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  1. Andy K

    Andy K Dreaming about winning an OFfie one day. Dec 12, 2017

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    I'd like to share the current state of my research into the Speedmaster 125. I have been researching and analyzing Omega calibre 1040 and 1041 watches and sharing nuggets of that research on my site, calibre1040.com, since last year. I track watches by serial number to gain insight into estimated production by reference and frequency of certain dial features. All of that information is out there on the site if you want a broader understanding, but this thread is focused specifically on the Speedmaster 125.

    Early on, I was able to quantify the phenomenon that people had noticed nearly 20 years ago: that the Speedmaster 125 is surprisingly accessible for a watch that was supposedly limited to 2,000 pieces now over 40 years ago. I first shared that data here on OF back when I had just over 280 points of data.

    I now have observed over 730 unique serial numbers, and the data continues to point to Omega making much, much more than 2,000 Speedmaster 125s. I continue to diligently document serials for both calibres, and I see Sp125s at a rate of one for every 4.343 calibre 1040 of any kind. The official production totals from AJTT are 82,200 1040s and 2,000 1041s, so one would expect to see one Sp125 for every 41.1 cal. 1040 watch. The easiest way to project the production total of Speedmaster 125s is to take the total known 1040 production of 82,200 (per AJTT) and divide by that rate of 4.343 to get an estimate of 18,927. And because I am tracking complete serial numbers, I know these are not the same watches being observed over and over again.

    Yes, there are arguments why the Sp125 might show up for sale, and therefore in my observations, more often than cal. 1040. But there are also arguments why it should show up less often than cal. 1040…I’ve discussed those at length here and here. But to me there is much more to the story than just the production totals. Namely, I have been thinking a lot about the mysterious Alphanumeric Codes.

    It has long been known that the caseback of the Speedmaster 125 is sometimes seen with a code engraved on the caseback consisting of a letter and a 3 digit number, but it sometimes is not. There are marketing materials from the era that refer to the Speedmaster 125 as being a limited or numbered edition, but the materials I’ve seen never referred to a specific production total or limit. Not any total, 2,000 or otherwise.

    My data shows that the only Speedmaster 125s that have an alphanumeric engraving have lower (earlier) serial numbers. Watches with codes on the back all have serials beginning with 3507 or 3559, while ones without codes are observed in many other serial batches as high as 4092.
    Chart.JPG

    It has been suggested that perhaps Omega made 2,000 numbered watches as part of the limited edition, and the rest were unnumbered and unlimited. This would allow for Omega’s official stance to be technically correct while also explaining both why there seem to be so many watches and why many are unnumbered. I want to stress though that my observations do not support that theory.

    The codes have been observed beginning with every letter from A to L (except J — J might exist I just haven’t seen it yet), and the numbers have been from 001 to 493. See end of post for several examples. I now believe these were numbered series of 500 watches each. This brings us back to production totals. If each letter represents a series of 500 watches, that points to a numbered production of 6,000 (assuming there is a J series). But I cannot come up with a reasonable way in which the alphanumeric codes found on some point to an estimate of 2,000 watches.

    As for sequential alphanumeric series, there is precedent. The Speedmaster Italy Special Black and Gold DA 145.022, a limited edition for the Italian market back in 1986 was issued in two series, one numbered 1-500 and another A1- A500. (MWO p. 374).

    The Speedmaster 125 numbered series do appear relatively sequentially. In other words, there is a correlation between serial number and alpha prefix, suggesting that the A series came first, then B, then C, and so on.
    SN Code Table.JPG

    In addition to the standard lettering on the back of some Sp125s, I’ve observed two alphanumeric codes with the letter I with serifs in a circle, in addition to other Sp125s with a non-serif font for the I series. The circled I is the same symbol, denoting “Italy”, found on the back of the Apollo Soyuz 1975 limited edition was targeted at the Italian market. So in addition to the “standard” lettered series, there was a series of unknown number made for the Italian market.
    Italy I 306.jpg Italy414.jpg

    The majority of Speedmaster 125s appear with no code on the caseback. Strangely, the plain casebacks are not all later examples either. My Speedmaster 125, for instance, has no code on the caseback but is one of the lower-numbered serials, and has the earliest manufacture date of any Sp125 Archive Extracts I’ve observed. My caseback could have been added later, but it certainly appears period correct:
    My Sp125 Outside.JPG My Sp125 Inside.JPG

    Omega made the Speedmaster 125 for several years after the company’s 125th anniversary in 1973. I have seen archive extracts as late as late as May 1976. But the fact that I have only observed casebacks with codes on watches with early serials suggests strongly that Omega made several numbered series, perhaps 12 plus one for Italy, and then for some reason stopped numbering the Speedmaster 125 altogether. And they may have been making unnumbered watches all along as mine suggests.

    As you can tell, I think the “official” stance of 2,000 Speedmaster 125s is flat-out wrong, and not really close. So where did that number come from? I still cannot answer that and I have yet to see any document from the 1970s that states that Omega intended to limit production of the Speedmaster 125 to 2,000 examples. I’ve uncovered some early materials that suggest that it was limited, numbered or commemorative, but none cites what that limit is.

    125 ad.jpg

    Note that the ad above states “Each Speedmaster 125 has an individually engraved number on the back of the case.” Strange then that some of the earliest examples lack the engraved number.

    I haven’t pinpointed when the number 2,000 first appears in reference to the Speedmaster 125, either. Chuck Maddox wrote his article on the 125 in the year 2000 and alludes to learning about the limited total in the book Omega Designs by Anton Kreuzer (1996), however I have that book and my copy doesn’t mention the production total. But it seems clear from his article that by then the production estimate of 2,000 was somewhat common knowledge among collectors and was essentially considered a settled matter. A Journey Through Time (2007) mentions the total and the Omega Museum mentioned the number 2,000 on Archive Extracts for years, until they made a recent change to eliminate that language. Regardless, I believe that 2,000 is simply an error that commands a re-examining of the archives, page by page if need be.

    This is where my research stands as of today, but it is an ongoing process and I’m always willing to change my view when confronted with new information. I would like to ask the forum to share any details (serial number, alpha code, photos of box and papers, photos of Archive Extracts, vintage ads, etc.) about their own Speedmaster 125s or cal. 1040s that can either solve or expand the mystery. Feel free to post in this thread or contact me via PM. If you’ve read this far, thank you for your patience.

    A451.jpg B176.JPG C314.jpg D133.jpg D493.jpg E395.jpg F065.JPG H001.jpg H015.jpg I019.JPG I272.jpg I468.jpg K051.jpg L157.jpg

    Photos of casebacks borrowed from various places on the web for illustrative purposes.
     
  2. omegastar

    omegastar Dec 13, 2017

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    Great work and research, I am 100% with you on this.
    Have you tried to find a relation between first letters and country initials both in French and English ?
    Have you tried to find a relation between local agents or distributor and the letters ?
    I can easily image the following the following scenario :
    A group meeting to decide what to do for Omega’s 125 birthday, ending with the decision to make a limited edition : the Omega Speedmaster 125 chronometer limited to 2000 pieces. When ready they start communication all over the world to promote the watch and the brand performance with the world’s first chronograph chronometer.
    They realise that there is a huge demand for the model and that the limited pieces are quickly out of stock. People want to order one and are ready to wait, knowing that the price and the profit was probably high on such an exclusive model. We are in the seventies and the Swiss watch industry is not so healthy anymore, but on the other hand they sold 2000 pieces to people saying it was a limited edition. What a dilemma. The rest is history, probably 20.000 pieces produced and sold and a heavy secret as a burden. In Omega Saga they say that exactly 2.000 cal. 1041 movements were produced, not even one prototype or one for service replacement !
     
  3. Andy K

    Andy K Dreaming about winning an OFfie one day. Dec 13, 2017

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    This is why I need more data! Unfortunately right now I have Extract info for only 11 Sp125s and none of those has a caseback code. So as of yet no...
     
  4. omegastar

    omegastar Dec 13, 2017

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    Have you ever seen twice the same number but with a different letter, i.e. 255 B and 255 E ?
     
  5. Andy K

    Andy K Dreaming about winning an OFfie one day. Dec 13, 2017

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    Yes, I have seen F261 and K261, and I have seen E395 and I395
     
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  6. wsfarrell

    wsfarrell Dec 13, 2017

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    Incredibly comprehensive and well-presented. Thank you!
     
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  7. uwsearch

    uwsearch Dec 13, 2017

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    Mine has no code on the caseback and serial is 38287671 produced on july 8, 1975 delivered to Belgium
     
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  8. ck77

    ck77 Dec 13, 2017

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  9. Andy K

    Andy K Dreaming about winning an OFfie one day. Dec 13, 2017

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  10. ck77

    ck77 Dec 14, 2017

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    Have read your site, so it supposedly with Cal 1041, so this is a possible franken watch?
     
  11. Andy K

    Andy K Dreaming about winning an OFfie one day. Dec 14, 2017

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    Correct, The Speedmaster 125 should only have a cal. 1041.
     
