ou would really have to live at the bottom of a cave, with a stalactite as your only means of marking the passing of time, to be unaware that 50 years ago, on July 20, 1969, men landed on the Moon for the first time, an Omega Speedmaster BA 145.022 watch on their wrist.
Since then, Omega has continued to highlight its participation in this historic achievement, which is fair enough. And all the more so, now that the vintage wave has turned into a tsunami.
- A collector’s edition: Europa Star, n°5, 1969
- © Europa Star Archives
In the immediate aftermath, still in 1969, Omega produced a special series of its Speedmaster moon watch, in yellow gold with a burgundy bezel. Exactly 1,014 of these models were created between 1969 and 1973, 28 of which were offered to NASA astronauts. The rest were sold to the public.
These watches have become rare and highly sought after by collectors: the timepiece bearing the number 722 was sold in November 2018 in Geneva for CHF 68,750, compared with an estimate of between CHF 15,000 and CHF 25,000.
- Omega Ref. BA 145.022, Limited edition, N°722 1970 ©Phillips
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this achievement, Omega has relaunched the famous BA 145.022. The case (up from 40 mm to 42 mm), dial, hour and minute markers and hands are now cut and shaped from a special alloy, Moonshine Gold, whose brilliance recalls “the colour of the moon shining against a deep blue sky”, as Omega’s promotional materials state.
But the argument is not only poetic: this alloy is supposed to offer better resistance to fading and loss of lustre over time.
The famous burgundy bezel is now made of ceramic, with a Ceragold tachymeter scale.
The vertically brushed dial is marked OM, for “Or Massif”, and its indexes are carved in black onyx. Its hour and minute hands are also enhanced with black varnish, as are the hands of the chronograph central seconds and the counters.
Change of movement
The first Speedmasters that went for a walk on the Moon were equipped with the 321 movement, a manual column-wheel calibre from Lemania. As early as 1969, it had been replaced by a new movement, the 861, also a Lemania, with a higher frequency and simplified mechanism, centrally controlled by cams and no longer by column wheel.
Today its descendant, the 3861, equips the commemorative Speedmaster. This movement is still manual but now co-axial, with a stop-second function, high resistance to magnetism and excellent chronometric performance.
It can be fully seen on the back of the watch, framed by a decorative laser-engraved and PVD-treated ring that shows a partial map of Cape Canaveral seen from the sky, set with a fragment of lunar meteorite.
A commemorative steel version
While the gold version was released in 1,014 copies, 6,969 copies of the Apollo 11 Speedmaster are also available in steel. The steel model, with its grey and black dial, is more openly commemorative, with two special touches that distinguish it: a single number “11” in place of the corresponding index, and the minute counter decorated with a drawing that shows Buzz Aldrin descending the ladder to the lunar surface.
The famous original footprint is reproduced on the back of the watch along with the well-known sentence, “THAT’S ONE SMALL STEP FOR A MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND” – a slogan devised by NASA, which could now also be interpreted as: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for Omega”...