5 of the best Omega Speedmaster limited editionsTom Austin
You don’t need me to tell you that the Omega Speedmaster is an iconic wristwatch, its legendary status needs no introduction, and its timeless design has captivated watch enthusiasts for decades. The foundations of the Speedmaster lie in the standard Moonwatch, and while a fantastic watch that any discerning watch collector should have in their collection, some of the best Speedmasters in history are the special editions. Omega loves to throw in curveballs every few years, and introduces something rare and exciting. These limited timepieces usually represent anniversaries or landmark events, and often feature some ingredients that send Speedy collectors into a frenzy. As the Omega Speedmaster continues to snowball in popularity, more and more collectors are delving deep into the special editions catalogue to find something that little bit more special.
Speedmaster Professional “Tintin” ref. 318.104.22.168.01.004
We all know about the Speedy’s Lunar adventures, but we shouldn’t forget why the Speedmaster was originally introduced in 1957. Omega was the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games since the 1930s, however, with the Speedmaster, they were able to tap into motorsport, too. There’s been a number of racing-derived Speedmasters over the years, many of which feature the chequered design around the outer rim of the dial, but released in 2013, the Tintin was a much more prominent design with contrasting squares or red and white. It wasn’t actually known as the Tintin at first, and fewer than 2,000 watches were actually sold. Once the connection was discovered, it soon became a hot collectors piece. It was uncovered that the red and white motif on the dial was a nod to Hergé’s famous cartoon adventurer Tintin, whose space rocket carried the same red and white check design. It turns out that Omega had planned a full collaboration, but sadly this never came to be, and as such the unusual dial remained a simple “racing” dial, until collectors found out the truth. Originally, the ref. 322.214.171.124.01.004 sold for around A$6,000, however the Tintin now trades for four times as much.
60th Anniversary Alaska Project ref. 3126.96.36.199.04.001
Onwards into the Speedmaster’s adventures beyond Earth’s atmosphere, one of the most distinctive Speedmaster special editions is the Alaska Project from 2008. The watch has its roots deep in the 1960s, based on original prototypes tested by NASA for space missions, through an official program code named – you guessed it – “Alaska”, named so to throw any suspecting spies off the scent. The prototypes were developed with special inner and outer cases, designed to withstand the extreme temperature changes in space that craft and its occupants can endure as they rotate in and out of view from the sun’s powerful rays, ranging from -148C to 260C. The most prominent feature of the prototype was the large outer insulating case, protecting the watch from these extremities, and the dial, coated in zinc oxide to dissipate solar rays, and providing that bright white look. In 2008, Omega revived the design to commemorate their involvement in the project, producing a run of 1,970 pieces of an updated reference. The watch itself is classic Speedmaster, with a black tachymeter bezel, twisted lugs and hesalite crystal, however some major touches stand out, such as the bright white dial, spacecraft subdial hands, bespoke velcro strap, and of course, the huge red anodized aluminium outer shell. Don’t worry, though, this is removable so you can happily enjoy the watch without looking like you’re preparing for a mission to outer space. One of the most collectable Speedmasters around, the Alaska Project now sells for more than A$30,000 as a full set, and with so few in circulation, it’s fairly certain that these will continue to appreciate over time. I’d be remiss not to mention the MoonSwatch Mission to Mars, as it’s an homage to the Alaska Project, featuring a red and white colour scheme, and even spacecraft subdial hands to finish off the look.
Speedy Tuesday “Ultraman” ref. 3188.8.131.52.01.001
During the 2010s, the rise of the hashtag was sharp, and in watches no hashtag has had as much as an impact as #SpeedyTuesday – originally coined by Robert-Jan Broer, founder of Fratello Watches. The Speedmaster community fully embraced the habit, with it becoming legendary in Speedmaster lore, so much so in fact, that Omega joined in on the fun. One of the #SpeedyTuesday special editions that stands out significantly is the Ultraman from 2018, a fitting tribute to Return of Ultraman, a Japanese TV Show, which featured an Omega Speedmaster as part of its monster-fighting kit. The watch featured a unique dial and orange hand, details which were carried over to this special edition. The watch is a Speedmaster in every way, with fitting orange details on the dial, orange trimmed NATO strap, and even including a hidden image of Ultraman himself, only visible under ultraviolet light. Omega, never afraid to make a unique box, took things one step further with the packaging too, creating a hexagonal case, a tribute to the futuristic settings used in the TV show, containing a bespoke leather strap and UV torch for revealing the hero on the dial. Today, the Ultraman is a rare piece, trading for over A$20,000, and only 2,012 ever made.
Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award ref. 3184.108.40.206.04.003
Apollo 13 is an integral part of the Speedmaster story. Thought to be doomed due to a malfunction on the way to the Moon, a small explosion ruptured oxygen tanks, rendering the Apollo 13 craft and its three crew members drifting off-course into deep space. Some desperate quick thinking and ingenuity resulted in the crew taking a course around the Moon, using its gravitational pull to slingshot them around and send them safely home, all while suffering an extreme lack of heat and oxygen. The return journey required a series of 14-second burns to keep the craft on-course, and with most systems shut down, the only way to measure these burns was with their mechanical watches, those of course being trusty Omega Speedmasters. The Speedmaster played a massive part in the survival of the crew of Apollo 13, and as such Omega was awarded the famous NASA Silver Snoopy award for their outstanding achievement. 45 years later, Omega produced the first Silver Snoopy Award special edition to commemorate their famous feat. The watch features a Snoopy on the 9 o’clock subdial, and a Snoopy medallion on the enamelled caseback. Those important 14 seconds are immortalised on the dial, with the phrase “What could you do in 14 seconds?” – an awesome tribute to that all important final burn on the return to Earth. For some, the Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Edition plays an even bigger part in Omegas involvement in the space program than the moon landing itself, and as such, pieces sell for upwards of A$55,000, making this one of Omega’s most coveted special editions.
Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Edition ref. 310.60.42.50.99.001
Finally, a watch that tributes what we all know and love the Speedmaster for. The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine commemorates the first Moon landing in 1969, which was celebrated at the time by Omega awarding Apollo astronauts a solid gold Speedmaster ref. 145.022-69. The watch was so highly coveted that in 2019, 50 years later, Omega reproduced the piece for the half-century anniversary since mankind first stepped foot on the Moon. The 50th Anniversary Moonshine Edition stays true to its history, solid gold, though this time Moonshine, with a gold dial featuring delicate onyx hour markers, and a burgundy ceramic bezel. The exhibition caseback not only leaves the beautiful Calibre 3861 movement on display, but even features a piece of lunar rock, and a laser etched depiction of the famous Cape Canaveral. Limited to just 1,014 pieces, each one with its own number just like the 1969 original, this rare piece is a celebration from Omega that marks the Golden Anniversary wonderfully. The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary is still technically in production, however incredibly rare to come by and difficult to obtain, even if you can dish out the near-A$65,000 retail price.