We have known for a while that Omega, maker of the first watch worn on the moon, would celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission in a big way this year. We did not know, until just this week, that it would do so by releasing a modern version of one of the most legendary and collectible Omega Speedmasters out there, the Ref. BA145.022, a gold-cased, commemorative limited edition that was awarded to NASA astronauts and other luminaries. But the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary limited Edition is much more than a simple re-creation; it also brings to the Omega portfolio a new proprietary case material and a new manual-winding movement.
The original Ref. BA145.022 was presented at an “Astronauts Appreciation Dinner” in Houston on November 25, 1969, which celebrated the success of Apollo 11 the previous summer. The very first commemorative limited-edition timepiece issued by Omega, it had a case of 18k yellow gold, a rare burgundy-colored bezel made of anodized aluminum, and, on the first 32 of the 1,014 numbered pieces that were issued to astronauts, watch industry leaders and politicians, the inscription, “To mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time.” (The model numbered “1” was famously intended for the U.S. President at the time, Richard Nixon, but had to be returned due to government protocol involving gifts; more details can be found here.)
The new watch, which is also limited to 1,014 numbered pieces, all of them available to consumers (only numbers 33 through 1,000 of the original reference were offered for sale to the public), uses for its 42-mm case a new alloy called Moonshine gold. Paler in hue than the 18k yellow gold used for the vintage model, Moonshine gold is also notable for its high resistance to fading of color and luster over time, according to Omega. This gold alloy is also used for the bracelet, with its five arched links per row and combination of brushed and polished finishes, as well as the dial and its indices and hands.
The caseband of the Anniversary model retains the distinctive asymmetrical design of its ancestor, while the burgundy bezel of the modern watch is made of high-tech ceramic rather than aluminum. The bezel’s tachymeter scale — an element that hearkens back to the Speedmaster’s pre-Moonwatch days as an auto-racing-inspired chronograph — is executed in another Omega-exclusive material, a ceramic-gold mixture called Ceragold. The dial, with its vertically brushed finish, is marked “Au750” to call attention to its being made of solid gold. Faceted black onyx indexes mark the hours and the skeletonized hour and minute hands are filled with black varnish. The central chronograph subdial hand is also black varnished, as are the hands for the subdials at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock.
The other notable difference, and technical upgrade, from the 1969 watch is the use of a new, Master Chronometer-certified movement, the Omega Caliber 3861. Like the original model’s Caliber 861, the movement is manual-wound and equipped with a chronograph function. The new caliber, however, includes a host of contemporary Omega elements like a co-axial escapement and a silicon balance spring, in addition to being enhanced for this special edition with a gold-plated mainplate and bridges. Unlike its predecessor, this movement is not hidden by a solid engraved caseback but on display through a sapphire window — though the caseback is nevertheless still quite special. Its periphery features an engraved “1969-2019” and the watch’s limited edition number highlighted in burgundy; an inner ring with blue and black PVD color treatments that features on one side a partial map of the American continents focused on the Apollo 11 lift-off site at Cape Canaveral, on the other a meteorite inlay representing the moon; and polished anniversary text reading “Apollo 11 – 50th Anniversary” and “The First Watch Worn on the Moon.”
Even the packaging of the 2019 Limited Edition is evocative of the original’s special “moon crater” box. The modern watch’s box features a new crater-inspired design with gray ceramic side panels 3D-printed with lunar surface imagery and a top panel printed with a rendering of the moon’s Sea of Tranquility. The Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 Limited Edition is priced at CHF 32,000.