Between the introduction of the Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday “Ultraman” and the Speedmaster Hodinkee Limited Edition, Omega decided it was the perfect moment to introduce the Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 Limited Edition series. Only meant for the Japan market, but also outside this beautiful country, it received some press (also by us, of course). Omega will be the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games in 2020, and it has become a tradition that they present a number of watches dedicated to the Games. This time, but I assume we will see some more in 2020, five different Speedmaster models that can be bought as separate watches (and limited to 2020 pieces each) and one set with all five watches. These sets are limited to 55 pieces only, and last week we’ve met with a Speedmaster collector who managed to buy a set in Japan.
When I first laid my eyes on the new Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 Limited Edition watches, I recognized the designs from former Speedmaster models. Some limited, others regular collection. On the one hand, it could feel frustrating for those who have one of the limited editions these Tokyo 2020 models are based on, on the other hand, it gives others – who are frustrated that they missed out on them – the opportunity to buy one of them (or all) again.
In total, Omega produced 5x 2020 watches, and 55x 5 watches, which adds up to 10.375 watches. The watches in the 55 sets are identical to the ones that are being sold separately, but come with an additional (alligator) strap and folding buckle. The set with five Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 watches is huge and consists of two compartments. One upper compartment that carries the watches and a lower compartment with the additional straps and strap change tool.
As you can see, all watches in this set are mounted with the stainless steel bracelet. It is not my favourite bracelet, but in the meanwhile, I also have to admit I got used to it. I just hope that Omega will start using a 20mm version of the Speedmaster 60th anniversary bracelet for their Speedmasters. Or create one similar.
Luckily, the watches also come with an alligator strap each, in matching colours. The red one goes with the Speedmaster with red bezel, the grey one with the gold/steel version with grey dial, the black strap with the Panda, etc. But you can also try to mix and match of course. Just make sure to use the proper tool to swap the bracelet for a strap (and vice versa) and to use a bit of 3M tape on the lugs to prevent it from getting scratched.
In the box, we find five Speedmaster watches. Watches that could (and should if you’re a fan) look familiar to what Omega has been releasing over the past years. However, this time with a sapphire crystal on all of them, and a specially designed case back for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. On the case back you will also find the unique number to the watch (and set, in this case). So if you have set number 6/55, all your watches have 6/55 engraved. Makes sense, right?
The five watches represent the Olympic rings of course, which each stand for the five participating regions: Africa, Asia, America, Oceania and Europe. No continent is represented by any specific ring or colour, as opposed to what some people think.
Starting with the blue ring, this Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 Limited Edition has its roots from the very similar looking Gemini IV limited edition from 2005. By coincidence, I came across one yesterday when I strolled through the city of The Hague, offered for a whopping 8900 Euro. That version didn’t sell out straight away and it took actually quite some years to be picked up by collectors. My colleague Bert “Berti” Buijsrogge, had one a while ago and tried to sell it, without much luck at first. But things have picked up for the Speedmaster in recent years and now they have become very sought-after.
The watch was still kept in plastic when I had the chance last week to handle them as the owner wants to safe keep them for now, and actually bought the watch he loves most as a separate Tokyo 2020 edition to wear. The 2005 edition was the basis for this model as you can see below, but the Tokyo 2020 watch has a sapphire crystal and a later type of bracelet. Some people don’t like this, as now you won’t have the “true” Moonwatch and others prefer it because it is scratch resistant (and heavier). I don’t have a real preference in all honesty, but the thing I like about the Hesalite is that it magnifies the dial a bit, which a sapphire doesn’t do. But indeed, the added weight is quite nice in my opinion.
The Gemini IV Limited Edition celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1965 mission with Ed White and James McDivitt, years before the Moonlanding and even before the Speedmaster became of the official chronograph for astronauts. During this mission, astronaut Ed White made the first (American) spacewalk (the true first spacewalk was performed a few months earlier by cosmonaut Alexey Leonov, who was also part of the Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975) and he wore his Speedmaster 105.003 watch during this mission. This reference is therefore also dubbed “Ed White” and has become quite a collector’s piece over the years.
