July 20th will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. And as many of you already know, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were all issued NASA-approved Omega Speedmaster Professional chronographs for their epic space journey. The vintage Omega Speedmaster market has always been robust, but we are seeing unprecedented levels of interest (and rising values) these days – no doubt fueled in part by the milestone anniversary. For those of you who may be interested in delving into vintage Speedmaster watches, today we’re taking a look at two vintage Speedmaster Professional references: the 145.012 vs 145.022.
Production Dates and Design: Speedmaster 145.012 vs 145.022
Omega produced the Speedmaster Professional ref. 145.012 from 1967 until 1968 (with a few models delivered in 1969). Given its manufacturing dates, it is known as a pre-Moon Speedmaster. In fact, astronaut Michael Collins was issued a Speedmaster Pro ref. 145.012 for use during the Apollo 11 mission.
On the other hand, the Speedmaster Professional ref. 145.022 made its debut in 1968 to replace the 145.012 and remained in production until 1981. In 1981, the 145.022 transitioned to the 145.0022 reference (but still retained the same case number) and remained in the catalog until 1988. The 145.022 is the longest-running Speedy Pro reference to date. Since the Lunar Landing occurred one year later in 1969, there are only a few pre-Moon Speedmaster ref. 145.022 models.
The cases of the Speedmaster Professional 145.012 and the 145.022 are essentially identical, which is to say 42mm in diameter, stainless steel, and topped with the familiar black tachymeter bezel.
However, if you look closely at the tachymeter scale of ref. 145.012, you’ll see that there’s a dot over 90 (DO90 or DON) while the Speedmaster ref. 145.022 has the dot next to 90 (DN90 or DNN). The dials have some minor differences too. The Speedmaster Professional 145.012 has an applied Omega logo on the dial. Conversely, the Speedmaster Professional 145.022 introduced the printed Omega logo – a trait that can be found on the modern Speedmaster Professional watches that Omega manufactures today.
The casebacks of the earlier 145.012 reference featured the famed Omega Hippocampus emblem along with “Speedmaster.” After Buzz Aldrin took his steps on the moon with his Speedy on his wrist, Omega began including “The First Watch Worn On The Moon” text on the back of the Speedmaster Pro ref. 145.022 watches. The style of the inscription changed over the years, culminating in the medallion case back with the Hippocampus at center encircled by text.
The only exception to these design differences can be found on the “transitional” pre-moon Speedmaster Professional ref. 145.022-68, which carried over many of the design details of the preceding ref. 145.012.
Movement: Speedmaster 145.012 vs 145.022 (Caliber 321 vs Caliber 861)
The exterior variances between the 145.012 and the 145.022 may be difficult to spot at first glance; but open up the case and you’ll see one major difference between these two vintage Speedmaster Professional models. The ref. 145.012 is the last Speedmaster to have Caliber 321 while ref. 145.022 was the first to come equipped with Caliber 861.
The result of a collaboration between Omega and Lémania, the manually-wound Caliber 321 uses a column-wheel chronograph system with a horizontal clutch. Compared to a cam-controlled chronograph, a column-wheel one is considered better quality and smoother to operate – yet more complicated and expensive to build. This beautifully designed and robust movement is so important to Omega’s history and so beloved by Omega enthusiasts that the brand recently announced that Caliber 321 will be going back into production.
The subsequent manually-wound Caliber 861 (also Lémania-based) uses a cam-controlled chronograph, resulting in an easier and less expensive movement to build. It’s safe to assume that Omega anticipated that the demand for the newly coined “Moonwatch” would be significant, thus needed a chronograph caliber for the Speedmaster that would be quicker to manufacture. However, the Caliber 861 also brought with it a higher frequency; it operates at 21,600 beats per hour compared to Caliber 321’s 18,000bph rate.
Value and Collectability: Speedmaster 145.012 vs 145.022
In the current vintage market, the Speedmaster Professional 145.012 is generally significantly more expensive than the Speedmaster Professional 145.022 – about double. This isn’t surprising given that the earlier model was only in production for two years, and it is the last Speedy to come with the coveted Caliber 321.
UPDATE September 2019:
Since we originally published this article, the value of the Omega Speedmaster Professional 145.012 has gone up significantly. Increased attention on the Speedmaster collection due to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing has caused Speedmaster prices across the board to increase – especially for references fitted with the legendary Caliber 321 movement.
At a recent auction that we presented in collaboration with Sotheby’s, a reference 145.012 Omega Speedmaster Professional with a Cal. 321 movement realized a final sale price of $16,250. Given the iconic status of the classic Speedmaster Moonwatch, we would not at all be surprised to see vintage Speedmaster prices continue to rise over the next several years, much like vintage Rolex Daytona prices have over the last couple decades.
The Speedmaster Professional 145.022 is still an affordable option for a vintage Speedy with current prices ranging anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000. It remained in production for a long time, so there are plenty of examples currently available on the secondary market. But as we have mentioned, the general demand for vintage Speedmasters is on the rise. And we wouldn’t be surprised if prices for the Speedmaster Professional 145.022 continue to go up as demand increases. Consequently, while they are still somewhat plentiful today, the pool of examples in good condition may start to dry up.
Both great examples of vintage Speedmaster watches, the Speedmaster Professional 145.021 is the last of the pre-Moon Speedys equipped with the highly-coveted Caliber 321 movement, while the Speedmaster Professional 145.022 with its then-new Caliber 861 paved the way for the modern Omega Moonwatch lineup.