Sotheby’s, NEW YORK, 19 July 2019 – In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first Omega watch landing on the moon in July 1969, Sotheby’s dedicated auction of Omega Speedmasters totalled $1.2 million today, with a strong 87.8% of watches sold.
Nate Borgelt, Head of Sale for Sotheby’s Watch Department in New York, said: “It has been exciting to put together this sale of Omega Speedmasters, commemorating the watch that Buzz Aldrin wore on the moon exactly 50 years ago. Today’s results affirm the strength of the market for rare stainless-steel sports watches – from the Ref 2915-1 ‘Broad Arrow’, the first Speedmaster model ever created, to the Ref 145.012-67 ‘Ultraman’, named after its appearance in the Japanese television series, to the Alaska III Ref 145.022, made for NASA’s Space Shuttle program in 1978. We were particularly encouraged to see strong interest and participation this afternoon from first-time watch collectors.”
In 1965, NASA sought to find a watch properly provisioned for human spaceflight. Omega is the only brand whose watch passed all ten tests, rendering the Speedmaster model as the official watch of NASA. The iconic watch has been bestowed upon the wrists of astronauts ever since – including all six lunar landings – and has fittingly been dubbed the “Moonwatch”. All of the “Moonwatches” on offer had the additional distinction of being vetted by Omega themselves.
Omega Speedmaster Ref 2915-1 ‘Broad Arrow’ A Stainless Steel Chronograph Wristwatch with Bracelet Made in 1958 Estimate $150/200,000 Sold for $250,000
The sale was led by Omega Speedmaster 2915-1 ‘Broad Arrow’ – the first Speedmaster model ever created. Today’s most coveted iteration, the Speedmaster 2915-1’s manufacturing era lasted slightly more than a year between 1957 and 1958, making this scarce reference difficult to find in today’s market. The dial configuration, the tachometer scale engraved into the metal bezel, the renowned caliber 321, the lack of crown guards, the applied Omega logo, and the large “broad arrow” hour hands are all distinguishing traits that differentiate this Speedmaster from its successors.
Omega Prototype Speedmaster Alaska III Ref 145.022 A Stainless Steel Chronograph Wristwatch Made in 1978 Estimate $70/90,000 Sold for $187,500
The sale was highlighted further by an “Alaska III” Speedmaster, made for NASA’s Space Shuttle program in 1978. The project was made to incorporate an anti-reflective crystal and easily legible dial. The black dial is specific to this watch, featuring luminous tritium, and radial counters.
Omega Speedmaster Ref 145.022-69 ‘Apollo XI’ A Yellow Gold Chronograph Wristwatch with Bracelet Made in 1969 Estimate $35/50,000 Sold for $68,750
The special edition reference 145.022-69 ‘Apollo XI 1969’ was produced in a series limited to 1014 pieces, created to commemorate the successful moon landing. A selection of the 1014 pieces were given to personalities: Number 1 was presented to President Richard Nixon; number 2 was gifted to Vice President Spiro Agnew; and thirty-four pieces were given to astronauts, including Walter Schirra (no. 9), Ed White (no. 10), Neil Armstrong (no. 17) and Buzz Aldrin (no, 21). Furthermore, numbers 29 and 32 were presented to Swiss politicians as well as the managers of Omega and Lemania. The remaining pieces were sold to the public.
Omega Speedmaster Ref 2915-3 A Stainless Steel Chronograph Wristwatch with Bracelet Made in 1959 Estimate $40/60,000 Sold for $50,000
Previously preserved in Belgium by its first and only owner who received it as a birthday present and cherished it for 60 years, the Omega Speedmaster Ref 2915-3 features some variations from the essentially identical references 2915-1 and -2: the hour hand for the 2915-3 was longer and had a larger luminous surface in the shape of a triangle, unlike the 2998-1, which had a small straight line of luminous material. On the case back, the Speedmaster text relocated from the edge of the screw down back closer to the hippocampus, and the black aluminum bezel was seen more often alongside the Alpha hands as opposed to the Broad Arrow hands on the -1 and -2.
There were many world-changing moments that defined the first lunar landing in 1969. From famous words to dusty footprints, it was a mission that remains unforgettable in so many ways. On the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, OMEGA is proud to unveil a new Speedmaster Limited Edition that pays tribute to those iconic hours.
Now, you can wear the first watch worn on the moon – and also relive its journey.
Still a Pioneer
The Speedmaster made watchmaking history on the 21st of July 1969. Today its pioneering spirit still remains through the use of a new material known as 18K Moonshine™ gold. This exclusive patent-pending alloy is a paler hue than traditional yellow gold and offers high resistance to fading over time. As you explore the surface of the watch, you’ll find 18K Moonshine™ gold throughout the design.
Engineering at its Best
Innovation was key to the Apollo 11 success. OMEGA has followed that theme with a 42 mm case in stainless steel and a polished bezel made from 18K Moonshine™ gold. The bezel ring itself is polished black ceramic [ZrO2] with a radiant OMEGA Ceragold™ tachymeter scale.
