We are often asked to explain the differences between the (many) Speedmaster models fitted with a display back.

There might be some confusion between the different types of calibers, casebacks, dials and glasses. And first of all, between the different references. This is due to the fact that many models seem to be identical (but they are not), and to the co-existence of different model codes used by OMEGA, which are not so easy to understand.

Understanding the model codes

To identify and classify its products, OMEGA has long given a reference code to each model in every collection.

Several systems were successively used, and decoding them is essential for any collector to identify the various models:

  • the 1st coding system (before 1962),
  • the MAPICS system (1962-2007),
  • the PIC system (1988-2007),
  • the PIC14 system (from 2007).

The first Speedmaster with a sapphire-display back was commercialized in 1985.

Between 1988 and 2007, two different systems were used simultaneously: the MAPICS (like ST 345.0808 for instance) and the PIC (like 3592 B – 4-figure number followed by a letter in 1988 only – or 3592.50.00 – 4-figure number followed by two 2-figure numbers separated by points, from 1989).

For example, a Speedmaster from the 1990s is a ST 345.0808 and a 3592.50.00 if fitted with a steel bracelet….or a ST 145.0808 and a 3892.50.31 if fitted with a black leather bracelet.

Notes:

  • For simplicity’s sake, we have indicated only the reference for the metal bracelet in this article.
  • Since the last two numerals of the PIC code are always 00 for a metal bracelet we have decided to omit them. Thus the PIC reference 3592.50.00, for example, is abbreviated to PIC 3592.50.

As we will see in this article, we have defined 8 stainless steel Speedmasters fitted with a display back, since the very first one introduced in 1985. However, the different versions have not been classified according to the reference, but to visual criteria.

  1. 20 Years Flight-Qualified for Space,
  2. Apollo XI Numbered,
  3. Apollo XI Unnumbered,
  4. Professional Yellow,
  5. Professional Rhodium Tritium,
  6. Professional Rhodium Luminova,
  7. The First and Only (then The First),
  8. Chocolate.

Please note that only the 2 first series were numbered and limited.

1. 20 Years Flight-Qualified for Space

Numbered series of 1'000 watches
(xxxx engraved on the caseback and between the lugs)

The first steel model with display back was initially delivered to the German and Austrian markets in the fall of 1985.
It came in a rectangular green Speedmaster box accompanied by a certificate in German explaining that it was a commemorative model for the 20th anniversary of NASA’s certification of the Speedmaster in 1965.
From 1986, it was sold to other markets but without a special box or certificate.

2. Apollo XI - Numbered

Numbered series of 1'000 watches
(A xxxx engraved on the caseback)

The second generation ST 345.0808 was produced from 1988 to around 1990.
Its movement is now yellow-plated. The display-back bezel bears the inscription FIRST WATCH - WORN ON - THE MOON - APOLLO XI - SPEEDMASTER - A xxxx. The significance of the letter A before the number is unknown.
We are not in the position to determine whether this numbered series commemorated an event or an anniversary or whether its was made for a specific market.
Its dial reveals a typography that is slightly different from that of the dial of the 20 Years Flight-qualified for Space model, as well as fainter concentric circles in the subdials.

3. Apollo XI - Unnumbered

Unnumbered and unlimited series

The third generation has the same caseback as the previous, but with no number.
It was manufactured from 1989 or 1990 to around 1995.
At the end of the production run, around 48.300.xxx - 48.315.xxx, the new caliber with 18 jewels replaced the previous one, but still with the engraving SEVENTEEN 17 JEWELS.

4. Professional Yellow

Unnumbered and unlimited series

This model is virtually identical to the previous one. The main difference is the replacement of the APOLLO XI inscription by PROFESSIONAL and Ω OMEGA on the caseback.
It was in production for about three years from 1995 to 1997. In 1995 its movement was altered with the addition of an 18th jewel bearing. In 1996, its PIC code changed from 3592.50 to 3572.50.
It can be found in three configurations:
• PIC 3592.50 – yellow-plated – 17 jewels,
• PIC 3592.50 – yellow-plated – 18 jewels,
• PIC 3572.50 – yellow-plated – 18 jewels.

5. Professional Rhodium Tritium

Unnumbered and unlimited series

From 1997, reference PIC 3572.50 was equipped with a rhodium-plated movement.
Models with tritium dials and hands were produced for a very short time before being replaced with luminova versions. Collectors appreciate this model for its conventional Speedmaster styling with a hesalite glass and the view of a rhodium-plated movement, less showy than the yellow or copper color.
Production of this version of PIC 3572.50 stopped shortly after the introduction of the version with a sapphire-crystal glass (PIC 3573.50).

6. Professional Rhodium Luminova

Unnumbered and unlimited series

From 1997, reference PIC 3572.50 was equipped with a rhodium-plated movement.
Models with tritium dials and hands were produced for a very short time before being replaced with luminova versions. Collectors appreciate this model for its conventional Speedmaster styling with a hesalite glass and the view of a rhodium-plated movement, less showy than the yellow or copper color.
Production of this version of PIC 3572.50 stopped shortly after the introduction of the version with a sapphire-crystal glass (PIC 3573.50).

7. The First And Only / The First

Unnumbered and unlimited series

The main feature of this final generation is the replacement of the hesalite glass with sapphire crystal. Its movement, sandwiched between the two glasses, earned it the name of "Sapphire Sandwich".
This model has the reference PIC 3573.50, which was renamed PIC 311.30.42.30.01.006 in 2014.
The other difference from the PIC 3572.50 is the inscription on the display-back bezel: THE FIRST - AND ONLY - WATCH - WORN ON - THE MOON - Ω OMEGA.
Since 2016 OMEGA has once again modified its inscription by removing the “AND ONLY” indication.

8. Chocolate

Unnumbered and unlimited series

In 2007, OMEGA put on sale a Speedmaster with a brown dial, recalling the watches of the 1960s in which the dials turned brown with age.
To make the model even more attractive, OMEGA fitted it with a caliber 1863 movement and a display back. It is identical to The First and Only model apart from the dial. It was part of the standard range with either the standard steel bracelet or a brown leather strap.
Production ceased in 2012.

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