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Omega Speedmaster Professional: A Guide to Rare Speedmasters
There are many brands in the watchmaking world that have contributed to history one way or another, and Omega is the perfect example of this. One of the most famous watch models known to man today is the Omega Speedmaster Professional. It is a piece that was greatly involved in numerous historical milestones — from being the official timekeeper for the Olympics to being the first watch on the moon. However, besides being well-acclaimed, the Omega Speedmaster also happens to be one of the most interesting watch series given its rich heritage. In this article, we will find out more about the Omega Speedmaster Professional, the current models they offer, and which Speedmasters out there are the rarest.
All About Omega
Omega was founded by 23-year-old Louis Brandt when he opened a workshop in a small Swiss city back in 1848. Brandt was an extremely dedicated man who upheld his philosophy of creating the best watches he could offer until the very end. Even after his death, his passion and legacy continued, thanks to his three sons who took up the family business. Following the footsteps of their father, Louis’ sons were the ones responsible for the brand’s continuous innovations and immense popularity all over the world.
One of the notable milestones under Brandt’s sons was the creation of their first in-house calibre, which would eventually become the basis of other watch feats in the future. However, it was not until the 1890s that they officially used the name Omega. This change was brought on by the birth of the 19-ligne calibre, one of the most ingenious breakthroughs in watchmaking ever. Following that, the brothers decided to call the said creation Omega, which eventually became their official brand name.
The Omega Speedmaster Professional Through The Years
1957 Omega Speedmaster
The first Omega Speedmaster Professional was released in 1957 under the brand’s Trilogy of Professional Watches collection. It was referred to as the Broad Arrow because of the unique hands featured in the watch. Furthermore, this piece also had a tachymeter scale on the bezel, which was a component catered specifically for racers. With that being said, the first-ever Speedmaster was actually marketed as a sports watch rather than what it is known for today. Until now, this Omega Speedmaster Professional is highly sought after by vintage collectors and watch connoisseurs alike.
1959 Omega Speedmaster
The 1959 version of the Omega Speedmaster was the beginning of an unexpected journey both for the brand and the collection itself. This model was different from the original because it features narrower hands, a black aluminium bezel, and just an independent style in general. If the 1957 Omega Speedmaster Professional was more of a sports watch, this model, on the other hand, was designed for military pilots. A lot of Air Force units actually chose to use this watch over others. However, what makes this watch truly special is that it was worn by Walter Schirra on the Sigma 7 mission to space in 1962. It is known to be the first Omega watch in space but definitely not the last.
1963 Omega Speedmaster
Moving on to the 1963 Omega Speedmaster, this piece is yet another notable model in the brand’s space journey. It was the first and only watch (back then) that passed NASA’s flight qualifications despite the numerous application from other watch manufacturers. The 1963 Omega Speedmaster was also the watch worn on the first American spacewalk, courtesy of Ed White. This just proves how reliable, accurate, and precise the Omega Speedmaster Professional actually is.
1965 Omega Speedmaster
The 1965 Omega Speedmaster Professional is probably one of the most famous models to ever exist. This was the watch worn by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin when they officially became the first people to step on the moon. This particular milestone is the reason behind the Speedmaster being dubbed as the Moonwatch. Since then, many astronauts chose to wear this Speedmaster model on their space and lunar missions.
1972 Omega Speedmaster
Fast forward to 1972, the Omega Speedmaster Professional Alaska II Prototype was released. This model was a part of the brand’s collaboration with NASA in making the perfect space watch. They made sure to incorporate features that were suitable for the conditions in outer space. For example, the Alaska II Prototype had a matte-finish, through a micro-bead sandblasting, in order to avoid glares in space.
1992 Omega Speedmaster
In 1992, the Omega Speedmaster Skeleton was introduced to the world. It is one of the rarest Speedmasters out there with only 50 pieces produced. It is a very luxurious and well-crafted timepiece with an open caseback. It was said that a single watch took around 150 hours to make, which proves how intricate and excellently done this piece and all the other Speedmasters are.
Honestly, it would take a long time if were to discuss every Omega Speedmaster Professional that has been released from the very beginning. At this point, there is no denying that it is a collection that is rich in history and has made incredible breakthroughs over the past decades. All we need to know is that Omega has been consistent in launching beautifully crafted Speedmasters from 1957 up until today and will continue to do in the next decades to come.
8 Rare Omega Speedmasters
There are numerous Speedmasters out there that are considered rare, especially the ones that were released decades ago. Most of the Speedmasters mentioned above, apart from the present-day models, are actually limited pieces that have been discontinued. Here are some rare Omega Speedmasters that are probably on the hot list of most watch collectors.
