For Purists and Non-Purists
2017 marks the 60th anniversary of the very first Omega Speedmaster. The chronograph that became the Moonwatch in 1969 and remains part of the official equipment for NASA astronauts today. It did not become the choice for NASA by accident, of course, but rather was the top performer in tests by NASA engineers looking at watches’ ability to withstand the abuse and extreme conditions of space.
Omega has kept the Speedmaster “Moonwatch” in production with a Lemania movement, even though their other watches have since been fitted with in-house movements with “Master Chronometer” certification. The good thing about this is that the Speedmaster Professional remains one of the most accessible and affordable Omega watches.
However, for those who want to enjoy the iconic design of the Moonwatch, but would also like an in-house movement, a 44.25-mm case, sapphire crystal, and date function, for example, Omega has created a number of modern variations of the Speedmaster (e.g. Dark Side of the Moon, Racing, Moonphase Master Chronometer).
Omega decided to celebrate the 60th anniversary with a limited edition of the Speedmaster that closely resembles the first watch from 1957. This watch is limited to a run of 3,557 pieces. Purists might complain about the number of limited edition models brands are releasing each year, but the fact remains that there is a lot of demand for them. These limited edition Speedmaster models have a good chance of becoming very valuable over time.
Some models have really hit it off from the start; for example, the 2015 Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award, which was limited to 1,970 pieces (1970 was the year of the Apollo 13 mission that the Snoopy Award watch commemorates). Prices have gone as high as 20,000 euros for these watches even though the list price was 6,000 euros.
Other Speedmaster Limited Editions didn’t perform as well; for example, the Speedmaster Moon to Mars limited edition or the Apollo XVII 40th anniversary edition. That said, the first Speedmaster Snoopy Award from 2003 also didn’t perform very well in its first few years. Once they were all sold (5,441 pieces), however, people suddenly regretted their decision not to buy one and prices have since reached almost three times their 2003 retail price.
High Numbers, High Demand
A limited edition of 2,000 watches or more isn’t very limited, is it? While that certainly is true, you have to keep in mind that many of these sell out rather quickly. Earlier this year, we saw the Speedmaster “Speedy Tuesday” limited edition (a nod to a Speedmaster collector’s community) sell out in just 4.5 hours. This watch was limited to 2,012 pieces (since the Speedy Tuesday community started in 2012) and the waiting list has another 7,500 people on it.
You could argue that the number of limited edition watches is high, but so is the demand. Additionally, the total production number of Omega is estimated around 700,000 watches each year. This means that 1,970 Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award watches doesn’t even make up 0.29% of Omega’s total watch production.
Five Modern Omega Speedmaster Watches
Here, we’ve selected five modern Speedmaster watches that are worth checking out. These aren’t only limited editions, of course, but also models that have impressed us. Let’s face it, the Speedmaster is not only for collectors, it is also a perfect everyday wristwatch.
Speedmaster Moonphase Co-Axial Master Chronometer
This Speedmaster features all of Omega’s latest technology in one of their most legendary collections. The Moonphase model measures 44.25 mm in diameter and is available in several configurations (steel, two-tone, gold, or platinum). We prefer the stainless steel model with either a blue or black dial. This model not only has a beautiful moonphase and calendar complication, but it also features small details like footprints of the first astronauts on the moon disc. You can only notice this if you look very closely at the moon.
Omega’s 9904 caliber powers this Speedmaster Moonphase Co-Axial Master Chronometer. This movement is essentially based on their 9300 chronograph caliber, but has an additional moonphase and calendar complication and, of course, is certified as a Master Chronometer. The Master Chronometer certification is much harder to earn than a “normal” chronometer. In addition to having better accuracy, it is also tested and certified to withstand magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss. This watch could easily become your favorite everyday timepiece.
Speedmaster Apollo XVII Gold
If you fancy the Midas touch, there’s also a gold Speedmaster Professional available. This particular model was released 2017 at BaselWorld and commemorates the 1972 NASA mission, which was the last time man set foot on the Moon. One of the astronauts from that Apollo XVII mission, Eugene Cernan, passed away earlier this year. This gold limited edition of only 272 pieces is engraved with the words “Tribute to Eugene Cernan” on the case back; he was an Omega ambassador for a long time.
This 42-mm Speedmaster has identical specifications to the standard Moonwatch in stainless steel, but features a couple of unique elements as well. One such element is the Apollo XVII mission patch in gold that is located on the subdial at nine o’clock. The same gold mission patch can be found on the case back. The blue dial corresponds with the blue ceramic bezel.
