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Third Party Authentication Certificates (TPAs)

  1. Spacefruit

    Spacefruit Prolific Speedmaster Hoarder Jun 27, 2020

    I felt this needed a separate thread.

    I have long been using my own system for grading Speedmasters under consideration. I find it helps me to focus.

    The back end of this system is an untidy collection of notes but based on a thorough system that when followed has produced good results for me. The trick, is to distil a usable and useful simple document from that jumble of information. Now that I offer it is looks simple:


    And This is the watch:


    I deliberately chose a dreadful example to make sure I demonstrated that the certificate catches everything.

    What the paper does achieve is to confirm that parts correct or not. (Mostly not in this watch).

    I am happy to discuss this, but remember I have no profit motive here, nor do I especially want to start a TPA business. However I think they are inevitable - imagine if someone could do it for all those Rolex GMTs, Subs and Daytonas out there, and indeed how many would come back with unexpected problems. In other words my own little area of focus, Speedmasters is miniscule compared to the market for Rolexes, especially if the service costs $400 to $1500 each (That is what Gemstone labs charge).

    Another issue might be the physical location - to give a proper evaluation I would need the watch in hand, and that might be expensive in transport. The gem people do it, and if someone could set up a Rolex TPA service in New York I bet they could pay the rent. It might be a bit boring, though - looking at Rolexes all day.

    But I am sure someone is going to do it soon.

    Simplicity is the key.

    Any way I go into more detail on the blog, but I am interested to hear if people would use a service like this.
    KstateSkier, JohnLy, Vitezi and 11 others like this.
  2. kidkimura

    kidkimura Jun 27, 2020

    Hi William @Spacefruit -

    This is a neat idea. As a computer nerd myself, I can't help but wonder what a machine learning model might be able to automate out of the process so as to make it more tolerable at scale. For instance, lume color and consistency, dial authenticity, and bezel condition all come to mind as knowable by a computer (eventually, given a big enough sample size, which is a big if).
  3. SpeedyPhill

    SpeedyPhill asked ages ago but no longer interested Jun 27, 2020

    Extract Confirmation Failed / Not Available ( what's the difference here ? )
  4. Capt Cave Man

    Capt Cave Man Jun 27, 2020

    @Spacefruit thank-you so much for sharing. Along with your 101 site, blogs and now a simple guide to follow to help review and assess a watch goes along way to help newcomers and would be vintage owners like myself.

    Just following this or similar depending on the reference, posting a self assessment for review for anything missed or incorrect just improves self-knowledge, experience and confidence within the community.

    Would I use a TPA service? I don't think I'd ever own the high value vintage pieces which would warrant such a formal assessment which I assume this would be aimed towards but, like an EOA it would benefit those that do for insurance or sales of such as further reassurance for the potential buyer.
  5. ConElPueblo

    ConElPueblo Jun 27, 2020

    Cannot be obtained due to wrong serial number/reference and cannot be obtained due to lost archive material surely?
    SpeedyPhill likes this.
  6. WYO_Watch

    WYO_Watch Jun 27, 2020

    I think people selling/insuring may benefit from a service like this.

    Not sure you’re looking for feedback, but the one thing I’d be sure to add is a couple photos of the watch to the paper. Otherwise the bits like bezels, casebacks, etc that can be switched fairly easily can be changed without someone noticing. The paper certificate without a picture only verifies what the watch was at the time of verification.
  7. Mods

    Mods I'm not really an ΩF mod but I play one on TV Jun 27, 2020


    I believe there is definitely a market for a service like this, and you have mentioned some potential issues.

    Some questions and potential hurdles that spring to mind;

    If we use speedmasters as an example, there still exist challenges regarding authentication - for example 2915 bezels. If the service can’t conclude 100% of the time does that reduce the utility of the service, even if it is the perception of its credibility.

    Also, who would provide this type of service? Dealers, auction houses, collectors and “private sellers” and what potential conflicts of interest would be created, even if they were able to move out of one of these fields into the authentication business.

    Also, look at Phillips, they have a panel of experts in addition to the BAU staff and they have not been immune to selling questionable watches...

