Yesterday evening, Christie’s held their Speedmaster 50 Auction in New York. Although no-one of our team could be there on location, we did get some help from Sacha Davidoff for this report. He is one of the founders and owners of the Roy & Sacha Davidoff boutique, the place for vintage watches in Geneva. He was in New York to witness the auction and spoke to one of the guys who submitted a substantial amount of watches for the auction, Riccardo Bernard.
Sacha Davidoff: “Riccardo Bernard is the major contributor, in terms of the Christie’s Speedmaster 50 auction collection. He is a collector with an affinity for space and aeronautics who worked for major air companies. His first watch was a Rolex GMT-Master (with the PanAm connection) made sense with regards to his professional background, but then he became addicted to vintage Speedmaster watches in the 1990’s. He plans to one day go into space and is currently also an avid vintage car collector, especially Porsche. On top of that, he is the importer of Porsche in Scandinavia. The big question, why would he want to sell this amazing collection? First, he wanted to mark his achievement and he is glad that the Speedmaster catalog is beautiful. He had a hard copy printed in very limited quantity. On a more secretive note, the proceeds of the sale are going to go towards his dream of flying into space!”
With an estimate of somewhere between $500,000.- USD and $1,000,000.- USD, the total result of $1,304,125.- USD is certainly not bad. Let us go through some high-lights of the Christie’s Speedmaster 50 Auction of last evening. I’ve received a couple of notes of Sacha Davidoff that he took before the auction, and of course I do see the results on the official Christie’s website. So let’s go and see what happened.
The top seller of Christie’s Speedmaster 50 Auction was the flown Apollo 17 Speedmaster Professional with caliber 861, lot 15.
Lot 15 fetched a staggering $245,000.- USD. This watch was owned by Apollo 17 astronaut Ron Evans and comes with a couple of other space memorabilia. It wasn’t used on the Moon, or even worn on the wrist during the Apollo 17, it was used to perform tests on board and was attached to a dash board. The watch has been engraved by Ron Evans himself to mark its adventure on board of the CSM.
Lot 3, the Speedmaster CK2915-1 from 1957 realized $137,000 USD. According to Sacha Davidoff “This is the most sought after and valuable regular production Speedmaster as it is the first generation of the first reference. Submitted by Somlo, owner of the Omega vintage shop in London, with some speculation to the origin of the case (finishings) and the dial as well, the estimate is a bit high and will be interesting to see if it is reached.”. The estimate was between $100,000.- USD and $150,000.- USD, so the result is quite nice I think.
Sacha’s words on the case are something that I’ve echoed in this article as well. As I wrote in that earlier article “….it seems to be some kind of early case made by Huguenin Frères that could also be seen in early Speedmaster advertisements. Whether this specific watch was used as a subject to that campaign is not clear, but that could be the case (no pun intended) of course.”. It is interesting to see that both CK2915 references fetched well over $100,000.- USD. Lot 4 was the CK2915-2 and estimated between $50,000.- USD and $80,000.- USD. The result of $118,750.- USD is therefore impressive.
Another Speedmaster that did extremely well in my opinion, is lot 5. As Sacha describes it “Beautiful tropical CK 2998-1, base 1000 bezel, and with the numbers that these have been trading in close circles of collectors (behind the scenes) should easily reach the high estimate. Sadly the bracelet is not correct as date 65, but still nice and a detail for such a grail watch.”. As I wrote in my earlier article on the Christie’s Speedmaster 50 Auction: “For me personally, the CK2998 is something like the grail Speedmaster. I prefer it over a CK2915, without wanting to doubt the historical significance of that one. I just prefer the black bezel over the steel bezel and love those Alpha hands. For me, the CK2998 comes close to the Moonwatch as we know it today.”. The estimate of this beautiful CK2998-1 was between $20,000.- and $40,000.- USD and the result was $50,000.- USD. Lot 7 (CK2998-62) and Lot 6 (CK2998-4) fetched resp. $28,750.- USD and $20,000.- USD which are still very respectable amounts for the Speedmaster reference CK2998. This reference is clearly highly sought-after and the prices went up quite a bit during the last 2-3 years. Hello vintage Daytona prices.
According to Sacha Davidoff the 2998 reference is giving the vintage Rolex Daytona a run for its money. “So these are likely to gain some traction. Both are nice and original, the -62 has its original bracelet which is a plus.”. I fully agree here and I also wonder a bit why it has taken so long for collectors to realize that the CK2998 was such a good value for money. Perhaps still is, despite these ‘new’ prices.
