Since we have the Speedy Tuesday feature here on Fratello Watches, we get to see quite a bit of Speedmasters every week. Once in a while, something really rare comes along. We already had the honour to feature an astronaut’s Speedmaster, a prototype Speedmaster that ended up on someone’s wrist and astronaut Stafford’s personal gold Speedmaster. Today we again have something special – or rare – to feature, a special version of the Speedmaster Holy Grail.

This version of the Speedmaster Holy Grail – as it was nicked by the late Chuck Maddox – was produced for the Italian market in 1987. Only 200 pieces were produced of this automatic Speedmaster in a ‘Professional’ case.

Speedmaster Holy Grail

Speedmaster Holy Grail

A few words on the Speedmaster Holy Grail before we discuss the featured watch here on Speedy Tuesday. Chuck Maddox wrote in his legendary article on the Omega caliber 1045 watches (derived from Lemania’s 5100 movement):

A personal admission: I’m the one to blame for “the Grail Watch” moniker…

My first Vintage Omega eBay purchase was nearly a 376.0822 out of Germany in January of 1999. Because the 376.0822 was in Germany, I didn’t know any German (hell anyone in Germany at the time), I went instead for a 176.012 (the most common of the 7-8 Speedmaster c.1045 variants which sports a Mark II/IV style case) out of Iowa for around the same money (about $600 USD). I had owned my Mark II for 15 years at this point, that style case was a known quantity to me, and if I had a problem with the watch I figured I could gas up my Explorer and drive out to Iowa if need be, I couldn’t really do that with the German watch.

About a month later I realized I wish I had bought both examples… So I stared looking for another example to purchase. And I searched, and searched, and searched. The only one I found was listed at over $10,000 on a Japanese website and there wasn’t a speck of English on that site aside from “Omega Speedmaster” and Arabic numbers. It took me a year and a half to find another one (aside from the Japanese origin one) offered for sale and it was on eBay out of Philadelphia. I got into a three way shootout for it with a fellow TZOFer and one of the well healed Japanese collectors and came out in 3rd place with an winning bid well north of $2,700 (this is summer 2001). I finally tracked one down about six to eight months later with the help of another TZOFer and brought home my example. During this quest I searched with the intensity that King Arthur searched for the Holy Grail and I began calling this model “the Grail” because I was that obsessed with it.

Ever since, people have been looking and searching with even more interest for this particular Speedmaster model. Does it also mean it was Chuck Maddox’ favorite daily wearer though? No, that was something completely different, check this article.

The Speedmaster Holy Grail was introduced in 1987 being Speedmaster ref. ST376.0822. As mentioned above, the movement was based on a Lemania 5100 and used as Omega caliber 1045. This movement was used before in (a.o.) the Speedmaster Mark 4.5 and Speedmaster Mark V.

This time however, Omega decided to use this work-horse movement in a Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’ case instead of the chunky 1970s Mark-series case or the German Speedmaster Teutonic case. Only 2000 Speedmaster Holy Grail reference ST376.0822 watches have been produced, according to Chuck Maddox’ article perhaps even less.

Bi-color Speedmaster Holy Grail

In any case, just like the Omega Speedmaster Professional DD 145.0022 – a bi-color version of the Moonwatch – that was especially produced for the Italian market a couple of years earlier, Omega decided to produce a bi-color model of the Speedmaster ST3760822 in 1988.

Speedmaster Holy GrailAlthough you’d might expect this Italian version of the Speedmaster Holy Grail to have a DD 376.0822 reference number, the owner assured us that the inside of the case has the ST376.0822 reference number engraved.

Limited to 200 pieces only, this Italian version of the Speedmaster Holy Grail is even more rare than its stainless steel brother. It is unknown to us weather this model was also delivered on a stainless steel bracelet (reference 1450) or a bi-color variation. The Italian Speedmaster Holy Grail models we’ve seen before – in official documentation – were all on leather straps.

