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Excellent post, an even longer & complex reply...

One of the nice things about being at this, discussing watches in an Internet Forum setting, for as long and as heavily as I have been, is that I usually have already discussed a topic and if I can find it, it will cover most of the bases. This is true on the topic of Frankenwatches. I brouched the same subject over on the TimeZone Omega Forum just over three months ago... Here is the body of that post (with a few editorital changes) to make the text flow better given where I'm posting it today. I'll probably follow up with some specific comments, Kav...

As most of the people who have been in the (TimeZone Omega) forum a while know, I get a lot of watch related email on any given day. Much of the time I encourage people to post in an appropriate forum in order to seek a wide range of opinions, which enhances the experience for all concerned. Still many people wish to discuss something outside of the forum arena.

However at times I have shared items from my in-box or out-box when I thought it was appropriate.

Some of this post is an excerpt from a reply I sent earlier this morning. It involves a topic I've broached on the (TZ Omega) Forum here several times in the past but as there are a slew of "Old-Salt's" who have left the OmegaForum and a slew of people who've become regulars I don't feel it unreasonable to re-introduce the topic at hand...

SomeThoughts on Vintage watches and customization.

There have been times I have been tempted to "make" a watch from parts or spares of a model that is either non-existant or extremely difficult to find. And I'm not talking about switching a dial color (like changing a Silver dialed TAG-Heuer Pilot Auto to a Black Dial which TAG offered in both colors, and I've had TAG-Heuer do), but something more along the lines of putting a Omega Speedmaster Mark II Pro Red/Orange Speedmaster dial in a moonwatch case.

I've been tempted and I've discussed doing something like that. I even have the spare dial.

On the one hand people will think nothing of taking an old car (1930's, 1950's, 1960's) and modifying it, making a "Hot Rod" or a "Custom Street Machine", etc. people do that all the time. Most people aren't phased by that. But put an exotic dial in a watch and many people would freak. We see Frankenwatches all the time. Especially on eBay.

The question becomes what's the fine line between creating a Custom Watch and a Frankenwatch?

I've posted the same question a couple of times in TimeZone OmegaForum and the consensus seemed to be, that if done properly it is not necessarily a big deal... By doing it properly, generally it's assumed:

  • No historically significant watch is the donor for a customization...
  • No limited production run models should be customized (Heuer equivelents would be "No Jo Siffert Models, no Chronomatic labeled examples would be modified, etc.)
    • Thus (for the first two points) except for the historically significant but large production run 145.012 (the feeling is that so many of them exist it is no great hardship to see one with a different dial/handset) no c.321 Speedmasters, no Anniversary editions, no "Snoopy models", none of the early moonphases, etc. (again "No Jo Siffert Models, no Chronomatic labeled examples, etc. would be modified, etc.)
  • It's best to use the most common Donor watch as possible.
    • If you're going to customize a c.1045 Speedmaster use the 176.0012 as a starting point since they are the most plentiful.
    • If you're going to customize a moonwatch, use an umbiquitious mid-1970's-mid to late 1980's model, etc.
  • That the watch be kept as original as possible aside from the specific modifications desired.
    • In other words use Omega (or whatever the original brand) Parts whenever possible.
  • It's better to use a Donor watch that was wanting in the same respect as the watch customization.
    • In other words, if you can find a Donor watch that has a bad re-dial, or a dial in extreme need of a new dial, and you're aiming to put a Mark II Red/Orange in that model watch... In other words it's best to customize a Mechanic's special than a NOS watch. (In other words, customizing a watch, or creating a Frankenwatch is much more acceptable if the core components are "Basket Case" condition.
  • If a watch can easily be returned to it's original state there is no issue with making changes.
    • Call this the "Display Back" c.321 clause. Changing a bezel would be a similar customization that is easily reversible.
  • The watch must not ever be offered in a modified state billed as "Original" but as a modified or customized piece.
    • Because doing so would be fraudulent.
    • And it would confuse the people who are trying to document the history of those watches.

Here is an example of custom work that for the most part is acceptable:

While the work done on the case isn't reversible, if a spare case can be found, the process is easily reversible and it's tastefully done. I've thought about having this done myself. But as it is it's probably right on the line.

So I open this up again as a topic for discussion:

No one thinks twice about taking a 1930's-1960's American car and customizing it. Should watches be different and if so how? What's your take?

I look forward to reading your thoughts.

-- Chuck

Chuck Maddox (Article index at:

KAV Posts: (this is NOT my watch, but another frankenbezel Autavia I like):

What really rubs me the wrong way about this particular example is 24-Hour bezel just doesn't work. By work I mean Function... It isn't useful on this watch, as the watch is a 12-hour movement, putting a 24-hour bezel on it is like putting a brush guard front bumper on a Ferrari... It doesn't make any sense.
Now if you have a c.724 movement Autavia with a bad bezel (not like this example from OTD), putting the black GMT bezel is fine, I like that, because the bezel is of some utility. In fact if one preferred a Rolex "Pepsi" (blue/red) bezel or a Black/Red Bezel and it could be made to fit/look right, why not?

Those are some of my biases. What are yours?

-- Chuck

Chuck Maddox

(Article index @

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