The 2019 Gold Speedmaster Apollo XI vs The 1969 Speedmaster Apollo XI
Last week I was super excited to see the new gold Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.
But of course, it is also a tribute to the original gold Omega Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI 1969 that was presented to President Nixon, his Vice-President Agnew and to the astronauts of Apollo missions. Michael Stockton did a nice introduction article of the new 2019 Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th anniversary and gave an overview (click here to read it) of the original BA145.022 and which numbers were given to which astronauts.
I was so lucky to be in Bienne last week when the new Speedmaster Apollo 11 reference 310.60.42.50.99.001 was introduced. Even better yet, Omega gave me a prototype (nr. 0/1014) to wear for a while. This gave me the idea to compare it to the original Omega Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI reference BA145.022-69 and see how close it actually is to it.
Hands-On With The Omega Speedmaster 310.60.42.50.99.001
The first thing you will notice with this new gold Apollo XI watch on the wrist is the weight. A whopping 210 grams, which is much heavier than the normal Moonwatch in stainless steel. But most impressive is the appearance of this Speedmaster Apollo XI 50th anniversary, with its burgundy coloured bezel (ceramic), the polished Onyx hour markers, gold hands and the brushed gold dial. Oh, and let’s not forget the re-interpretation of the original gold bracelet. It is simply stunning and wears amazingly comfortable. I already expressed my hope to Omega that they will do one in stainless steel as well, in the future. Then, there are all these details that Omega did so well in this new chronograph that pay tribute to the original watch. And to Apollo XI, of course.
When I got back from Switzerland, with the gold Speedmaster Apollo XI 50th anniversary proudly on the wrist, I couldn’t wait to compare it to the original Speedmaster BA145.022-69 that we covered so often here on Fratello (like here, here and here). In 1980, Omega created another gold Speedmaster Apollo XI, the reference BA345.0802 (we covered it here) with a much lower production number (+- 300 pieces in total) than the 1014 watches of the 1969 model, but it is less popular by collectors. It might have something to do with the burgundy bezel and richer dial, but it could also just be that the history with the US President Nixon and astronauts speaks a bit more to people’s imagination. Later on, more yellow gold versions followed and eventually also became part of the regular collection (from 1999 until 2012).
But this new Speedmaster Apollo XI 50th Anniversary is not really yellow gold, it is Moonshine gold, according to Omega. And indeed, the colour of this watch is a bit lighter than the 2N yellow gold that the 1969 version uses. Perhaps a bit more like the Moonlight, this Moonshine gold alloy has a bit more white tone to it. As you know, 18-carat gold is an alloy of gold (75%), copper and (often) silver. Now, you can play with the percentages of the other metals to get a certain colour. Omega decided to add Palladium, to get that paler hue. Also, the Moonshine gold colour has proper protection, it will last forever and keep the exact same colour.
Only side-by-side you will discover that the Moonshine gold is much paler. Below, I show a photo of the new Speedmaster Apollo XI in Moonshine gold, the Omega Globemaster in Sedna gold (rose gold) and the 1969 Speedmaster Apollo XI in 18-carat yellow (2N) gold. You will quickly identify the different tones of these three gold colours.
Speedmaster Apollo XI 1969 vs 2019
Now, watch collectors and enthusiasts are always quick to state that you should always go for the original. In this case, the 1969 Speedmaster Apollo XI BA145.022-69. Prices are starting around €35.000 but more likely to be over €50.000 when in good “collectors” condition (with box and papers it will go up even more). The new Speedmaster Apollo XI 50th Anniversary has a retail price of CHF32.000 Swiss Francs (excl VAT), and in our own market, the official retail price will be €32.300,= (incl VAT). But is the original always better, or more interesting? I always tend to say yes myself, but that’s mainly based on the (his)story of the watch. When you look at it purely from a product perspective, it might be different. Let’s have a closer look at both gold Speedmaster Apollo XI watches and see what I prefer myself: the original or the 2019 tribute.
