While we are never short on words for our love of the formidable chronograph that was party to some of mankind's most incredible 20th century achievements, let's just take a moment to look at the condition on this one. The bezel is beautifully faded and in excellent shape, the case has the honest wear of a watch that was used for its intended purpose, and the dial and its tritium lume remain flawless. The inherent beauty in that can only be best appreciate on the wrist.
This particular Speedmaster is the last of the breed to utilize the Calibre .321 column wheel chronograph movement by Lemania, a Reference 145.012-67. With its characteristic applied-logo dial and "Dot Over 90" bezel, this example was produced alongside the very watches that touched down at Tranquility Base that fateful day in July, 1969.
This particular example of the Reference 145.012 is designated as an 'SP', for Spécial Poussoirs or "special pushers," meaning that these examples had unique pushers with taller caps installed in order to improve water resistance.
In horology there are certain indelible associations. Perhaps the most enduring and the most iconic is the association with NASA and the Omega Speedmaster. The Speedmaster has set benchmarks that, in our opinion, are hard to surpass: the first watch to be flight-qualified by NASA for manned space missions, the first watch to be worn by an American astronaut during a space walk, the first watch to be worn on the moon.
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 Caliber .321 movement, developed by famed movement-maker Albert Piguet in 1946. Over the next few years, the Speedmaster saw several changes in dial and hand configurations, but at its heart retained the design elements that would be carried down through the decades: the black dial with its triple-register layout, the 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 Tudor Monte Carlo?
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, 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, and Ed White donned his Reference 105.003-64 for America's first EVA (extra-vehicular activity) on June 3, 1965.
In 1965, NASA sent formal bids to twelve different brands whose chronographs the astronauts preferred for use in their flights. 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 and an Omega made the final cut, but the Speedmaster won out and was found to be the most durable and suitable for use in the Apollo missions. The Speedmaster was one of the few pieces of equipment used by the astronauts that was not made specifically for NASA, but given the watch’s outstanding quality, it became the first wristwatch to be flight-qualified for NASA in manned space missions.