To Infinity And Beyond: A Critical Look At The Two Latest Limited Edition Omega Speedmasters
With the number of Speedmaster variations in the triple digits, what lasting impacts will Omega’s Apollo 11 50th Anniversary editions have on the model’s lineage?
2019 was destined to be a big year for Omega, and it's been a long time coming. As you may well know, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, a seismic event for the world at large and the watch world in particular.
To commemorate this epic anniversary, Omega has released two new versions of their famed Speedmaster, one in steel on steel and the other in a first-ever Moonshine Gold. Much has been made of these anniversary editions with every watch publication covering the star-studded celebrations and the glowing new members of the Speedmaster lineage. You can read my colleagues’ reports on these here and here.
Since others have covered the historical and technological significance of these new releases to great effect, let’s instead consider a couple of questions that have been percolating through the stratosphere.
Nothing Gold Can Stay?
A golden anniversary calls for a golden watch, and Omega has more than provided with not only a solid gold Speedy but also a stainless steel version with 18K gold accents. Is this a momentary blonde ambition or the beginnings of a gold watch revival?
Stainless steel watches outsell their golden brethren by a wide margin. Go to any number of watch forums, and you'll see that public opinion often finds gold, especially yellow gold, to be too flashy for today's everyman.
Stainless steel is associated with tool watches, these timepieces on a mission that just happen to look good. Yellow gold is associated with either the attention-seeking nouveau riche or the elderly with bygone tastes, in other words, rappers or grandpas.
But the Moonshine Gold is not your typical yellow gold. The paler color - think more custard than mustard - comes from an alloy of approximately 70% yellow gold, 15% silver, 8% copper, and 7% palladium. Omega’s proprietary mix pays tribute to the original solid gold BA145.022 Speedmasters gifted to the likes of the Apollo 11 crew and President Nixon while purportedly being more resistant to aging.
But will the Moonshine Gold Speedmaster be able to convince the strictly “no gold” contingent to consider warmer options? For an unscientific but telling study, let’s take a look at the comment section on Watchonista’s June 12th Instagram post. At the time of writing, the audience is evenly split between gold and steel with the same number of votes on each side.
What’s behind this relative victory for team gold? The historical homage to the original Apollo 11 gold Speedmaster is no doubt at play, and only time will tell if this is part of a larger trend in metal preference. Tastes are cyclical after all, so maybe the gold that was popular in the ’60s and the ’80s is overdue for a comeback.
“One Small Step” On The Collector’s Treadmill
This is where things get a bit controversial, so I’ll ease into it. The Omega Speedmaster is arguably the most frequently collected watch. When budding watch enthusiasts are first learning of quality manufacturers and models, the Speedmaster is cited as “the most satisfying watch to own,” “the best watch for the money,” and even “the only watch you’ll ever need.”
As an impressionable young enthusiast, one gets the impression that buying a Speedmaster could very well be the beginning and the end of a watch collection - the Alpha and the Omega. This is where perception departs from reality.
Omega has done a masterful job of maximizing desire within the collector community. On the Omega website right now, there are a total of 128 variations of the Speedmaster. For anniversary limited editions, there are 11 versions. Even with this limited edition Apollo 11 anniversary, Omega released not one but two watches.
It's my guess that the people purchasing limited editions are not buying their first Speedmaster. Therefore Omega has been able to cultivate repeat buyers from the collectors who might've originally thought their Speedmaster experience would be one and done. And who can blame Omega? Chances are, if you like owning a Speedmaster, you'll like owning another.
With so many special releases in the Speedmaster lineup, one wonders, is there an unlimited lineup of limited editions? On the one hand, there are no monumental galactic achievements on the horizon, and the 100th anniversary is half a lifetime away. On the other hand, each successive incarnation has by-and-large been a watch worth coveting. The limited editions especially are all but guaranteed to sell out.
But at what point does this stop moving the horological needle and start becoming the watch community's equivalent of the Myth of Sisyphus? Will there ever be enough Speedmasters to satisfy collectors, or are we destined to keep pushing the (lunar) rock up the hill?
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)