Omega’s Comparison Image
Omega did their homework and in their press release of this watch, you can already find a nice comparison between the 1969 and 2019 Speedmaster Apollo XI. The image below shows you the main difference between these two watches. Most important differences are of course the gold alloy, the use of ceramic for the bezel and, of course, the new caliber 3861 movement.
Small Differences On The Dial
With these two watches in front of me, the vertically brushed finish is easier to admire on the new Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th anniversary than it is on the BA145.022-69. It might be the age of the watch, or simply the more yellowish colour, but the vertical brushed finish shows off better on the new dial. Both dials have the ‘step’, what Omega let go off in 1974 for their Speedmaster Professional watches. What’s interesting, is that Omega respected the OM (Or Massif) next to ‘Swiss Made’ to indicate the use of a solid gold plate for the dial. Also, the onyx hour markers have exactly the same shape (two facets). What’s different on the dial, are mainly three things. The positioning of the Omega logo and writing of ‘OMEGA’ and ‘Speedmaster Professional’. On the new Speedmaster Apollo XI 50th anniversary edition, this is positioned a bit more towards the marker at 12 o’clock. This might have to do with the “Au750” engraving above the center pinion, but I am not sure. It does at least look a bit more ‘spacious’.
The second difference is the markers for the seconds, between the minute markers. On the Speedmaster BA145.022-69, you will find 4 indices between the minute markers. On the new version, there are only two. You will find that most Speedmaster variations have 4 indices between the minute markers, but more recent models only have two of them (f.i. the new CK2998, the Speedy Tuesday models etc. According to Omega, using the chrono division per 5 seconds is ‘heritage’ from the old caliber 321 movement with a 2.5hz frequency that can measure 1/5th of a second. Since the caliber 861, the movements run at (21600vph) 3hz which can measure 1/6th of a second (so a chrono division per 3 seconds). Omega never corrected this properly for the regular Moonwatch models but started to do so in 2003 with the Moonphase model and in 2010 with the Apollo-Soyuz 35th anniversary edition.
The third difference with the BA145.022-69 is that the new edition has gold hands instead of black hands. Although it might appear to be black hands on some of the images, including the original Omega press images, these are also in Moonshine gold (see above). Since they are highly polished, they are difficult to capture as such on camera as they reflect the lens or camera. The gold hands are filled with black varnish, not Super-LumiNova. The large second’s hand and the three small hands are all black varnish. So, to be clear, just like the BA145.022-69, the new reference 310.60.42.50.99.001 also does not illuminate in the dark due to the lack of lume. So you will need a bit of light to read the time. Or grab your iPhone.
Burgundy Bezels And Sapphire
It is impossible to honor the 1969 gold Speedmaster Apollo XI without doing a watch with a burgundy bezel. Now, Omega already showed us something in red last year, when they introduced the Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 watch with a red bezel that we refer to as ‘The Rising Sun’, but this new ceramic bezel is even more close to the original burgundy. Where the original Speedmaster Apollo 11 1969 uses aluminium, and the Rising Sun as well, the new gold Speedmaster Apollo 11 has one made of ceramic. Ceramic (ZrO2) in burgundy with the scaling in Omega’s Ceragold. Originally, the scaling was in metallic grey. The new ceramic bezel looks amazing, especially when it catches the sunlight. Omega respected the famous DON indicator (Dot-Over-Ninety) for this bezel scale.
Below, an image of the original Speedmaster Apollo XI with an aluminium bezel. As you can see, it has some damage to it which is perhaps quite normal when a watch is 50 years old. The new ceramic model will look the same in 50 years from now though.
Instead of Hesalite (plexi crystal), the 2019 Speedmaster Apollo XI in gold uses a sapphire crystal. Sapphire adds a bit to the weight of the watch, but it especially gives a more clear view at the dial. I personally love Hesalite, as it has the tendency to magnify the dial a bit, making the watch face look bigger than it actually is. The sapphire crystal is boxed, but the Hesalite seems to be positioned a bit higher. The profile of the watch, as can be seen below, is very similar though.