    It’s definitely an interesting topic. In the world of fine art there are certain artists who’s work can be assessed by institutions who’s word is essentially final as to authenticity. In fact I think they even destroy the work - in a similar way to Rolex - if they deem it a fake.
    If you haven’t watched it, seek out BBC fake or fortune, it’s fascinating looking at the different technology, techniques and detective work used authenticate. There is a great episode on a Vuillard painting that isn’t recorded in the artist catalogue of known pictures (“in the art world this is the equivalent of a car without its engine”) and where the ultimate decision is made by the Wildenstein Institute. But before you watch that watch the first ever episode for the Monet where the shows experts came up against the Wildenstein institute for the first time. You can find them on YouTube.
    Lucasssssss and sonicosa like this.
  8. jumpingsecond

    jumpingsecond Jun 27, 2020

    @Spacefruit this is an interesting idea. I have some friends who have done this for comic books and now its become a standard way to grade /value books. You have to mail them the book and they grade it/seal it in a tamper proof case, and then return the book. For the big ticket books (ie detective comics 27 - 1st batman appearance) normally they are recieved/ delivered in person at comic cons which happen all across the country in the US.
    I think shipping / delivering the watches would be a hindrance. Who wants to ship a 20k+ watch just to get it assessed?
    Maybe a video /zoom assessment ?
    But biggest difference is the comic books are sealed once grade is stamped. These watches can still be tampered with after so the certification could be rendered meaningless once a don bezel or parts are swapped out.

    One of the things they also had to struggle with initially was they were/are collectors themselves. How will you remain impartial given you have vested interests in the condition on some of these watches given the fact you are a world renowned collector?

    These are just some of my thoughts. If you want to get in touch with my guys at CGC or CBCS for ideas pm me.
    airansun, bigsom and sdre like this.
  9. pdxleaf

    pdxleaf Jun 27, 2020

    +1 on the topic.

    Three areas intrique me. Your question, would I use a TPA? The next question follows, if yes, then how would a TPA work? The third area is the authentication criteria itself.

    I am more interested in your authentication criteria myself. This is very valuable and interesting in itself.

    Your question though was whether a TPA would be used/useful? My opinion for what it's worth is yes, but whether I would use it would depend on the cost of the service relative to the value of the watch.

    I understand why a collector would not want to use it. They may justifiably rely upon their own experience and knowledge. Also, there may be not only a reluctance to use it but also an active dislike. For example, it is used in the art world by people who invest in art only for the dollar worth and then store the painting in a darkened warehouse. Having a TPA for watches seems to make a watch just another commodity. This goes against the spirit of watch collectors. [Edit: I only bring this up to recognize that this is an objection to be addressed. I don't believe a TPA contributrs to this investor only mentality. Rather, in my mind a TPA recognizes the reality of high value items and helps to protect the buyer (which includes collectors) more than it helps a seller.]

    Unfortunately, as vintage watches become more valuable they will become like valuable art. But having a grading service could still be a service to the collector without supporting the investor.

    I think you are onto something and would like to see a standard in place for grading. It will be interesting to read the comments.
    Edited Jun 27, 2020
  10. tpatta

    tpatta Happily spending my daughter’s inheritance Jun 27, 2020

    Can't speak for others, but this is what my boutique got from Omega when they couldn't produce an Extract on a Centenary.
    Interestingly my other Centenary came through without a hitch.

    Bienne, the 16th of June






    Your extract of the archives has been canceled




    Dear Boutique, Unfortunately we do not have complete information
    about this watch (10761XXXX). We can confirm, that the movement was
    produced on February 23, 1948 and sent to France, where
    the case was produced.

    Kind regards

    OMEGA Brand Heritage Team
  11. watchyouwant

    watchyouwant ΩF Clairvoyant Jun 27, 2020

    No, would not use that. Kind regards. Achim
  12. joeshoup

    joeshoup Jun 28, 2020 12:44am

    To me, the appeal of this kind of service lies entirely in the reputation of the provider. I would trust a TPA from the author of Speedmaster 101! Paying something to get @Spacefruit's take on a watch would be worth it to me because he's spent years contributing to the collector community entirely gratis. (This is in the alternate reality where I could afford extraordinary collectors pieces mind you.)

    I don't know about a TPA service as a (sole) business proposition. It seems like at least a couple hours work to receive the watch, open it, examine it, and write up the results. Say you charged $75-100/hour or $150-200 per watch, of which at least half would cover overhead (insurance, shipping, etc). You'd have to be booking 15-20 watches a week to make even a basic living on it, and I don't see the demand. Potentially a nice side business for a watchmaker or dealer, though.
    WatchCor likes this.
  13. eugeneandresson

    eugeneandresson Jun 28, 2020 3:03am

    I will have no use for such a service. That’s more or less how I keep track of my watches anyway...with some added other info I find useful to keep (when bought, from who, how much, when serviced, by who, how much, box and papers etc etc). While some would find it interesting to have a blockchain ledger of ownership hops, I wouldn’t...that’s like having a record of your/partners sexual history bluntly put...would rather not know!
  14. Spacefruit

