Probably the most famous wrist chronograph in the world, the Omega Speedmaster came of age in 1965 when it was approved by NASA for all manned space missions and had its crowning moment in 1969 when it became the first watch to be worn on the moon, granting the hand-wound Speedmaster the epithet ‘Moon watch’ forever afterwards.
It is easy to forget that this model was already twelve years old when it went to the moon. Launched in 1957 alongside the Railmaster and the uprated Seamaster 300, these were technical tool watches to rival those from Rolex. The uses for the Seamaster and Railmaster were specific, Diving and working in areas of high magnetism respectively but the Speedmaster with its tachymeter bezel became a very versatile timepiece.
We tend to associate chronographs with sports timing and aviation but back in the pre-quartz 1950s when timing devices were far less widespread, the ability to accurately measure, speed, rates of production etc. was equally valued in the fields of manufacturing, and science amongst many others. As a combination of extreme aviation and scientific experimentation, it is no surprise then, that space exploration took the Speedmaster to its heart.
A mixture of coincidence and graft has provided Fellows’ Vintage and Modern auction of 7th April with a great representation of the development of the manual wind Omega Speedmaster. While not offering every model, we have highlights from interesting milestones in this watch’s history.
Lot 125. Not the first Speedmaster but very early – production dates from ’59 to ’62. This model was the first Speedy into space as the personal choice of the crew of Faith 7 (Part of the Mercury program) in 1963. The watch was not NASA approved by this stage.
Lots 115 and 128. Referred to as ‘Pre-Moon’ Speedmasters; an example of which was the first Speedmaster to be worn on a ‘Spacewalk’ by Ed White during the Gemini IV mission in 1965. The ‘Pre-Moon’ tag is a little unfair as some sources credit the 105.003 as being the watch Buzz Aldrin wore for the Moon landing. Given that Armstrong’s watch stayed inside the landing module as a back-up timer, this would make this particular Pre-Moon the first watch on the moon.
Lot 127. Produced for only two years, this was the first watch to celebrate the achievement of being the first watch on the moon with a case back engraving to this effect. It was the first of the Speedmaster to replace the column wheel 321 calibre with the new cam-driven 861.
Lot 126. A Speedmaster from 1985, this lot takes the calibre 861 and decorates it to create the 863 which is then shown off through a sapphire display case-back.
Lot 121. The latest of the six, this Speedmaster from 2004 is a partner piece to Lot 126. Another sapphire case-back watch, this one showcases the rhodium finished version of the calibre 863 – designated the 1863.
It is not often that the best part of a ready-made collection is offered all together but if your pockets do not run that deep, look at it as an opportunity to fill any nagging gaps, or acquire that one Speedmaster that really appeals to you.