The second big piece of Speedmaster-related news in 2019 is a limited edition recreation of the 18ct yellow gold Speedy presented to NASA Astronauts and a notorious American President.
by James Buttery
In an industry that considers half decade anniversaries as a genuine cause for celebration, the 50th Anniversary of being the first watch on the moon was always going to be a big deal and, so far, Omega isn’t disappointing with Speedmaster-related news.
Not only has the brand announced that it will revive the long-defunct Calibre 321 chronograph movement, the column wheel movement used in early pre-moon Speedmaster models and lusted after by purists, but now it has unveiled the first of what we assume will be a number of commemorative Speedmaster moonwatches this year.
The Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition is based on the BA145.022, a solid 18ct yellow gold Speedmaster with burgundy bezel, released to commemorate the moon landing. It also represented Omega’s first commemorative numbered edition. A total of 1,014 pieces were produced between 1969 and 1973.
The watch, inscribed with the message “to mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time”, was presented during an ‘Astronaut Appreciation Dinner’ in Houston, Texas, on November 25th 1969, four months after the moon landing.
The first two pieces were presented to President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew (later returned to Omega because of strict US Government gift protocol) while numbers 3-28 were presented to NASA astronauts, including 19 who were present on the night. Three were also presented posthumously to crew members Virgil Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee who died preparing for the Apollo 1 mission.
Numbers 29-32 (which were not numbered) were presented watch industry leaders and politicians. The public were given the opportunity to purchase numbers 33-1,000 with the alternative caseback inscription “Omega Speedmaster, Apollo XI 1969 and The First Watch on the Moon” which was also presented in a highly sought after ‘moon crater’ box.
Of the last remaining pieces, 1,001-1,008 were presented to Apollo 14 and 17 Astronauts while 1,009-1,014 were reserved, mysteriously, for ‘other personalities’. We’d love to know who they went to.
The new watch is a commendably authentic tribute with a 42mm asymmetrical 4th generation Speedmaster case in 18ct gold, burgundy tachymetre scale bezel and black onyx indices.
While it is aesthetically very similar, the materials do differ slightly. Yellow gold, a 2N alloy to be specific, has been replaced with a new proprietary Omega alloy, appropriately named Moonshine Gold, it’s still solid 18ct gold but its hue has been tamed somewhat, looking more like rose gold in the official imagery and slightly silvery in the live shots we’ve seen. The bezel too has had a contemporary update with the original anodized aluminium replaced by a burgundy ceramic.
The biggest difference is the movement, the new handwound 3861 movement a clear upgrade on the Calibre 1861 that’s powered the Moonwatch since 1997, with a Co-Axial escapement, silicon hairspring and mainplate and bridges plated in Moonshine Gold with burgundy lettering. The movement, which is Master Chronometer certified, is also visible through a sapphire crystal caseback rather than being hidden behind the solid, engraved caseback of the original. Beneath the sapphire crystal is a ring of Moonshine Gold inscribed with the words ‘Apollo 11 – 50th Anniversary The First Watch Worn on the Moon’ with representations of the Earth and Moon, which is made from a domed disc of meteorite.
In case you needed more obvious clues to differentiate between the old and new gold moonwatches Omega has also subtly engraved 750 on the dial, referring to the watch’s most prominent material and referring to the fact that the dial too is solid gold.
The moon crater packaging has also been brought bang up to date with unique 3D printed grey ceramic reliefs on the moon’s surface on four sides, which is sure to make this the most desirable watch packaging this side of Patek’s cork Nautilus boxes.
Omega will be making 1,014 pieces to match the original production run priced at £25,600.