placement discrepancy, and how it looks sparkingly new compared to the movement, my guess would be either a re-dial (touching up and polishing done) or a dial replacement with a rather good fake.

It was listed for sale at SGD 1,550.

Watch 2 – no reference given (listed on Carousell)

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The seller did not provide any reference number or photos of the movement but it is not needed here.

It took one second to determine the authenticity of this piece. Pie pans with a crosshair dial should always have it run all the way through with no breaks/gaps. 

This listing had a very glaring break between the OMEGA logo and after ‘officially certified’. The gap can be seen at ‘Constellation’ as well.

A genuine crosshair dial looks like this:

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As the dial was an outright fake, the rest didn’t matter anymore. It was listed for sale at SGD 1,400 and has since been sold.

Watch 3 – ref. 2852 (listed on Carousell)

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First of all, the seller was forthcoming and readily stated that the dial had been restored in 2000, hence, the fantastic condition. But look closer and you’ll realize that ‘OMEGA’ is too close to ‘Automatic’; they’re practically joined together and they shouldn’t be.

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Also, the hour and minute hands are incorrect for this reference. As you can see, the surface of the hands is smooth while genuine article has a facet cut into them. Do a comparison  with a real 2852 below:

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The 10-faceted crown is correct though, and the case and lugs looked okay from the pictures but the asking price of SGD 2,500 for an imperfect dial is way too much.

Watch 4 – ref. 168.005 (listed on Quality Vintage Timepieces)

2 weeks ago, I stumbled upon a reference 168.005 from 1964 listed from a Canadian vintage watch store.

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Hands are right. Serif font and shaping of each alphabet are correct with the right spacing. Dial remains unpolished, slight aging but in very good condition. Curvature of date window is correct. ‘Dog legged’ lugs are correct (see the additional facet lining the outer side of the lugs before it cuts down? Very important as fake cases normally miss this out). Slight issue with the 18k genuine crown (10 facets) but it’s a replacement as the case is in 14k gold.

 

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Look closely at the side of the bezel and the case, there is one facet on each component, which is correct (applicable for stainless steel and certain gold filled models). Fake bezels/cases are completely smooth.

 

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Genuine pearlage on caseback. Calibre 564 is in line with ref 168.005. Movement has just been serviced but this watch has seen very little wear.

After a series of back and forth emails with the owner, Sao (who was very helpful and friendly) and Desmond, an Australian who runs a blog focusing on vintage Constellations (who was no less helpful), I made payment (USD 1,850 / SGD 2,500) with shipping fees of SGD 80.

The watch arrived 5 days later, concluding my search for a pie pan.

Check out Sao’s website here: www.qualityvintagetimepieces.com

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Useful resources

http://omega-constellation-collectors.blogspot.com/ – extremely detailed blog operated by Desmond who was mentioned above. The breadth and depth of his knowledge on vintage Constellations are unsurpassed.

http://download1582.mediafire.com/24rqe9b5j8zg/alzlyy78pc15pil/Fullcalibresdata.V15.pdf – complete listing of every OMEGA Constellation model providing you with the reference, movement and key characteristics. Immensely useful.  

https://omegaforums.net/ – saw a watch but unsure of its authenticity? Ask the experts here but please do your homework prior and remember to say thanks.

I looked through a hell of a lot more than the 3 examples written above but it would be too much to write them all.

I hope this sheds some light for you.

Happy hunting.

 

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