The world of the Omega Speedmaster can be challenging to navigate. There are plenty of “Speedy” references, each with its own characteristics and heritage. And when you dive into the world of the Moonwatch, you quickly learn that collectors tend to classify watches into categories like “pre-Professional” or “Professional” models. Then there are the “pre-Moon” and “Moon” references (i.e., those from before the first Moon landing and those that came after).
The Omega ref. 105.003 is a pre-Moon Speedmaster. It’s named after Ed White, the first American to perform an extravehicular activity (EVA or “spacewalk”). He did so as part of the Gemini 4 mission on June 3, 1965. White’s Speedmaster ref. 105.003 joined him in the vacuum of space. NASA had declared the watch “flight-qualified for all manned space missions” on March 1st that same year. Before certifying the Speedmaster, NASA put many timepieces through extensive tests to see which was best suited to the challenges of space flight. The Speedmaster outperformed both the Rolex 6238 (known as the “Pre-Daytona”) and the Longines-Wittnauer 235T, thus taking its place in history as the official watch of NASA astronauts.
The Speedmaster ref. 105.003 was in production from 1964 until 1969 and is known as the third-generation Speedmaster, coming after the CK2915 and the CK2998. (Technically speaking, it’s actually the fourth generation because there was also the Speedmaster reference 105.002 – a transitional model that changed the reference system.) The ref. 105.003 introduced white baton hands, achieving better legibility. It’s also the last Speedmaster with straight lugs and no crown guards. That’s a plus for many Speedmaster enthusiasts, quite a few of whom prefer the older case design over that of their successor models, the ref. 105.012 and ref. 145.012.
Omega actually introduced both the 105.012 and 145.012 during the 105.003’s five-year production run. In addition to the updated case design, you can tell them apart from the ref. 105.003 by the “Professional” inscription on the later models’ dials. A common myth is that Omega only began adding this inscription to the Speedmaster’s dial after NASA had officially certified it. However, the ref. 105.012 from 1964 already featured the words “Omega Speedmaster Professional” on its dial. With or without the word “Professional” on its dial, the Speedmaster ref. 105.003 Ed White remains a remarkable, special Speedmaster model that is valued by collectors to this day.
To honor the legendary Omega caliber 321, Omega introduced the all-new Omega Speedmaster 321 in early 2020. This timepiece celebrates the legendary 321 movement and the iconic ref. 105.003 worn by Ed White. Omega referenced Gene Cernan’s Speedmaster ref. 105.003 when recreating the historic caliber. You can find this watch on display at the Omega Museum in Biel, Switzerland. The new Speedmaster 321 has received plenty of praise from both Speedmaster fans and watch enthusiasts alike. It truly shows the popularity of the original Speedmaster ref. 105.003 Ed White.
In summary, collectors love this watch because it:
– was the last Speedmaster model without a crown guard;
– houses the legendary Omega caliber 321;
– was the final pre-Professional Speedmaster reference;
– joined Ed White during the first NASA spacewalk, immortalizing the watch with his name; and
– was declared “Flight-Qualified for all Manned Space Missions” by NASA.
The vintage ref. 105.003’s value has remained fairly stable over the last five years. This is truly a legendary reference among Omega Speedmasters. Expect to pay anywhere from $11,000 to $20,000 for a ref. 105.003, depending on its condition. A mint-condition timepiece with its box and papers will set you back between $30,000 and $36,000. All things considered, an original Speedmaster Ed White is a real bargain.
Don’t get me wrong – that’s still a lot of money. But if you’re into the Speedmaster’s story and the ref. 105.003 in particular, it’s relatively affordable compared to some of the other vintage icons out there. Even so, this watch is right up there at the top as one of the greatest icons in watch and space history. So if it fits your budget, I think the Ed White is a good investment. You can be sure that it will retain its value over time. And perhaps even more importantly, you’ll be wearing a piece of watch history on your wrist.