Italy has always been a particularly important country for OMEGA.

The first commercial initiatives of the brand in Italy go back to the beginning of the last century, when the Maison Louis Brandt & Frères entrusted to a certain Luigi Cesare Tallia the distribution of his watches for the North of the country, while the South was already managed by the Bandiera & Bedetti company in Rome.

In 1921, when Luigi Tallia teamed up with the Turin businessman Roberto De Marchi, he became responsible for the whole distribution of OMEGA watches throughout the country: this is the beginning of the long and prolific collaboration between the headquarters in Bienne and what will become the famous Fratelli De Marchi company in Turin.

The Fratelli De Marchi company has been managed by several important figures from the region (for example, Professor Arrigo Bordin, who held the Chair of Political Economy at the University of Turin, and Gian Maria Vitelli, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Turin), but it is clearly Carlo De Marchi, an enlightened businessman and passionate about the new advertising and marketing techniques that appeared during the 60s and 70s, who allowed OMEGA to experience an incredible boom at that time.

Carlo De Marchi organized the development of the OMEGA (and Tissot) distribution throughout the country, through several local subsidiaries, a chain of local stores (the Rocca stores), and thanks to numerous initiatives (he organized a congress of more than 550 Italian retailers in Bienne in 1963, an incredible exhibition “Time and Space” in 5 Italian cities in 1967, and had one of the first IBM computers installed in Turin in 1964 to manage deliveries and guarantees of the watches).

This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the OMEGA brand has long represented a privileged name for watch lovers in Italy (and we all know Italians have always been great connoisseurs and collectors of watches).

This exclusive collaboration with the Fratelli De Marchi company will disappear in the late 1970s when OMEGA gradually regains control of its local distributors. However, De Marchi will have heavily marked the history of the brand in Italy, and especially for the Speedmaster. It is also De Marchi who is at the origin of the famous Apollo-Soyuz model in 1976, which was the very first limited series in steel in the brand history.

Dr. Carlo De Marchi, in the 1960s.
Credit: OMEGA

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Italian market was then covered by SMH Italia (who became the Swatch Group in 1998).

In the mid 1980s, the Italian market (and maybe the international market too) was not so easy for the Speedmaster, and the local Sales Director was continually looking for new sales. That is the reason why many local marketing initiatives were suggested by the Sales Department of SMH Italia. Those ideas were proposed to the Headquarters in Switzerland, and once accepted, the whole execution was then operated and organized directly in Italy by SMH Italia.

It is in this context that the two series “Black & Gold” have been marketed in 1987 and 1988.

Finally, in 1994 for the 25th anniversary of Apollo XI, and in 1997 for the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Speedmaster, two other limited series were also made available to Italian watch lovers.

1976

APOLLO-SOYUZ

To mark the historic event of the common mission between the American Apollo and Soviet Soyuz spacecrafts in 1975, OMEGA’s exclusive distributor in Italy, the De Marchi Company in Turin, sold a limited edition of Speedmasters a year later. It is generally acknowledged that the production volume of this series was 500 units, all for sale in Italy, which is consistent with the letter I engraved on the casebacks of these models. We have no evidence of this production number, and although we did manage to find delivery invoices for 400 Apollo-Soyuz watches to De Marchi, we found no information about any extra copies.
This first limited series in steel has a number of specific features:
– a special dial, decorated with the mission badge at 12 o’clock in place of the usual Speedmaster and Professional,
– the main hour markers going through the minutes track as in the 1960s models,
– a special caseback with a bas-relief of the Saturn 1B rocket against a map of the world,
– a limited-series number with the letter I on the flat of the caseback (the engraving is so fine that the number becomes virtually indistinguishable to the naked eye after almost 40 years of wear),
– 5.5mm instead of 5mm-diameter pushers,
– modified caseband to accommodate the wider pushers,
– a special 1168/633 bracelet with links of an unusual design.

APOLLO-SOYUZ

Date of production: 1976.
Reference: ST 145.0022.
Caliber: 861 Copper – Delrin Brake.
Bracelet: 1168/633.

Numbered series of 400 to 500 watches.

