Already back in 1980, Omega introduced the first Speedmaster Professional with a display back. Quite uncommon in general at that time. However, it was only available for the 18 carat gold Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI numbered edition. This was reference 345.0802. That watch is powered by caliber 861L movement, similar to what later would become the caliber 1861 movement.
That changed in 1985. Omega started using the caliber 863 movement, based on the same Lemania 1873 movement. However, the caliber 863 (and later 1863) are the nicer finished versions of the 861 and 1861. The first Speedmaster Professional to feature caliber 863 movement was reference 345.0808. This reference was produced between 1985 and 1990. There are a couple of variations of that reference, with a total production of approximately 2000 pieces (but not as limited editions, rather as numbered). Then, from 1989 onwards, the Speedmaster Pro with display back became regular production instead of numbered series.
You might remember the Speedy Tuesday article on the Speedmaster Mark 4.5 in NOS condition that we did recently. The owner of that particular watch, who shared his story with us, now wants to share his Speedmaster Professional Caliber 863 with you. There is no particular story behind his purchase, other than that he simply loves the Moonwatch and was after this particular reference.
The Speedmaster we have for this week’s Speedy Tuesday installment is one of the later reference 3592.50 models. Although the 3592.50 reference number was used before (it is basically a successor of the 345.0808), the engravings on the display backs changed. Earlier models were engraved with ‘Apollo XI’, but that stopped after 1995. Also, the caliber 863 underwent some slight changes. Whereas the first caliber 863 movements had this copper color, later caliber 863 models had a gilt finish.
This Speedmaster Professional caliber 863 has a dial with tritium markers and hands. Somewhere in 1997, with the new reference 3572.50 (and 3570.50), Omega switched from tritium to Super-LumiNova. What I experienced, is that the tritium markers that Omega used in the 1990s, are quite yellow-ish. It turned into this very nice patina color. It might be wise to find a nice 1990s Speedmaster Pro with tritium dial and hands with box and papers. While you still can.
As I wrote above, the caliber 863 movement had some iterations during its (production) lifetime. The caliber 863 that was used from 1995 till 1997 had the gilt finish and 18 jewels instead of 17. In 1997, together with some other changes with the Speedmaster Professional 3572.50 and 3570.50, the movement was updated to caliber 1863. This caliber 1863 is still used today in some display back models of the Moonwatch. It has a rhodinized finish.
These watches are available without wasting too much time searching for the right piece. A good Speedmaster Professional caliber 863 reference 3592.50 from the early to mid-1990s is offered for around €3000 Euro. Full set, with box and papers. Don’t go for less for watches this (relatively) young age. In the 1980’s and before, it was quite common to leave the boxes at the retailer or to throw them away even. In the 1990s, with the grey and red leather boxes, a lot of people kept them. So might be able to pick one up for even less, but check whether the bracelet is correct (1479 on the older ones, 1499 on the models around 1996) and whether the hands are still the original tritium ones.
In 1997, Omega made some drastic changes to the Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’ and went from the 359x.50 reference code to 357x.50. Omega calibers 1861 and 1863 were being used as well as a newer type of bracelet and Super-LumiNova for all that needed lume.
An interesting Moonwatch with displayback reference is the 3573.50. It is identical to the 3572.50 (successor of the Speedmaster Professional caliber 863) but has also a sapphire crystal on the front. It is often named ‘Sapphire Sandwich’. This model is discontinued in the meanwhile, but was in the collection from 2002 onwards. I actually had one in my own collection around 2004 but unfortunately parted with it. In the caseback, it has a particular inscription. Instead of “First watch worn on the Moon”, like the predecessors display back models, it says “The First and only watch worn on the Moon”. We all know that this isn’t the truth, there were other watch brands on the Moon as well.
For a relatively short period, between 2007 and 2012, Omega also produced the ‘Sapphire Sandwich’ with a chocolate brown dial. This watch already had the new reference coding, with nr. 3126.96.36.199.13.001. The watch came on a brown leather calf strap and folding clasp. There is currently one offered on Chrono24 for approx €3300 Euro. These babies are rare and look awesome with the brown dial. This reference also has the ‘First and only watch worn on the Moon’ engraving.
A big thank you to our reader Ruby, who supplied us with images of his precious Omega Speedmaster Professional caliber 863.
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