Investment pieces part two: Omega Speedmaster 321 & 861

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In a short series of articles I will be commenting on some watches that I believe make good medium-term investment opportunities.

I have to say before I start this is a personal opinion and while you’re welcome to read it and use it as guidance, the choice of whether to use it as advice in your own purchasing decisions is entirely your own.  I’m certainly not in the business of giving investment advice.

If you’re interested enough to be reading this, you probably already know the history of the Omega Speedmaster but here it is in brief – first launched in 1957 the “straight lug” Speedmaster cal. 321 was a stunning looking, manual wind Chronograph – so here we have the first requirement for serious collectability – great looks.

The model changed slightly over the years, most notably changing from straight to shaped lugs but the massive change in the fortunes of the Speedmaster was to come in the late 1960’s when NASA were looking for a manual wind chronograph to take to the moon (automatic wind watches don’t work in zero gravity).

As soon as Omega realised the marketing potential of this incredible coup, they created an inscription on the caseback of all Speedmasters referring to the lunar landing – and so we have the second element of desirability – A great story.

With a few exceptions, mainly during in the 1970s, over the years Omega have kept The Speedmaster broadly unchanged – at least aesthetically.  It’s true to say that Omega haven’t been able to avoid the temptation to produce a multitude of commemorative limited editions, some of which have become collectable in their own right.

Because of the relatively low production numbers of all watches during the 1960’s and early 70’s compared to today, the 321 and early 861 calibre Speedmasters have the final requirement of collectability which is rarity.  If you take a 50-year-old Sports watch, add rarity and the rigours of life, you will soon find that properly nice examples are really quite scarce…

Now while all of this might explain why the early Speedmasters are desirable and collectable, it doesn’t quite tell you why I think they’re such a good investment right now – that is an easy one – it’s because they are cheap.

The aesthetics, quality and functionality of the Speedmaster are not dissimilar from those of the equally famous Rolex Daytona but the big difference is that if you want to buy a late 1960’s Daytona in excellent original condition, you’re unlikely to see much change from £25,000

If you’re looking for a comparable Speedmaster on the other hand then currently £3000-£4000 will buy you one that is pretty much as good as any out there.  It is this and other similar imbalances that point towards the future value of the early Speedmaster.

Earlier this month at an auction in London, a nice but unremarkable 1965 Speedmaster sold for over £20,000 including buyers premium and while I think this was probably a one off occurrence, it is an indication that the price of these watches is only going in one direction.

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