The Omega Apollo 11 Anniversary Speedmaster
Omega is a notable absence here at Baselworld 2019, along with its brothers and sisters of the Swatch Group. But the brand is still out there, somewhere, hopefully not as far away as the Moon. We pay tribute to the lost Swatch with this review of a very special Omega limited edition.
The current situation
I am typing these words in the exact area occupied by the Omega boutique last year. It's a huge empty space, both literal and figurative, that has been designated as the new Press Centre by Baselworld.
Right now, Omega and the other Swatch brands are not in Basel but Zurich, at a private showing for retailers intended to replace Baselworld after CEO Nick Hayek pulled out of the international watch fair. Unfortunately, none of the goodies undoubtedly on display in Zurich have been revealed to the public yet, so we will have to wait our turn. But there was one relatively major announcement from Omega before either Basel or Zurich kicked off, and it's so cool that we couldn't resist writing about it.
Save the date
At Baselworld, and in the watch industry in general, 1969 is known as the year of the automatic chronograph - there are several new watches here commemorating its fiftieth anniversary. But for the world in general, there was a much bigger event in 1969, if you'll forgive the heresy: NASA put a man on the Moon.
Famously, it was Omega who equipped the Apollo astronauts with their Speedmaster wrist watches, including Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. 2019 was destined to be the year of the Speedy at Omega, and so it has proved. The new watch unveiled earlier this month is a recreation of a very special limited edition golden Speedmaster made in 1969.
Apollo 11 reached the Moon in July 1969, and a special dinner was held to commemorate this event in November 1969. It was at this event that Omega unveiled the Speedmaster ref. BA145.022, an all-gold watch with a red bezel. Only 1,014 numbered watches were made, of which several dozen were given to astronauts and political and industry leaders, including the President and Vice President. The watch has since passed into relatively obscure legend among Speedmaster fans.
Reliving the glory days
Since it's traditional to give gold for fiftieth anniversaries, Omega was always likely to make a gold Speedy this year, but there were probably few who predicted that it would be a direct recreation of the BA145.022. The details on this watch are spot on, including the distinctive black onyx hour indexes, the dark red bezel and the vintage-style applied Omega logo. The new timepiece is even limited to 1,014 pieces, same as the old one.
But there are a few interesting updates as well. The gold, for one thing. It's not exactly the same gold as the original model. Rather, it's a new alloy that uses palladium to prevent discolouration over the years. It's the first time this exact type of gold has ever been used, and the formula is proprietary to Omega, who calls it Moonshine Gold. Meanwhile, the bezel insert is made of ceramic, which didn't even exist in 1969, with another proprietary material, "Ceragold", used for the tachymeter markings.
Finally, of course, the movement is not the same as the one found in the BA145.022. The new version is Omega's superb 3861, similar to the acclaimed 1861 but manually-wound. There's a gorgeous view of it on the caseback - many components have been plated with Moonshine Gold to stick with the theme. The traditional words "First watch worn on the Moon" are engraved, along with the limited edition number and even a very cool image of the Earth and Moon, proportionally rendered to the correct sizes on either side, orbiting the movement. The Moon here is actually a special insert of domed material taken from a bona fide lunar meteorite. Some might call that a gimmick, but for such a special occasion we think it's justified.