7 NASA Astronauts Wearing Their Gold Omega Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI Limited Editions: Celebrating 50 Years Of Man On The Moon
by Nick Gould
July 20, 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of humankind first landing on the moon.
And the following day, July 21, marks 50 years since the first step was taken by NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface. His words “that’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” are now indelibly immortalized in history.
The first watch to grace the surface of the moon was the Omega Speedmaster Professional Reference 105.012 powered by manually wound Caliber 321. The Speedmaster was the only watch certified as flight-qualified by NASA after passing a battery of tests in 1965.
Aldrin was famously photographed by Armstrong with his Speedmaster in the lunar module during the Apollo 11 mission.
Debate still rages as to whether Armstrong’s Speedmaster was strapped to the outside of his spacesuit when he took that history-making first step on the moon or whether he had left it as a backup timekeeper in the lunar module due to a malfunctioning onboard mission timer. NASA’s official transcripts acknowledge the mission timer issue, but there is no mention of a watch being left behind.
We know Aldrin’s Speedmaster was strapped to the sleeve of his spacesuit, and from the mission transcripts we learned that at one point he thought the watch had stopped working while on the lunar surface. But that was a false alarm.
In celebration of the moon landing at the Astronauts Appreciation Dinner in Houston on November 25, 1969, Omega presented each of the 19 astronauts in attendance with a Reference BA145.022 Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI limited edition.
This watch featured an 18-karat yellow gold case and bracelet, a gold-colored dial, a burgundy-colored bezel made of anodized aluminum, and black onyx hour makers. Each piece is engraved on the back with the astronaut’s name, their mission name, and the quote “to mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time.”
A total of 1,014 pieces of Reference BA145.022 were made. Numbers 1 and 2 were intended for U.S. President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew, but due to the government’s policy of not accepting gifts the two politicians had to politely decline the watches. Nixon’s watch now resides in the Omega museum.
Robert-Jan Broer of Fratello Watches stated in his article “We Take A Closer Look At Two Gold Omega Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI Watches” that the astronauts who flew missions after 1969 also received these watches, making for 28 pieces gifted to astronauts.
The rest of the limited run sold to the public featured an engraved case back with the words “Omega Speedmaster – Apollo XI 1969 – the first watch worn on the moon” and the Omega logo.
In celebration of the golden anniversary of the moon landing, here are seven of the NASA astronauts who have been photographed wearing their gold Speedmasters.
7 NASA astronauts and their Reference BA145.022 Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI Limited Editions
Neil Armstrong: command pilot for Gemini 8 and commander for Apollo 11, the first manned mission to land on the moon. Armstrong is the first man to walk on the lunar surface.
Armstrong is pictured here during his tenure as a professor at the University of Cincinnati wearing his gold Speedmaster.
Buzz Aldrin: pilot for Gemini 12 and lunar module pilot for Apollo 11, Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon.
Frank Borman: command pilot for Gemini 7 and commander for Apollo 8, the first crewed spaceflight to leave earth’s orbit and circle around the moon.
Omega also commemorated that feat in a Speedmaster (though much later), which you can find out more about in Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon Apollo 8: Commemorating The First Humans Ever To See The Other Side Of The Moon (With Video).
Gordon Cooper: pilot for Mercury-Atlas 9 and command pilot for Gemini 5.
Cooper guest starred in an episode of the TV show The Courtship of Eddie’s Father wearing his gold Speedmaster.
Eugene Cernan: pilot for Gemini 9A, lunar module pilot for Apollo 10, and commander for Apollo 17, which was the last manned mission to the moon – making Gene Cernan the last man to walk on the lunar surface.
Cernan trained with the gold Speedmaster on his wrist during preparations for Apollo 17.
Thomas Stafford: pilot for Gemini 6A, command pilot for Gemini 9A, commander for Apollo 10, and commander for the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project flight.
Stafford is wearing his gold Speedmaster in his official NASA photograph. Stafford’s burgundy bezel had fallen off, and he had it replaced with a black bezel, which is visible in the photo.
Donald “Deke” Slayton: Mercury Seven crew, director of flight crew operations for Gemini and Apollo missions, and docking module pilot for the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project.
Slayton’s Speedmaster is missing the burgundy bezel in his official NASA photograph.
My thanks to Robert Jan Broer of Fratello Watches for assistance in pinpointing which space program members received gold Speedmasters.
Quick Facts Omega Speedmaster Professional Reference BA145.022 Apollo XI Limited Edition
Case: 42 mm, 18-karat yellow gold with burgundy-colored tachymeter bezel
Movement: manually wound Caliber 861 (base Lémania 1873), 17 jewels, 48-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; 12-hour chronograph
Limitation: 1,014 pieces
Years of manufacture: 1969-1976
Remarks: the very first limited edition Speedmaster; numbers 1-32 are engraved with the names of their recipients