Let us return for a moment to a basic question: what is the exact definition of a Speedmaster Moonwatch pre-Moon model? Several are possible, but the following seems the most logical: a pre-Moon model is one that was conceived before the first landing on the Moon.
Thus the last pre-Moon model is the 145.022-69 with the caseback that makes no reference to the Moon landing. The model was indeed conceived before the lunar landing, but it only went on sale months afterwards in December 1969. Given its high production run, it is today the pre-Moon model most commonly seen in the pre-owned market.
But as we will see during this short review, the 145.022-69 has been produced for a few years in different versions, and they are not all pre-Moon…
It is nevertheless an interesting model that can itself be the subject of a collection because of the large variety of its components: three types of tachymeter bezel, optional bezels and three versions of casebacks, counting the post-Moon version.
Furthermore, the 145.022-69 is the first steel Speedmaster to get the new dial with the painted Ω and the shortened main markers. And it is probably the model in which the most so-called “chocolate” dials are found.
As for almost all the other references, some 145.022-69s pre-Moon have also been fitted with optional bezels (telemeter, pulsometer or decimal).
We have observed 4 types of bracelets on references 145.022-69:
- 1175/640 (not on pre-Moon models).
The reference ST 145.022-69 can be divided in 3 distinct categories, that we will review in details in this article:
- ST 145.022-69 pre-Moon,
- ST 145.022-69 Straight Writing,
- ST 145.022-69 Apollo XI.
These 3 models are all based on the same reference, but they present some specific features that make each of them more or less sought-after by Speedmaster collectors. They are all desirable, being probably among the most interesting Speedmasters of the whole production. The scope of this article is to understand the differences and the main characteristics of each model.
1. Speedmaster ST 145.022-69 pre-Moon
Movement numbers seen: 28.420.xxx (*) – 31.629.xxx
Production years: 1969-1971
(*) We have observed some 145.022-69s with earlier serial numbers, in 27.3, 27.7 and 28.0 mios, but their delivery is often in 1975, meaning that they possibly correspond to Speedmasters assembled later.
This first category includes 3 distinct models:
- the “standard” pre-Moon fitted with a “Dot Diagonal 70” bezel (also called DON), with movement numbers up to around 30.588.xxx,
- the “standard” pre-Moon fitted with a “Dot Close to 70 – Close C” bezel (also called DNN), from movement numbers 30.594.xxx,
- the “220” pre-Moon, fitted with a “220” bezel (graduation error), produced in the fall of 1970 with movement numbers between 30.588.xxx and 31.008.xxx.
Note that bezels “Dot Diagonal 70” and “Dot Close to 70 – Close C” can be found between the serial numbers 30.588.xxx and 30594.xxx (transition period).
Models of this category are all fitted with the 861 “Copper – Steel Brake” caliber.
Type 1 – “Dot Diagonal 70” bezel
Type 2 – “Dot Close To 70 – Narrow C” bezel
Type 3 – “220” bezel
2. Speedmaster ST 145.022-69 Straight Writing
Movement numbers seen: 31.00x.xxx – 32.857.xxx
Production years: 1971-1974
The post-Moon version of the 145.022-69 reference differs from the pre-Moon in having a caseback proclaiming its status: The first watch worn on the Moon.
It was named Straight Writing by the collecting community, meaning that some of the script is laid out straight in contrast with the succeeding models in which the whole text is arranged in an arc around the central medallion. There are two versions of this caseback, which show differences in the part of the text in an arc. The most common is inscribed “FLIGHT-QUALIFIED BY NASA FOR ALL MANNED MISSIONS”, while the other and extremely rare caseback has “OMEGA SPEEDMASTER – APOLLO XI 1969” (see later).
Models are all fitted with a 861 caliber. Towards the end of its production, the steel chronograph brake was replaced by a version in Delrin®, a hardwearing polymer.
It should be noted that movement numbers between 31.0 and 32.8 millions were installed indifferently in 145.022-69, 145.022-71 and 145.022-74 cases, which makes the story complex. Furthermore, despite the fact that production started in 1971, delivery of most Straight Writing watches was postponed to 1972 or later, due to the necessity of NASA’s approval for the usage of their name.
Moreover we have not seen any Straight Writing 145.022-69s with the type B2bis. 220 tachymeter bezel.
ST 145.022-69 Straight Writing
3. Speedmaster ST 145.022-69 Apollo XI
Movement numbers seen: 31.31x.xxx (*) – 31.62x.xxx
Production years: 1972
(*) There are earlier serial numbers, which are in the uncertain zone.
Some of the 145.022-69s were fitted with an extremely rare caseback that referred to the Apollo 11 mission, similar to that of the limited series in gold entitled, Apollo XI 1969 – Tribute to Astronauts.
Our observations shows common properties in the range observed:
- they have all been produced in 1971 and delivered in 1972 to Japan,
- it is likely that they were all fitted with a rare steel bracelet, with reference 1116/575.
This rare version might well correspond to a special order from the Japanese distributor.
ST 145.022-69 Apollo XI
As early as the late 1960s, even before the first Moon landing, Omega’s development teams had begun working on an evolution of the Speedmaster Professional, in order to create the perfect watch for space. This project (or more precisely this series of projects that would extend over several years) was named Alaska, not in reference to the low temperatures of the eponymous American state, but simply as a code name in order to preserve its confidentiality.
Omega engineers from Bienne met James Ragan’s teams several times in Houston to exchange ideas and map out the path ahead. In particular, it was decided that the two crucial points should be to protect the chronograph movement at all costs and to ensure the readability of the watch in all circumstances. To guarantee the most effective possible protection, Omega’s engineers worked on several factors: new alloys and special movement lubricants, a titanium case, and even an external aluminum protection case, a kind of heat shield able to resist very large temperature differences.
It is extremely interesting to note that the Alaska I model, produced in 1970, features the 220 bezel.
It is now assumed that OMEGA put in production a few Speedmasters equipped with special components (dials, hands, bezels…) during the 60s. Famous examples go from the gray-blue dial Speedmasters, of which only very few pieces have been observed so far, to the so-called Ultraman with its straight orange chronograph hand. After extensive research and observations, we started to find more information on all these exotic models and we are now convinced that these configurations correspond to special versions commercialized during a short period of time and in an extremely limited quantity, possibly to gather customers’ feedback about unusual configurations: this is the case of the Racing Dials projects.
There are two generations of Racing Speedmasters.
The first one regards pre-Moon models fitted with a 321 caliber, and black racing dials.
The second one concerns ST 145.022-69s. They have a gray dial and orange and white markers. The Ω logo is painted orange and the typeface is the same as in the Medium S – Step Dial. The colors of the hands are opposite to those of the previous version: white hands for the time of day and orange hands for the chronograph indications.
We have observed about 20 examples of this third configuration, 12 of which have a movement serial number within 150 units (29.609.xxx) and were delivered in Switzerland in May-June 1970. This suggests that few examples were officially put on sale on the Swiss market for a very short time. A few extra dials were perhaps sold separately to some retailers, which would explain the very distant movement number of some examples.
This orange racing dial version inspired also a limited series produced in 2004 for the Japanese market.