Over the years, Omega has released several commemorative and special edition Speedmasters to celebrate anniversaries of important missions. Understandably, none has been more celebrated than Apollo XI, spawning many limited edition watches beginning in 1969 with a run of 18K yellow gold Speedmasters commemorating NASAs successful landing that year.
In 1980, and again in 1994, Omega produced the classic twisted-lug case white gold with a matching white gold dial. These gorgeous limited editions were gorgeously executed, and gave birth to a sub-set of crazy-eyed collectors searching for them.
The search, as it turns out, is a tough on. With only 20 or so examples produced in 1980 and 500 made in 1994, there aren't that many out there. What's more, having been produced in soft white gold, many bear scars of wear and use.
So what do you do if you love the look of a special edition but can't find it? Well, in this case, the answer is that you build it.
To execute the vision, the previous custodian of this watch began with a steel, twisted lug case from a 145.022, fitting it with a Caliber .861 movement and a later commemorative case back. A Rhodium dial was selected — its warm and tone very similar to the white gold versions — as was a dark grey Superluminova handset.
The end result is a gorgeous homage to the white gold editions, in a case that you can wear as rough as you would a regular Speedmaster. The warm tone of the Rhodium dial is a welcome departure from the common black dial for an overall look that can't be ignored.
Despite this extraterrestrial heritage, in the beginning the Speedmaster was only intended for terrestrial pursuits. Omega released the Speedmaster in 1957, in the midst of a craze for racing chronographs. The name "Speedmaster" followed the naming trend set by the Seamaster and Railmaster models, and was also a subtle nod to the innovative brushed stainless steel tachymeter bezel. The first reference of Speedmaster, the CK 2915, contained the Lemania Calibre .321 movement, developed by famed movement-maker Albert Piguet in 1946. Over the next few years, the Speedmaster saw multiple changes in dial and hand configurations, but at its heart retained the design elements that would be carried down through the decades: the triple-register layout, domed Hesalite crystal, and of course, the tachymeter bezel, signifying Omega's intention for the Speedmaster to be used in automotive sports.
Who knows - had NASA not pinpointed the Speedmaster for use in manned spaceflight, perhaps it would only be regarded among the great racing chronographs like the Heuer Autavia or the Rolex Daytona?
The fact that the Speedmaster came to be used by NASA is somewhat serendipitous. Since the dawn of military aviation, pilots had used chronographs to time their flights. When NASA developed their space program, the first astronauts were, as one can imagine, military fighter pilots. The Speedmaster was already known to NASA for its personal use by the astronauts: Wally Schirra wore his own Speedmaster, a reference CK2998, aboard the Mercury-Atlas 8 in 1962.
In 1965, NASA sentformalbids to twelve different brands whose chronographs the astronauts preferred for their own personal use. Chronographs from Breitling (already by then well-established for use in aviation), Rolex, and even a pocket watch by Hamilton were considered by NASA. Ultimately a Rolex, a Wittnauer (either the ref. 242T or the ref.235T), and an Omega made the final cut, but the Speedmaster won out by a significant margin and was found to be the most durable and suitable of the bunch for use in the Apollo missions. The Speedmaster was one of the few pieces of equipment not madespecificallyfor NASA, but given the watch’s outstanding quality, a custom model was deemed unnecessary, and Buzz Aldrin went on to famously wear his on the surface of the moon on the Apollo 11 mission.