With the introduction of the new Omega Speedmaster reference presented a few weeks ago, we thought we'd look at some of the most significant references in the history of the legendary Moonwatch. In this episode, together with the collector and watchmaker technician Karim Marchi, before we get to dwell on the new models, we will take a big leap in time to start from where it all began, in 1957, with the birth of the reference CK2915.
Could Louis Brandt have imagined when he opened the Omega factory that his brand would one day in the future be reflected in a single watch as a symbol of precision, reliability and beauty worldwide?
We will never know for sure, but what we do know is that Omega's Speedmaster is one of the most iconic timepieces in the history of watchmaking, an instrument that was born as a chronograph for motor racing, but that over time has become much more of a simple object but a faithful companion of adventures and extraordinary events that marked the twentieth century.
Speedmaster CK2915 (1957 - 1959)
The Speedmaster was born in 1957 by Mr. Claude Ballot, an employee of Omega. The first reference is the CK2915 , today the most sought after and perhaps the most beautiful of all. Among its peculiarities it did not carry the writing “Professional” on the dial and had a 39 mm case. The dial was black with 1/5 second chronograph, minute counter and one steel bezel with tachymeter scale. The continuous hour and second indices are in white and there is also the particularity of the "broad arrow" spheres, until that time used on diving watches.
The manual movement that was used was the cal. "27CHRO C12", known as 321 caliber and reissued with great enthusiasm by Omega in 2019. Today the CK 2915 is certainly the most expensive and rare Omega on the market, just think that the bezel insert alone is worth 20 euros.
The prices of this watch fluctuate between 80 and 000 euros based on conditions, coevity and any equipment.
Speedmaster CK2998 (1959 - 1963)
In 1959 a new reference arrives, the "CK2998”With a 40 mm case, o-ring on the chrono pushers and the novelty of the“ dauphine ”hands. This watch was similar in appearance to the previous reference, but the main differences included that the lunette no longer in steel but with black aluminum insert, While the hands were in style "Alpha”(Other than the original“ Broad Arrow ”hands). Omega has made eight (-1, -2, -3, -4, -5, -6, -61 and -62) different versions of the ref. 2998 over time.
Worn in 1962 by astronaut Walter Schirra, the Speedmaster ref. CK 2998 was the first OMEGA to reach space, on the occasion of the “Sigma 7” mission of the Mercury program. Although the watch was purchased by Schirra for personal use only, two and a half years later NASA officially certified its suitability for all manned missions, making the Speedmaster go down in history.
Speedmaster ST105.003 (1964 - 1969)
The reference 105.003 holds a special place in the history of the Speedmastere and was the same reference that underwent rigorous NASA testing in late 1964 and was finally approved on March 1, 1965.
Of the many watches selected, only the Speedmaster passed the first test unscathed, so much so that two more were purchased to see if they performed equally well. They were the astronauts Grissom and Young, who took off on March 23, 1965.
"Functional and space setting tests were carried out on three Omega chronographs which, given the results achieved, were approved and delivered to the three GT-3 crew members"
On September 29, 1964, NASA bought 12 Omega Speedmasters, for a price of $82,50 per unit, for testing and evaluation. From that moment a series of tests began, aimed at verifying the resistance of a larger sample of Speedmasters.
The second batch of Speedmasters also perform well. Omega (in April 1966) is informed of the incident and uses the Speedmaster's space vocation for its advertising and this offends the sensibility of an American manufacturer, who exerts pressure on NASA by supporting the importance of the national industry.
The pressure was such that the NASA administrative director was forced to explain the reasons for choosing a hearing in the United States Senate. The senators preferred to give the astronauts a quality chronograph, with all due respect to the national production.
It was also the watch of choice for many astronauts on Gemini missions, hence its nickname "Ed White" for the first astronaut to walk in space.
Stylistically, the reference 105.003 also stands out as thelast of the Speedmaster "Pre-Professional" models, and then the last with straight handles.
Speedmaster ST105.012 'Pre-Moon' (1964 - 1969)
In 1963, with the new reference ST105.012, a new asymmetrical shape for the case, suitable to offer a protection to the crown and the chrono pushers to solve an important problem that the models of the past suffered. The word "Professional" following Omega and Speedmaster was added in 1966.
The motivation that led Omega to vary the shape of the case, abandoning the more elegant and conventional straight lugs, lies in the fact that the astronauts of NASA before becoming such, were well trained soldiers coming mainly from the United States Air Force and while they parachuted during flying exercises the watch got caught in the parachute wires when it opened due to the pushers and crown too protruding.
Speedmaster ST145.022 (1969 - 1982)
In 1968, in the ref. ST 145.022, the caliber 321 (produced in 40.800 examples with a serial number that goes up to 26,4 million) is replaced by the caliber 861. These Speedmasters are considered transitional because they are equipped with a dial very similar in appearance to the previous reference, with logo Omega applied, ref. 145.012, but equipped with the new caliber.
Another important introduction is the use of the flat tail second hand, which will be used for all subsequent references up to the latest version introduced in 2021.
Subsequently, the Speedmaster, always equipped with the 861 caliber, underwent purely stylistic changes: from 1981 with the reference 145.0022, in production until 1988; in 1988 with the reference 3590.50 in production until 1996. Subsequently we find the "transitional" reference 3570.50, the year of introduction of the new caliber 1861 to then leave room for the 3126.96.36.199.01.005, reference flanked by the model with double sapphire crystal.
The new Speedmaster Moonwatch Co-Axial Master Chronometer
After about 30 years, Omega presented the new Speedmaster Moonwatch reference in 2021, updated in every detail. We can speak of a true conservative restyling, which however introduces two important innovations: the new caliber 3861 with Co-Axial escapement and Master Chronometer certification; a new bracelet which draws on past references - much like the one mounted on the 145022-69 with bracelet ref. 1116/575 - with a new closure.
Even the dial, compared to the previous version, has undergone some minor changes like the outside step that gives life to what collectors call "Step dial", The double beveled caseback and the famous point beyond 90 (DON) it's a diagonal point at 70 on the disc of the bezel in anodized aluminum. The small parts are now divided into 3 divisions, unlike the 5 divisions of the previous models.
The heart of the Speedmaster
The calibers that equipped the Omega Speedmasters in full-bottom steel were:
- Caliber 321 from 1957 to 1969
- Caliber 861 from 1968 to 1997
- Caliber 1861 from 1997 to 2020
- Caliber 3861 from 2021
The realization of this special required a great team effort. We would like to thank Karim Marchi @ karim.watchmaker and @MasterOfSpeed for taking the time and for allowing us to admire some of their Speedmaster models. Thanks also to our friends at OMEGA Italia for their invaluable support.