What everyone saw coming from miles distance, is the fact that Omega Speedmaster watches with the column-wheel chronograph caliber 321 movement were too cheap, relatively speaking. We can debate whether $10K USD is steep for a Speedmaster reference 145.012-67 for example, but this Christie’s Speedmaster 50 Auction showed that none of these caliber 321 Speedmasters went for anything lower than $10,000.- USD. As I wrote in my Speedmaster 145.012-67 Buyer’s Guide a while ago, it is an undervalued watch, but not only that, it becomes more and more difficult to find one in good and authentic condition. If that is the case, it isn’t unthinkable that many of them will follow the prices of this Christie’s Speedmaster 50 Auction.
Lot 8 to Lot 13 are all Speedmaster caliber 321 pieces that were available for relatively low prices up till recently. Lot 8 is perhaps the most rare one, a reference 105.002 which is basically a CK2998 but with the newer reference number coding. It was estimated between $5,000.- and $8,000.- USD but it didn’t take a genius to see where that was going. It fetched $21,250.- USD in the end.
Sacha Davidoff says the following on lot 10 and 12: The Speedmaster 105.003-65 ‘Hackett’ (lot 10): This has a cool provenance and the watch has a nice story. I don’t know if there is enough collector appreciation for this type of provenance to make a big difference. However, Mr Bernard spent quiet a bit of time explaining this one to me and he bought it in London for 4K GBP when he went to pick-up a Patek Philippe 5970 and saw it and had to have it for its aviation provenance. About Lot 12, the 105.012-66 CB. The CB has been a collector classic the past few years and fetching a big premium over the 145.012-67, so this really nice example delivered to HK is bound to do at least double if not more its low estimate of 3,500.
Lot 12 certainly doubled, with a result of $10,625.- USD. The Hackett Speedmaster has an interesting story to it and collectors seem to appreciate it and its provenance, with a result of $27,500USD. Lot 13 is a 145.012-67 complete with box and papers and fetched $11,875,- USD.
While prices that are too high or hyped take the fun out of collecting for many, we also should be fair to realize that the caliber 321 deserves to be ranked higher than it was.
There were a couple of gold Speedmaster watches in the Christie’s Speedmaster 50 Auction. The most famous ones were the Speedmaster BA145.022-69 references, of which 1,014 were produced in total. This references comes in a few variations, mainly with respect to the case back and only a minor detail on the dial (oval O printed on the dial in the first versions). The other gold chunk was the Speedmaster Mark II, reference 145.034. The gold Speedmaster BA145.022-69 has been discussed here many times (click here for our full overview of gold Moonwatch models), so I won’t go into detail again. The most interesting gold BA145.022-69 model is perhaps the one that also comes from Ron Evans (Apollo 17) estate. This number 1007 (of 1014) was given to Ron Evans for his work during the Apollo mission. It fetched $50,000.- USD. While that is a nice result, personally I would have expect it to be a bit higher, coming from an astronaut. Americans seem to be crazy about anything Apollo mission, so I would have guessed it would also attract those with an interest in space related items. The estimate was between $40,000.- and $80,000 USD, so it is still a decent amount. It seems that Sacha Davidoff had the same kind of thoughts: “This is a later generation and has the number 1007 so that’s a nice one. This, again, is a memorabilia watch versus a watch guy watch. So, we will see if Christie’s succeeds in attracting other types of buyers to this auction tonight.”.
The Speedmaster Mark II 145.034 was actually the piece I found to be very interesting, and it had a nice result as well. It was estimated between $10,000USD and $15,000USD but eventually found a new home for $23,750 USD. Rumor is/was that there were only a couple of those produced (lower than 10), but doesn’t seem to be the case according to my Swiss sources, which I trust very much so. My assumption is here that a lot of them went into the oven when the watches broke down (or during the quartz era) and sold for their weight in gold. However, that doesn’t make them less rare.
Some complain that Omega is pushing out too many special and limited editions. However, they all seem to be good investments in the end, even for the more recent limited edition Speedmaster watches. We already see the new Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award Limited Edition being offered for twice the list price, and those amounts are being paid as well (we checked). But how’s that for the older models for example? The Speedmaster Soyuz-Apollo that was delivered to the Italian market in 1976 was limited to 500 pieces only and considered to be very rare. We discussed it in our preview of the Christie’s Speedmaster 50 Auction in November. The estimate was between $25,000- USD and $50,000.- USD, it fetched $37,500.- USD. True, the estimate was quite rough, but still a very nice amount of a stainless steel reference 145.022 special edition.