Two distinct zones make up the dial, including a varnished central grey zone and an outer black minute track. 18K Moonshine™ gold is used for the bevelled indexes, vintage OMEGA logo and all of the hands – except for the central chronograph seconds hand, which is “PVD-coated” in Moonshine™ Gold.
Buzz Aldrin was wearing an OMEGA Speedmaster when he climbed down from the Eagle to reach the lunar surface at 03:15:16 UTC. At that second, his timepiece became the first watch worn on the moon. On the 9 o’clock subdial of this new Limited Edition, OMEGA has laser-engraved the image of Buzz on an 18K Moonshine™ Gold plate.
Distinct from all other indexes, the 11 o’clock hour marker is formed by an 18K Moonshine™ Gold number 11, in tribute to the Apollo mission.
Going where no human had gone before. Featured on the caseback is an image of an astronaut’s footprint, which has been laser-engraved onto a black-coated plate with a moon-surface texture.
“THAT’S ONE SMALL STEP FOR A MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND”. Neil Armstrong’s legendary words have echoed through time. Now, they are written on the caseback of this watch in 18K Moonshine™ Gold-plated lettering.
Only 6,969 pieces are available in this Limited Edition collection. Proud owners will find their unique number engraved in black on the caseback, along with APOLLO 11, 50th ANNIVERSARY and LIMITED EDITION. Also engraved, yet blending in with the steel, are NAIAD LOCK, Cal. 3861 and CO-AXIAL MASTER CHRONOMETER.
The brand new OMEGA Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 3861 takes the next evolutionary step for the famous Moonwatch movement. It took 4 years of trial-and-error to create the calibre’s most recent incarnation. OMEGA was determined to produce a movement of the highest standard, yet perfectly match the dimensions of the 1861.
That goal has been achieved. Now crafted with Co-Axial technology, a stopsecond function and OMEGA’s superior anti-magnetic innovation, the Speedmaster Moonwatch is resistant to magnetic fields of 15,000 gauss and has been able to reach the Master Chronometer standard, which assures the industry’s highest certified level of precision, chronometric performance and magnetic resistance.
The watch is presented on a polished-brushed metallic bracelet with a vintage Ω on the clasp: a design inspired by the bracelet of the 4 th generation Speedmaster (ST 105.012-65).
For the customer’s own mission, however, this new Limited Edition comes with another special option.
Inside the NASA-style presentation box, you’ll find an additional Velcro® strap with black-coated cork. This innovative design is a salute to the Apollo-era “boost protective cover” – a fiberglass structure covered with cork which fitted over the Command Module like a glove, keeping the crew of the Saturn V rocket safe from the intense heat produced at launch.
The box also includes two mission patches (50th anniversary / Apollo 11), two engraved plates (landing site coordinates / landing site and time) as well as a strap-changing tool. Best of all, it houses the ultimate Lunar Model display stand.
It is now 50 years since mankind took its first daring steps onto the moon – a moment that changed history (and the limits of possibility) forever. On this golden anniversary, OMEGA is celebrating the occasion with a brand new Speedmaster that has a very special connection to the astronauts and the legacy of that Apollo 11 mission.
How OMEGA Reached the Moon
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the lunar surface at 02:56 UTC on the 21st of July 1969. Their moonwalk lasted just two and a half hours, but their achievements left a defining footprint on the history of space exploration.
Strapped onto the wrists of the astronauts, it was during this iconic moment that the OMEGA Speedmaster Professional became the first watch worn on the moon.
The Apollo 11 mission is certainly the most celebrated moment in OMEGA’s considerable space heritage. But the journey to reach that point began more than 10 years earlier, in 1957, when the very first OMEGA Speedmaster was launched.
Thanks to its robust, reliable and easy-to-read design, the Speedmaster became known as the “pilots’ choice” and was adopted by those in the U.S Air Force. Many of those aces became Mercury astronauts in NASA’s first manned space programme and, in 1962, one of those astronauts, Walter Schirra, took his own Speedmaster CK2998 on the Mercury Atlas 8 mission. Orbiting the Earth six times, his privately-owned model became the first OMEGA watch worn in space.
By 1964, NASA’s space programme was accelerating rapidly and it officially went in search of one watch that it could rely on for all of its manned-missions. Flight Crew Operations Director, Deke Slayton, issued a request for wrist-worn chronographs from different watch manufacturers around the world. Several brands, including OMEGA, submitted their timepieces for the punishing tests – such as thermal, shock, vibration and vacuum examinations amongst others. Only the OMEGA Speedmaster survived these tests and, as a result, it was declared “Flight Qualified for all Manned Space Missions” on the 1st of March 1965.
From that moment, OMEGA was the only supplier of watches for NASA’s Human Space Flight Program. It was trusted throughout the Mercury Missions, Gemini Program, and, of course, the Apollo Program – which had its sights set on the moon.
James Ragan, the NASA engineer who qualified the Speedmaster in 1965 has spoken about the importance of OMEGA by saying, “The watch was a backup. If the astronauts lost the capability of talking to the ground, or the capability of their digital timers on the lunar surface, then the only thing they had to rely on was the OMEGA watch they had on their wrist. It needed to be there for them if they had a problem.”