One of the other differences between the Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 Limited Edition and the Gemini IV edition (besides the sapphire) is the printing on the dial. Where the Gemini IV edition had the unique number printed in red, the Olympic edition as the word “Speedmaster” printed in red. The case back is, of course, also totally different (see above) as the Gemini IV had a red circle with printing in blue, yellow and white.
Next up is the Speedmaster with the 18-carat gold ring, representing the yellow Olympic ring. There are actually two bi-colour Speedmaster watches in this set, but I am talking about the version with the black dial and yellow gold sub dial rims, gold hands and markers.
This Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 Limited Edition is based on an Apollo 15 model 35th anniversary, also in bi-colour. However, that 2006 model was a combination of stainless steel and rose gold, not yellow gold. Minor difference, perhaps, but still noteworthy. The Apollo 15 mission watch was limited to 1971 pieces only, referring to the year of the mission with astronauts Gordon, Scott and Irwin. Astronaut Scott, later on, claimed he was wearing another watch (as well) than a Speedmaster. First, he mentioned it was a Waltham and corrected it to Bulova just recently.
As you can see, the gold is indeed more “rose” coloured than it is yellow. Also here you will find that the Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 Limited Edition has the “Speedmaster” wording in red, compared to the 2006 Apollo 15 reference (3366.51). The pricing of the Apollo 15 model in bi-colour (there’s also one from 2011, commemorating the 40th anniversary) is all over the place, so you better keep your eyes open a bit to find the right deal if you are after one of these. I personally like this watch a lot, as it is different from the regular Moonwatch and is, therefore, a nice addition to any Speedmaster collection. The red tip of the chronograph second hand on the Tokyo 2020 edition is also different from the all-gold hand on the Apollo 15, and the gold rims are also a bit thinner it seems. So although the source of inspiration is clear, it is not exactly identical.
The Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 Limited Edition that represents the black ring is perhaps the most favoured one by the Speedmaster crowd, or at least those who are participating in the fabulous #SpeedyTuesday group on Facebook. It is clear where its inspiration came from, as the Panda dial is very sought-after. Originally, in 2003, Omega released a Speedmaster Professional for the Japan department store Mitsukoshi. I remember that the late Chuck Maddox managed to buy one back in those days, which was quite special. Only 300 pieces made, and I assume that most of them stayed in Japan (which has a large Speedmaster community). You will find franken versions of the Mitsukoshi, where the dial and hands were ordered as spare parts and swapped with the standard black dial and white baton hands. But that doesn’t make it a Mitsukoshi of course.
In 2004, however, one year after the very limited Mitsukoshi release (and btw, they are not an Omega retailer since years), Omega re-used the design for the 35th-anniversary edition of their Apollo 11 tribute. Every five years, Omega comes up with a commemorative watch for the Apollo 11 mission. The 35th-anniversary edition, with the Panda dial, was the first one that had more to it than just an engraving on the case band (like in 1989 and 1994) or case back (1999).
For the 2004 Moonwatch Apollo XI (picture here), Omega put some colour on the dial, by using red printing for the “July 20, 1969” printing. As you can see on the right, it gives the watch a very similar look to the Tokyo 2020 edition, perhaps even more so than the aforementioned Mitsukoshi version. The tip of the second’s hand is red on the Tokyo 2020 edition, where it is all silver coloured on the Apollo XI and Mitsukoshi. The Panda from 2004 was limited to 3500 pieces, but despite the relatively high number, only a few are available on the market. Interesting enough a lot of people complain that Omega is introducing so many limited editions, but even back in the 1980’s and 1990’s they released a lot of limited edition variations of the Speedmaster, but the world just wasn’t as transparent as it is today. Many of them were especially for the German, US, Italian or Japanese market. Looking at the availability of those in the pre-owned market today, the stream of variations find their way to collectors for sure. More about that later on.
Now it gets really interesting I think, as with the remaining two versions, Omega didn’t get their inspiration from limited Moonwatch models, but from Speedmaster watches that do not really belong to the Moonwatch line-up. Let’s start with the green ring version. This is the second bi-colour watch in the set of Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 Limited Edition watches, but this time with rose gold, or “Sedna” gold as Omega calls it. It is a special alloy that will keep its rose colour also over time (as normal rose gold will ‘fade’ back to yellow gold after a while).
