Speedmaster is mostly synonymous with stainless steel models. They represent the vast majority of the production.
Some series, limited or not, were produced in yellow gold. For instance, this is the case of the very first limited edition proposed in 1969, the Speedmaster “Apollo XI 1969 – Tribute to Astronauts”, and its recent re-edition for the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. In total, almost 20 different editions of yellow gold Speedmasters have been produced since 1957, which represents probably more than 5’000 pieces.
But it is interesting to note that there are some models in white gold too. These editions are particularly rare, and relatively unknown from the general public. They all have one feature in common: a silver grey dial. And a very understated look as they could easily be seen as steel models by uninformed observers.
There are only 3 white gold Speedmasters series:
– the Apollo XI 1980 White Gold,
– the Apollo XI 25th Anniversary White Gold,
– the White Gold Moonphase.
The global production of white gold models is about 1’000 pieces (around 20 Apollo XI 1980, 500 Apollo XI 25th, and an estimation of 500 moonphases). This review is dedicated to those 3 special editions.
APOLLO XI 1980 – WHITE GOLD
As indicated on the original certificate provided with the watch, these series (the first one in yellow gold and the second one in white gold) were produced as a tribute to the flight re-qualification by NASA in 1978 for the Space Shuttle program.
The white gold version is far more rare, only about 20 having been made (compared to 300 pieces for the yellow gold one), all of which were sent to the German market from December 1980 to February 1981. It seems that all of these were fitted with white gold bracelets.
This watch has a number of interesting features:
– a caliber 861 L movement with 19 jewels (instead of 17 on the caliber 861s of the time),
– rhodium-plating, about 15 years before it was adopted for the standard-production caliber 1861/1863 movements,
– first Speedmaster with sapphire-crystal display back,
– the only Speedmaster Moonwatch with a snap-on instead of a screw caseback,
– first Speedmaster in white gold.
It is noteworthy that two types of dial can be found on both gold series. The visible differences are in the typography and the position of the SWISS MADE inscription. The dial lacks the T countermark because it doesn’t have luminous markers.
APOLLO XI 25TH ANNIVERSARY – WHITE GOLD
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 in white gold is identified by:
– its rhodium-plated caliber 864, chronometer-certified movement,
– a silver-gray dial with the added inscription of CHRONOMETER,
– APOLLO XI 1969-1994 engraved on the side of the caseband,
– a book-format box in light-brown leather.
This model has been commercialized either with a white gold bracelet or a leather strap.
Note that original dials have the Ts flanking the SWISS MADE mention, but several dials are lacking the Ts. Stains on original dials have been commonly observed, and this is likely that they have been replaced with a service dial, hence lacking the Ts.
WHITE GOLD MOONPHASE
After the short production run of the Speedymoon in the 1980s, the moonphase complication only reappeared on the dial of the Speedmaster Professional in 1999, in a white gold version with a silvered dial and a black leather strap.
It marked the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, although there is no explicit mention of it on the watch.
It’s neither a limited nor a numbered series, but only a small number was produced over a few years.
It’s the first model fitted with the caliber 1866 movement, derived from the decorated caliber 1863.
Its dial and blue hands added to the moonphase complication make it a particularly original model. It was sold only on a leather strap with a white gold folding clasp.