We came across this other Italian reference 376.0822 Speedmaster Holy Grail with a bracelet on OmegaForums but we are not sure whether this bracelet was originally delivered with this watch.

As you can see, the dial has gilt sub dials with back small hands as well as a gold tachymeter bezel, pushers and crown. Actually, because of this, some collectors out there call it the “Liberace Grail” instead of Holy Grail.

The case back of the watch is identical to the regular Speedmaster Holy Grail, it has the Speedmaster medallion with the sea horse on there. The only difference is the engraved limited edition number of the watch XXX/200 pieces. The normal stainless steel Speedmaster Holy Grail has no mention whatsoever of the limited number of watches.

Speedmaster Holy GrailWhy Omega did not make more Speedmaster watches like the Holy Grail with a Lemania 5100 based movement is unknown to us. It would have been a more ‘interesting’ alternative to the hand-wound Speedmaster Professional than the Speedmaster Reduced ever was.

At the time (1988), the Speedmaster Professional in stainless steel (with stainless steel bracelet) had a retail price of 1395 Deutsch Mark (which was with the original Euro conversion rate of 2000/2001 approximately 700 Euro). The stainless steel Speedmaster Holy Grail ST376.0822 had a retail price of 1495 Deutsch Mark (approx 750 Euro). Just a small difference, so our guess is that the production costs were not significantly higher (or lower).

Anyhows, both versions are rare and had limited productions. It is probably a matter of taste which one you like best or if you are a collector; you just need both of course.

A big thank you to our anonymous Swiss Speedmaster collector for sending us photos of his Speedmaster Holy Grail.

More photos in the gallery below.

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  • Pascal S.

    “Actually, because of this, some collectors out there call it the “Liberace Grail” instead of Holy Grail.”
    I guess I’m at the root of that nickname. It was born during the lengthy e-mail exchanges I had with the late Chuck Maddox, as we were trying to think of a way to refer to this special version. I suggested “Liberace Grail” because of its flamboyant looks, and it kinda stuck between us. I also used this nickname in many forum posts when describing this watch, so I guess other people started using it as well.

    I would like to expand on your puzzlement at Omega’s reluctance to keep using the calibre 1045 (a.k.a. Lemania 5100) in other full-size automatic chronographs. The sad truth is that, as hard as it may be to believe today, the Grail was a flop on the marketplace. In order to understand why, we have to remember when this watch came out: 1987. At the time, the basic Swatch was all the rage, and most watches tended to shrink in size. A legacy model like the Speedmaster Professional could weather this fashion because of its distinguished history and timeless appeal, but a new chronograph had to carve a niche for itself. Compared to what was out there at the time, the Grail was positively enormous! And for that reason, very few buyers were brave enough to strap on such a large watch when the standards of the time were so different. At about that time, I was a 18 year old making his first watch purchase and I got myself a Breitling Navitimer (silly me, how tastes change!). You would not believe how many people commented on my “clown watch” simply because of its size. But the Breitling had history and could survive alongside more compact models like the Callisto or the Chronomat, the latter proving extremely popular. Omega quickly realized that the Grail was not what their customers wanted, and the “Reduced”, similar in size to the Chronomat, was their answer less than two years later.

    The Liberace Grail is actually a direct offspring of the Stainless Steel version’s failure to find its market. The Italian market model was introduced in 1990 as a way to get rid of the remaining stock of unsold Grails. That’s why the inside of the case-back still has the ST376.0822 reference (in theory denoting a steel watch sold on bracelet) while the Liberace Grail only came with a leather strap (hence the correct DD376.0822 reference). Omega had previously made a similar looking Speedmaster Professional for Italy, and they probably figured that since it proved popular, they stood a chance to sell this new limited edition more easily than a model that no longer appeared on their catalog.

    Thankfully, it means that a quarter of a century later aficionados like myself have another version to crave for…