This year commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Moonlanding. For Speedmaster fans, this means that it will be a big year for their beloved watch.
Omega released Apollo XI editions since 1969, the first being the famous gold Speedmaster Professional with burgundy bezel, massive gold dial with onyx markers and gold bracelet. Only 1014 of these have been produced, of which a number have been presented to the Apollo astronauts, President Nixon and a few more important people who played a role during NASA’s space program. Again in 1980, when Omega introduced a gold Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI that was numbered (320 pieces in total, of which 20 were in white gold). However, you could say that Omega made these Apollo XI limited editions a recurring event starting in 1989, when it was the 20th anniversary of the Moon landing.
Every 5 years there’s a Speedmaster Apollo XI to be introduced. In this article, we’ll show you all the Omega Speedmaster Apollo XI models thus far, before Omega will introduce to us their Speedmaster Apollo XI 50th anniversary model. The rumour machine is running already in its highest gear, we can’t wait to see them introduced!
On July 20th 1969, the Apollo 11 Lunar Module put astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin on the surface of the Moon. On July 21st, at 2:56 UTC, Armstrong set foot on the Moon and spoke his famous words. Not much later, Buzz Aldrin followed him. On his wrist, the Omega Speedmaster Professional. From that moment on, the ‘Moonwatch’.
NASA received Speedmaster reference 105.012 and 145.012 watches from Omega after the official certification for use during extra-vehicular activities by astronauts. Since a few years, it is known that Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin wore a Speedmaster reference 105.012 (click here). The first Speedmaster on the surface of the Moon. Legend has it that Neil Armstrong left his Speedmaster (also a 105.012) on board of the Lunar Module as the (Bulova) board clock malfunctioned. Aldrin’s watch later disappeared (in 1970), when it was sent off to the Smithsonian museum. Michael Collins was wearing a Speedmaster 145.012.
The 105.012 and 145.012 references were used during the entire Apollo program. In 1978, when the 145.022 was also certified for the later Space Shuttle missions. Read our extensive write-up on how the Speedmaster became the Moonwatch in this article, all verified by Omega’s museum in Bienne.
In the meanwhile, Omega started already with their first commemorative edition (numbered, not limited): the 18 carat yellow gold Speedmaster Professional. Story has it that only 1,014 pieces made of which #1 was offered to President Nixon and #2 was offered to Vice President Spiro Agnew. Both declined the watch though, for compliance reasons. During a banquet on the 25th of November 1969, 19 watches were offered to the NASA astronauts. Later on, other astronauts who couldn’t join the banquet or who did later missions (than 1969) also received their gold piece. This watch has the engraving “to mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time.” A quote that Jim Lovell also gave during a Q&A session at the Speedmaster Event in Houston in May 2015.
There seems to be a bit of uncertainty whether Apollo 13’s Jack Swigert and Fred Haise received one, but I’ve been told by Omega that they were offered one later on as well. However, they do not appear in any overviews of the watches given to astronauts. A number of watches (with another type of engraving) went to some Swiss managers of Omega and Lemania at the time. Besides the models that went were offered to the White House, astronauts and a couple of other representatives, the rest went to Omega retailers around the world. With a different type of engraving of course. We talked about astronaut Wally Schirra’s and Ken Mattingly’s gold Speedmaster Apollo XI watches here and here.
It is actually both. Introduced in 1979 but finally, delivery to the market in 1980 (and onwards) are the numbered editions of the Speedmaster Apollo XI in yellow and white gold. 20 pieces in white gold and 300 pieces in yellow gold. In a special black box and together with a letter from Stafford (and some kind of ‘brochure’) on the space shuttle missions. In fact, the black certificate that came with this watch, spoke about this watch commemorating the Apollo XI landing in 1969 and the re-qualification of the Speedmaster for the Space Shuttle missions that would start in 1981. Most of these watches went to the German market (all of the white gold models and about 50% of the yellow gold watches) starting 1980 till mid-to-end 1980s. The gold Speedmaster was in the Omega brochures at least till 1987. The yellow gold version has reference BA345.0802 and the white gold model has BC345.0802. When I met General Thomas Stafford in 2014 during a dinner with Omega, he was wearing his 1980 Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI in yellow gold. I wrote about that encounter here.
These Speedmaster references are also the very first to have display backs that show the caliber 861L movement. This L-version of the caliber 861 had a ‘Luxury’ finish, and extra jewels. A more in-depth article on this very rare gold Speedmaster can be found here.
