We go in-depth and hands on with the new and highly anticipated Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Apollo 11. A limited edition series to 6,969 examples in stainless steel with Moondust Gold accents to complement the solid gold version announced earlier.
See also our coverage Live from Time to Move: Omega novelties.
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Apollo 11
This is the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Omega is pulling out all stops to bring us the commemorative watches. First with an all gold Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary, and recently at their headquarters in Biel, Switzerland, the stainless steel edition. The gold version is limited to 1014 pieces and priced at CHF 32,000 or S$ 48,000 while the steel version, reviewed here is limited to 6969 pieces and priced at CHF 8,900 or S$13,350.
Limited Edition 6969 pieces
First let us address the elephant in the room…even before going into detail on the watch and its packaging, both of which are fabulous. Many commentators and keyboard warriors have exclaimed, “6969 pieces? That’s not a limited edition.” Well, it is limited to a specific number…so technically it is a limited edition. But we do understand the issue of those who take this position…there are just too many to be special. If we were skeptical and paranoid, we would accuse Omega of being profiteering.
But we see the flip side as well. Clearly, Omega needs to ensure the supply is sufficient to satisfy the global demand. And we totally understand the decision taken by Omega CEO, Raynald Aeschlimann for a large edition. These watches need to be in collector’s hands, and not in the grubby hands of black marketeers. Even large numbers like 2012 pieces for the Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday Ultraman or the total of 5 x 2020 pieces of Speedmaster for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics sell out quickly and are very hard to get. Resulting in high premiums in the black market. Many true collectors not being able to get one. Aeschlimann wanted to ensure a good supply. And so far, we hear this is going well.
The case, dial and hands with the packaging
The watch is delivered in a rather large box, and includes an additional Velcro® strap in blackened cork with golden marks. This is a salute to the Apollo-era “boost protective cover” – a fiberglass structure covered with thick cork ablator, which protected the crew from intense heat during launch. The box also includes two NASA patches displaying the Apollo 11 mission patch and the 50th Anniversary patch. Details can be seen on the Omega official page here.
As a celebration piece, Omega did not break any moulds with the design. It follows almost strictly to the well defined and familiar norms set by the original Speedmaster Moonwatch. The case is 42mm and in stainless steel, with a black polished ceramic bezel ring. The bezel is inset with a Ceragold™ tachymeter scale.
The indexes, bezel, Omega logo and almost all of the hands have been created in 18K Moonshine™ Gold – a new patent-pending alloy that is a paler hue than traditional yellow gold and offers high resistance to fading.
The dial and bezel carries numerous details specific to this model. First, this is a DON bezel. While the Dot Over Ninety (DON) is not specific to the Apollo 11 Moonwatch, it is an indication of its special status. DON bezels are found mainly in cal.321 Speedmaster and some early transitional models of cal.321 and cal.861 models, and used by Omega as a celebratory tribute. The regular Speedmasters like the newer cal.861 and cal.1861 all bear the DNN (Dot Next to Ninety) detail. As a side note, the Ultraman also carries a DON bezel.
Continuing, the hour marker for 11 is stylized in 18k Moonshine Gold, and at 9, the sub dial shows a laser engrave image of Buzz Aldrin climbing down onto the lunar surface.
The case back on the steel edition is closed, and carries a blackened decoration of a laser engraved footprint on the lunar surface. Neil Armstrong’s legendary quote “ONE SMALL STEP FOR A MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND” is written in Moonshine gold plated lettering.
The movement: Omega cal. 3861
The movement is the new Omega Master Co-Axial Calibre 3861. Most admirers of the Moonwatch sigh a relief that it is a handwound movement. It is equipped with Silicon, Co-Axial and anti-magnetic technology.
However, many critics would point out that unlike the traditional chronographs including the cal. 321 used in the original Moonwatch, the coordination is done through a cam rather than a column wheel. Especially since Omega recently announced that they have resumed production of the cal.321, many wonder why this was not used in this landmark commemorative piece.
The gold edition also uses the same movement, but the caseback is open with a sapphire glass porthole to show the movement.
Movement finishing is a high level of engineering finish, with some elements of haut horlogerie. The bridges are adorned with Côtes de Genève and anglage. The steel chronograph parts are straight grained polished.
Again, this is another watch which has no competition. The original Speedmaster Professional secured for Omega the coveted title of the First Watch on the Moon, a fact proudly proclaimed by Omega at every instance possible. But all would be moot, if this was the only thing going for it. And of course, it is not. The Speedmaster is a competent performer, operating well under almost all conditions.
It is a good looker as well, and the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of iterations and variations to the base Speedmaster makes a highly collectible series. And the enhancements of little details makes this issue all the more endearing to all.