Swiss watchmaker Omega has claimed that three former employees were involved in a criminal plot, which resulted in the sale of a faked Speedmaster at an auction for more than $3 million, states a Bloomberg report.
The timepiece, an Omega Speedmaster with ‘Broad Arrow’ hands from 1957, was in fact a “Frankenstein” watch, composed of an amalgam of mostly authentic parts from other vintage watches, the Biel, Omega said in a statement in response to questions from Bloomberg.
The timepiece sold for just over 3.1 million Swiss francs ($3.3 million) through auctioneer Phillips in November of 2021, the highest price ever paid for a Speedmaster at auction, states the Bloomberg report. The watch was purchased by Omega itself, the company said.
The company Omega said a former employee of the Omega Museum and its brand heritage department was among the staffers alleged to have participated. That former employee “worked in tandem with intermediaries to purchase the watch for the Omega Museum,” arguing to company executives that it “was a rare and exceptional timepiece that would be an absolute must” for Omega’s collection, the company said.
Omega didn’t identify the ex-staffers it claims participated in the scheme, states the Bloomberg report.
“Its false legacy allowed the profiteers to justify a highly inflated bid made through the intermediaries,” the watchmaker said.
An Omega spokesperson said the company doesn’t yet know who brought the watch to Phillips to sell at auction.
A spokesperson for the auction house said it hasn’t disclosed the identity of the seller due to client confidentiality rules, but would do so if asked by authorities such as the police or courts, adds the report. When Phillips consigned the watch and went to Omega for information from its archives, “we were not aware of the alleged criminal activity that is now the subject of an investigation,” the spokesperson added.
Phillips said it’s committed to the “highest standards and due diligence levels in the watch market,” and that the item in question had been viewed by collectors, scholars and experts and traveled to London, Singapore, Hong Kong, and New York before it was auctioned in Geneva.
“If, having reviewed the evidence, we think there are grounds for criminal prosecution then we will have no hesitation in referring the matter to the authorities to prosecute,” the Phillips spokesperson said.