Fratello Classics: The Most Exciting Omega Watch

Nixon's Omega Speedmaster watchThis post is a part of my series of Omega articles, zooming in on some of the most interesting and iconic models that Omega manufactured (or still manufactures), which began last week with a list of Omega watches you can find for under $1,000. In this week’s post, I attempt to answer the question of  what is the most exciting Omega watch ever — in my own humble opinion, that is.

It isn’t probably surprising that the most exciting Omega watch to me is a Speedmaster. However, it might surprise you that it is not one of the first Speedmaster watches, the ones with Lemania-based caliber 321 column-wheel chronograph movements. These are the Speedmaster watches considered to be the most collectible for real purists. Although I do own a few of these vintage Speedmaster watches myself, the one that really excites me is a more recent model. It is a watch from 1969, with the Lemania-based caliber 861 movement, in a gold case. In 1969, after the Apollo 11 moon landing, Omega decided to produce a commemorative model in all gold —  gold case and bracelet and even a gold dial. Instead of the black bezel with tachymeter scale, Omega installed a burgundy-colored bezel. This model goes by the reference BA 145.022 (instead of 145.022ST for the normal stainless-steel Speedmaster Professional at the time) and has a total production of only 1,014 pieces.

Omega Speedmaster gold - wrist shot
The most exciting Omega watch? Robert-Jan says it’s this gold Speedmaster from 1969.

Of these 1,014 pieces, the first 30 were individually numbered and engraved with the names of their receivers. These first 30 watches were presented to VIPs during a gala dinner at the Hotel Warwick in Houston on November 25th, 1969. Number 1 was offered to U.S. President Richard Nixon, who declined the watch. Number two was for his Vice President Spiro Agnew, who also declined it. (It has been said that the value of these watches were too high for an elected official to accept as a gift.) Both of these watches are in the Omega museum in Bienne, Switzerland (a visitor’s photo report from the museum can be found here). The other 28 gold Speedmaster Professional models were offered to the astronauts who were present at the dinner. Later on, Omega did a few more individually numbered and engraved versions of this watch for astronauts from the Apollo 14, 15, 16 and 17 missions.

The remaining watches from that original 1,014-piece production run were made available to the public. These models have, of course, no specific name engraved on the (slightly different) caseback. The models that were offered to the VIPs have the following text engraved: “To mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time.” All other pieces have the “The First Watch Worn On The Moon” horizontally engraved and “Apollo XI 1969” engraved below that.

Nixon's Omega Speedmaster watch
Above and below: the Omega Speedmaster offered to President Nixon (who declined it) in 1969

Nixon's Omega Speedmaster watch - caseback

To me, this is the most exciting Omega watch there is, because it was meant as a gift for the achievements of these astronauts. They already had been using the stainless steel Speedmaster Professionals during their missions — which they officially needed to return after each mission, as the watches were considered NASA equipment — and then received an impressive gold version of that very same watch. You will be able to find one of these 1,014 pieces during auctions and at watch dealers, but chances are very small you will come across an actual astronaut’s watch. Astronaut Ken Mattingly’s gold Speedmaster Pro was offered during the OmegaMania auction in 2007, and is now in the possession of the Omega museum in Bienne. The “regular” gold models can be found for approximately $15,000 – $18,000 in good shape, but most of them come without the special “Moonrock” box in which they were presented. I have been lucky enough to try on this watch a couple of times at the museum, and at the home of an Omega Speedmaster collector that I meet every now and then. Even though I’m not sure whether I am ready for a gold watch, this watch is my Holy Grail of Omega watches.

Which watch is the most exciting Omega watch to you? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Wally Jonosisworo

    I always wanted the first ploprof to complement my new ploprof

  2. Leo Sitorus

    I love the acrylic crystal look. That could be a grail watch for somebody.

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