  12. DonovanMartin

    DonovanMartin Dec 14, 2017

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    Is it correct to call one a franken watch that comes in the 125 case since it is modular? I know the one referenced above is since the dial has 125 but there are bracelets up for sale occasionally that are minus the movement. How would you label them? By the case back stamp?
     
  13. Andy K

    Andy K Dreaming about winning an OFfie one day. Dec 14, 2017

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    Just to make sure I am following the question, do you mean for example taking the center module (probably not the correct terminology but I mean the part with the caseback, movement, dial, hands, and crystal) and fitting the midcase of say a Mark IV/176.009? I'd still call that a Franken, even though the caseback would still have the 378.0801 178.00002 stamped on it...
     
  14. DonovanMartin

    DonovanMartin Dec 14, 2017

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    Yes. That is what I was 'trying' to say. I guess my thoughts would be since (or if) Omega created these watches to have the option to change them up, does that make them a Franken watch or some other yet to be discovered/invented nomenclature if they were created to have that option by the purchaser? I do agree that originality is extremely important to the value of a watch. However, if I label a Mark IV or 4.5 that is in a case for the 125, or vice-versa, and Omega made these with that option in mind, am I creating a false sense of less value by labeling it Franken when it is not. (a Franken like the example above, the 1040 movement with the 125 dial).
    I don't know if this makes much sense now that I've written it down. I don't own any of these watches but I am intrigued by the seeming fact that Omega created something that can be "mixed and matched."
     
  15. TNTwatch

    TNTwatch Dec 14, 2017

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    Interesting thought! That came about only because of the interchangeable possibility of the outer cases of the 176.009/012/015/016 and the 125.

    The centre module is unique to each reference number so each component in and of the module has to conform to the ref, or it would be a franken.

    As to the outer cases, I'm not sure if Omega specified them as different parts unique to each reference, or just common accessories for all of these references. From what I've seen, it's unlikely the latter, so what you think of would just be a franken.

    Perhaps someone with Extranet access like Al @Archer could check whether the 125's outer case is also an accessory for the 176.009/012/015/016?
     
  16. Archer

    Archer Omega Qualified Watchmaker Dec 19, 2017

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    So looking at case 1780002, the mid-case is:

    108ST19 | STEEL MIDDLE 1960022

    If I look up the cases that this part can be used on (officially) it lists 055ST1780003SE and 055ST1780003SP.

    The only difference between those 2 cases is the case back. The one with the "SE" suffix is a Seamaster, and the one with the "SP" suffix is a Speedmaster. Yes, I know the various theories that "SP" stands for Special Pushers or some such thing, but that is not true in all cases clearly.

    Note that the 055ST1780003SP case is the replacement case for the 1780002 - it is still available.

    1760009 does not list a middle case

    1760012 lists it as 108ST35 | STEEL MIDDLE 1760012

    1760015 does not list a middle case

    1760016 does not list a middle case

    Cheers, Al
     
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  17. Paedipod

    Paedipod Dec 19, 2017

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    Do the modules actually interchange? The movement section from my 125 certainly would not plug in to the case from my 4.5 (176.0012) so not a Franken possibility there.

    (and my caseback is not numbered) ppG1rcrPRzG8usjsdAJDeQ.jpg
     
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  18. Andy K

    Andy K Dreaming about winning an OFfie one day. Dec 19, 2017

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    Good question, and I don't know if anyone has actually tested it until you did. Toward the end of Chuck Maddox's article on the Speedmaster 125 he shows some examples of what he assumes are 125 modules inserted into either a 009 or 0012 midcase, but it could just be that the 125 dial was put in a 009 case, not the entire module.
     
  19. Paedipod

    Paedipod Dec 19, 2017

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    Funnily enough that was part of the reason I picked up the 4.5.......two bracelets/cases/modules.......four looks. Didn't pan out and kept the 4.5 for quite a while before trading it on the forum. Part of that long story I have over time collected "spare" 125 outer case/bracelet/inner case/ dial/hands. Just missing a 1041 (or a cheater 1040).
     
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  20. Vulffi

    Vulffi Dec 19, 2017

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    Great work Andy K !
    I have read on a vintage site (http://www.longitudi.fi/product/159/omega-speedmaster-125-chronometer) that 2000 watches were in 5 batches of 400 watches and each batch was marked with a letter A,B,C, D and E and the serial number 0 -400. It seems that not all watches were numbered, but B153 would correspond to serial number 553.
    This does not fully fit in with your observed numbers.
    The site is run by a very respected watchmaker who restores and sells vintage watches and has an Omega account. He has also sold A 328 & L183 (from a later batch ?).
     
    Edited Dec 19, 2017
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