It took me a while to decide which one of the five watches I liked best, and this one was definitely on it. First, it is not based on an existing Moonwatch from the past, and second because it is a bi-colour watch. I have gone a bit to the dark side in recent years, starting to like bi-colour and gold watches. The green matches so nice with the grey dial and the rose gold. When its source of inspiration came out in 2016, it didn’t grab me immediately. But after I noticed it on the wrist of someone, I realized I actually liked it a lot.
It is actually based on the 44.25mm Speedmaster Moonphase Co-Axial Master Chronometer, that has all the recent technology on board from Omega, hence the Master Chronometer certification. We reported about this watch in this article, where you can admire most of the Moonphase Co-Axial Master Chronometer variations. I find it an interesting choice for Omega to use this non-Moonwatch model as a Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 Limited Edition, that is based on the 42mm Moonwatch. As you can see, the grey alligator strap on the 44.25mm Co-Axial Master Chronometer watch is similar to the strap that is being delivered with the 55 sets of the Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 watches. Besides the size and complication, the movement is of course also entirely different. The 44.25mm version uses Omega’s in-house caliber 9905 movement instead of the hand-wound caliber 1861 from Lémania.
Finally, the last colour of the Olympic rings, the red one. Whether it is really red or a bit of burgundy, I couldn’t exactly find out based on the looks, but it does look good in my opinion. The dial appears to be grey, but upon closer inspection, it almost looks like a platinum dial, because it has this really fine grain to it. The picture of the red ring version is made of the separate version that the owner of the set actually wears, which he thus bought separately. He liked this one best from the entire set, and since the set was so costly, he has to make his mind up whether he is going to wear them all or keep them as collector’s item. This can take a while he thought, so he also bought this red ring version separately (reference 518.104.22.168.06.001).
This watch is, as the green ring model, also not inspired by a Moonwatch. Although the red ring was used before, on the gold BA145.022-69, it is new to the regular Moonwatch model in steel. In 2016, when Omega introduced their Moonphase Co-Axial Master Chronometer models, such as the green bezel version with a bi-colour case, they also released one that was very special: in platinum. Limited to only 57 pieces, this heavyweight champion also sported a red bezel and came on this beautiful red alligator leather strap. Also, this version sports the caliber 9905 movement and has a LiquidMetal bezel.
You could say, that these limited editions are actually based on other limited editions (with the exception of the green bezel bi-colour Moonphase watch, which is regular production). People who took the effort or resources to buy one of the original Limited Editions might have had a shocker last August when these were introduced, but on the other hand, they know that those are the originals and are slightly different (Hesalite, commemorative case backs to the missions they belong to etc). These Speedmaster Tokyo 2020 Limited Edition watches and sets are used for the Olympic Games, and were only meant for the Japan market. People who were after the earlier limiteds, might not be interested in the Olympic Games series anyway. Others, might just love the look of those watches and don’t want to go after the original watches. Also fine. It appeared to me that those who complained very loudly weren’t really the target audience anyway. And we also received emails from people who complained that these watches were only available in Japan, and not available for those living in Europe or the United States. The fact that these sold out so quickly, might also show that there’s room for limited editions, and perhaps even inspired and based on previous designs. The Apollo 11 in 2004 showed that already, as it was even a more precise copy of the 2003 Mitsukoshi.
I am a Speedmaster collector myself, just like some of the other Fratello contributors and I love the variation. I have my vintage Speedmasters, the standard ‘Moonwatch’ and Mark, X-33 and “125” for example, so I love to add a nice variation once in a while. I am not so much focused on the Limited Edition wording, as I feel it doesn’t do justice to the definition of that phrase anymore. 10,375 pieces are hardly limited, despite the fact that it is only a fraction of the annual production of a brand like Omega. I just don’t treat these Limited Edition watches as such myself, I just like the looks of a watch (or I don’t) and I am not here to invest in watches. Just to collect.
All 55 sets are sold in the meanwhile, and they had a price of approx. €33.000 excl. VAT.
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