Why not...? The erotic year and the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary “Nixon”
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and man’s first steps on the moon, this re-issue of the original Speedmaster BA145.022 of 1969 didn't go unnoticed by our collector.
The title comes from a song written by Serge Gainsbourg in 1968 which marked the year 1969 and is still familiar today. It is a song about sexual freedom, evasion, but also about boats and travel…
The year 1968 had been one of revolution, in which the old world order was shaken up, but 1969 was a year of transition and one which also merits our attention from an horological point of view.
First of all, there were many political changes, with the arrival of Richard Nixon in the USA, Willy Brandt in Germany and Olof Palme in Sweden, and the departure of General de Gaulle in France.
It was the year that Hô Chi Minh died and America started withdrawing from Vietnam in line with the famous “Nixon doctrine”. It also saw the rise to power of Yasser Arafat and Golda Meir in India.
John Wayne filmed True Grit in 1969, which earned him his only Oscar, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid brought together Paul Newman and Robert Redford on screen.
The Peugeot 504 was elected Car of the Year in Europe, while the Plymouth Road Runner was elected Motor Trend Car of the Year in the USA. Jackie Stewart won the Formula 1 world championship for the first time at the wheel of a Matra-Ford number 7. It would be the French brand’s only constructor’s title. At Le Mans, Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver took the honours in a Ford GT40 Mk 1.
These are names, brands and faces that would leave their mark on history for many years to come.
The year was also rich in the air.
Concorde made its maiden flight exactly 50 years ago, in March 1969.
This beautiful aeroplane ended its life in a sad crash and today many people have forgotten about it. It shows that even in aeronautical or space exploration, memories can sometimes be short…
The legendary Tomcat – with its variable-geometry wings – became the official fighter plane of the US Air Force, and the Top Gun school was established.
In the United Kingdom, the surprising vertical take-off Harrier jump jet debuted with the Royal Air Force Number 1 Squadron. With its motto “In Omnibus Princeps” (First in all things), it’s not surprising that the Number 1 Squadron should be the first to use it. The squadron would fly the Harrier for 20 years, until 1989!
In civil aviation the Tupolev Tu-144 – an exact copy of Concord – made its first flight in the USSR and the aircraft of TWA made their first flights across the Pacific Ocean. The Boeing 747 – the world’s biggest civil aircraft – also made its inaugural flight.
But what about the world of watches?
In March 1969, one of the first Swiss automatic chronograph movements was launched, the legendary Calibre 11 from Heuer, Breitling, Buren and Dubois-Depraz, which would be used in several legendary watches.
Was it the first? Some people in the suburbs of Tokyo didn’t think so. Because 1969 also saw the launch of the Seiko calibre 7139, the “other” first automatic chronograph. But the list would not be complete, of course, without mentioning the El Primero, which was also launched in this erotic year, announced in January but not delivered until October…
Despite all the debate, it is unusual to see so many new movements presented in the same year and 1969 can therefore be considered as the year of the chronograph.
But 1969 was also the year of man’s first steps on the moon.
This human and technological achievement is undoubtedly one of the greatest human adventures. The 20th July will remain ingrained in the memory of millions of people as the day that man set foot on the moon. Although I was only five years old at the time, I remember the night very well. I was sitting on the sofa next to my father who had come to wake me up, saying “come and see this, something is happening that you will never forget.” He was right.
The lunar landing was not just an exceptional technological accomplishment. It was also an event that brought together political, technical, human and even religious dimensions. Man had for the first time managed to leave “his” planet. Nothing would ever be the same again… At least that is what people thought at the time.
For us watch lovers, the 20th July was the day that the Speedmaster became an icon. It was an even more exceptional achievement than the dive by the Trieste in 1960 which took Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh to the deepest part of the Ocean and gave Rolex the privilege of reigning supreme over the oceans! But with a Deepsea watch that had been extensively modified.
The Speedmaster worn by Neil Armstrong on 20th July and Buzz Aldrin on 21st was a regular production model, tested and approved by NASA, which has been standard equipment for crews for a long time.
Buzz Aldrin wearing the Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary © Omega
Although its design had evolved since its launch in 1957, it would henceforth remain “identical” to this day and enter the Pantheon of watches that have made history.
So here we are in 2019. Fifty years have passed since those first steps on the moon. And the world continues to move, to tear itself up and to evolve. There will always be wars and revolutions. We are now – finally – thinking more about staying (and surviving) on the planet than leaving it.
But I always look to the moon with plenty of dreams.
Man is now thinking about Mars, but the watch that might accompany him there is a mystery. And the many robots that are now exploring the universe don’t wear watches...
Airbus has just announced that it will stop producing the A380. The giants of the air now have lead in their wings.
A little higher up, NASA is currently working with Space X, which will probably send its first astronauts to the International Space Station before the end of the year. It will be very interesting to see what they wear on their wrists.