Inside the watch is Omega’s caliber 1861, which is based on a Lemania chronograph movement. In fact, Omega has been using this same caliber in their Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch” models (with a few iterations) since 1968. Considering production is limited to 272 pieces and this watch is made of 18-karat gold, it will certainly be a sought-after model in the future.
While it was initially introduced as a Speedmaster Professional Racing in 2013, it seems that Omega intended to commemorate Tintin with this watch; its dial features the rocket from the famous “Explorers on the Moon” story. The rocket never made it to the Moon, however, since the Hergé representatives didn’t want to collaborate with Omega. Quickly after this story got out, the watch was nicknamed the “Speedmaster Tintin”.
The watch was only in production for a short amount of time and it’s estimated that there were approximately 3,000 pieces made. There is sizeable demand for the Speedmaster Tintin from collectors, especially those who also happen to like Tintin comic books. This could become a very collectible piece in the future.
In addition to the red and white checkers on the dial, the case back is also a bit different than the standard Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. The “Flight-Qualified By NASA For All Manned Space Missions” and “The First Watch Worn On The Moon” engravings are filled with red lacquer. This watch was delivered with a red leather box (early versions) as well as with a luxurious wooden box. The box type shouldn’t make much of a difference in terms of value. The Speedmaster Tintin is powered by Omega’s caliber 1861.
Speedmaster Apollo XI 45th Anniversary
Every 5 years, Omega commemorates the Apollo XI Moon landing with a limited edition Speedmaster. It was this mission that made the Omega Speedmaster known as the “Moonwatch”, since the timepiece was on the wrists of the three NASA astronauts on the mission: Michael Collins, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong. Legend has it that Armstrong left his Speedmaster on board the Lunar Module since the Bulova board clock broke down. If that’s indeed the case, it makes Buzz Aldrin’s Speedmaster the first watch on the Moon.
In 2014, Omega celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Moon landing with this very special Speedmaster. You could say that this edition is one of the most unusual Speedmaster Moonwatches. It was entirely made of titanium (a first for a Moonwatch) and featured a Sedna gold bezel. Sedna gold is Omega’s own 18-karat rose gold alloy. It is made so that it will always keep its color (and won’t turn yellow over time, like normal rose gold does). Inside is the regular hand-wound chronograph caliber 1861.
The dial is a single piece made using laser cutting techniques and then treated with black PVD. Limited to 1,969 pieces, this edition retailed for approximately 6,000 euros. Prices have gone up ever since, but you should be able to find one if you are willing to pay some mark up.
Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award
You could say that there are two limited editions that are almost guaranteed successes: the Apollo XI and the Apollo XIII. The Apollo XIII mission in 1970 almost ended very badly, but due to smart NASA engineers on the ground and the astronauts themselves, the problem was fixed. The Apollo XIII mission is often used as an example for IT problem solving.
The Speedmaster also played an important role in the safe return of the Apollo XIII astronauts. On their way home, the shuttle’s rockets needed to be boosted for exactly 14 seconds in order to enter the atmosphere at the correct angle, otherwise the capsule would go up in flames. The chronograph function on the Speedmaster was used to time the exact duration of the boost. For its crucial role in the safe return, Omega was awarded NASA’s highest honor in October 1970: the Silver Snoopy Award. This award is given to suppliers and NASA staff who perform extraordinary tasks. Now you know why there is a Snoopy character on this Speedmaster watch.
In 2015, for the 45th anniversary of the Apollo XIII mission, Omega introduced the Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award. It was sold out in just a few hours; only 1,970 pieces were made. The list price was 6,000 euros, but prices almost tripled as time went one. If you can find one, expect to pay between 13,000 and 16,000 euros for a complete set. As mentioned in the introduction of this article, Omega already had a Speedmaster Snoopy edition, which was introduced in 2003, making this the second Snoopy Speedmaster.
So Many Variations
The Speedmaster is available in so many variations, it can become quite confusing. To simplify things a bit, the hand-wound Speedmaster Professional is based on the first Speedmaster from 1957 and is considered the “Moonwatch.” These watches are equipped with a Lemania-based chronograph movement and their cases measure 42 mm in diameter.
Omega has made smaller and larger versions, however, with automatic movements and even a couple of digital versions (X-33), but these are all variations on the original Moonwatch design. The Speedmaster watch has a huge fan base; it is possibly the Omega watch with the most collectors. As there are so many variations available, both modern and vintage, it can easily become a never-ending story when it comes to collecting. The fun thing is that rare pieces are still being discovered today.