Where Have You Gone, Limited-Edition Speedmaster Professional?
It’s hard to believe that 2019 was the last time we had a limited-edition Speedmaster Professional. Before that year, a new Speedy was practically an annual expectation. And then, poof, life as we knew it changed. Many cheered, and some were saddened. I was formerly in the middle, but now I miss this yearly occasion…
Back when Baselworld was the big mainstream watch event, it was a treasure trove of novelties. Big brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe brought their newest wares, as did smaller companies like Sinn. It was a lot of fun to hypothesize about what would come every year and then be surprised both positively and negatively. Within the melee, though, there was almost always one constant — the limited-edition Speedmaster. For sure, some years were predictable due to a large space-related anniversary, while other years were tied to an Omega or Speedy-related milestone. Regardless, we looked forward to it and how the brand would adapt the Professional model to some new color or material.
The limited-edition Speedmaster series started in 1969
Before the modern limited-edition Speedmaster series of watches began, the first special Speedmaster Professional debuted in 1969 with the BA145.022. Omega made 1,014 of these models, presented them to astronauts, and sold the remainder to the public. It’s fitting that the last limited-edition model was based on the same theme. The Moonshine Gold Apollo 11 (and its steel and Moonshine Gold companion) ended the run in 2019. During these 50 years (and using this helpful site), I count at least 80 different limited-edition Speedmaster models. Some were incredibly limited, while others like the Apollo 11 30th Anniversary model rolled out 9,999 pieces.
The typical model and ushering in modern changes
When I think of limited-edition Speedies, the models that come to mind first are the 1997 “mission patch” pieces. These were incredibly popular when I was first getting into watches, and it felt like they were everywhere. Admittedly, in the beginning, I thought they were a bit “cheesy” and even a little illegible, but I’ve softened my stance. They’re cool, and I enjoy the colors.
Things changed in 2004 with the limited-edition Speedmaster Apollo 11 35th Anniversary model. This panda-dial piece was the first modern step away from the Missions editions, and it’s a beauty. My dad picked up a used version years ago for a song, and I wrote about it way back in 2017. I love it because of the dial colors (they’re very different for a Speedy Pro) and because it set the stage for a lot of interesting upcoming models. Omega became far more creative with releases like the Gemini IV 40th Anniversary in 2005 and the fabulous Alaska Project from 2008. Plus, the models began to use better packaging, came with accessories (especially the Alaska edition), and felt more expensive.
A miss here and there along with unique materials
Of course, Omega didn’t always score an undisputed win with its limited-edition Speedmaster models. One of the most controversial among them was the 2012 Apollo 17 40th Anniversary with its coin-like dial. This model languished in display cases, but here again, I’ve come to appreciate it for being so different. When Omega went funky with its LEs, sometimes things got really wild. The 2014 Apollo 11 45th Anniversary is quite possibly one of the coolest models because it was crafted from titanium. Yes, a Speedmaster Professional with a modern titanium case! All in all, the limited-edition watches provided a platform for Omega to experiment with its most beloved model.
Things have changed since 2019
I cannot help but love our first Speedy Tuesday Edition from 2017. It marked the first time that Omega sold a limited-edition model online, and it proved to be a resounding success. I think it also coincided with a real change in the watch market where people began to go crazy for limited and special pieces. It became more and more challenging to purchase watches from certain brands, and, as we know, nothing has changed much since that time. For Speedmaster collectors, I think watches like the Speedy Tuesday and its follow-up were exciting but also frustrating. Some core collectors felt as if they were suddenly in a queue with flippers, and perhaps it stung. Perhaps this FOMO-type behavior even helped foreshadow the end of limited-edition Speedmaster models at Omega.
Remembering the memes and complainers
It’s also important to remember that there were plenty of detractors when it came to the announcement of a limited-edition Speedmaster. Even as far back as five years ago, Instagram meme artists enjoyed a poke at Omega with jokes about how the brand was beating a dead horse. We also received our fair share of comments from those who were crying uncle and wishing that Omega would focus on another model. On the latter front, I think Omega has certainly made good on improving its entire model line.
Where are we now?
These days, Omega has a better serial-production Speedmaster Professional lineup than ever. The 3861 movement is fabulous, the bracelet is wonderful, and the overall quality is superb. Plus, we have precious metals again. While there are no limited-edition models, the Apollo 13 50th Anniversary Snoopy is a special edition watch with a lengthy waiting list. Add to that the fact that some ADs have not received the gold models more than one year after their release, and it begs a serious question: could Omega even handle making a limited-edition Speedmaster today?
Honestly, I miss the old days of being able to count on a limited-edition Speedmaster on a near-annual basis. It was comforting and always exciting to see how Omega would innovate and respectfully tweak this legendary watch. I always approached it with trepidation — one part based on the hope that I would like it and the other hoping I wouldn’t to protect my bank account. But again, it was fun.
Then again, if I think about today versus 2019, it was a long time ago relatively speaking. The world is different in the way that it approached limited items, and whether I liked the watches or not, I would probably become frustrated with the situation. Maybe we will see a return to normalcy one day and, with it, the return of some special Speedmaster watches. Where do you stand on limited Speedies? Should they return? What’s your dream model? Let us know in the comments.