A Mir-Flown Omega Speedmaster Goes Up For Sale In The Netherlands
As RJ is traveling, I have the honor of taking over his Speedy Tuesday slot today. My old friends at Amsterdam Watch Company are bringing a watch to market. Now, that isn’t something we would usually cover, but this one is quite special and provides a good excuse to revisit an interesting chapter in Speedmaster history. This is one of 35 Speedmasters that spent 365 days aboard the Mir space station.
Let me take you back to July 1993. Omega sends 18 regular steel Speedmaster Professional watches on bracelets, 10 on leather straps, and seven in full gold to the Mir space station. It would be a full year until they would come back to our humble blue and green marble. One of the steel models was recently auctioned, fetching over US$118,000. And now another comes to market.
The Mir space station
Let’s start with that special location that is the Mir space station. Mir was the first-ever modular space station that was assembled in orbit by the Soviet Union in 1986. The station remained in low orbit until 2001, making its rounds at 7.7km/s or 27,700km/h. It would go around Earth once every 91.9 minutes. The station measured 19 meters in length, 31 meters in width, and 27.5 meters high, making it the biggest-ever satellite until ISS surpassed it.
Launched in the Soviet era, it would later be operated by the Russian Federal Space Agency. However, crew members of different nationalities were allowed. This included US astronauts, which was quite a step so soon after the Cold War.
Mir functioned primarily as a microgravity (weightlessness) research lab. Never before had people spent so much time in space to test the effects of zero gravity. This is also the official purpose of the presence of the 35 Speedmaster watches. Omega wanted to test the effects of long-term microgravity on the watches’ performance, so up they went in 1993.
Bringing the Mir-flown Speedies to market
Upon their return, Omega tested the watches and found them to function perfectly. The long stay in zero gravity hadn’t negatively affected their performance. This confirmed to Omega that the Speedmaster was capable of prolonged use in space.
Omega serviced the watches and turned them into collectibles. The brand added a special case back with “365 days on board space station Mir – July 1993 – July 1994” engraved. A VHS tape and book titled The Moon Watch also became part of the set. The watch itself came in a leather book-shaped box, and the entire set was packaged in a large aluminum carrying case. Naturally, the set also included a certificate that confirmed the space-traveling credentials of the watch.
The watches were most likely sold in Switzerland and then found their way to collectors across the globe. Considering their very small quantity in comparison to other special editions, I can understand the appeal. And even though the only technical difference with a common 3590.50 is the case back, the actual space testing makes for a great story. Not many Moonwatch wearers can claim theirs was actually in space.
Coming back to the market
This specific ref. 3596.50 comes from the shared private collection of the owners of Amsterdam Watch Company. It will be the flagship of their offerings at this year’s PAN Amsterdam art, antique, and design fair.
The fair, which is held yearly in the RAI, Amsterdam, starts on the 19th of November and lasts until the 26th. The watch will go on sale on the 19th and will be on display at AWCo’s stand. If you have your heart set on it but cannot come to Amsterdam, it can be purchased remotely as well.
The asking price is set at €125,000. Considering this one is unworn, and a worn example fetched US$118,000 earlier this year, there may be a market for it. I will certainly be following the process with great interest.
The story behind these Mir-flown Speedmasters is quite fascinating. Of course, you can see why Omega marketed them commercially upon their return in 1994. Regardless, they were part of actual performance testing in space. And since only 35 are around, I can see the appeal.
I had the pleasure of handling this watch back when I worked at AWCo myself. It is fascinating how it is so special and just a regular Moonwatch at the same time. It triggers some sort of short circuit in my brain. In the end, though, it is one of the grail Speedies for collectors. So if you already have your CK2915, yellow gold BA145.022-69, and both Speedy Tuesday editions, this is probably one for you.
What is your grail Omega Speedmaster? Let us know in the comments below!