Omega Watch Hands.
Over the past 16 years I've serviced thousands of Omega watches. I am often asked, “Tim can you leave the original hands on my watch?” This blog is a watchmaker’s perspective on original Omega watch hands and their value to a vintage watch.
The short answer, “Sure, I would love to.” The real answer, it depends on their condition. Watch hands are friction fit which means they are pressed onto a post and held on by friction. If your watch has been serviced and worked on several times over the years, they will begin to fit less and less well. After being taken on and off so many times the post holes will get stretched out. Watchmakers may have attempted to tighten up the holes on hands, but this can only be done once or twice. Now what's going to happen if I use your old hands that are stretched out is they will sit on the watch fine in my shop and then when I ship the watch one of them will come loose, dragging on an hour marker or scratching the dial. I have seen this many, many times. The same happens when watches have been shipped to my shop for restoration; hands have fallen off because the holes have been stretched past the point of working. When this happens there's one person that usually gets the blame...yours truly, the watchmaker.
Here's a picture of my Bergeron #30-464 hand measuring tool. You simply slide a hand on it and you can see directly if it's stretched out or hits the mark. If you have an omega Constellation Pie Pan with 561 movement, and the minute hand slides past 80, you have a problem. If the hour hand slides past 150, that hand has served you well, but it's life span has come to an end. If a watchmaker changes your hands, it’s for a reason mechanically.
Of course it's nice to have original hands on a watch and that is always the first option. However, aside from poor functionality, you may also have hands that just look horrible, pitted from age, plating loss beyond the ability to restore them. Many hands have been discontinued and are not available.
Since it's not always possible to use original hands and I refuse to use Chinese parts on a Swiss watch, I started off on one of my "projects." I took some time out to learn how to draw blue prints, submitted them to a company in Switzerland and had my own hands made. These hands are my own design and are as close to the original as possible without breaking any patent infringements.
So there's a little bit of information from a watchmaker on why we change your hands. Now that you know a bit about watch hands, keep it in mind when you are hunting watches to purchase. Same with crowns, the hands and crown they may be original but you have no idea if they are in good usable condition until you service the watch. If you get a watch in the mail and one of the hands are off, now you know why.