An Overview Of All Omega Speedmaster Apollo XI Models
rOmega has released Apollo XI editions of the Speedmaster since 1969. The first was the famous gold Speedmaster Professional with a burgundy bezel, a massive gold dial with onyx markers, and a gold bracelet. Only 1,014 of these watches were produced. Of them, a number were presented to the Apollo astronauts, President Nixon, and a few more important people who played a role in NASA’s space program.
Again in 1980, Omega introduced a gold Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI. There were 320 numbered pieces in total, 20 of which were white gold. However, you could say that Omega made these Apollo XI limited editions a recurring event starting in 1989. That year marked the 20th anniversary of the Moon landing. And every five years since has seen a new Speedmaster Apollo XI. In this article, we’ll show you all the ones Omega has done to this day.
Omega Speedmaster Apollo XI
On July 20th, 1969, the Apollo XI 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, it became the “Moonwatch”.
NASA received Speedmaster references 105.003, 105.012, and 145.012 watches from Omega after the official qualification for use during extra-vehicular activities by astronauts. For a few years, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin wore a Speedmaster reference 105.012, 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 then disappeared in 1970 when it was sent off to the Smithsonian museum. Michael Collins was wearing a Speedmaster 145.012.
NASA used the Speedmaster references 105.003, 105.012, and 145.012 during the entire Apollo program. In 1978, the 145.022 also qualified 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.
1969 Apollo XI Gold Commemorative Edition
In the meantime, Omega made its first commemorative edition, the 18kt yellow gold Speedmaster Professional. This watch was numbered, but not an official limited edition. In the end, Omega made 1,014 pieces. Of them, #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.” It’s 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 about whether Apollo 13’s Jack Swigert and Fred Haise received these watches. Omega has told me that the two men were offered the watches later on. However, they do not appear in any overviews of the watches given to astronauts. A number of watches with a different 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. Those featured 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.
1980 Speedmaster Apollo XI — or is it “Space Shuttle”?
It is actually both. Introduced in 1979 but finally brought to market in 1980 (and onwards) were the numbered editions of the Speedmaster Apollo XI in yellow and white gold. There were 20 pieces in white gold and 300 in yellow gold. Each came in a special black box 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 said how it commemorated the Apollo XI landing in 1969. It also talked about and the re-qualification of the Speedmaster for the Space Shuttle missions that would start in 1981.
All of the white gold models and about 50% of the yellow gold ones went to the German market starting in 1980. This gold Speedmaster was in Omega brochures at least until 1987. The yellow gold version has the reference BA345.0802 and the white gold model has the reference 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. This L-version of the caliber 861 had a “Luxury” finish and extra jewels. You can read a more in-depth article on this very rare gold Speedmaster here.
1989 Speedmaster Apollo XI 20th Anniversary Editions
In 1989, Omega introduced the Speedmaster Apollo XI 20th anniversary model. This stainless steel Speedmaster Professional came in a special wooden box. with an extra black Velcro strap and a 20th-anniversary badge. The watch itself also had an engraving on the case band.
There were three different types of these engravings. The first, for 4,000 unnumbered global-release pieces, read “Apollo XI 1969”. The second, on 2,000 US-market pieces, read “XXXX/2000 Apollo XI 1969”. The last one, on 250 German-market examples, read “XXX/250 Apollo XI 1969 – 1989”. According to Moonwatch Only and Omega: A Journey Through Time, the 250 pieces for the German market were “head-only” examples. That means that no strap or bracelet came with these pieces. The Omega distributor or retailers took care of this themselves. The other 6,000 pieces came with the highly sought-after reference 1450 bracelet. A review of this limited edition Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI ref. 3590 watch can be found here.
1994 Speedmaster Apollo XI 25th Anniversary Editions
The five-year intervals I mentioned at the beginning of this article started in 1994. Commemorating the Moon landing’s 25th anniversary and the role of the Speedmaster, Omega introduced another limited-edition Speedmaster Apollo XI model. This particular one was limited to 2,500 pieces. And like the 1989 model, it also featured an engraved case band. This time, the engraving read “Apollo XI 1969 – 1994”. Alongside these stainless steel watches, Omega also introduced a 500-piece limited edition in white gold and 50 numbered pieces in platinum. The platinum watches were skeletonized by Armin Strom.