All the 400 watches in the delivery invoices have movement numbers between 39.180. xxx and 39.181.xxx.

Note:
Some of the watches observed have movement numbers of around 31.xxx.xxx or 32.xxx.xxx, corresponding to older movements. The movement numbers of these atypical examples have been listed by OMEGA as fully assembled and delivered standard models (classic 145.022s). For this reason, such “anormal” Apollo-Soyuz watches are not considered as original by OMEGA. At this time, there is no clear explanation about their existence.

1987 & 1988

BLACK & GOLD (EDITIONS 1 AND 2)

During the second half the 1980s, numerous local marketing initiatives were suggested by SMH Italia to boost the market, notably to release a series of Speedmasters with a touch of yellow gold.
In particular, two numbered series of 500 Black & Gold Moonwatches were modified from standard models in Italy between July 1987 and September 1988.
Specific elements, like a black & gold dial, a gold bezel, gold-plated crown and pushers, were sent to Italy and assembled on-site. Furthermore, the bevel of the caseback was engraved xxx / 500 for the first edition and A xxx/500 for the second edition. Note that the first series has the copper-plated 861 caliber, while the second series has the yellow-plated version.
The caseback bears the inscription ST 1450022, because the basis is the regular model. But the official reference in the documents is DA 145.0022, corresponding to a model with a 18K yellow gold bezel.

BLACK & GOLD

Edition 1

Date of production: 1987.
Reference: DA 145.0022.
Caliber: 861 Copper – Delrin Brake.
Only on leather strap.

Numbered series of 500 watches.

Numbering: xxx / 500 on the caseback bevel.

Edition 2

Date of production: 1988.
Reference: DA 145.0022.
Caliber: 861 Yellow – 17 Jewels.
Only on leather strap.

Numbered series of 500 watches.

Numbering: Axxx / 500 on the caseback bevel.

Note:
In addition to the Moonwatch, 200 pieces of the Speedmaster automatic day date, reference ST 376.0822 known as the Holy Grail, were modified in 1988 with the same touches of yellow gold.

1994

APOLLO XI 25TH ANNIVERSARY

There are four different series that mark the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission:
– a numbered series of 2’500 conventional models in steel,
– a numbered series of 999 in steel with display backs for the Italian market,
– a numbered series of 500 in white gold,
– a numbered series of 50 skeleton watches in platinum.
The series for the Italian market is fitted with the caliber 863 movement and a sapphire-crystal display back.
Also in the set is a special box with 25th ANNIVERSARY OF MOON LANDING printed on beige velvet. The box contains a silver commemorative medal bearing the same individual number as the watch. There is also a commemorative leaflet in Italian.

APOLLO XI 25TH ANNIVERSARY

Date of production: 1994.
Reference: ST 345.0808 (steel bracelet) and ST 145.0808 (leather strap).
Caliber: 863 Yellow – 17 Jewels (?) and 863 Yellow – 18 Jewels.
Bracelet: 1479/812.

Numbered series of 999 watches.

xxx / 999 on the side of the caseband.

Note:
The total number shown on the medal is xxx/2 000 instead of xxx/999, because 1’001 extra medals were sold without the watch.

1997

SPEEDMASTER 40TH ANNIVERSARY

To celebrate the 40 years of the Speedmaster, OMEGA launched a limited series of 500 watches for the Italian market in 1997.
This model featured a cream-colored dial, a caliber 1863 movement and a sapphire-crystal caseback.
The front glass was also in sapphire crystal, which was unusual for the time because the normal luxury models were only fitted with such glasses in around 2002 on the PIC 3573.50 model.
It was also one of the first series with luminova hands and dial.
The watch was presented in a black leather box with a limited-series certificate in Italian. This model is popular with collectors.

SPEEDMASTER 40TH ANNIVERSARY

Date of production: 1997.
Reference: ST 345.0818 (steel bracelet) and ST 145.0818 (leather strap).
Caliber: 1863 Rhodium.
Bracelet: 1499/842 or 1498/840.

Numbered series of 500 watches.

xxx / 500 on the caseback bezel.

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