1. Omega Speedmaster Professional ACP
This model was specifically commissioned by the Automovil Club Peruano based in Lima. Many in the motorsports industry consider this watch as an ideal option because of the tachymeter scale, perfect for racing. Only around 50 pieces of this watch exist and can easily be distinguished through the A.C.P label on the dial. This is a very classic Speedmaster watch that follows a similar design to its predecessors. It comes in a 42mm stainless steel case and bracelet. Moreover, the black dial includes luminous rhodium indexes and baton hands and runs on the 321 calibre. Unfortunately, there are only very few of these watches around the world, but if you’re curious, you can find this piece at the Omega Museum in Switzerland.
2. Omega Speedmaster Professional 1969 Commemorative Edition
This first batch of 1969 Omega Speedmaster Professional watches was actually awarded to the astronauts involved in the Apollo 11 and Apollo 1 expeditions. It is also known to be the first Speedmaster made out of 18K gold, from the case and dial to the bracelet. The exterior comes in a 42mm case with a rather unique burgundy bezel. Furthermore, it runs on the calibre 861, which makes it very accurate and precise. Only a little over 1000 pieces of this watch exist, with some being in the Omega Museum.
3. Omega Speedmaster Alaska I Prototype
This piece was a part of Omega’s extremely confidential partnership with NASA. It was dubbed ‘Alaska I’ because it was built with the idea of being able to withstand the extreme temperatures in space. Everything about the Alaska I Prototype was solely dedicated to combating the conditions of outer space. The exterior comes in a 46mm titanium case, paired with a velcro bracelet. It also has a removable aluminium outer case in red for thermal purposes and a white dial was specifically chosen for better reflection.
4. Omega Speedmaster 125
The Omega Speedmaster 125 was made in celebration of the brand’s 125th year since its foundation. This watch was well-received back then because of how advanced and futuristic it is in terms of design and technicalities. It is actually the first automatic chronograph with an official Chronometer Certification. The Speedmaster 125 comes in a double stainless steel case: a square outer case and a round inner case. Furthermore, the black dial features luminous tritium indexes and baton hands. Up until now, this watch is highly coveted by many, especially since it made such a great impact when it was first released.
6. Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonphase “Speedymoon”
This piece is the first Speedmaster to have a Moonphase indicator. One look at the watch and you will know right away that it is a part of the Speedmaster collection. It follows a very classic and quintessential design that silently catches people’s attention. The exterior comes in a 42mm stainless steel case and bracelet with the iconic tachymeter scale on the black bezel. The dial features luminous indexes, baton hands, and the Moonphase component at 12 o’clock. This watch did not have the usual NASA engraving at the back as it did not fall within their qualification range. Lastly, only around 1,300 pieces of this watch were made.
6. Omega Speedmaster Perpetual Calendar
This Omega Speedmaster has to be one of the most beautifully crafted pieces to ever exist. It is also referred to as one of their most complex watches. Everything about this model is just so aesthetically pleasing, especially the colour combination overall. This piece was originally created for the 700th anniversary of Switzerland. It comes in a 39mm 18K yellow gold case, paired with a blue leather strap. The gilt dial includes a chronograph feature with a Moonphase indicator and a perpetual calendar. Though it is a limited-edition model, they also released this piece in Japan since they had a big market for Speedmasters over there. Lastly, only around 50 pieces of the Omega Speedmaster Perpetual Calendar were made.
7. Omega Speedmaster Professional The Golden Panda
This is one of the most unique-looking yet classic timepieces that I have ever encountered. Just from the name, you can already tell what the inspiration was behind this watch. The Speedmaster Golden Panda was actually released exclusively to the Japanese market in 1997. The exterior has a 42mm, 18K yellow gold case, paired with a black leather strap. The dial came in a silver-white colour along with a black outer scale and sub-dials. Only around 40 of the Speedmaster Professional Golden Panda exists today, making it such a widely sought-after timepiece.
8. Omega Speedmaster Professional X-33
The Speedmaster X-33 was released in 1998 with the idea of hopefully adding to Omega’s history with the space industry. It was created specifically for a possible journey or expedition to our neighbouring planet in orbit, which is why it is referred to as the Mars Watch. It comes in a 42.24mm titanium case paired with a Kevlar bracelet. It is a digital watch with an LCD display. This piece was considered ahead of its time by many people which is expected of a watch developed closely with different space institutions.
The Present-day Omega Speedmasters
As of 2021, there are six sub-collections under the Omega Speedmaster Professional series: Moonwatch, Heritage, Dark Side of the Moon, Speedmaster 38, Two Counters, and Instruments. Each of the sub-collections mentioned has distinct features and functions which fall under the umbrella of the Omega Speedmaster.
1. Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional
The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional is a sub-collection whose predecessor is the first watch worn on the moon. It has a very classic and timeless design with subtle but meaningful innovations/changes here and there. This series features three chronograph sub-dials and luminescent hands. It also includes a nostalgic design component that some fans may know which is the “dot over ninety” on the aluminium bezel ring. The specific watch in the photo comes in a 42mm Sedna gold case paired with a leather strap. It runs on the Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 386 and has a water-resistance of 50 metres.
2. Omega Speedmaster Heritage
Models in the Omega Speedmaster Professional Heritage sub-collection are based on the different iconic watches released through the years. Some are anniversary pieces of certain models, while some are direct descendants of quintessential Speedmasters. The four main models under the Speedmaster Heritage are the Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321, Speedmaster Anniversary Series, Speedmaster 1957, and the Speedmaster Mark II. The timepiece above, the Omega Speedmaster 310.20.42.50.01.001, is a part of the Anniversary series, in tribute to 50 years since the Apollo 11 mission. It has a 42mm stainless steel case and a bracelet of the same material. The black dial features three chronograph sub-dials, one of which has a laser-engraved image of Buzz Aldrin getting off the spaceship and on to the moon. On the caseback, you will find an engraving of Aldrin’s footprint and the infamous quote “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
3. Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon
The Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon is a sub-collection inspired by the Apollo 8 astronauts who literally saw the dark side of the moon. This range makes use of a black zirconium oxide ceramic, which adds a mysterious and alluring feel to the entire piece. The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Co‑Axial Chronograph watch above features a 44.25mm black ceramic case, a black leather strap, and an 18K Sedna gold bezel. Moreover, it runs on the Omega Co-Axial calibre 9300 with a power reserve of 60 hours and a water-resistance of 50 metres. Definitely, a collection that lives up to its name.
Moving on to the Omega Speedmaster 38, this sub-collection includes pieces that are more vibrant and colourful in comparison to the others. Moreover, all of the watches in this series come in a 38mm case. Personally, this sub-collection is the most eye-catching and striking among the other Speedmasters. A great thing about this is that it comes in a variety of colours, straps, bezel designs, and the like, making it more accessible to diverse preferences. The Omega Speedmaster 38mm Co‑Axial Chronograph watch above is actually dubbed as the ‘Cappuccino’ mainly because of its colour combination. It comes in stainless steel and Sedna gold paired with a taupe-brown leather strap and a diamond-covered bezel. Lastly, it runs on the Omega Co-Axial Calibre 3330 and has a 52-hour power reserve and water-resistance of 100 metres. Overall, it is simply a very visually appealing watch.
The Omega Speedmaster Two Counters is a sub-collection that features twin sub-dials. It comes in three different models: Racing, Moonphase, and Chronograph. The Omega Speedmaster Racing takes inspiration from previous models that showcased the brand’s racing heritage. Meanwhile, the Speedmaster Moonphase is more of a tribute to space/lunar aspect of Omega’s history. Lastly, the Speedmaster Chronograph is representative of the brand’s commitment to being a trailblazer in the watchmaking world. The Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonphase model above comes in a 42.25mm steel-yellow gold case, paired with a grey leather strap. It features a Moonphase indicator at 6 o’clock and runs on the Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer 9904 calibre, boasting a power reserve of 60 hours.
The Omega Speedmaster Instruments is probably the most different among the six sub-collections. First of all, the pieces in this series are all digital watches. It is actually a sub-collection heavily inspired by the concept of exploration. The watches are mostly catered towards pilots and astronauts. For example, the Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 was created in celebration of the project in which a solar-powered plane circled the world. This quartz piece comes in a 45mm titanium case paired with a NATO Strap. Moreover, it runs on the Omega 5619 calibre and has a battery life of 24 months.
The Omega Speedmaster Professional collection is one with an extensive catalogue from then till now. There is no denying that it is a range that greatly impacted the watchmaking world and the space industry. From being the first watch to pass NASA’s standards to accompanying numerous astronauts in their space expeditions, the Omega Speedmaster is a watch that will forever be remembered in history. As a well-established collection, it is only understandable that many of the Speedmasters are actually quite difficult to find. I would definitely consider most of their timepieces, especially those prior to the present-day collection, as rare but widely sought after. Ultimately, there is no question as to why the Omega Speedmasters are really highly regarded by watch connoisseurs, collectors, professionals, and even the general public.
If you want to know more about Omega, make sure to check out this article on the Omega Seamaster collection.
Photo credits: All images are taken from the Omega website.