Omega The need for speed
How a “franken-watch” fathered an amazing Omega Speedmaster collection.
When Ivan first posted and shared images of his Omega Speedmaster ST 105.012 on Omega forums back in 2013, the reactions he received came as a huge surprise. “Many laughed at my watch. The 90% that did so wondered why I had the gall to post the photos on the forums while the remaining 10% were actually helpful in highlighting the errors on my watch. Some even kindly told me what was wrong with the dial, hands, bezel, bracelet, pushers and crown.”
It was a big blow for Ivan who was then a newbie to vintage Omega timepieces. What’s more, the Speedmaster ST 105.012 was a gift from his father who had acquired it based on a recommendation from a friend. “Yes, it was a ‘franken-Speedmaster,” Ivan concedes. “Unfortunately, my father was knowledgeable with Rolex timepieces but not with Omega. The watch was outfitted with many service parts. The service crown I had featured the Omega logo with curved feet. The correct version has flat feet. The bezel was an incorrect service part and even the bracelet was a non-period one. Basically, everything was wrong except the watch case and the Calibre 321 movement inside.”
Undaunted, Ivan decided that the next best thing to do was to correct the flaws. “I read up, checked Omega forums and did extensive research on the Speedmasters. I eventually came to realise what was the right dial, hands and original period pushers. “The correct dial is probably the most important part of the watch. I was on eBay for around two months before the perfect dial came up for auction. Part of the dial was turning tropical and I fell in love with it.” Ivan successfully bid for the dial on eBay public auction.
“A good dial was the base to begin with for this project. However, I didn’t know where to source for the correct pushers and crown so I sent my watch in to the STS service centre, an official Omega service centre based in the United Kingdom. They had the correct crown and pushers which were used but in mint condition. I managed to obtain them for my watch because STS will only sell these to you after a full movement service overhaul,” Ivan explains.
Omega watches equipped with their Calibre 321 movements came with dot over 90 bezels while later ones feature the dot beside the 90. Ivan learnt the hard way that it was even more difficult to find a bezel in good condition than the dial. He eventually found one but paid USD2,000 for a bezel in relatively good condition.
“I was of the opinion that what I paid for was already the ceiling for a dot over 90 bezel. Now such bezels in a similar condition to mine are trading at between USD4,000 and USD5,000. Rare vintage watches and spare parts are always appreciating in value. What you think is exorbitant today may not necessarily be so in a couple of years,” says Ivan who subsequently managed to obtain an original period bracelet on eBay.
After almost half a year, Ivan’s Speedmaster ST 105.012 was fully corrected (picture above). “This piece has significant intrinsic value because it was what my father gifted to me and I managed to restore it to what it looked like in the 1960s, the era in which it was made. US astronaut Buzz Aldrin wore the same model when the Omega Speedmaster became the first wristwatch on the Moon back in July 1969. For me, this is a watch of significance in terms of both sentimental and historical value. “When everything was assembled, I showed my father the rebuilt watch and he was proud of me. We enjoyed it together. Thereafter I developed an appetite for more Omega vintage watches. My journey with Omega had begun,” says Ivan.
Having cleared his horological rite of passage, his father gifted him yet another watch – a Rolex military Submariner that would eventually lead to another Speedmaster.
With his restored Speedmaster and a military-issue Rolex, Ivan’s interest in military watches was elevated. He subsequently acquired two highly collectible military Omega Seamasters at auction. “I then asked myself whether there was ever a military Speedmaster. I was really hoping there was,” recalls Ivan.
Such a military Speedmaster surfaced when he was offered one from an individual who had served with the UN Peacekeeping mission in the Gaza strip during a period of heightened tensions. “The seller was part of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) and he was issued with a Speedmaster 2998-3 during his mission there. What is important on this piece is the white lollipop chronograph hand. My vintage Omega collection began with a Speedmaster and I rediscovered my love for it with this military provenance Speedmaster,” Ivan notes.
Omega Speedmaster 2998-3. © sgwatchbaron
The military Speedmaster used by UNEF © sgwatchbaron
Hungry for more, Ivan picked up the ST 105.003 “Ed White” Speedmaster and his search for watches associated with Moon landings led him to BA 145.022, Omega’s very first Speedmaster in gold and made to pay tribute to the astronauts following the success of Apollo XI. Made of 18K yellow gold, this series was limited to 1,014 pieces. Ivan’s collection comprises not one but three of these yellow gold Speedmasters!
Omega Speedmaster BA 145.022 © sgwatchbaron
In addition to vintage Omega timepieces, Ivan has also accumulated very significant contemporary Speedmaster pieces such as the “Tintin”, the “Speedy Tuesday”, Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award and even two pieces of the Speedy Tuesday “Ultraman” to name a few.
Speaking of the Speedmaster “Ultraman”, Ivan also managed to get his hands on the 145.012-67 SP, the very first “Ultraman” series of 1968. So-called because of the orange central chronograph hand that matches the colour on Ultraman’s suit, this is an extremely rare model as less than 50 pieces are known to exist.
Omega Speedmaster 145.012-67 SP Ultraman © sgwatchbaron
If you still haven’t felt Ivan’s need for Speedmasters at this point, perhaps it is time we mention his Speedmaster Missions Collection ST 145.0022. Released in 1997 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Speedmaster, it comprises a suitcase made of white fabric used for spacesuits and it houses 23 stainless steel Speedmasters including one Calibre 1861 manual-winding movement encased in a plastic holder.
Omega Speedmaster Missions set © sgwatchbaron
The first 22 Speedmasters each feature different NASA mission patches on the dials while the 23rd piece is a reproduction of the first Speedmaster, the CK 2915 of 1957. While 40 Speedmaster Missions sets were produced, it is understood that an additional five were made and marked “Epreuves d’artiste” otherwise known as the “Artist” editions that were not for commercial sale.
This special Missions set and some other Omega watches were acquired at auctions from the same seller – the estate of a European baron. The special Missions Speedmaster set Ivan acquired was one of the rarer five-piece Artist edition which he presumed was gifted to the baron.
This link with the baron explains why Ivan’s Instagram handle is named @sgwatchbaron and this is where one can view and admire his glowing and growing collection of rare timepieces. Given that this young 27-year old gentleman only started collecting vintage pieces some six years ago, it does show his apparent need for speed.
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