Just like the original bracelet (reference 1116/575), the new one tapers from 20mm between the lugs to 14mm to the clasp. The design of the bracelets are identical, which was something I hoped for. Also for the steel models to come, I hope they will go back to a previous design as I am not a fan of the current stainless steel Speedmaster bracelets.
Back to the gold bracelet: at least compared to the 18mm clasp on the later models or even the 16mm on my own gold Speedmaster Apollo XI from 1980, 14mm is quite small. In the flesh though, I have to say that on the original 1969 edition it is indeed small, but the new watch has a clasp that has a bit more ‘body’ and is, therefore, thicker than the old one. Not only that, but the folding mechanism is also more solid. In fact, the entire new bracelet is very solid (and thus heavy) compared to the vintage Speedmaster Apollo XI 1969 edition. Although the outer links of the 1116 bracelet are solid gold, the center links are hollow. The new bracelet has 5 rows of solid gold links and probably makes up quite a bit for the heavier weight of the watch in total. The new Speedmaster Apollo XI weighs 210 grams where the 1969 model shows 167 grams on my scale. The sapphire crystal on the new watch is also part of the heavier weight, of course.
The new bracelet has screwed links and the clasp uses two pushers to release. I love the new bracelet so much, it is very pleasing for the eyes and it wears super comfortable. I also love the design of the clasp, where they respected the original design as much as they could. The pusher system also works safer than the former ‘click’ system. You don’t want to lose this watch, for sure.
Caliber 3861 Master Chronometer
One of the biggest surprises you will find on the case back of the Speedmaster Apollo XI 50th anniversary. Where the original version had a solid gold case back with an inscription (in fact Omega had several iterations of this gold case back between 1969 and 1973), the new version has something special. Well, two things actually.
First, there’s a new movement. Caliber 3861. Although it might sound like a caliber 1861 (the original gold Apollo XI has a caliber 861 movement) with something ‘extra’ due to the change of the first digit, Omega changed approximately 50% of the parts used in this movement. Besides that, the movement indeed has a Co-Axial escapement and is certified as ‘Master Chronometer’. This means, that it is anti-magnetic up to 15,000 gauss and has a balance with a silicon spring. Where the normal caliber 1861 has an accuracy between -1 and +11 seconds a day (these are the margins for the Moonwatch), the new caliber 3861 maintains the Master Chronometer standard by using a deviation of +-0 to +5 seconds a day on average.
Interesting to note is that the watch has a power reserve of 50 hours (compared to the 48 hours of the caliber 1861/1863), but that’s with the chronograph running. Without the use of the chronograph, the power reserve is +- 60 hours. The caliber 1863 consists of 240 parts (whereas the caliber 1861 has 234 parts). Another important difference is that the caliber 1863 has a hacking feature, so the balance wheel will stop in the 1st position of the crown.
Some people were a bit put off by the fact that this gold Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th anniversary does not feature the caliber 321, but I am actually happy it doesn’t. Not only because then the indices between the minute markers would be incorrect again, but more importantly because the original BA145.022 also did not have the Lémania based caliber 321 movement. How much I love the caliber 321, it simply doesn’t belong in this watch. You can debate or argue whether a display back belongs to this Speedmaster Apollo XI in gold, as the original has a solid gold case back with inscription, but technically speaking the caliber 3861 is closer to the (1)861 than to the caliber 321. But no worries, a watch in precious metal with caliber 321 will be announced (probably soon).
The finish of the caliber 3861 is pretty cool, and nicer looking than the standard 861/1861 movements. It is more like the later 863 and 1863 movements, that had a higher grade finish because these were used for Speedmasters with display backs. Just like those 863 movements with copper-coloured parts, this new caliber 3861 also has a similar colour. Omega used Moonshine gold plating for the main plate and bridges. All the engravings on the movement are filled with a burgundy colour. Furthermore, you will find the Côte-de-Genève finishing on the bridges, beautifully polished levers and bevelled bridge edges.
