OMEGA SPEEDMASTER HOLY GRAIL:
THE COMPLETE REVIEW BY MOONWATCH ONLY
The OMEGA Speedmaster automatic reference ST 376.0822, nicknamed Holy Grail by collectors, is considered one of the rarest Speedmasters and thus has been highly sought after since years.
However its early days were hardly promising, the model did not sell well and its production time was very short (1987-1988).
The first person who started serious research about this model was Chuck Maddox and since then, a lot of information about it has been made available on the web. Most of these studies aim to be serious and have based their conclusions on observations. However, they most of the time lack reliable sources to validate these observations and mistakes have been unintentionally propagated and anchored in collectors’ mind.
That is why we decided to undertake extensive research on it.
Collectors must be extremely cautious when they look for information on the web. Incorrect information could lead them to conclude that their model is in a wrong configuration, and to change some components. This would be catastrophic if an original component stated as wrong / service, would be replaced.
OMEGA Speedmaster ST 376.0822
Therefore, the observation & validation cycle is fundamental rule and a necessary step to get the guarantee of reliable information when analyzing and collecting vintage watches.
This is the method we applied during the MOONWATCH ONLY journey and that we will continue to apply with our future research projects. We are however aware that this is not always possible: in this case, the readers must be warned about the uncertainty of the outcomes.
Based on our latest research, we are particularly happy to present this review. All the information has been verified, unless stated.
We hope you’ll enjoy this article and that this incredible watch will become a bit less mysterious, and even more desirable.
Maybe the only OMEGA brochure mentioning the Speedmaster ST 376.0822
(Italian version, 1988)
Holy Grail. What’s in a name?
OMEGA used the caliber 1045 movement (derived from Lemania’s 5100 movement) for several Speedmasters since 1975 (ref. ST 176.012, ST 176.014, ST 176.015, ST 176.016 and ST 345.0806 a bit later).
In September 1986, the first datasheet for a new Speedmaster Day-Date Automatic was produced, with the reference ST 376.0822 (PIC 3341 B new code in 1988). This model, unlike the ST 176.xxx series, had a Moonwatch-like case, which means a tachymeter bezel outside of the dial, improving legibility.
This legibility is even accentuated with the extension of the minute scale with a 1/5th second scale painted on a ring fixed on the glass.
Chuck Maddox, one of the greatest OMEGA collectors and experts, called it “the Grail” because he has been chasing it for a very long time.
You will understand in the last part of the article the main reason why it took ages to Chuck to find his own Grail.
OMEGA Speedmaster ST 376.0822
Original Product Sheet (1986)
- Ref. ST 376.0822 (PIC 3341 B new code since 1988)
- Self-winding caliber 1045
- Day-date, with a 24 hours subdial
- 12-hours chronograph
- Moonwatch-like case (thicker to accommodate the automatic movement) featuring crown and pushers integration
- Large dial aperture and legibility, with a glass ring showing the 1/5th seconds scale
OMEGA Speedmaster ST 376.0822
We have conducted this research on the basis of the MOONWATCH ONLY approach, which consists of analyzing separately the components of the watch. This methodology has been defined in the MOONWATCH ONLY book and represents, in our opinion, the best way to understand and to determine the coherence of any kind of model.
The following components are listed in this review:
- the caliber,
- the caseband,
- the dial,
- the bezel,
- the hands,
- the caseback,
- the crown and the pushers,
- the glass,
- the band.
1/ The Caliber
The caliber 1045 is a selfwinding movement with the functions of chronograph, 24 hours, day and date. We have not researched yet if it shows differences from that used in the 70s for the Mark 4.5 model.
2/ The Caseband
The case of the Holy Grail was manufactured by Charles Rodolphe Spillmann & Co (engraved C.R.S. in the caseback) in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
It looks like the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch case, but is thicker to accommodate the selfwinding movement. Furthermore, the right side is slightly different, with a better integration and protection of the pushers and the crown.
We have not observed any variations for this case.
- Asymmetrical caseband
- The right side integrates the pushers and the crown
- Lyre-shaped lugs
- Brushed sides and top, polished oblique surfaces
- A (between lugs): 20.0 mm
- B (excluding crown): 42.2 mm
- C (including crown): 43.0 mm
- D (bezel): 39.7 mm
- E (lug to lug): 48.4 mm
- F (thickness including caseback and glass): 15.5 mm
You can clearly see the difference between the Holy Grail case shape (on the left) and the Moonwatch case shape (on the right), especially on the right side. With its selfwinding movement, the Holy Grail doesn’t need to be wound daily, allowing the crown to be more integrated and protected.
3/ The Dial
The dial is visually the most significant component of a watch.
All Holy Grail dials have been made (and they still are) by Singer & Cie SA in La Chaux-de-Fonds. They have a perfect design that allows an excellent legibility with a lot of information:
- it has 3 subdials (at 12 o’clock: the 0-24 hours indication; at 9 o’clock: the small seconds; and at 6 o’clock: the hours counter for the chronograph);
- it has 2 apertures for the days and dates at 3 o’clock;
- the Ω logo, OMEGA and Speedmaster AUTOMATIC inscriptions are figured at 3 o’clock;
- the main hour indexes are associated with a number indicating the minutes, except 15, 30, 45 and 60;
- the SWISS MADE inscription is painted inside the minute scale.
