An astronaut’s 18K gold Omega chronograph

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THE Omega Speedmaster beat out the Rolex Daytona and a handful of other chronographs to be Nasa’s official choice for mid-century astronauts. That’s right. Watches. In. Space. Today, many people call the Speedy the Moonwatch because of this. (In Apollo 13, you can see Tom Hanks dramatically fiddling with his to time the events that would bring everyone back home safely.)

The watches that actually made it beyond the stratosphere were more modest steel chronos, but this solid 18K gold Speedy Pro was presented to Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean once he was back on earth. And now it’s hitting the block.

Designed in 1969 to commemorate the first moon landing, only 1,014 watches of this model were ever produced — and this gold Speedmaster Professional is of an even rarer subset, one of 30 given to President Richard Nixon, Vice President Spiro Ag new, and the Apollo 12 astronauts. It’s No 26, to be exact, and belonged to Bean, who became the fourth person to walk on the moon and later took another trip to space in the early 1970s. The caseback engraving explicitly says that this watch marks “man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time”.

Seriously, it just doesn’t get any cooler than that.

The watch itself is quite similar to the steel Speedmasters that went to the moon. Inside is the caliber 861 movement, a slightly less expensive and robust version of the caliber 321 that sat inside Buzz Aldrin’s watch, but it still has the same familiar dial layout and pump-style pushers. The tachymeter bezel is black, but the 18K gold gives the optical illusion of it having a deep burgundy colour, amplified by the blockier hour markers. At 42mm, the watch was absolutely massive for the time, making it particularly well-suited to being strapped over a spacesuit for easy reading on the fly.

With an estimate price of between US$40,000 (RM146,400) and US$60,000, this 18K gold Omega Speedmaster is lot 141 in Bonhams’ Space History Sale on April 21. — Bloomberg


This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on April 13, 2015.