The stainless steel Speedmaster Apollo XI has reference 3591.50. It came with either a leather strap or the highly praised 1479 bracelet. It’s 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 model, the watch came in a nice wooden box with some extras. According to Moonwatch Only, these watches were also delivered with a gray leather box with an inscription on the inside stating “The First Watch Worn On The Moon 1969 – 1994”. The case back of the 1994 version is also slightly different from that of the 1989 model. The 1994 version came with an additional engraving that reads “Limited Edition XXXX / 2500”.
Omega also produced a limited run of 999 pieces for the Italian market. Unfortunately, not much information about it is available. We do know it was the reference 3592.50, and also that it featured a sapphire case back. Other than that, it had the caliber 863 and a small engraving on the case band stating “XXX / 999”.
In December 2014, we wrote about this white gold Speedmaster Apollo XI limited edition of 500 pieces. We took pictures of the example in the Omega Museum in Bienne, as you can see above. It has a beautiful white gold case with silver-gray dial and silver hands. The case band reads “Apollo XI 1969 – 1994” like the stainless steel model. The case back on this one is transparent and reveals the caliber 864 inside.
This movement is a variation on the caliber 861, featuring a rhodium finish and a chronometer rating. The white gold limited-edition model pictured above on a leather strap carries the reference number 3692.30. Alternately, the reference number 3192.30 is the same watch but with a full white gold bracelet
1999 Speedmaster Apollo XI 30th Anniversary Edition
This one is a bit of a boring limited edition, one that collectors only recognize thanks to the specially engraved case back. 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 it was a limited edition of 9999 pieces.
In the past, I have called it a stealth Speedmaster Professional limited edition, as it goes easily unnoticed until you see the case back. This watch came in a black leather box with a certificate of authenticity. The case back features the quote, “Hello Houston, tranquillity base here. The Eagle has landed.” These famous words were spoken by Neil Armstrong. Below the quote are the exact date and time of the landing as well as the unique number of the watch. In the center, is the Apollo XI mission-patch medallion. This reference 3560.50 came with the then-standard bracelet reference 1498. This watch was the first of the Apollo XI anniversary editions to use the caliber 1861.
2004 Speedmaster Apollo XI 35th Anniversary Edition
Compared to the 1999 version, 35th-anniversary edition in 2004 was something very different. The dial seems to have been inspired by the 300-piece limited edition that Omega made one year earlier for the Japanese department store Mitsukoshi. The only difference with the dial of this Apollo XI is the red print indicating the date of the Moon landing. This reference 3569.31 was a limited edition of just 3,500 pieces.
Not only was the Panda dial different than the regular Moonwatch. The case back itself was also very interesting. Like the 2003 Snoopy Award model, the case back of the Speedmaster Apollo XI 35th anniversary shows a graphic. This model came with a black box with the Apollo XI mission patch on the inside and a certificate of authenticity. This Speedmaster Apollo XI limited edition also used Omega’s caliber 1861.
2009 Speedmaster Apollo XI 40th Anniversary Editions
In 2009, Omega decided to come up with something in precious metal once more. Alongside the stainless steel Speedmaster Apollo XI 40th-anniversary edition (reference 318.104.22.168.01.002), Omega also introduced a very limited run of the same model in platinum (reference 322.214.171.124.01.001). There were 7,969 pieces of the stainless steel version and a mere 69 pieces of the platinum model.
Though Omega released a relatively high number of the stainless steel versions, the supply on the pre-owned market is rather sparse.
The stainless steel model has the Apollo XI mission patch on the subdial at 9 o’clock in sterling silver. Buyers 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 one would also receive a yellow gold coin with this model. The case back of the Apollo XI 40th-anniversary edition has a beautiful bas-relief engraving of the Apollo XI mission patch. Beneath it beats the caliber 1861, and the bracelet on this watch is the reference 1958, featuring links with screws.
The platinum model came with a yellow gold medallion on the case back, 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.
2014 Speedmaster Apollo XI 45th Anniversary Edition
An odd one is the Speedmaster Apollo XI anniversary edition from 2014. This 45th-anniversary model features a titanium case and a Sedna Gold bezel. One of the first things to notice is the dial. The Speedmaster’s typical dial printing is absent, and the dial itself is one piece with a black PVD treatment. Omega used a special laser to remove all material surrounding the logo, model name, sub-dial numerals, minute and hour markers. In doing so, the brand created a very nice, unique dial.
