The Speedmaster That Fetched $1.9 Million At Auction — Plus Other High Auction Results For Omega
Patek Philippe, Rolex, and Audemars Piguet watches are not the only ones that fetch staggering amounts of money at auction. Omega watches have also proved their tremendous value to collectors at auctions over the last few years. One watch that comes to mind is a Speedmaster CK2915 that fetched over CHF 3.1 million in 2021. Just recently, NASA astronaut Wally Schirra’s gold Speedmaster BA145.022-69 sold for $1.9 million as well. It seems that passionate collectors really do love a watch with a great story.
Especially if it is connected to a famous person, a watch might get that extra bit of attention at auction. A prime example would be Paul Newman’s very own Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona, which sold for a mindblowing $17,752,500. Even for Rolex, that’s an incredibly high auction result. Some might even call it vulgar, but it shows the appetite for special watches. When there’s a certain amount of storytelling involved, it can add to the desirability of a watch as well. Furthermore, there’s the “bidding war” phenomenon that can rapidly send an auction result into the stratosphere.
The auction of Elvis Presley’s watch
In 2018, we saw a white gold Omega watch with a “Tiffany & Co” signed dial and diamonds on the bezel fetch a whopping $1,812,318 at a Phillips auction. Why? Not because of the value of the watch itself but because it was owned and worn by Elvis Presley. The watch ended up in the Omega Museum in Biel, which, in my opinion, is where it belongs. This way, just like President John F. Kennedy’s watch, it can be admired by watch enthusiasts and collectors from all over the world.
And just one year before the Presley watch sold at auction, one of the world’s first tourbillon wristwatches (by Omega) sold for CHF 1,428,500. According to Phillips, this prototype watch from 1947 was “probably the very first tourbillon wristwatch that was supposed to be produced in series.”
The Speedmaster that pulled in over CHF 3.1 million
The Speedmaster auctioned last November (2021) was another watch that fetched an amazing hammer price. This Speedmaster sold for CHF 3,115,500 despite not having a famous previous owner. This piece currently holds the record for the most expensive Omega watch ever sold at auction. It’s a very early Speedmaster CK2915 from November 1957, not too long after the initial introduction of the Speedmaster.
Before that, the highest price for a Speedmaster CK2915 was CHF 408,500, fetched during a 2018 auction by Phillips. Before the Speedmaster CK2915 from November 1957 was auctioned in 2021, I wrote an article about the Speedmasters that pulled in high prices at auctions. You can read that article here.
Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins’s watch
Earlier this year, we saw Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins’s gold Speedmaster BA145.012-69 sell for $765,000 at Heritage Auctions (we covered it here and here). Collins was wearing a Speedmaster Professional 145.012-68 during his trip around the Moon with the command module while waiting for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to return from their moonwalk. A private collector purchased this gold Speedmaster from Collins. It shows the great appreciation that a serious collector has for the Omega brand and its (space) heritage.
An auction is only for vintage or special watches
In my opinion, auctions like these are only worth it when very special watches are on offer. When I see an auction with every possible version of the green ceramic Rolex Submariner “Hulk” from the past decade, I just feel like it’s a waste. It’s a waste of money for the buyer, who pays a 20–25% premium to the auction house for a watch that is readily available on Chrono24. Furthermore, it’s a waste of time for the auction house, which could have invested its capacity in searching for watches with real value. An auction only makes sense when it is for something special, and that something can also be a modern watch. But it doesn’t make sense for watches that are in production and should be available anyway, like a modern Rolex or a Patek Philippe Nautilus.
How Omega adds value to an auction
A vintage Omega Speedmaster CK2915 is something special, just like a vintage Rolex Daytona or vintage Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700. For modern “available” pieces, auctions are just strange (and boring). I also feel that it is the auction houses’ job to ensure that the watches on offer are 100% correct. If not, the listings should at least include information about any replacement/doubtful components. As a buyer, you pay a double-digit premium for this service, so you should only expect to buy authentic and original watches. At the very least, you should be 100% aware of the condition upfront. Companies like Omega (and others as well, I’m sure) cooperate fully with auction houses and offer consultation on the watches up for sale when asked. It is added value for the buyer to know that Omega was involved in the appraisal process of a watch that was auctioned.
Wally Schirra’s Speedmaster auction result
Back to the highlight of this article. Recently, I wrote an in-depth article about the gold Omega Speedmaster Professional BA145.022-69 “Tribute to the Astronauts” that once belonged to NASA astronaut Wally Schirra. I was in touch with the previous owner, Larry McGlynn, who told me some wonderful stories about Schirra and the other astronauts he has been in touch with as a collector of space items.
The watch saw a lot of use on Schirra’s wrist (unlike Collins’s watch) and only left the estate after Schirra passed away. The final result of the sale by RR Auctions was an amazing $1.9 million ($1,525,563 excluding buyer’s premium). Several of the bidders have contacted me, and it is obvious that the watch was in high demand.
Appreciation for the Omega Speedmaster
This auction once again showed the significant appreciation that collectors have for Omega and the Speedmaster. Aside from the OmegaMania auction in 2007, which definitely saw a bubble in the hammer prices, we see that the value and appreciation for Omega Speedmaster watches are on the rise. The auction results for early Speedmasters in particular have gone up quickly in the past five years. Now, we’re seeing that these early Speedmasters can compete with the other typical auction darlings. The result for the gold Speedmaster Apollo XI BA145.022-69 is extraordinary, but the fact that NASA astronaut Wally Schirra owned the watch adds a fantastic mythical element to it.
Watches with a great story will always be in high demand
It will be interesting to see what kind of results the upcoming auctions in November will yield. I am thoroughly convinced that watches like those from Presley, Newman, Schirra, and Collins will always do well because there’s a story to them. Furthermore, special vintage pieces like a Speedmaster CK2915, Daytona, Nautilus, or Royal Oak will also be in high demand, with serious bidders participating in these auctions. But the regular watches that can be bought (over retail) by the dozens on Chrono24 or any other market platform will probably see less interest than at previous auctions.
Let us know what you think of watch auctions in the comments below.