    Spacefruit Prolific Speedmaster Hoarder Jun 28, 2020 3:43am

    To keep the subject bubbling...and remember my experience is watching the gemstone business adopt these certs. It was resisted and ridiculed for a while, and went through its share of scandals, but now you cannot sell a high value stone without papers, some have papers from three labs, which in extreme cases get updated once a year.


    a failed extract means that the movement number does not match omega records for the case.
    A records not available is a different case - although confusingly that was the reason they used to give for the above situation.

    so there are three possible notes for an extract :

    confirmed case serial combination
    Records not available
    Serial is not known in the reference.

    In the above example, it was confirmed the movement is not from a speedmaster, therefore “failed”

    Who would use it?

    auction houses, high dealers, insurance companies, courts.

    who would issue them?

    an entirely independent, non trading academically staffed institution that builds its reputation. In the stone business the labs are only as good as the lead gemologist. That said there is an extremely successful sub set of labs who are cheap and will give opinion on simple things like is it a real ruby (Charging $50) while the Swiss labs can charge $1500 or more for a full origin and heat report.

    if watch TPAs follow the gem business, then there will be a period of resistance from old school, and the auctioneers will start to adopt it for the top end. The auctioneers may collaborate or advise a small group of TPA providers to improve or refine the system.

    so first adopters will be auction houses and then high end dealers. It will really be useful in 50,000 + market at first. The trouble will always be finding a trustworthy assessor.

    that is because like it or not, our hobby attracts financially motivated collectors - that why the auction houses are so interested- and TPA’s open the market to not so well informed buyers giving them confidence to pay higher prices

    while may may all bemoan this situation, as soon a speedmasters started selling for over $5,000 they crossed into hobby/investor territory. In other words, no one buys a vintage speedmaster for over $5,000 thinking they will never get their money back - so to some extent they (we!) feel the money is slightly safer than in the bank at the moment.


    well this is a buzz word and as far as I understand a block chain is only independent if released into the wild. In other words the data base must be open and distributed. The key to the value in blockchain is that I can go to any transaction or in this case watch, and see when information was first entered on the chain, by whom. Then I can see any subsequent information, and who added it. The key here is that no information can be taken away. However information can be added that is erroneous - but as it is public it can be held to account by the distributed viewers.

    blockchain is interesting when distributed and immutable - otherwise it’s just another data base controlled centrally.

    it would also need a token.


    of course photos on the TPA will be present, today’s technology making it so easy. Also remember that when I do it for myself, I have a folder full of hi res photos - if I were to re examine a watch 12 months later I would easily spot any changes.

    I think it will be just like the stone business. There will evolve two levels, a high end Swiss lab with great integrity charging $400 to $2000 to verify Rolex, Pateks etc, some omegas. Then there will be more local services, charging less but with correspondingly less reliability - but still able to confirm dials or service parts.


    My own focus is speedmasters, which as the Phillips sale just passed as shown us, is a relatively small proportion of the vintage market in both numbers of watches and values. So while my work is on speedmasters, I expect some obsessive minded person like me but in Rolex or patek might come along and make a system.

    agree or not, I think it’s coming. I’ve seen it all before.
  15. sjg22

    sjg22 Jun 28, 2020 4:40pm

    What I like:
    - independent 3rd party confirmation of originality of specific parts (hands, pushers, etc), which goes a step beyond the extract process.

    What I don’t like:
    - watches are not baseball cards, where “condition” is much more cut and dry. If a corner is sharp or the image off-centre, it’s far less of a value judgement than whether a dial is “excellent”or “very good”; I know that @Spacefruit likes to see some gunk under the pushers - perhaps others like a pristine but original pusher.

    How about a “spider dial” ‘80’s Rolex? I would classify those as damaged dials that are unattractive to my eye, whereas others collect them and seem to appreciate this degradation for its individuality. How about browns, or “stardust” dials or any number of dials that have degraded or aged into interesting (or uninteresting) states? One person’s “damaged” dial may tickle another’s fancy. The same is applicable to patinated hands and plots - is a custard colour the most optimal? Maybe a cream, or yellow, or green... maybe the watch whose plots are closest to the way they left the factory is the "excellent" one? God help us if we go down the “has the lug been polished” rabbit hole... again, objective elements are so hard to “grade” in many cases.

