The tale of a space-traveling Speedmaster

Let’s start this story with a little warning: the watch you are about to fall in love with is in our private collection and is not for sale. It is just that the story is too cool to keep it to ourselves. Join us on a mission to outer space with this very special Omega Speedmaster!

By Thomas van Straaten on January 14, 2021

High-speed Speedmaster history

You probably know all about the Speedmaster’s connection to NASA and the moon. It is a bit too much to cover here, but just in case you missed it, you might want to start here:

https://www.awco.nl/why-we-love-speedmasters/

 

A fan favourite

The events of the sixties played a big part in making the Omega Speedmaster one of the most beloved watches in history. Hardcore collectors and casual watch aficionados alike have flocked to this icon of watchmaking.

It is a watch that is worthy of its reputation. Not just because it earned its stripes in NASA testing and on space missions, but because it is arguably a near-perfect watch in terms of design, technology, versatility and style. And since it has always been produced in relatively large quantities, it is also much more affordable than many watches with much less pedigree, significance and competence.

"It is a watch that is worthy of its reputation. Not just because it earned its stripes in NASA testing and on space missions..."

The Skylab ‘mutiny’ helped planners realise the complexities of prolonged living in space (Credit: Nasa)

A Speedmaster that walks the talk

While it is very cool to wear a piece of space traveling history on the wrist, the vast majority of Speedmasters have never gone higher than perhaps a business or holiday flight. Today, we are proud to share a piece from AWCo’s private collection, that has actually walked the talk!

MIR

Before we dive into the watch, let’s first have a short look at MIR space station. As the Soviet Union’s second space station after Saliut, MIR (meaning peace) was launched in 1986. It was a space research centre measuring 13,5 x 4,3 meters, housing 3 to 6 cosmonauts. It was a modular station, capable of hosting additional modules, a Soyuz spaceship and refuelling vessels.

In 1987-88, for the first time ever, a MIR crew spent over a year in space. This resulted in valuable insights into the human body under zero gravity.

35 Lucky Speedies

In 1993, Omega sent 28 steel Speedmasters and 7 golden variants up to MIR for a year of testing and exposure to these alien conditions. Omega was particularly interested in the effect of micro-gravity on mechanical watch movements.

The steel models (10 on leather and 18 on steel bracelets) were of the, for the early nineties, standard configuration of hessalite Speedmaster Professional Ref. 345.0022.105.

When the watches returned to their home planet in 1994, Omega collected them for thorough testing. The conclusion was that the Speedies had performed perfectly and did not suffer any strain from these special conditions.

The watches underwent a light service and were then sold in Switzerland, likely within Omega’s own network rather than publicly. Omega fitted a special caseback reading “365 DAYS ON BOARD SPACE STATION MIR – JULY 1993 – JULY 1994” and an individual number out of 28 or 7 (steel vs gold). They were then sold in special book-shaped leather cases in an aluminium case, with commemorative book and VHS tape (yes, 90s baby!).

One of those most collectable variants

Omega has often been ridiculed for their extreme amounts of special editions. But within the Speedmaster universe, there are a few special references that are just extremely collectable. Think of the original yellow gold Apollo XI, of which 1014 have been made, or the Apollo Soyuz, 500 pieces. The Snoopy Award at 5441 pieces or the Holy Grail at 1500 pieces.

Now compare that to a Speedmaster Professional that has actually been to space in a batch of a mere 35 pieces. AWCo owners Toesja & Roel are proud to share this highlight within their private collection. Theirs is number 24/28, unworn and with beautifully yellowed original tritium.

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