Some Speedmasters Have Accelerated Beyond AttainabilityOctober 26, 2021
Iam not here to tell you how or why certain Limited Edition Omega Speedmaster prices have seen triple-digit growth in recent years – for instance $20,000 TinTins. Or $50,000+ Silver Snoopy examples, even though the most recent edition retailed for under 10 grand. Your guess is as good as mine.
I can tell you, however, that I probably feel the same way you do: That current prices make me wonder how on earth the hobby I’ve loved for the past decade and a half ended up like this.
Not to sound bitter, but I remember the days when the Speedmaster 2004 Japan Racing Edition was under $10k, and the TinTin was right beside it, consistently offered at even less. And those days were not that long ago. This isn’t totally unique to watches. Everything has gone up, but it still leaves me scratching my head.
I also remember stopping by an Omega boutique around 2011 and being offered an Alaska Project (ref. 3188.8.131.52.04.001) that had been sitting in the back because no one wanted it. Nowadays these watches I’ve just mentioned – which all use the cal. 1861 – are worth figures from the mid-teens to the low-$20,000 mark. There’s no one to blame. It’s just age-old market forces at work. The invisible hand is moving the Speedmaster market when it’s not slapping us across the face.
But the way I see it, I lived through the era when very few buyers wanted these limited-edition Speedmasters – and I’ve learned that the watches that no one wants now are the same watches that end up with ludicrous asking prices years from now. So below, I’ve paired a handful of Speedies that have reached stratospheric heights with affordable alternatives (it’s all relative) still on the launch pad. That way you’ve got options depending on how deep your pockets are, and whether you’re interested in living for the moment or preventing a future “shoulda coulda woulda.”
In The Stratosphere: Snoopy Speedmaster (3184.108.40.206.04.003)
When I was chatting with James Lamdin of Analog/Shift about all things watches, he made an acute observation: There’s a theme that’s tying together many of the Speedmasters fetching big numbers around $50,000. He says, “they’re all irreverent and fun. Maybe even cartoonish. The less serious ones are the ones that pop.” And he’s right. The Snoopy is the best example of that. In the modern Speedmaster scene, it’s a limited edition emblazoned with a child’s cartoon that’s fetching the biggest bucks. I can’t explain it, either. And yes, I’m very aware of what NASA’s Silver Snoopy award means.
On The Launch Pad: Speedmaster Professional Galaxy Express (3571.50.00)
From the front, this limited edition Speedmaster looks just like a standard model, but flip it over and you’ve got your cartoon character right there on the caseback. It’s a depiction of Maetel, a supporting character in Japanese manga Galaxy Express 999. There’s something neat about the stealthiness of a limited edition that presents as a standard edition. There are 1,999 of these in the world, whereas there are 1,970 of the Silver Snoopy edition. So roughly the same level of rarity, but not nearly as well known.
In The Stratosphere: Omega Speedmaster Alaska Project (3220.127.116.11.04.001)
The 2008 Alaska Project limited edition was based on a program Omega has codenamed “Alaska Project” in the early ’70s. The goal was to create a Speedmaster suited for environments with extreme temperature changes. They did this through creating a shield for the watch in addition to experimenting with new materials, like titanium, and surface finishings, like bead blasting. The watches never moved out of prototyping in the ’70s but in 2008 Omega released a 1,970-piece run of watches that visually resembled the Alaska Project watches from the ’70s. It retailed for about $5,000. Now these watches are traded at figures near the low-$20,000 mark.
On The Launch Pad: Omega Speedmaster Hodinkee 10th Anniversary (318.104.22.168.06.001)
Yes, this is our own Speedmaster Limited Edition. Normally I shy away from mentioning the watches we’ve worked on, but when it comes to a more reasonable alternative to the Alaska Project, I see the H10 Speedy as a fantastic choice. They trade for around half of what an Alaska Project costs, but they bring the same ’60s/’70s Omega tool watch aesthetics to the table. Omega tool watches from this era looked like they were lifted right out of the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. The H10 Speedy has a bi-color register that’s akin to the 9 o’clock register on the flightmaster of the ’60s/’70s. There’s also plenty of color present considering the chronograph hand, too. The watch incorporates design elements that came to prominence during the same era as the original Alaska Project prototypes. If you’re after that very specific ’70s Omega tool watch look, then the H10 Speedy is worth considering.
In The Stratosphere: Omega Speedmaster TinTin (322.214.171.124.01.004 )
Fratello broke the story about the TinTin connection, right down to the letters sent to the popular Dutch watch blog by Hergé, the Belgian cartoonist behind the European comic. Even if Hergé doesn’t want us to call it the “TinTin,” the name stuck. And the popularity of the watch has only grown since its 2013 release. In fact, in 2013 it wasn’t popular at all. The initial reception was lukewarm at best. The red-and-white checkered pattern along the seconds track was incredibly polarizing. The watch was only in production for two-and-a-half years, but the exact quantity produced is unknown (it’s estimated at 1,000 to 2,000). That hole in our knowledge has created a situation where the TinTin trades in the high teens now. Some people saw it coming, like Wei Koh of Revolution, asking if it was the next Newman-level hype watch. Well, that day came. And here we are.
On The Launch Pad: Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch “Apollo 15” 40th Anniversary Limited Edition (3126.96.36.199.01.003)
If you like a little color along the seconds track then you’ll love this watch, it features three concentric rings, in red-white-and blue, around the circumference of the dial. They’re faint enough that they’re immediately noticeable, but they don’t cry out for attention like the TinTin. The color scheme is a nod to the American flag, with the Apollo 15 connection and all, but you know what other space-faring nation boasts that trio of colors? Russia. The Soyuz test project, which Omega has also honored with a limited edition, took place when Russia was part of the Soviet Union and flew under a different flag. But Russia today continues to tremendously contribute to space exploration. Heck, before the private sector kicked in and after the cancellation of the shuttle program and further cuts to NASA’s budget in 2011, it was ROSCOSMOS that sent American astronauts to the ISS aboard the Soyuz rocket that they managed to keep operational. If you’re facing budget cuts of your own, this watch still trades for under $10,000.
In The Stratosphere: Omega Speedmaster Japan Racing Dial (3570.40)
This 2004 Japan-market limited edition visually references the original Speedmaster Racing from 1969, a “pre-Moon” example. The dial is also shared with the Speedmaster Mk II. It’s James Stacey’s favorite Speedmaster model and one of mine, too. I wish I had picked one up when I had the chance, although I did end up owning a MkII with a racing dial instead. Like many limited editions, the number of examples produced mirror the year of production, so there are 2004 of these watches out there and they currently trade in the low- to mid-teens. After all, the Speedmaster was originally a racing watch before it accidentally found fame as a moon watch. As James has mentioned, there’s something great about an edition that speaks to that.
On The Launch Pad: Omega Speedmaster Reduced Racing (3518.50.00)
The Speedmaster reduced has never really found a strong following in the collector community. That’s most likely because of the high price of servicing and the fact that, well, one of the main points of a post-Moon Speedy is that it’s not automatic. But if you really want a racing dial then this is a great way to go. It was a 2010 edition of a not-so-limited 6,000 pieces and features the same racing track that you find in its more popular cousins. “Racing” even appears above the 6 o’clock subregister, just to further reinforce the racing (and Schumacher) connection. We do have one over at Crown & Caliber, and I’d still pick this watch even if we didn’t.