Now, I wrote that there are two cool things about the case back of this Omega Speedmaster reference 310.60.42.50.99.001, one being the new Omega caliber 3861 movement. The other thing is the use of real Lunar meteorite in the case back. This Lunar meteorite is set in the PVD treated gold inner ring of the case back and represents the Moon. On the other side of the inner ring, you will find a representation of a part of the Earth. To be more precise, the American continent where you can also find Cape Canaveral (Cape Kennedy) in Florida. The gold parts of the continent are surrounded by a matte-finished blue Ocean. Omega ensured that the proportion of the Moon is correct with regards to the displayed part of the Earth (3.67 : 1 in diameter). Now, the coolest part here is that the small Moon is actually made of a meteorite that came from there.
You’ll have a piece on your wrist that actually was on the Moon. How cool is that?
I have no further information on the background of this meteorite, but I’ve been told that Omega selected a part of the larger meteorite piece that contains no iron. More about lunar meteorites can be read here.
The Speedmaster Apollo XI BA145.022-69 was delivered in a small square box with ‘3D’ craters on four sides. As you can see below, the package of the original BA145.022 as it was sold between 1969 and 1973. The sides with crater pattern were actually made of plastic, and from experience, I know that they tend to come loose after a while. First I was afraid that Omega would decide to create a huge box for this watch like they do with many of the special editions or limited editions. Not that I don’t like them, but I’d feel it would be a missed opportunity not to pay tribute to the original cool packaging of the watch.
What Omega actually did, was reproduce the original box, but in better quality. For this, they used ceramic for the 3D crater sides of the box. Every box will be different, but on top of every crater box, you will find the Sea of Tranquillity and the landing position of Apollo 11.
On the inside, you will find red velvet. I have to say it looks very cool and for once, it is actually a compact package to bring home. As you can see above and below, there are some small differences. The original box did not have red velvet interior (not on the image), but also the printing of the Omega logo and Speedmaster wording is a bit different. The prototype I received did not come with a manual or cards, just the crater box in a black cardboard box. So an update will follow as soon as we know more, or when the real deal is there (delivery will start in June).
Availability Of Gold Apollo XI Watches
Both watches, the gold Speedmaster Apollo XI from 1969 and the 50th-anniversary watch, are limited to 1014 pieces. The difference is that the watch from 1969 was a numbered edition (and for some reason 1014 pieces were made in total), whereas the new 2019 watch is a limited edition of 1014 pieces. From what I understood, is that the 1014 pieces will not be there all at once, but delivery will be done over time and the first one will leave Bienne this coming June. The 1969 watch was introduced after the Moon landing and was produced till 1973. I am pretty certain the Speedmaster Apollo XI 50th anniversary will not take 3 years, but a bit of patience is probably necessary. Did you know that the 1980 gold Speedmaster Apollo XI with only 300 pieces was in the Omega catalogue till 1988? Different times, I guess.
Finding an original 1969 Speedmaster Apollo XI in gold isn’t easy. And when you do find one, there are a lot of questions to be asked. Prices skyrocketed in the last few years, while these gold models weren’t very popular in the past. If you bought one of these 10-15 years ago, you did well. But let’s not dig into the subject of purchasing a watch like this as an investment. There are probably other watches out there that require fewer funds and perform better, for me it is not about investing, but about collecting.
The idea of a gold Speedmaster is not to everyone’s liking, as many feel that a sports watch should be in steel (or titanium). However, personally, I like the idea of celebrating a special event (such as the Moon landing) with gold. Anyway, if you like to go vintage, there are 1014 pieces out there somewhere, yet they are hard to find. Especially in good condition. What I find remarkable, is that there’s such a huge difference between them regarding condition. Some of these gold Speedmaster Apollo XI models look like they certainly had a hard knock life. Also, be aware that if the burgundy aluminium bezel is damaged or lost, you won’t find a new one or a replacement. You will sometimes see them fitted with the later gold bezel with black inlay, as the burgundy bezel was not produced as a replacement part.