With the eyes of the world on Apollo 11 in 1969, every piece of technology and kit had to be just right. There was no room for error. That’s why it is such an honour for OMEGA to look back and know that its watches were implicitly trusted by everyone involved. 50 years later, we are still incredibly proud to have timed mankind’s greatest hour.
A Tribute to Heroes
The success of Apollo 11 was fervently celebrated around the world in 1969. On the 25th of November that year, a special “Astronaut Appreciation Dinner” was held in Houston, Texas, in tribute to the moon landing heroes.
The dinner was especially notable for a certain OMEGA Speedmaster that was presented to the astronauts in NASA’s space program. The watch, Speedmaster BA145.022, was crafted from 18K yellow gold and included 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.”
This gold Speedmaster housed the calibre 861 and was OMEGA’s very first commemorative numbered edition, with only 1,014 models being produced from 1969 to 1973. The very first of these was created for US President, Richard Nixon, with number two allocated to the US Vice President Spiro Agnew. These watches, however, were later returned to OMEGA 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 in Houston. 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.
The public were given the opportunity to purchase model numbers 33 – 1000. 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 soughtafter 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.
It may also be interesting to know that model numbers 1001 – 1008 were later presented to the astronauts of Apollo 14 and 17, while models 1009 – 1014 were reserved for other personalities. For true Speedmaster fans, the BA145.022 is one of the great highlights in the chronograph’s iconic history. Not only is it a beautiful watch to look at, with its blend of gold and burgundy, but it also pays the highest tribute to the NASA astronauts who delivered mankind to the moon.
Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition
Marking the golden anniversary of the first moon landing, OMEGA has produced a new Limited Edition Speedmaster of 1,014 pieces, delivered with a five-year warranty.
Following the famous design of the Speedmaster BA145.022, this new chronograph has been crafted from an exclusive new 18K gold alloy and is powered by a brand new manual-winding Master Chronometer calibre 3861.
18K Moonshine™ Gold
The case, bracelet, dial, hour-markers and hour-minute hands have all been created in 18K Moonshine™ gold – a unique new alloy whose colour is inspired by the shining moonlight in a dark blue sky. In a paler hue than traditional 18K yellow gold, Moonshine™ gold offers high resistance to the fading of colour and lustre over time.
Case and Bracelet
The polished and brushed 42 mm case of this timepiece features the asymmetrical caseband of the 4th generation Speedmaster. Around the wrist, the brushed-polished bracelet bears the five–arched-links-per-row design and a grooved clasp with an applied vintage Ω.
Burgundy Ceramic [ZrO2] Bezel
Remaining true to the historical piece of 1969, OMEGA has included 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”).
Onyx and Black
The vertically brushed dial is marked “Au750” for the use of solid gold and is enhanced by the 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.
The Unique Caseback
The outer caseback ring features mechanically engraved markings: “1969-2019” and the Limited Edition number highlighted in burgundy, as well as uncoloured “Master Chronometer”. The inner decorative ring, also created in 18K Moonshine™ gold, has undergone two separate laser ablation processes, as well as two PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) colour treatments in blue and black. This has produced the following exquisite results:
– 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 (known as Cape Kennedy from 1963 – 1973)
– 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. Interesting, the Earth and the Moon on the inner ring have been produced in true proportion (3.67 : 1 in diameter).
This Speedmaster is driven by the OMEGA Master Chronometer Calibre 3861 – a manual-winding movement with Co-Axial escapement, silicon Si14 balance spring, Moonshine™ gold-plated main plate and bridges and burgundy markings.
For fans of OMEGA history, there are a number of vintage OMEGA logos to be found throughout the design – including on the dial, crown and bracelet clasp.
A unique watch in a unique presentation box! Inspired by the original packaging of the BA145.022 model in 1969, OMEGA has created a new crater box that will house each Limited Edition timepiece. 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.
Two weeks ago Rory McIlroy shared a picture of a special Speedmaster ’57, which his ‘Omega family’ gifted him for his 30th birthday. As a suave follow-up, today he shared that the watch will in fact be made as a special edition.
The Omega Speedmaster ’57 Rory McIlroy Special Edition 3184.108.40.206.08.001 is based on the 2013 reference 3220.127.116.11.02.001. The silver dial of the standard model is swapped out in favor a sun-brushed champagne dial with a black minute track, and black stars on the sub dials that refer to the spikes on golf shoes. The watch is powered by Omega’s caliber 9301.
The Omega Speedmaster ’57 Rory McIlroy Special Edition 318.104.22.168.08.001 is presumed to be a limited edition though at this point I am not sure how many will be made. 61 pieces?
A few days ago I found out about Juxtapose, a tool which allows one to make direct comparisons between two pics. Sounds like fun, so I gave it a go with the standard-issue Omega Speedmaster 322.214.171.124.01.006 versus the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary 310.20.42.50.01.001. So – once you’re done playing with the slider – what’s the final verdict?