Other interesting developments of the auction were that the Missions Case (lot 39) fetched ‘only’ $66,250 USD. This missions case has 23 Speedmasters inside, of which 22 are the so-called mission patch models. The 23rd model is the Speedmaster ’57 Replica edition of 1997 and then there’s a spare caliber 1861 movement included. We’ve seen prices going over $140,000.- USD for these mission cases on eBay before. Perhaps that was a bit on the steep side, but $66,250 USD (estimated between $40,000.- and $80,000.- USD) is not something I would have expected. There are only 50 of these cases around, officially 40 for the market, the other 10 for exhibitions etc (but some of them also ended up for sale).
Interesting enough, the Snoopy Award model from 2003 was estimated between $5,000.- USD and $10,000.- USD and fetched $12,500 USD. The more rare (and dial-wise more attractive in my opinion) Apollo 13 edition (1995) had the same estimate, but fetched $9,375.- USD. Although still a great result, I would have expected it to be the other way around. It shows that the rarity – or produced number – of watches do not always effect the market value of it. Another good example is the gold Speedmaster Apollo-Soyuz edition of which only 200 pieces were made, it was estimated between $12,000.- USD and $20,000.- USD and ‘only’ fetched $15,000.- USD. It seems that the gold model that really does well remains to be the 1969 Apollo XI numbered edition. That gives hope for collectors to find a nice gold model from one of the other Moonwatch models.
What probably nobody saw coming (that includes me) were the two quartz LCD models that were on the Christie’s Speedmaster 50 Auction. These two prototype watches were made as an ‘Alaska IV’ project (everything Omega did for NASA was classified as Alaska) for the Space Shuttle era and Christie’s estimated them between $2,000.- USD and $4,000.- USD. Well, although that was a bit undervalued, I didn’t see a result of $47,500.- USD coming.
Another quartz model at Christie’s Speedmaster 50 Auction was this 2nd generation X-33 model (we reviewed it here), which was estimated between $1,000.- USD and $2,000,- USD. This watch fetched $2750.- USD which I think reflects its market value given the fact that the X-33 2nd Gen model had a short production time.
There is good news and there is bad news, as always. As I’ve always learnt to start with the bad news first, some of the prices went quite high. That’s bad news for the true collectors and the guys who had a sincere pleasure in collecting Speedmasters as it was still relatively affordable. Especially when it comes to the caliber 321 models like the 105.003, 105.012 and 145.012. Although I wouldn’t say that this Christie’s Speedmaster 50 Auction is a 100% reflection of what’s happening in the market, it does reflect the tendency of where things are going. If you were after a CK2998 or even CK2915 with a fairly limited budget, you are even more screwed.
The good news however, is that I am not in shock by the results of this auction. It did terribly well with a total result of $1,304,125.- USD including buyer’s premium for 50 watches, and also important, there isn’t a single lot unsold! I am not in shock means that I also see still a lot of opportunities for passionate collectors to focus on, without having to go into the craze of ridiculous prices sometimes that we saw (and still see) when it comes to vintage Rolex watches for example. I won’t say that they aren’t worth it (either Rolex or Omega), but besides emotion and passion, try to relativize a bit when you see certain price tags on Speedmasters.
Although I noticed the prices of the 145.022 models from the late 1960s and 1970s creeping up – I didn’t mention them separately in the article – most of them in this Christie’s Speedmaster 50 Auction were quite special to begin with. Either with a tropical dial (fetched $11,875.- USD) or with original box (like lot 17, fetched $8,125.- USD) for example. The one that surprised me to fetch only $8750.- USD is the Speedmaster 145.022 with Meister dial and ‘220’ bezel. In any case, I consider these still exceptional prices for a 145.022 and my suggestion would be to focus on those 1969 and 1970s 145.022 with stepped dials.
I am now curious to see what will happen with the pieces for sale on the market, at dealers or via forums. I’ve already noticed that some dealers took a little advance on the Christie’s Speedmaster 50 Auction with their prices recently, when I was shopping around for a Speedmaster for a friend. Let’s see if the prices will be adjusted based on the outcome of this very interesting Speedmaster auction. A lot of references set records last evening, like the Apollo 17 flown Speedmaster and the CK2915-1 reference. I will try to get a full overview of pieces that broke records when it comes to Speedmasters, but my guess is that a lot of them did. Comparing will be difficult in some cases, as they are rather unique or special pieces.
A full overview of the results can be found here.
A big thank you to Eric Wind and John Reardon at Christie’s for this amazing and sensational Speedmaster auction and its results. Another big thank you to Sacha Davidoff from Roy & Sacha Davidoff in Geneva to do some reporting to me from the auction room in NYC. Sacha is also responsible for all the unmarked images in this article.
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Ever since he was a young child, Robert-Jan was drawn to watches, even though it were digital Casio and quartz Swatch models at the time. In the mid-1990s, his interest increased when he started to read about mechanical watches in... read more