There aren’t many certainties in life. However, besides death and taxes, Omega launching a limited edition of one of their most iconic models is another. It is something the manufacturer has done for a number of years now, most frequently releasing its specially numbered pieces within the Seamaster and Speedmaster collections.
The legendary Omega Speedmaster has a long and fascinating history, along with some very famous associations, and the brand can usually capitalize on them effectively. However, some limited editions are more successful than others, and for reasons that are often unclear. On the plus side, each one has a built-in rarity value: there is a specific number of examples and will never be any more of them; however, the number available can reach into the several thousand.
Hardcore purists are known to decry the trend for these releases, preferring their Speedmaster watches with the archetypal looks and all the heritage unaltered. Whichever side you come down on, there’s no denying there are some beautiful and fascinating variants of this time-honored classic, and below we have picked out three of our favorites.
Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition
2019 was always going to be a big year for the Omega Speedmaster, marking the half century since it became, officially, the Moonwatch. Way back in 1969, with the model the only flight qualified NASA timepiece, Apollo 11 touched down and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men in history to set foot on the lunar surface. Strapped to Aldrin’s wrist was his trusty 105.012, the watch that sealed the Speedy’s hero status for all time. Therefore, this commemoration of what can only be described as the greatest moment in human exploration had the weight of massive expectancy behind it.
Omega actually launched two pieces to honor the achievement, with an all gold model arriving first – a reissue of the original BA145-022 created at the end of the 60s and awarded to all the astronauts of the space program. Crafted entirely from a proprietary gold alloy that Omega calls “Moonshine Gold” (fittingly enough), it is paler than standard yellow gold and is also said to be particularly resistant to tarnishing. However, it was the steel version that everyone from watch nuts to history buffs wanted to add to their collections.
A stainless steel version arrived a few months later and didn’t disappoint. With the same 42mm case and twisted lyre lugs, the stainless steel model also made good use of Omega’s Moonshine, as was appropriate on a golden anniversary. The bezel edge, hands, indices and vintage-inspired logo all came in the precious metal, with the tachymeter scale rendered in another of the brand’s patented process, Ceragold.
The step dial was finished with a grey lacquer, ringed by a black minute track and given one ultra subtle detail just for the eagle-eyed – instead of an applied gold baton as with the rest of the hour markers, the 11 o’clock index was an actual numeral ‘11’ to designate that fabled Apollo mission. However, far more noticeable was the image engraved into the running seconds chronograph counter, a relief representation of the image of Aldrin descending the landing craft ladder onto the moon. On the case back as well, there is a design of the astronaut’s footprint along with Armstrong’s ‘One small step for a man’ quote around the outside.
Both of the Apollo 11 tribute watches have proved extremely popular, and today pre-owned models sell for above their original retail, something that can’t be said for every Omega limited edition. Definitely one (or two) limited edition Speedmaster watches to consider.
Omega Speedmaster Schumacher Legend Limited Edition
Once upon a time, the Omega Speedmaster was merely a highly capable chronograph intended, as its name suggested, for timing motorsport laps. And in the world of motorsport, few names are as highly revered as Michael Schumacher. The German F1 ace served as an Omega ambassador for many years and there have been a series of different watches unveiled by the brand in honor of his various and incredible achievements.
Among the most popular remains the Speedmaster Legend 3559.32.00, created to honor the occasion on which he became the most successful driver in Formula 1 history, winning his sixth world title in 2003. Another model for which ‘limited’ might not be quite the right word, 6,000 units of the Legend were made, available in black, white, or red. Of those, the white ‘Panda’ dial was clearly the most sought after, and one look will tell you why. With its black sub-dials over the cream-colored face, and a red encircling minute track, it could easily be mistaken for that mythical beast, the Paul Newman Daytona.
However, unlike that Rolex chronograph, the Speedmaster Schumacher ‘Legend’ is powered by an automatic movement, the Omega Caliber 3301. A column wheel controlled chronograph, based on the F. Piguet 1285, it also includes a date function – something else not found on the Daytona, or most other Omega Moonwatch models for that matter. The steel asymmetrical case stays at 42mm, with the familiar mix of brushed and polished surfaces. Turn it over and you will find the brand’s Hippocampus logo engraved in the middle, with ‘Michael Schumacher The Legend’ in red around the outside.
Only available on the pre-owned market these days, prices start at roughly the same as a standard Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch for the red dial piece (seen on the wrist of the dealer in Casino Royale if you look really hard), with the entry point for the white dial models running (on average) about several hundred to a thousand more.
Omega Speedmaster Limited Edition Speedy Tuesday ‘Ultraman’ 2
Our final Speedmaster special edition is one that certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously. The ‘Speedy Tuesday’ Ultraman 2 was made by Omega in conjunction with online magazine Fratellowatches.com, as a re-creation of an extremely rare piece from the 1970s.
The Japanese Sci-Fi TV show Ultraman ran from 1966-67, followed by The Return of Ultraman in 1971, telling the age-old story of Officer Hayata of Science Patrol, who crashes into an alien orb and gets possessed by the otherworldly being within, inheriting the ability to turn into the skyscraper-sized, monster-battling, titular character – although only for three minutes at a time. Hayata and other members of Science Patrol go on to form the inventively named Monster Attack Team, all wearing Omega Speedmasters fitted with a bright orange central hand to match their uniforms.
Only about 50 of those original Ultraman models were ever made, but the ease at which they could be faked by simply adding a different chrono hand to a standard Moonwatch has led to it long being steeped in controversy in vintage collector circles. It also means that it was massively sought-after and so ripe for an update. And that is exactly what we got in 2018, when Omega brought out 2,012 pieces of the Ultraman 2, all of which sold out in pre-order in under two hours.
This new watch was packed with orange accenting – on the ‘Speedmaster’ signature, above each hour marker, on the ‘TACHYMETRE’ script along the bezel as well as the first three minutes of the right hand sub dial (as a nod to Ultraman’s limited powers), on both the NATO and leather strap with which it was supplied, and (naturally) on the chronograph seconds hand.
Most subtly (in that you needed to use the included UV flashlight to see it), hidden beneath the running seconds counter at the nine o’clock, is Ultraman himself. Shine the light on the watch and you unveil the silhouette of his mask, in orange of course. Coupled with all that were a host of nostalgic design touches, such as the step dial, the retro Omega logo and the DON (‘dot over the 90’) bezel.
Inside, the manually-wound Caliber 1861 provides the power, itself the modern, cam-controlled version of the Caliber 321 from the original Ultraman models. Additionally, the watch is fitted with a solid case back, complete with each model’s individual issue number along with an engraved ‘#speedytuesday’—Fratello Watches’ long running Speedmaster-specific hash tag.
Due to the limited number in existence and extreme following of the Speedmaster, the Speedy Tuesday Ultraman 2 remains highly coveted among collectors, and consistently trades hands for quite a bit more than its original retail price (which was already more expensive than the standard Omega Speedmaster). Time will tell what prices will do in the future, but further rises certainly look likely. For those interested in a Speedmaster as a potential investment, it is one to keep on your short list.