“This is about as rare as it gets.” The Omega Speedmaster that wowed the Antiques Roadshow “This is about as rare as it gets.” The Omega Speedmaster that wowed the Antiques Roadshow

“This is about as rare as it gets.” The Omega Speedmaster that wowed the Antiques Roadshow

Luke Benedictus

While the Antiques Roadshow always provides a reassuring form of comfort TV, it’s particularly satisfying when an unsuspecting punter hits the jackpot. That’s exactly what happened on a recent show when the Antiques Roadshow visited Ham House in Richmond, UK. A grey-haired guest on the show presented the show’s expert, Richard Price, with his brother’s watch that turned out to be an Omega Apollo Soyuz Speedmaster.

“At first glance, it is definitely an Omega Speedmaster professional,” said Richard, a former horological consultant for the London auctioneer, Bonhams. “But it doesn’t say that on the dial. It’s got something else very different that makes it unusual – rather special.

“We’ve got this mission logo, which is the Apollo-Soyuz mission,” he continued. “That was three American astronauts and two Russians meeting up in the Apollo capsule with the Soyuz capsule in space in 1975. Remember, this was at the height of the Cold War so that was an achievement to do this.”

“At the end of the mission, a particular distributor in Italy decided to order up a batch of these watches. Some say up to 500 others say 400, but he ordered these things and they were manufactured in 1976 so almost a year after the mission.”

The expert then began to quiz the guest as to the origin of the watch that he’d presented complete with its original receipt.

“It was my brother’s watch – he bought this watch unknown to us as a family,” the guest explained.  “Unfortunately, he died later that year in a car crash. The watch came back with his effects, I was the only boy in the family so my parents gave it to me.”

Omega Apollo Soyuz Speedmaster

The guest also revealed that he’d never worn the watch as the style wasn’t his cup of tea. “I stuck it in a drawer and thought it may come in useful one day. Twenty years later, I got it out.” No wonder the watch was still in such good condition.

Examining the receipt, Richard noted the Speedmaster had been bought in the early 1980s for just under £300.  “From the collector’s point of view, the pushers are fatter [than a typical Speedmaster]. The case is rather different to accommodate the big pushers, it had a more of a chunkier strap.”

Omega Apollo Soyuz Speedmaster

Richard suspected that the reason why there was a gap of more than four year between the date of manufacture and the watch’s sale in the ’80s was probably down to the quartz crisis that caused mechanical watches to fall out of favour.

Omega Apollo Soyuz Speedmaster

“These things sat around for years before there was a resurgence in the interest in mechanical watches so historically it’s quite interesting,” he said.

Omega Apollo Soyuz Speedmaster

When it came to valuing the watch, Richard estimated it could fetch £80,000 ($145,000 AUD). “Of all the Omega Speedmasters this is about as rare as it gets.”

On the surface, it’s just another life-affirming Antiques Roadshow story. But at this specific juncture in history, the watch also feels strangely poignant. Right now, thanks to Vladimir Putin’s crazed war-mongering, the world is fast retreating into another Cold War. Amid this depressing context, a watch that acknowledges and indeed celebrates friendly co-operation between East and West feels particularly important, offering a reminder of a happier time and even a dim flicker of hope.