We have no explanation for the absence of Ts (usually flanking SWISS MADE), meant to indicate the presence of tritium on the dial. We have observed the same incoherency on other dials from the 70s or 80s.
There is only one original dial for the Speedmaster Holy Grail ST 376.0822.
There is one current service dial for the Speedmaster Holy Grail ST 376.0822.
Current service dial (luminova):
The actual version (OMEGA reference 064WJ1868501), is quite difficult to distinguish from the original, because the printing is nearly 100% identical. One might observe less space between the main numbers and the main indexes, and there are no or very light concentric circles in the subdials. The most important difference is the luminova (white) on the indexes for the service parts and tritium (yellowish) on the original dial. The inscriptions on the back of the dial are different from the original version.
Sometimes the dial from the Mark 4.5 model (reference ST 176.0012) is used as a replacement.
Speedmaster Mark 4.5 dials:
This is not an original configuration.
These Mark 4.5 dials (actually there are a few types of them, original or service) can be identified immediately by:
- the lack of the “10” under the index at 2 o’clock;
- the presence of a seconds track.
4/ The Bezel
As for the Moonwatch, the bezel shows a black tachymeter located outside the dial. It consists of a support and an insert or ring of aluminum (according to OMEGA literature).
Keep your bezel!
It was commonly admitted that only one type of bezel was originally fitted on the Holy Grail, which correspond to the B2 type in our MOONWATCH ONLY nomenclature. However, our research shows that a second version (identified as B4) is systematically found on late production Holy Grails.
Bezel B2 (Dot Close To 70 – Narrow C),
fitted from March 1987 to February 1988
- No accent in TACHYMETRE
- Tall fonts
- “C” of TACHYMETRE stretched and closed
- “7” with serif
Bezel B4 (Dot Close To 70 – Wide C),
fitted from February 1988
- No accent in TACHYMETRE
- Small fonts
- “C” of TACHYMETRE round and open
- “7” without serif
It might sound astonishing that the type B4 was used for the Holy Grail while it appeared only in 1990 on the Moonwatch. We have not found any reason for this except that the Holy Grail is NOT a Moonwatch. Furthermore, this type of situation is not isolated: for example, while the Moonwatch dial type C5. Short S appeared only in 1991, the same typography had already been observed on the Steel & Gold Speedmaster from 1983 … and the Holy Grail from 1987!
We conducted a specific research in order to validate this observation.
The table on the right lists 41 ST 376.0822 identified by their serial number (S/N), for which we have a front picture and the production date. It is ordered by production date and one can clearly see that models produced in 1987 and up to 9 February 1988 have the type B2 bezel, whereas all models produced at a later date have a type B4 bezel. It is likely that some late Holy Grails have had their bezel replaced with a B2 unfortunately, but at this point, we have not observed any exception to this. Note in this table that the serial numbers are not correlated with the production date.
There is no specific service bezel for the Holy Grail. Therefore the modern ones of the Moonwatch (with an accent on the “È” of TACHYMÈTRE, type B5 or type B6 in the MOONWATCH ONLY nomenclature) can be used.
5/ The Hands
There is only one original configuration for the steel ST 376.0822 model and all seven hands are white.
Original hands (tritium):
- the hours and minutes hands are pointed baton hands with a long lume track;
- the small seconds hand is a standard pointed baton;
- the chronograph seconds hand has the shape of the corresponding classic Moonwatch (flat counterweight and lozenge-shaped insert);
- the chronograph minutes hand has a particular hand with a point in the shape of an airplane;
- the chronograph hours hand is a standard pointed baton;
- the 24-hour hand is triangular with lume.
It seems that the hands of the Speedmaster Mark 4 or Mark 4.5 have been used also as replacement hands for the Holy Grail. They are easily recognizable.
Service hands (luminova):
- the hours hand is broader;
- the hours and minutes hands have a shorter groove, and are less pointed;
- the chronographe seconds hand may have the lozenge-shaped insert (as pictured, similar to the Mark 4) or not (similar to the Mark 4.5).
6/ The Caseback
No engraving surrounds the central medallion, which shows the Speedmaster inscription, the seahorse and the Ω logo.
The following inscriptions are engraved on the inner face:
- Ω logo and OMEGA WATCH CO in a triangle
- FAB. SUISSE
- SWISS MADE
- ACIER INOXYDABLE
- ST 376.0822
7/ The Crown and the Pushers
As described in the Caseband paragraph above, crown and pushers are more integrated compared to the Moonwatch. As far as we know, there is only one type for each of them.
Original crown and pushers:
- Crown’s diameter: 6.5 mm
- Crown’s height: 2.7 mm
- Pushers’ diameter: 5.0 mm
- Pushers’ height: 3.5 mm
8/ The Glass
Like the classic Moonwatch, the glass is in hesalite. Its main difference compared to all other OMEGA hesalite glasses is that its rehaut (ring) includes a seconds scale showing markers for 1/5th of a second. If the utility of this feature is quite limited, it produces at least a spectacular aesthetic effect, giving the illusion of an increased dial surface.
