Currently, RR Auction is hosting its Space Exploration and Aviation auction. Ending on April 20th, 2023, the auction includes several watches that belonged to astronauts and cosmonauts. Among them are three 18K gold Speedmaster Professional “Tribute to Astronauts” watches. This is your chance to own a lovely horological piece of space-exploration history, assuming your pockets are deep enough.

Just last year, NASA astronaut Wally Schirra’s gold Speedmaster BA145.022-69 fetched US$1.9 million (including buyer’s premium) from the same auction house. This might have triggered the other owners of the astronaut-owned gold Speedmaster “Tribute to Astronauts” BA145.022-69 to offer theirs for auction as well.

Neil Armstrong (second from right) and Buzz Aldrin (right) wearing their BA145.022-69 “Tribute to Astronauts” gold watches — Image (c) Archives de la Ville de Montréal

Ultimate Guide To The Speedmaster BA145.022-69

A few months before Schirra’s gold Speedmaster fetched this record price for this reference, Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins’s gold Speedmaster sold at auction for US$765,000 (including buyer’s premium). We’ve shared the story of these watches several times on Fratello, but just in case you are not familiar with it, you can read our Ultimate Guide To The BA145.022-69.

Image: RR Auction

Three astronaut-owned Speedmaster BA145.022-69 watches up for auction

To me, the most impressive of the three is the Speedmaster BA145.022-69 that belonged to the widow (Betty Grissom) of astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom. On January 27th, 1967, Gus Grissom died in a tragic accident resulting from a fire inside the Apollo 1 Command Module. During this fire, astronauts Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee also passed away. Grissom, White, and Chaffee’s relatives received the gold Speedmaster BA145.022-69 posthumously. As you can see in the picture above, Grissom’s Speedmaster was presented in a special box with a personalized plaque. I have to admit that I’ve never seen this box before. Normally, the gold Speedmaster “Tribute to Astronauts” came in the “Moon crater” box.

Grissom’s Speedmaster BA145.022-69 #4/1014 — Image: RR Auction

A numbered edition

In total, Omega produced 1,014 of these gold Speedmaster BA145.022-69 watches between 1969 and 1973. Grissom’s Speedmaster is #4, the second-lowest number allocated to an astronaut after Alan Shepard’s watch (#3). Numbers 1 and 2 were presented to President Nixon and Vice President Agnew, though the men declined the watches due to their high value. Interestingly, RR Auction also has a document that states that astronaut Harrison Schmitt (offered #1008) declined this gift.

Image: RR Auction

Most of these watches were offered during a banquet dinner in Houston, Texas on November 25th, 1969, also known as the Astronaut Appreciation Dinner. On the leaflet below, you can find the names of the 22 astronauts present there and the three astronauts who passed away during the Apollo 1 test in January 1967.

Image: RR Auction

During this dinner, Omega presented 25 gold Speedmaster watches, ranging from numbers 3 to 28. Apparently, not all of the astronauts were able to make it due to quarantining after a mission. Later on, astronauts who were on missions after November 1969 (Swigert, Haise, Roosa, Mitchell, Irwin, Worden, Duke, Mattingly, Evans, and Schmitt) received theirs. Omega reserved numbers 1001 to 1008 for the astronauts as well.

Ron Evan’s Speedmaster “Tribute to Astronauts” — Image: RR Auction

Ron Evans and Alan Bean’s Speedmaster BA145.022 watches

The other two gold Speedmaster Professional “Tribute to Astronauts” watches available in this auction belonged to Alan Bean (Skylab Mission II and Apollo 12) and Ron Evans (Apollo 17). Both come with different boxes than the one for Grissom’s watch. Evans’s Speedmaster BA145.022 comes with Omega’s ultra-rare 3D crater box (pictured above), and Bean’s comes in a different crater box that came with stainless steel edition of the watch.

Image: RR Auction

Bean’s gold Speedmaster BA145.022-69

Alan Bean’s watch is number 26 out of 1,014. He was part of the Apollo 12 mission and the fourth man to walk on the surface of the Moon. Accompanying the watch is a letter by Bean, stating that the watch was awarded to him “in a ceremony in Houston shortly after the completion of the Apollo program.”

Image: RR Auction

According to Moonwatch Only, Alan Bean wasn’t able to attend the Astronaut Appreciation Dinner due to the 21-day quarantine after the return of Apollo 12 (November 24th). Therefore, he must have received it at a later date. Anyway, Bean also writes in the accompanying letter that he wore the watch “over the years, particularly on special occasions.”

Image: RR Auction

Evans’s gold Speedmaster engraved with “Apollo 17”

Ron Evans was known for using a Speedmaster Professional 145.022 during the Apollo 17 mission for scientific calculations onboard the Command Module. Apollo 17 in 1972 was the last mission to the Moon, and therefore, astronauts Evans and Schmitt, who had no missions before Apollo 17, only received their watches after December 1972. Schmitt declined this gift, as written above, and Evans accepted it.

Alan Bean’s Speedmaster BA145.022-69 — Image: RR Auction

Different estimates

Auction houses and their estimates are always a bit of a black box to me. And also here, we see estimates from $100,000+ for Evans’s watch to $350,000+ for Grissom’s watch. These three astronauts all have different stories, and different missions, of course. Anyway, see for yourself on RR Auction’s website, and check lots 9001 (Grissom’s Speedmaster), 9002 (Bean’s Speedmaster), and 9003 (Evans’s Speedmaster). These are all grail material for Speedmaster and space enthusiasts! Considering the previous record-breaking hammer prices of these gold Speedmaster “Tribute to Astronauts” watches in 2022, I think the results will greatly exceed RR Auction’s estimates.

The Space Exploration and Aviation Auction ends on April 20th and also includes other watches from astronauts (Richard Gordon’s Rolex Day-Date) and cosmonauts (Yuri Artyukhin’s flown Omega Flightmaster). Good luck to any of our readers who participate!