By Arthur Touchot
The design of the Omega Speedmaster has been remarkably stable since the chronograph was introduced in 1957. And yet, this is also the watch with the greatest number of unique references, each one inspired by the original piece and each one slightly different to the next. To me, this makes it one of the most interesting watches to study as every model has something to offer. Take the following example.
At first, this watch looks like an ordinary Speedmaster Professional when, in fact, it is a Reference 145.012, the last Speedmaster model housing the famed calibre 321. What's more, it features a very unusual dial configuration, known as a "Racing Dial" whose provenance remains the subject of intense research among specialists.
Two types of "Racing Dial" Speedmaster models appeared in the late 1960s-early 1970s. Both differ from the standard Speedmaster dials because of their colorful configurations, with accents on the hour markers, and hour, minute and subsidiary seconds hands meant to enhance the legibility of the chronograph, or so we think.
The most well-known are the "Orange Racing" models with grey dials and orange accents. These are also known as "Second Generation Racing Dials" because they were made later, once the Speedmaster Professional began housing calibre 861. Vintage examples became famous because their design inspired a 2004 limited edition, released for the Japanese market only.
The other "Red Racing" dials are much rarer. Instead of orange, they feature red accents on a black dial that is less playful and a little more aggressive in terms of contrast. Two versions housing calibre 321 movements exist, distinguished by either two or three lines of text reading "Omega Speedmaster" or "Omega Speedmaster Professional" on the dials. The non-Professional version features an applied logo, while the Professional version has a painted logo and smaller counters.
Due to the very small number of "Red Racing" watches—less than 10 units altogether have so far been identified—they were originally thought of as prototype dials. But the similarities between the models found so far seem to suggest otherwise. Indeed, all of the known two-line "Red Racing" dials were made during the same two-year span, they were all fitted to the same reference model and they were all delivered exclusively to Swiss retailers.
This newly discovered "Red Racing" Speedmaster is the latest example to tick these boxes. Made in 1968, this watch was purchased in Zurich one year later from the retailer M. Galli & Sohn. The buyer, whose name is engraved on the caseback, remembers picking it because of its unusual dial, ignoring what a rare watch he was getting in the process.
Of course, his watch does not answer all of the questions surrounding the "Red Racing", but it does add to the mounting evidence that suggests these were in fact made and assembled for a specific factory-built model.