Above, detail of the OMEGA data sheet mentioning the 300 divisions on the glass ring.
The picture on the left shows this seconds scale on the glass ring.
Many Speedmasters from the 1980s have a specific hesalite glass with no Ω logo in the center. We have no explanation at this stage about this peculiarity.
We have observed many original Holy Grail models fitted with this kind of glass, but there is no document formalizing this specific feature.
9/ The Bracelet
There is only one original bracelet for the Speedmaster Holy Grail: the reference 1450.
On September 9, 1986, a datasheet for the case of ST 376.0822 was produced by OMEGA (see above in the Caseband paragraph). In the Bracelet section, the following information was indicated:
- MATIERE: ST (for steel)
- REFERENCE: 1450
- EMBOUT: 808 massif (= solid end links).
An updated version of this document, dated November 18, 1986 shows only one difference: 808 end links have been replaced by 809. We could then imagine that the 808, designed for the Moonwatch case, underwent a structural modification to better fit the Holy Grail case. The central part of the 809 end link is larger and the small ledges (holding the 809 engraving) are thinner.
We could logically conclude that the 809 end links indicated in the updated datasheet would correspond to the version used in production. However, as a significant number of Holy Grails have the 808 end links, it is possible that both versions were installed on the production models.
The pictures on the left show the differences between the two types of end links (808 & 809).
The different shape is easily recognizable on the profile view.
Production & statistics
For the first time, an accurate and confident production figure can be unveiled.
2’000 Holy Grails have been produced. This is more than previously expected!
Speedmaster Holy Grail deliveries / countries
(2’000 watches, 1987-1988)
- Serial numbers are in 2 blocks of 1’000 watches: 48.231.xxx and 48.233.xxx.
- 41.5% of the production was sold to Germany, 24% to Italy, 15% to Switzerland, and 19.5% to the Rest of the World.
- Only ONE (!) was delivered to the USA, which can now easily explain why Chuck Maddox took so long to find one. One can bet that if more were sold in the USA at the time, it would never have received its nickname “Grail”.
- The first examples were delivered in Germany on March 19, 1987 and the last on November 22, 1988 in Canada.
- The reference ST 176.0822 – PIC 3340 B exists. It corresponds to the version sold with a leather band. We found records for 51 of them: 50 sold to Italy and 1 to Austria. Unfortunately data are missing, but we are convinced that there are more ST 176.0822 examples.
The Steel & Gold version
This last remark leads us to detail a very rare, almost unknown version of the Holy Grail, that has been destined to Italy only: the dual-tone Steel & Gold limited edition, numbered to 200 (engraved on the caseback). This means that 1’800 stainless steel Holy Grail have been sold.
The Steel & Gold Holy Grail was delivered in 1988, towards the end of the production. It is likely that all of them were sold on a leather band, hence with reference ST 176.0822, but again data are missing to certify that. To add to the mystery, a few known examples are reported in the OMEGA archives as standard steel ST 376.0822.
Differences with the standard ST 376.0822:
- Gold subdials
- Gold line around the day / date windows
- Black small hands
- Gold bezel (type B3 in the MOONWATCH ONLY nomenclature)
- Gold pushers and crown
- Engraving xxx / 200 on the caseback bevel *
* note that the position and alignment of engraving are sometimes far from perfection and do not correspond to OMEGA standards, which probably means that it might have been carried out by the Italian importer.
It is interesting to note that although they were delivered to Italy, all the watches we have observed so far have an English calendar.
The Steel & Gold Holy Grail can be considered as the automatic equivalent of the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Italy Special – Black & Gold, produced in two series of 500 numbered copies in 1986 and 1988 exclusively for Italy too.
With only 200 copies, it is a highly sought-after “Ultra Holy Grail” and we will do our best to provide you with more information soon.
Speedmaster Moonwatch Steel & Gold
(numbered series of 500 watches for each edition,
for Italy only)
Holy Grail Steel & Gold
We could not conclude this review without associating two other models from the 1980s:
- the Speedmaster 20th Years Flight-Qualified for Space, first stainless steel model with sapphire display back (ref. ST 345.0808, 1985-1988), 1’000 numbered watches,
- the Speedmaster Moonphase Speedymoon (ref. ST 345.0809, 1985-1988), about 1’300 unnumbered watches.
Together with the Holy Grail, these 3 models, yet designed and produced during the quartz crisis, show novel features and aesthetics appreciated by all. It should be noted that all three were delivered mainly in Germany.
We had had the pleasure to highlight this trilogy for the very first time in 2012, and at that time we probably were the first Speedmaster enthusiasts who published an article about it (on a French forum, read here), when we realized its importance within the Speedmaster history.
Those three models form what collectors call today The Holy Trinity of the 1980s.
Special thanks go to the OMEGA Museum (Petros, Alain, Charles and David) for their precious help during our research.
We are very grateful to Chuck Maddox for all the work he has done on the Speedmaster subject, and we would wish to mention also our friend Pascal S. who has always been a Holy Grail true enthusiast and expert.