Passed under the radar of most of the world watchmaking community, we tell you the story of the Omega Speedmaster given by the Apollo 11 team during their 1969 "Giant Leap Tour" to the last Shah of Iran. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
1969, The Apollo 11 Astronaut World Tour
Dubbed the "Giant Leap" by NASA, the Apollo 11 world tour began on September 29, 1969 in Mexico City. The astronauts, who returned from the Moon just nine weeks ago, traveled with their wives, NASA and US State Department support personnel, as well as two US Intelligence Agency staff and four Voice staff members. of America. (No US reporters were allowed to join the tour.)
Nixon had given them a plane from the presidential fleet: Air Force 2, typically used by Vice President Agnew, with the same blue livery as Air Force 1. Here are some of the personalities he met: The Queen of England, The Pope, The King of Belgium, The King of Norway, The Queen of the Netherlands, The King and Queen of Thailand, The Emperor of Japan and .. The Shah of Iran.
The Omega Speedmaster from the Shah to the Robin White driver
And it is precisely from this last meeting that the protagonist of the story appears: theOmega Speedmaster. It was in fact given for the first time to the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1969 by the Apollo 11 crew, visiting the country from 28 to 31 October of that same year. In turn, the shah gave it to his half-sister, the princess Fatemeh Pahlavi.
How did it get on the wrist of former British driver from Christchurch, Robin White? In the late 60s, Mr. White, a former Royal Navy pilot, was commissioned to train helicopter pilots for the Iranian Air Force based in Ghale Morghi, Tehran. Among the duties of the instructors there was also to give flying lessons to the princess Fatemeh Pahlavi, wife of General Khatami, head of the Iranian Imperial Air Force.
Various references to this instruction appear in his flight logs.
The lessons paid off. Indeed, the princess Fatemeh Pahlavi became therefirst woman in Iran to receive a helicopter license. After her first solo flight, in the office of her flight school the princess gave Robin White the Omega Speedmaster 145.022-68st donated by the Apollo 11 team to his brother.
Instructor Robin White's exploits in evacuating a fleet of helicopters from Iran when the Shah was overthrown in 1979 are described in the author's novel. James clavell of 1986, Whirlwind. Commonly known as "Operation Sandstorm". Princess Fatemeh died in London in 1987 at the age of 58.
The Speedmaster 145.022-68ST
In addition to the historical value of this specimen, the reference 145.022-68st it is highly coveted by collectors as it is 'transitional'. It is the natural transition between the reference 145.012, dial with applied logo, and 145.022-69, dial with painted logo. These dials have a Omega logo in metal applied e long hour markers. The dials look the same as the one mounted on the 145.012, but have different sized feet, albeit in the same position.
Also this model is equipped with the latest caliber 861, bezel disc with the "dot over 90”And the square-ended chrono seconds hand.
Estimated at between £ 15.000-25.000, this veritable piece of history was auctioned in February 2020 by Gardiner Houlgate, for just £ 18.
Few objects are able to tell stories and bear witness to important stages in the recent history of man. Think of how a trivial gift, a watch, combined at the same time the 1969 moon landing with the Iranian Revolution of '78' - 79 and the consequent fall of the last Shah of Persia. I find that watches with intrinsic value of this magnitude can be worth any amount.
These are the stories that feed our Passion, and it is a great honor to be able to share them with you.