In the third chapter in our series of features articles on the 60th anniversary of the iconic Omega Speedmaster, going decade by decade, we present the five most noteworthy Speedmasters from the 1980s, including such Reagan-era milestone pieces as the first Omega watch with an exhibition caseback and the first Speedy with a moon-phase.
1980: Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11, Omega’s first sapphire crystal caseback
Launched to celebrate the 1969 Apollo 11 mission — in which the Omega Speedmaster became the first watch worn on the moon — this yellow-gold model was the first to be outfitted with the 861L caliber. It was also the first Omega timepiece to put its caliber on display, through a glazed sapphire caseback window. The watch was produced in a very small, numbered series of around 300 pieces; the “L” suffix at the end of the Caliber number “861” indicated that it was the “Luxury” version of that movement, with a higher level of decoration than was normally afforded.
1983: The first bi-color Speedmaster
The first Speedmaster model with a two-tone design, this 1983 model combined a steel case with a golden dial, silvered chronograph subdials, and a bracelet made from steel and 14K gold. It is unknown exactly how many of this reference that Omega produced, but very few are known to still exist.
1985: The first Speedmaster moon-phase model
“Twenty years after the Speedmaster began preparing to go to the moon,” Omega states in its press materials on the Speedmaster’s 60-year history, “the moon came to the Speedmaster.” The watch, nicknamed “Speedymoon,” was produced in a series of 1,300 pieces and was the first in the iconic series to include a moon-phase complication, whose disk was adorned with a painted moon and stars. There are even some rare Speedymoon models that feature a painted face on the moon’s surface.
1987: Speedmaster Automatic
Considered by many collectors as the “Holy Grail” of vintage Speedmasters, this was the first watch in the collection that combined an automatic movement with a “Moonwatch” case. Omega only produced the watch for two years, making it an extremely rare piece, sought out obsessively by the Speedy’s legions of fans and collectors. Design-wise, this watch’s case is slightly thicker than those of other Speedmasters to accommodate the automatic movement, and the chrono pushers and crown are closer fitting than those on the classic Moonwatch.
1987: A Speedmaster made especially for Italy
Limited to only 500 pieces, this timepiece was created for the Italian market. It featured a black dial with golden subdials, a yellow-gold bezel and yellow gold-plated crown and pushers. And it could be considered a tribute to the Speedmaster’s interesting but little-known historical connection with Italy. The Seahorse medallion that appears on the casebacks of many Speedmaster and Seamaster models was, in fact, inspired by the Seahorse emblems found on the sides of gondolas in Venice.