In 1989, Omega introduced the Speedmaster Apollo XI 20th anniversary model. A stainless steel Speedmaster Professional that came in a special (wooden) box, an extra black velcro strap, a 20th anniversary badge and had an engraving on the case band.
This engraving was either Apollo XI 1969 (worldwide 4000 pieces only but unnumbered), xxxx/2000 Apollo XI 1969 (USA 2000 pieces) or xxx /250 Apollo XI 1969 – 1989 (Germany 250 pieces). According to Moonwatch Only and Omega’s Journey Through Time, the 250 pieces for the German market were delivered as ‘head only’. That means there was no strap or bracelet delivered with these pieces. The Omega distributor or retailers took care of this themselves. The other 6000 pieces came with the much sought-after reference 1450 bracelet. A review of this limited edition Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI ref. 3590 watch can be found here.
The five-year intervals I mentioned at the beginning of this article started in 1994. For the 25th anniversary of the Moon landing and the role of the Speedmaster, Omega introduced another limited edition Speedmaster Apollo XI model. This particular one was limited to 2500 pieces and also featured the engraved case band, showing ‘Apollo XI 1969 – 1994’. In fact, besides the stainless steel watches like the 20th anniversary model of 1989, Omega also introduced a limited edition of 500 pieces in white gold and a run of 50 numbered pieces in platinum. The platinum watches were skeletonized by Armin Strom.
The stainless steel Speedmaster Apollo XI has reference 3591.50 and came either with the much appraised 1479 bracelet or a leather strap. A bit of a hair puller if I may so myself, but it looks very good on the Speedmaster and tapers nicely towards the clasp.
Like the 20th anniversary, the watch comes in a nice wooden box and some extras. According to Moon Watch Only, these watches were also delivered with a grey leather box with ‘The First Watch Worn On The Moon 1969 – 1994’ inscription on the inside. The caseback of the 1994 version is also slightly different from the 1989 model, as it now came with an additional engraving ‘Limited Edition xxxx / 2500).
Then there used to be a limited run of 999 pieces for the Italian market. Little is known about this reference 3592.50 version (with sapphire case back). Other than that it has the caliber 863 movement and a small engraving on the case band stating xxx / 999.
A while ago (here, in December 2014) we already wrote about the white gold Speedmaster Apollo XI limited edition of 500 pieces. We took pictures of the watch that is in the Omega Museum in Bienne, as you can see above. A beautiful white gold case, with silver-grey dial and silver hands. The case band reads Apollo XI 1969 – 1994 like the stainless steel model and the caseback is transparent and showing the caliber 864 movement. This is a variation on the caliber 861 movement (rhodium plated), but with a chronometer rating. This white gold limited edition has reference number 3192.30 for the version with a full white gold bracelet and 3692.30 for the model as pictured above.
A bit of a boring limited edition, only to be noticed by collectors by the specially engraved caseback. The rest of the watch was similar to the reference 3570.50 that was in production at the time. This 1999 Speedmaster Apollo XI model had reference 3560.50 and was limited to 9999 pieces. To make it somewhat more lively, I’ve put the watch next to a model of the Moon Buggy. In the background, you see the original certificate that came with this reference.
In 2013 I called it a stealth Speedmaster Professional limited edition, as it goes easily unnoticed until you see the caseback. This watch came in a black leather box with a certificate of authenticity. The caseback has the ‘Hello Houston, tranquillity base here. The Eagle has landed.’ The famous words were spoken by Neil Armstrong. Below, the exact date and time of the landing and the unique number of the watch. In the center, the Apollo XI mission patch medallion. This reference 3560.50 came with the then standard bracelet, reference 1498. This reference was the first of the Apollo XI anniversary editions to use the caliber 1861 movement.
Compared to the 1999 version, the Speedmaster Apollo XI watch that commemorated the 35th anniversary of the Moon landing, was something very different. The dial seems to have been inspired by the limited edition of 300 pieces that Omega made one year earlier, for the Japanese department store called Mitsukoshi. The only difference with the dial of the Mitsukoshi, is that the date of the Moon landing is printed on there (in red). This reference, 3569.31 was limited to 3500 pieces only.
Not only the Panda dial was something different from the regular Moonwatch, also the caseback is very interesting. Like the 2003 Snoopy Award model, the caseback of the Speedmaster Apollo XI 35th anniversary shows a graphic. This model came with a black box which has the Apollo XI mission patch on the inside and a certificate of the authentication. Originally, this model came on a reference 1998 bracelet but the images I show you here have the watch on a leather Omega OEM strap. This Speedmaster Apollo XI limited edition also used the calibre 1861 movement.
