In this fourth chapter in our series of features articles on the 60th anniversary of the iconic Omega Speedmaster, going decade by decade (interrupted last week by our on-site Baselworld coverage), we present the eleven most noteworthy Speedmasters from the 1990s, including the first COSC-certified manual-wound Speedmaster and the Omega Speedmaster 40th Anniversary.
1991: Perpetual Calendar for Switzerland’s 700th Anniversary
This Speedmaster model, limited to just 50 pieces, celebrated the 700th anniversary of Switzerland — but for whatever reason was released exclusively to the Japanese market. In addition to the chronograph function common to the Speedmaster series, this rare timepiece — often regarded as the most complicated watch Omega has ever produced in a series — also includes a moon-phase indication and a perpetual calendar accurate to the year 2100.
1992: Rare Hand-Crafted Skeleton Limited Edition
This watch — and its skeletonized movement, visible through the front dial and a clear caseback — was limited to only 50 pieces. It was intended as a special tribute to the 50th anniversary of Omega’s 27 CHRO C12 project, launched in 1942, which led to the creation of Calibre 321 — the movement used in the very first Speedmaster.
1992: First COSC-Certified Manual-Wound Speedmaster
Another very limited tribute piece released in the anniversary year of the 27 CHRO C12 project, the so-called Omega “Jubilee 27 CHRO C12” model was the first COSC-certified, manual-wound Speedmaster watch, only 50 pieces of which were ever made.
1995: Apollo 13
An Omega Speedmaster played a life-saving role aboard the Apollo 13 space mission in 1970, helping the astronauts return safely to Earth. This model, commemorating the 25th anniversary of that mission, is a favorite among collectors, as it was the first in what would become a long series of Mission models that followed. An Apollo 13 badge appears on the dial of the watch, which was limited to 999 pieces.
1995: 365 Days on MIR Space Station
In 1990, 10 standard Speedmaster Moonwatches were kept aboard the orbiting MIR Space Station for 90 days to test the effects of zero gravity on the watch. Two years later, a second series spent 365 days on the station in a further experiment. Twenty-eight of these history-making watches were sold in 1995. The inscription “365 DAYS ON BOARD SPACE STATION MIR, JULY 1993 – JULY 1994” appear on the solid caseback.
1996: “Racing,” Launched by Michael Schumacher
Notable for its “younger” aesthetics and produced in both red and yellow versions, this Speedmaster with a vintage racing-style minute track was launched in a collaboration with racing legend Michael Schumacher, who became an Omega “brand ambassador” in 1996. The watch was presented in a rubber presentation box that resembled the tires of Formula One cars and featured Schumacher’s signature in white.
1997: Inspired by the 1957 Original
With the exact same dial, bezel, hands, and logo as the famous “Broad Arrow” original from 1957, this watch — sometimes to referred to as the “Replica” — was the first to be included in the 1997 “Missions” collection, which marked the 40th anniversary of the Speedmaster. Along with this watch, the set contained 22 other Speedmasters, each with a different mission patch on the dial.
1997: “The Golden Panda”
Another timepiece created specifically for the Japanese market, the so-called “Golden Panda” Speedmaster was limited to only 40 pieces. Thanks to the silvery-white dial and black minute scale and subdials, the watch resembled the face of a panda, which gave it its memorable nickname. This distinctive look, its rarity, and its gold case have made this watch a valuable collectors’ item.
1997: 40 Years of the Speedmaster
Another tribute piece to the Speedmaster’s 40th anniversary, this model released in 1997 featured a cream-colored dial and a sapphire crystal over the dial – an unusual feature for the time. Limited to 500 pieces and exclusive to Italy, it was also one of the first models to have its hands and dial coated in LumiNova.
1998: Omega X-33
Known as the “Mars Watch,” the futiristic-looking X-33 was designed for the possibility of man landing on the red planet. It is the product of five years’ collaborative development between Omega and the world’s major space agencies, as well as the USN “Blue Angels” and the USAF “Thunderbirds.” This model was worn aboard NASA’s space shuttles and Russia’s MIR Space Station.
1999: Apollo 11
Launched in 1999 to mark the 30th anniversary of Apollo 11, this model was the second Speedmaster Professional to include a moon-phase indication and the first Speedmaster with this complication to be created in gold — or, in fact, any metal other than stainless steel. This white-gold timepiece featured a silver dial and was available exclusively on a leather strap with a white-gold buckle.
Next week: Omega Speedmaster highlights from 2000 to 2010. Click here to read the first chapters from our Omega Speedmaster series: