It’s not that surprising that Omega continues to release limited editions of their famous Speedmaster. Few watches can rival the impressive history of the legendary chronograph. Here, I will introduce three of the most coveted, rare, and expensive special editions of the beloved Omega Speedmaster.
1. Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321 “Ed White” – the Rebirth of a Legend
One of the Omega Speedmaster’s greatest moments occurred on June 3, 1965. That was the date astronaut Edward White became the first American to successfully perform a spacewalk. The iconic images of his legendary achievement are famous around the world to this day. Watch enthusiasts will immediately recognize the Omega Speedmaster on the outside of his space suit. The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321 “Ed White” is a detailed remake of this legendary timepiece. Just like the original, this Moonwatch Calibre 321 doesn’t have the curved, asymmetrical lugs that we’ve come to know and love from the classic Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch. These were actually first introduced on later references and not part of the design when the spacewalk took place. The 39.7-mm case diameter and dial design, complete with an applied logo and “step dial,” come very close to the original from 1965. The bracelet and clasp are also inspired by the vintage timepiece, and artificially yellowed hands and indices give you the feeling that you’re actually holding a historical specimen from the Omega vaults. In fact, the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321 could pass as a vintage watch from 1965 if it weren’t for the sapphire crystal and ceramic bezel. These two features clearly show that we’re dealing with a modern watch in a vintage look.
The level of attention to detail Omega bestowed on the “Ed White” is made especially clear when you look closer at the movement. This watch is powered by a meticulously-crafted replica of the famous Calibre 321, which is on full view through the display case back. The original caliber is a coveted collector’s item, so it should come as no surprise that Omega brought it back to life for the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321. The elaborate column-wheel chronograph movement is manufactured in its own dedicated workshop. Every single step of the assembly process is carried out by a single watchmaker. This explains in part why this model is so popular and why the wait times are so long. The watch currently sells for around $20,000 on the open market. If you’d like to add this special Speedmaster to your collection, don’t drag your feet. Although the Omega Speedmaster Calibre 321 “Ed White” isn’t technically a limited edition, rumor has it that production will cease once 2,000 copies of the Calibre 321 have been made. If that’s the case, prices will likely jump again.
2. Omega Speedmaster “Alaska Project” – a Futuristic Collector’s Item
The Omega Speedmaster “Alaska Project” is Omega’s innovative dream come true. It was released in 2008 with a limited run of just 1,970 pieces. The watch is based on the “Alaska II,” a modified standard Speedmaster with a black dial. At first glance, 2008’s “Alaska Project” also looks like an ordinary Omega Speedmaster. The 42-mm diameter, typical hesalite crystal, and bezel with a tachymeter scale are all in keeping with the Speedmaster we know and love. However, the somewhat unusual subdial hands, the red chronograph second hand, and the snow-white dial give away that something is a bit different here. However, the unique dial and hands are by no means the only things that make the Omega Speedmaster “Alaska Project” its own entity. The hidden gem of this model is the large red protective shield that can be attached to the case exterior. It is made of anodized aluminum and enables the watch to withstand temperatures ranging from -234 to 500 °F – extremes that only exist on the Moon or in space.
The “Alaska Project” comes mounted on a white Velcro strap, but an additional steel bracelet – like the one found on the standard Omega Speedmaster – is also included. The bands and the red protective shield make up the generously tailored package that comes delivered – in typical Omega fashion – in a beautiful collector’s box. Even if this watch is kind of bizarre with its shield on, the Omega Speedmaster “Alaska Project” remains a coveted collector’s item. A full set including the original box and papers will set you back more than $25,000 – a major increase from the watch’s official list price in 2008.
3. Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” Ref. 311.324230.04.001 – A Beloved Rarity
The Omega Speedmaster is one of the most historically significant watches out there – as is this “Silver Snoopy Award” version. In April 1970, when all systems failed due to an explosion during the Apollo 13 mission, the crew turned to their Omega Speedmasters to time the firing of their secondary rockets and navigate safely home. The chronograph is thus largely responsible for the survival of astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert. As a result, NASA awarded Omega its highest honor: the Silver Snoopy Award, which is given to individuals or companies that have made a significant contribution to the success of a human spaceflight mission. All the Omega Speedmaster Snoopy editions are a nod to that momentous event. Of the three Snoopy editions that have been released to date, I think 2015’s ref. 311.324230.04.001 “Silver Snoopy Award” is the most successful.
The snow-white dial with black accents and coordinating black Cordura strap with white stitching perfectly matches the color scheme of the famous Peanuts character.
Despite its serious backstory, the “Silver Snoopy Award” is playful, evoking the spirit of the comic strip. The black ceramic bezel, which glows in the dark thanks to Super-LumiNova, is a particular highlight. The best thing about this watch, however, is the minute attention to detail; for example, the first 14 seconds on the dial’s minute track are highlighted and underscored by the question, “What could you do in 14 seconds?” Moreover, there is a quote from Apollo 13 flight director Gene Kranz that reads, “Failure is not an option.” The case back features the Silver Snoopy Award logo and the inscription “Eyes on the stars.” There are numerous other nods and homages to the historic Apollo 13 mission that you’ll have to discover for yourself. Every NASA fan, Speedmaster lover, or connoisseur of the Apollo 13 movie will immediately recognize and smile at these little hints.
Omega’s meticulous attention to detail has certainly paid off. It isn’t at all surprising that this Snoopy edition is one of the most expensive Omega Speedmaster references out there. The rare, alluring timepiece currently runs around the $50,000 mark. Fellow Chrono24 Magazine author Jorg Weppelink also listed Snoopy references in his article about worthwhile Omega investments.