In 2009 Omega decided to come up with something in precious metal again as well. Besides the stainless steel Speedmaster Apollo XI 40th anniversary edition reference 322.214.171.124.01.002 they also introduced a very limited run of the same model in platinum (reference 3126.96.36.199.01.001). The stainless steel version was limited to 7969 pieces while the platinum version was limited to only 69 pieces.
Interesting enough, even though we are talking about a relatively high number of watches from a recent production year, the supply on these in the pre-owned market is rather limited.
The stainless steel model has the Apollo XI mission patch on the subdial at 9 o’clock, in sterling silver. You also received a large sterling silver medallion in the big black box that came with this Speedmaster Apollo XI limited edition. The platinum model has the medallion at 9 o’clock in yellow gold and you also would receive a yellow gold coin with this model.
The caseback of the Apollo XI 40th anniversary has a beautiful bas relief medallion of the Apollo XI mission patch. This model uses the caliber 1861 movement. The bracelet on this watch is the reference 1958 (links with screws).
The platinum model came with a yellow gold medallion on the caseback, giving it an interesting contrast. The weight of this platinum limited edition was 248 grams. At the time, the retail price of the platinum model was $135.000 USD.
The most recent Speedmaster Apollo XI anniversary edition is the one from 2014. Perhaps also the most unusual one, besides the 1969 18 ct gold numbered edition. The 45th anniversary edition is made of titanium and has a Sedna gold bezel.
One of the first things to notice is the dial. The logo and wording have not been printed like we are used to, but it is all made of 1 piece and treated with black PVD. The dial was created using a special laser which created the nice looking dial by removing all material surrounding the logo, model name, sub dial numerals, minute and hour markers.
This Speedmaster Apollo XI limited edition reference 3188.8.131.52.06.001 was limited to 1969 pieces only, matching the year of the lunar landing. The list price was 5900 Euro if I am not mistaken. However, it was rapidly sold out.
It is an awkward fellow, but it is a much loved and praised piece amongst collectors. It came on the Omega NATO strap (also introduced that year) which wears a bit thick but looks awesome.
The titanium caseback is very close to the regular Moonwatch one but has a special engraving for the Apollo 11 45th Anniversary and the unique number. A fun fact is that you could easily equip this model with a Speedmaster bracelet by using the titanium one from the X-33.
Omega also introduced the display back for the stainless steel Moonwatch. At the time, this was the Speedmaster Professional reference 345.0808. This model also had the Apollo XI engraving but wasn’t a commemorative edition. Later on, this reference became the reference 3592.50. After 1995, the Apollo XI inscription disappeared on this reference. We wrote about the 3592.50 featuring the decorated caliber 863 movement in this article.
In 1997, Omega also released these Mission Cases. In total, 50 of these suitcases were made, containing 22 mission patch Speedmasters, a ’57 re-edition model and a spare caliber 1861 movement. 10 of these cases weren’t for sale, but for show purposes only. One of these watches had the Apollo XI mission patch on the 9 o’clock sub dial. Besides 50 of these watches in those big white mission cases, Omega also made another 100 – 150 (unknown) of 21 of these mission patch models for regular sale. The Apollo 13 model wasn’t produced extra, as this one was already sold separately in 1995 (999 pieces). An article about this mission patch Apollo XI model can be found here.
This article has been published before in 2017, but since 2019 is the year that Omega will celebrate the Moon landing with the Speedmaster Apollo XI 50th anniversary, I thought it would be a good idea to update this overview a bit and show all Apollo XI models they did so far.
The Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI from 1969, the reference BA145.022-69, has become a very sought-after piece and the thought that Omega might do something in precious metal this year again, drives Speedy enthusiasts nuts. We can be sure though, that Omega will introduce an Apollo XI commemorative edition in steel with a friendlier price tag than a watch in precious metal. What we do know for sure, is that Omega is saving up their caliber 321 for a different model. Omega clearly stated during the official Speedy Tuesday get-together in Biel earlier this year, that the Apollo XI 50th anniversary will not have this movement. This message upset some of the Speedmaster fans, but I would say that perhaps we should wait first to see what Omega will come up with before we start complaining on social media and forums (although that seems to be the trend these days).
Since Omega will not be present at Baselworld, but presenting some of their novelties at the (Swatch Group) Time to Move event in May, we don’t exactly know when they will do the Apollo XI introductions. We will be watching our inboxes for more news (and saving up meanwhile).
More information via the official Omega website.
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