Three Early and Genre-Defining Omega Speedmasters

The Speedmaster is unequivocally Omega’s most historically important model to date. Its history spans almost sixty years with the very first Speedmaster launched in 1957. Tiffany To reviews three early and genre-defining models from that iconic family.

The Speedmaster is unequivocally Omega’s most historically important model to date. Its history spans almost sixty years with the very first Speedmaster launched in 1957. Tiffany To reviews three early and genre-defining models from that iconic family.

By Tiffany To

The Speedmaster is unequivocally Omega’s most historically important model to date. Its history spans almost sixty years with the very first Speedmaster launched in 1957. Reference 2915 was the brainchild of Pierre Moinat and Claude Baillod. Period advertising marketed the innovative model to "men who reckon time in seconds". It was incredibly useful for race car drivers, engineers, and professionals who dealt with time in their line of work. This model is among Omega's most important references ever created, spawning successors that partook in humankind's most ground-breaking moments, the most pertinent being landing on the moon.

The Omega Speedmaster family is arguably the line of wristwatches which most directly competes with the Rolex Daytona for the scepter of the most appealing sports chronograph wristwatch of the past century. In fact, the Speedmaster was the first chronograph wristwatch to feature the tachometer scale (or, as Omega called it at the time, the Tacho-productometer scale) on the bezel, rather than on the dial. The model is a remarkable historical milestone which would be the inspiration for generations of chronographs to come.

We are delighted to present three monumental and important Speedmasters in the upcoming Geneva Watch Auction XIV, all of which are some of the earliest, most desirable and premium examples of their kind.

An early reference 2915-1 in stainless steel with chocolate brown dial, made in 1957 - Lot 53 

The very first iteration of the Speedmaster ever made, the present watch is incredibly important within the historical context of Omega’s history. In production only between 1957 and 1959, the reference 2915 was produced in three different iterations: -1, -2, and -3. CK2915-1 and -2 are the very first – and most collectible - Speedmaster models. They have unique differences from all later generations of Speedmasters, most notably in their dial graphics and important elements of case design. The large, “Broad Arrow” minute and hour hands are one such trait, but also the metal bezel - rather than a bezel with black insert - and slightly different dial graphics, distinguishable by the oval “O” of Omega.

This oval would later become perfectly round and the case has details which would later be abandoned, such as the “Speedmaster” designation engraved on the slanted edge of the case back rather than on the center. The present watch displays an exceptional "tropical" dial that has aged to a vibrant milk-chocolate shade. The brown tone is not only rich and vivid, but it is also incredibly even throughout. Moreover, the luminous material on both the dial and hands have aged to an attractive golden tone.

An early reference 2998-1 in stainless steel with chestnut brown dial and bracelet, made in 1959 - Lot 51

A true horological icon, the Omega Speedmaster has been captivating collectors for over 60 years. The reference 2998 was launched in 1959 to replace the original reference 2915 and was in production for only 3 short years as production ceased in 1962 (even though some examples were still being delivered the year after). Small modifications (different hands, bezels or dials) were made to reference 2998 throughout its production period, each modification being defined by the number after the hyphen in the reference number inscribed inside the case back. In this case: 2998-1 meaning it was the first iteration of this reference. With a movement number 17’301’174 this is one of the earliest, and most impressive reference 2998s known and important within the history of the Omega Speedmaster.

Fitted with its original black tachometer bezel graduated to 1000 units, the watch features an amazing dial that has turned to a beautiful and rich chestnut color, giving the watch incredible charisma and appeal. Furthermore the luminous material has aged evenly and now displays a warm, matching patina. As an even added detail, the case back is so well-preserved that it even retains some of the original enamel on the Omega logo - an impressive feat in itself.

An early limited edition reference 145.022-69 in yellow gold with bracelet, number 298 of a 1014 pieces limited edition, made in 1969 - Lot 49

Reference 145.022 in yellow gold was released following the historical moon landing in 1969, as a celebration of the event and - indirectly - of Omega’s partnership with NASA. With only 1,014 examples produced, the reference has achieved by now a near mythical status in virtue of its unrestrained luxurious looks, rarity and historical importance. While the series comprises 1014 pieces, they are not all identical to each other, both for looks and for intended destination. One can identify the following main “groups”:

- The first and second examples were offered to the President and Vice-President of the United States (who never accepted the gift as too expensive, and now reside in the Omega museum).

- Number 3 to 32 were offered to mission astronauts and they were engraved “To mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time” and with the name of the recipient.

- Numbers 29 to 32 were given to Swiss personalities. They bear the same inscriptions as the astronaut’s timepieces, but have no sequential number (apparently making these pieces the only 3 watches of the edition with this peculiarity)

- Numbers 33 to 1000 were commercialised. The caseback is inscribed as seen on this piece; early models feature a simple engraving, later models - such as the present lot - feature an burgundy-coloured engraving

- Numbers 1001 to 1008 were presented between ’71 and '73 to astronauts who had not yet taken part in a space mission in 1969 (to be precise, astronauts participating in Apollo XIV to XVII missions. It is unclear why Apollo XIII astronauts did not receive a timepiece).

- The final 6 pieces (1009 - 1014) were given to various personalities

Omega reissued a 50th anniversary 18K moonshine gold limited edition with sapphire case back in 2019 as a tribute to the Moonwatch legacy, indicating how important the brand itself deems this model to be for its heritage. The present example is a particularly early example that is preserved in excellent overall condition. The case is possibly unpolished and the dial is in exceedingly good condition. There is an incredibly crisp and sharp hallmark between the lugs. Finally, this dial displays the Oval "O" in Omega, which is particularly collectible among collectors today.

Photo Credit: © Jess Hoffman