Here’s perhaps also where a modern gold Speedmaster Apollo XI watch comes in. For those who don’t dare to buy a vintage Speedmaster, as many things might be wrong, or can’t be fixed. But it is also a watch for people who admire the gold 1969 model but want to have a modern watch. I am somewhere in the middle I guess, as I love my vintage Speedmaster watches, including a gold one, but also appreciate modern editions of the Moonwatch. I’ve always been drawn to a gold Speedmaster, whether it is the BA145.022-69, 1980 345.0802 or the later editions that Omega has made. Or even the regular Moonwatch in gold, that was part of the collection between 1999 and 2012 (and featured here).
With a production run of 1014 pieces and a retail price of €32.300,-, I feel that you should be able to buy one if your resources allow it. Perhaps not the number of your choice, but 1014 watches is – even still more limited than some other pieces – a number that is likely to be another tribute to the original 1969 Speedmaster Apollo XI than meant to be truly a limited edition watch.
The run of 1014 pieces is likely to be meant as another tribute to the 1969 original than really a limited edition number
After a week of wearing this watch on a daily basis, I can safely say that I am in love with it. It takes me a lot of effort to take it off and wear something else. A gold Speedmaster isn’t new to me, and I have one in my modest collection of Moonwatches, but this new Speedmaster Apollo XI 50th anniversary is breathtaking. Perhaps a gold Speedmaster is not for everyone, and it is not the first or only Moonwatch to purchase I guess, but if you are a Speedmaster fan, a gold Speedmaster is a very welcome addition.
This new Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI in 18-carat Moonshine gold is a bit easier on the wrist than the yellow gold 1969 model or even the 1980 Apollo XI model. It is less yellow, which makes it easier to wear, at least for me.
I decided to order this new gold Speedmaster and add it to my collection. In my opinion, this watch is (even) a better watch than the original, as the bracelet is far superior to the original one, the new movement looks nice and has the Master Chronometer certification, the gold hands look nicer, the ceramic burgundy bezel will not damage and last but not least, I love the colour of the Moonshine gold. I don’t say it often, that a re-edition or recreation of something is better than the original, but in this case, I do.
The Speedmaster Apollo XI 2019 is like The Godfather Part Two, it is better than Part I
Die-hard collectors or vintage collectors might (and probably will) disagree, but this is how I see it, and I do have a lot of respect for vintage Speedmasters. For the sake of historical significance, the fact that the 1969 edition was presented and given to the President and astronauts can’t be ignored and add to the importance of such a watch. It will also be one of the (many) reasons for collectors to prefer the original watch, but purely looking at the watch itself, I prefer the new 2019 Apollo XI edition in gold.
Are there things that could have been done differently, or better? You can debate whether the Au750 should be engraved on the dial, as it is not something mandatory (for the sake of proofing it is 18-carat gold), but it doesn’t really bother me either. In my opinion, the 2019 Speedmaster Apollo XI in Moonshine gold really pays homage to the original. As written above, I am happy to see this watch has the new caliber 3861 movement that not only looks very attractive, it is also certified ‘Master Chronometer’. Not that the use of a caliber 321 movement would have held me back ordering one, but it wouldn’t make much sense to me for this specific edition.
That said, I can’t wait to see the other Speedmaster Apollo XI watch(es) that Omega will introduce this year to commemorate the Moon landing 50 years ago. If it is done with the same eye for detail and respect as this gold Apollo XI edition, I expect it (or them) to sell out quickly. However, this gold version will put me out of buying any other watch this year (and probably the next year as well).
More information via the official Omega website.