This Speedmaster Apollo XI model reference 3126.96.36.199.06.001 was a limited edition of only 1969 pieces. This number, of course, matches the year of the lunar landing. The list price at the time was €5,900. It is a much-loved and highly praised piece amongst collectors, however, and as such, prices have gone quite a bit since its release. It came on the Omega NATO strap (also introduced that year) which wears a bit thick but looks positively awesome.
The titanium case back is very close to that of the regular Moonwatch, but it has a special engraving for the Apollo XI 45th anniversary and a 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.
2019 Speedmaster Apollo XI 50th Anniversary in steel and Moonshine gold
In 2019, Omega surprised us with two Apollo XI 50th-anniversary editions, one in stainless steel, and the other in Moonshine Gold. Moonshine Gold is Omega’s own yellow gold alloy, with a slightly paler hue than standard yellow gold. This watch is a homage to the 1969 Speedmaster Professional in 18kt gold, and it is identical in many regards — the gold bracelet tapering to 14mm, a burgundy red bezel, a solid gold dial with onyx markers, and the 3D crater box.
What’s different, however, is the color of the gold, the use of ceramic for the red bezel, the sapphire case back, and, of course, the movement. The Apollo XI in Moonshine Gold was, together with the steel version, the first Speedmaster to use the new caliber 3861. The Moonshine version has a gold-plated movement though, whereas the steel Apollo XI has the regular 3861.
The use of lunar meteorite for the moon in the bevel of the case back is incredibly cool. That bevel also shows the Earth in gold. The 50th anniversary of the Moon landing (and thus, the Moonwatch) deserved something special, and Omega delivered for sure.
The steel version is interesting as well. It uses a bracelet that comes close to the original flat-link bracelet from the 1960s. Later on, Omega used the same bracelet for the (2020) “Ed White”, but with small end-pieces. The bezel is gold to match the use of this precious metal on the dial. In the sub-dial at 9 o’clock, there’s a picture of Buzz Aldrin climbing down the ladder to the surface of the Moon.
Omega also made something special for the case back of this steel Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI 50th Anniversary. The back featured a moonboot print and Armstrong’s famous quote that he delivered when first stepping foot on the Moon. This watch was a limited edition of 6,969 pieces in total, but all sold out quickly. An interesting detail is that both cases of the Apollo XI 50th-anniversary models are based on the reference 105.012. Thus, they have a slightly different shape than the regular Speedmaster Professional in 2019. The current Moonwatch, introduced in January 2021, has the same case shape though.
Other Apollo XI models and some thoughts
Though not specifically done as a commemoration, Omega also introduced a display back for the stainless steel Moonwatch featuring the Apollo XI inscription. At the time, it was for the Speedmaster Professional 3592.50. After 1995, the Apollo XI inscription disappeared from this reference. We wrote about the 3592.50 featuring the decorated caliber 863 in this article.
In 1997, Omega also released the Mission Cases. In total, 50 of these suitcases were made. They contained 22 mission-patch Speedmasters, a ’57 re-edition model, and a spare caliber 1861. Ten of these cases weren’t for sale, but for display purposes only. One of the watches had the Apollo XI mission patch on the 9 o’clock sub-dial. Besides the 50 pieces of these watches in those big white Mission Cases, Omega also made another 100 to 150 pieces of the mission-patch models for regular sale. There were no extras, however, of Apollo 13 model, as this one was already sold separately in 1995 in a limited run of 999 pieces. Check out an article about the mission-patch Apollo XI model here.
This article was published before in 2017, and it was not updated with the 2019 models. Also, between 2017 and now, new facts came to the surface regarding the actual references used on the Moon by the astronauts.
Speedmasters that commemorate Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 (Snoopy) are the most sought-after limited or numbered editions. Even when the production numbers are relatively high, these Speedmasters are becoming difficult to find or at least carry impressive price tags. I made the mistake of not acting quickly when the Apollo XI 45th Anniversary came out, and I promised myself not to make the same mistake again. What that means now is that I don’t wait for too long to make a decision on a new watch I want to have.
The Moonshine Gold version is one that I decided upon quite spontaneously, despite the hefty price tag at the time. But it turned out to become one of my most-worn watches. It will be very hard to think of something nicer and more special than the 50th-anniversary piece when it’s 2024.
For more information, visit the official Omega website.