This July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic moon landing mission. For watch collectors, it can only mean one thing – a 50th anniversary limited edition from Omega Speedmaster, the “flight-qualified” chronograph that was issued by NASA to the three astronauts that made it to the moon. To mark the golden anniversary of the first moon landing, Omega has produced a new limited edition Speedmaster of 1,014 pieces in an exclusive 18K gold alloy and powered by a brand new manual-winding Master Chronometer Caliber 3861.
The design aesthetics of this watch isn’t new. It’s a remake of Ref. BA145.022, a limited edition gold Speedmaster that was produced in 1969 to commemorate the successful Apollo 11 mission. On November 25 of the same year, at a special “Astronaut Appreciation Dinner” held in Houston the 18k yellow gold Speedmaster BA145.022 with a rare burgundy bezel, as well as an inscription on the caseback that read, “to mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time,” was presented to certain dignitaries.
Omega’s first numbered edition, only 1,014 examples were produced and the first two were presented to US President Richard Nixon and VP Spiro Agnew. These watches, however, were later returned due to the US government’s strict gifting protocol. Model numbers 3 – 28 were given to the NASA astronauts, including 19 of those who were present at the gala dinner. This also included three models that were awarded posthumously to the three crew members who died during Apollo 1 – Virgil Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Watches 29 to 32 were offered to Swiss watch industry leaders and politicians, without any engraved number.
According to Omega, 33- 1000 was opened up for public consumption. Although these models had a different caseback inscription, reading “OMEGA SPEEDMASTER”, “APOLLO XI 1969” and “Ω THE FIRST WATCH WORN ON THE MOON”, they remained highly sought-after due to their rarity and connection to space. They also came in an exclusive moon crater presentation box, which itself is a prized collector’s item today. Model numbers 1001 – 1008 were later presented to the astronauts of Apollo 14 and 17, while models 1009 – 1014 were reserved for other personalities. The BA145.022 is still a much sought-after watch, given its unusual livery – gold and burgundy – and that fact that it pays the highest tribute to the NASA astronauts who delivered mankind to the moon.
For the 50th anniversary issue, Omega uses a 42 mm wide case made from a new 18K gold alloy named “Moonshine gold”, so named because its color is inspired by “the shining moonlight in a dark blue sky”. Paler than traditional 18K yellow gold, Moonshine gold offers high resistance to the fading of color and luster over time. The five-arched-links-per-row design bracelet is also made from the same alloy and has a grooved clasp with an applied vintage Omega logo.
Just like the 1969 original, the case is fitted with a burgundy bezel ring – this time in ceramic [ZrO2], according to a special patent pending process, with its tachymeter scale in Ceragold. Following the first generation of the Speedmaster tachymeter scale, which graduated to 500 units per hour, this new model features a marker dot above 90 (also known as “Dot Over 90” or “DON”).
The solid gold dial has a linear brushed finished and is marked “Au750” for the use of solid gold and features a vintage Omega logo. Facetted black onyx indexes set in the polished hour-markers, as well as the hour-minute hands filled with black varnish and the black varnished central chronograph seconds and subdial hands form a strong contrast on the dial.
The outer caseback ring features mechanically engraved markings: “1969-2019” and the Limited Edition number highlighted in burgundy, as well as an uncolored “Master Chronometer”. The inner decorative ring, also created in Moonshine gold, has undergone two separate laser ablation processes, as well as two PVD color treatments in blue and black.
The result is a matte-finish blue ocean that surrounds a partial world map of the American continents (in polished finish), with a glimpse over the rocket’s lift-off site Cape Canaveral. A matte-finish black background which accentuates polished markings including, “Apollo 11 - 50th Anniversary” and “The First Watch Worn on the Moon”. Finally, a domed lunar meteorite inlay representing the Moon has been delicately set into the cavity of the ring. Interestingly, the Earth and the Moon on the inner ring have been produced in true proportion (3.67:1 in diameter).
The watch is powered by Master Chronometer Caliber 3861 – a manual-winding movement with Co-Axial escapement, silicon Si14 balance spring, Moonshine gold-plated main plate and bridges and burgundy markings. The movement has a power reserve of 50 hours.
Inspired by the original packaging of the BA145.022 model in 1969, Omega has created a new crater box for the watch. The panels of the box are in grey ceramic with 3D printing of the lunar surface. Since every panel is structured differently, no crater box will be alike. Furthermore, the top panel of every box is printed with the image of the Sea of Tranquillity and the landing position of Apollo 11. The watch is priced at CHF70,000.