    There is no “interesting aging” or “tropical” baseball cards - a good card is a mint card, pristine and not showing the effects of age. Same with art - we don’t look at aged art as being better... museums go to extreme precautions to prevent aging. Watches are different from many other types of collectible objects in this regard.

    The idea of "originality" being desirable is a vein that flows through nearly all collectible objects. However, the idea of judging watch parts on their relative quality (as opposed to their originality) is dangerously close to figure skating judging, where it comes down to the eye of the beholder to an unacceptable degree.

    Clarification on originality is far less subjective and there is value in hearing from and having some manner of formal confirmation from 3rd party experts, especially on higher value watches. It's where this creeps into objective judgments where I feel the value becomes limited or even problematic.
    Edited Jun 30, 2020 2:46pm
  16. pdxleaf

    pdxleaf Jun 28, 2020 9:08pm


    I like your example of figure skating. Examples of other grading systems help to demonstrate what can or cannot work. A watch is something between a fine painting and a diamond. An examination of a Matisse would certify originality and possibly condition. It would be difficult to quantify how that particular painting compares to others by the same artist or different artists. But it could tell you if it is accepted as real. For a diamond, graders can agree on say a VS2 but even though they are easier to grade (perhaps), there are still quality assessments between two similarly shaped VS2s for example.

    The point i am attempting to make is if it is possible to grade figure skating, fine art and diamonds, it is possible to grade watches. I think part of the discussion needs to determine expectations for what a grading system can and cannot do. I also think a grading system can evaluate originality and still be relevant without having to deal with every nebulous issue of taste and beauty.

    This raises the importance of establishing a clear and defined grading system. While simplicity is the goal, a system will only be simple if a lot of thought goes into the details of all the variables rather than leaving it up to each grader to figure it out on their own. Things like nicks on lugs, brushing or rebrushing, the level of polishing would need to be quantified so that each grader is on the same page. Not insurmontable but a lot of work upfront.

    A grading system could help to level the field but would not replace an individual's own tastes. Agreeing on the purpose of a grading system is one factor needed for adoption, in my humble opinion.
  17. Spacefruit

    Spacefruit Prolific Speedmaster Hoarder Jun 29, 2020 1:37am

    Two near identical watches at auction

    one has a paper detailing the originality of the parts, confirming they are correct.

    the other does not.

    Which one sells for more?

    that’s why auction houses will drive the TPA business
    JohnLy likes this.
  18. eugeneandresson

    eugeneandresson Jun 29, 2020 1:59am

    Links/photos to auction watches (for my 2c :) )? Or is this hypothetical? I can understand why you say what you do and also from the gem business, but a small part of me can’t help to wonder what percentage of watches are sold to ‘investor’ buyers (people who know nothing about watches) at auction vs traded privately by collectors (people who have an active or even unhealthy interest in and opinion on watches)? I am certain when a collector buys at auction he buys with his own eye/experience and not because of a piece of paper (but as usual I may be wrong) ...
    watchyouwant likes this.
  19. Spacefruit

    Spacefruit Prolific Speedmaster Hoarder Jun 29, 2020 2:17am

    Its hypothetical

    These TPAs's are not aimed at the educated buyer, rather they enable UNEDUCATED buyers to enter the market, thus increasing demand, and therefore price.

    I am not saying it's a good or a bad thing, I am saying it is coming whether I like it or not, and it's going to be driven by the auction houses.

    I can only speak from my own point of view. I would never buy a vintage Daytona as I am too scared. But if a reputable entity told me the watch was legit, and I had just had a bumper year in my hedge fund (not) then I might be tempted by the pretty, verified watch, knowing that in a years time I could re sell it if I had to as it was verified. It might increase my confidence, and indeed the confidence of other buyers, thus driving up the price.

    This service is not for the current collectors, it is for the new breed that the trade wants to encourage. (And we all can debate the Trade Vs Collectors till the cows come home, in another thread)

    I tell you, I have seen it before. And while I didn't like it then, I can tell you an awful lot of stones that had sold for a lot of money lost a lot of value as they would not pass certification.

    Certification actually made the good stones rarer, and I can see the same thing happening with watches, especially those PN Daytonas!
  20. killer67

    killer67 Jun 29, 2020 4:58am

    It’s worth it because unsuspecting, uneducated “investors” purchased PNs, or another advertised potentially high return watch, from a dealer 18 years ago (before the increased digital knowledge base) and have approached an auction houses to consign their watch only to find out that the later dial is from an earlier case with incorrect pushers and a fake movement. Their 10X profit just dwindled to essentially their acquisition cost. This is your target market