Occasionally in the course of my work, I wind up in a situation where I have a massive waiting time for parts to come in for the various projects and I find myself unable to complete a project really worth writing about (or i give it back to my customer before remembering to photograph it.) Given the amount of things awaiting completion on the bench I am confident that I will return to watchmaking adventures soon. In the meantime (and given a recent experience with a guy I do a lot of vintage work for) I think it is important to start writing about one of the most pervasive elements in collecting and one of the things that really keeps a lot of people out of this great world; forgeries. The vintage watch world is unfortunately rife with dishonesty, and there are many tricks people pull to make a buck. Some of these are incredibly obvious to spot like re-dials, and some are entirely unintentional mistakes like over-polishing, or not noticing a crown difference, but some can be crafty and downright sinister.
The Ulysse Nardin that this guy bought started off on the wrong foot. The watch he received was clearly not the watch pictured (it is also worth noting that this seller then listed another watch with the same picture.)
While this seller has often changed username and relisted the same watch, the original listing can be found here:
VINTAGE RARE 50′ ULYSSE NARDIN CHRONOGRAPH GREAT CONDITION WIDDING MEN’S WATCH
The dial was a bit more roughed up. When he showed it to me I was immediately suspect. It just didn’t feel right. Sometimes its easy to spot fakes because not everything is properly signed. In this instance however, the watch did fit all of the first general criteria: signed movement, signed case, and signed dial. Turns out however that this was an intentional and misleading tactic. The case didn’t match the movement condition. The case was in phenomenal shape but the dial and movement had seen better days. Generally the opposite is the case. This was some clear evidence that something was up.
Stylistically, the dial did not match the bezel. I have never before seen a watch that has a redundant tachymeter. It was more likely mounted in a more plain case as was common at that time. A professional opinion on the piece confirmed my suspicions that this was a “franken-watch” and while it is all technically Ulysse Nardin components (possibly) it is not a Ulysse Nardin as they had intended it and thus not an original piece, and has no value as a Ulysse Nardin.
If you are in doubt, walk away. In my experience if it either looks too good to be true (like a perfect dial from the 50s), or something seems just a little off, it’s generally not a collectible piece.
The best advice I can ever give is: educate, educate, educate, and consult a collector or professional. Most of all, find a dealer and a watchmaker you can trust.