|Year of production (circa)
Extract of archives, Original papers
Omega Speedmaster Mission Gemini XI
In 1997, the Speedmaster celebrated its 40th birthday. To mark the occasion, Omega released a case, made of spacesuit material, filled with 23 Speedmaster Professionals. One for each Gemini, Apollo and Skylab mission plus a replica of the first CK2915. 40 Such cases were sold to the public and 10 were “not for sale”. Each watch featured a seal on the nine o’clock sub-dial with a unique icon for each mission.
Some of these collector cases have been broken up over the years, selling individual pieces numbered x/40. But Omega also launched a small batch of unnumbered watches of each model. An estimated quantity of 100-150 pieces was released of each mission edition. On offer here is one of those 100-150 pieces of the Gemini XI model from 1998. You want it rare? You can have it rare!
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The Omega Speedmaster was introduced in 1957, as a racing chronograph. Little did Omega know that a different fate altogether awaited their creation.
When John F. Kennedy announced that the USA would put a man on the moon before the end of the 1960’s, NASA went into overdrive. The Gemini and Apollo missions would all culminate in “One small step for man…” in 1969.
One detail within that endeavor, is the selection of a proper watch for the space missions. NASA started putting a number of chronographs from different brands under extreme stress. Shock, temperature change, vibration, humidity, the watches were spared no horror. The Speedmaster came out on top in 1965 and was selected as the watch of choice. No slick marketing deals here. Chosen on merit alone.
Coincidentally, astronaut Wally Schirra already wore his personal Ref. CK2998 Speedmaster on a Mercury mission in 1962. In 1965, Ed White would go on the first ever spacewalk wearing a NASA-issued Ref. 105.003-65.
From 1965 onwards, all Apollo astronauts wore Speedmasters. Including Buzz Aldrin when he set foot on the moon, wearing his Ref. 105.012. Neil Armstrong had left his Speedy in the lunar module when setting those legendary first steps.
In 1970, Apollo 13 got into serious trouble after a service-module oxygen tank ruptured. With most systems down, the astronauts had to manually time 14-second rocket bursts in order to get back to earth. They used Jack Swigert’s Speedmaster for the job. Omega was awarded the Snoopy award in recognition of the crucial role of the watch in a safe return. A comic character featured on many special editions since.
Aesthetically, the Speedmaster Professional has not changed much since those days. A rough division can be made between pre-moon and post-moon Speedies. The transition point is the inclusion of the “Flight qualified by NASA” inscriptions on the case back, although some people erroneously mark 321 caliber Speedies as pre-moon and 861 caliber variants as post-moon.
For the keen-eyed, there are tons of subtle variations within the Speedmaster line. And that is before we look at the broader Speedy-scope, with all its special editions and interestingly-shaped Mark models. You can really go deep on Speedy-specifics. Regardless of which precise variant you settle on, you will have an iconic watch with the single best backstory ever.
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