Maybe there will be a new Speedmaster for them. We will soon see…
As the French singer Jacques Higelin said, “Before the age of 50, we are young and beautiful. After, we are beautiful”.
Happy Birthday Speedy!
We have already mentioned Omega many times in these “Why not?” articles, so I will spare you the details of this beautiful brand’s history. It has been to space but it also created the first real diver’s watch. Its designs have been innovative (think of the Omega Ploprof, which is often called “the most beautiful ugly watch on Earth”, as well as its movements, in particular their resistance to magnetic fields).
What is notable about the brand from Biel, however, is its desire to remain universal and simple. Although it has offered the odd complication, what I appreciate most about Omega is its “no nonsense” philosophy, as my American friends would call it.
The Speedmaster is the perfect example of Omega’s richness. It’s a simple, solid and versatile watch. Even disregarding its history, the Speedmaster remains a watch for “normal people” and can adapt to different situations. It works well with all types of bracelets and straps, with all kinds of material and even with any colour.
It appeals both to experts and collectors, as well as first-time watch buyers. It can be collected to infinity but it also works just as well as a sole watch.
But sometimes it can be exceptional and go off the beaten track.
This is part of its charm. And that of this Speedmaster 50th Anniversary “Nixon”.
The Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary “Nixon”: a step towards lunar gold...
We were expecting it, we had doubts about it, we were hoping for it. And here it is: Omega’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 with the re-issue of a very special watch. This isn’t a watch that went to the moon and we are far removed from the simple Speedmaster I mentioned. There is no “chocolate” dial, no 321 calibre, no steel case marked by the years and EVA (extra-vehicular activity).
Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary © Omega
This first celebratory watch celebrates a celebration!
After the lunar landing in July 1969 Omega decided to celebrate the teams who contributed to this historic achievement at an evening function organised in November of the same year.
The original Speedmaster BA145.022 © Omega
As a gift, Omega offered an all-gold Speedmaster with a tachymetric bezel in bordeaux red. The watch was known as reference BA 145.022. Only 1,014 were produced, some of which were offered to the Apollo astronauts. Number 1 was offered to Richard Nixon, who refused it since he was not allowed to accept gifts. But it became known as the “Nixon” Speedmaster.
Case back view of the Speedmaster BA145.022 © Omega
For the re-issue, Omega is offering a magnificent watch that has all the main characteristics of the Nixon: 1,014 watches, all in gold, including the dial, the hands, the black hour markers and the bordeaux bezel with DON (“dot over ninety”), all in a cubic presentation box with photos of the moon.
The watchbox © Omega
But the new Speedmaster Nixon takes things a step further by introducing several innovations. The gold used is a new alloy called “Moonshine gold”. It remains stable over time, so it will always shine. The bezel is in ceramic and its colour will not change.
Omega is also using a new calibre, the 3861, in this Speedmaster. It is an evolution of the calibre 1861 used in the current Speedmaster. With this new version, the Speedmaster is now a METAS certified Master Chronometer and uses the Co-Axial Escapement that Omega made famous.
METAS Master Chronometer certification © Omega
The new movement can be admired through a sapphire crystal case back surrounded by a black gold ring and a reproduction of America, Cape Canaveral and the moon.
Case back view of the Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary © Omega
The Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary is therefore a worthy tribute to the accomplishments of 1969. It will remain an exceptional piece, because there are not many gold Speedmasters around. It may shock or seduce, but it will certainly leave no one indifferent.
What does the devil’s advocate think?
“How dare they?” he may first ask. “How could they dare to use yellow gold, all gold (including the dial) and combine it with bordeaux? How could they dare to produce an ostentatious piece that some will call bling bling?”.
On a more serious note, we should take such remarks into consideration. The Speedmaster 50th Anniversary definitely stands out, which is not the case with the classic Speedmasters. It shows its differences and its wearer will have to tame it, but also explain it. It’s a watch that needs to be “justified” and will need the talents of a storyteller to do so.
But once you have understood it, it makes sense and almost becomes “exceptionally normal”.
How to wear the Omega Speedmaster 50th Anniversary “Nixon” with sobriety?
OK, let’s forget the T-shirt and braces of Buzz Aldrin and try to see how we can tone down the effect of our solid-gold watch.
The timing is perfect, since the weather is improving and the gold on this Speedmaster is easier to match with a springtime style.
No short sleeves, since this watch needs to be shielded from looks. Go for a white shirt in linen or cotton, and why not a tailor-made one from Salvatore Piccolo in Naples?
For once, I would then go for a suit, and my choice would be a marine linen one with white stripes by Suit Supply. This Dutch brand continues to surprise me with the quality and style of its creations.
On the feet, a pair of Nike Killshot “Red” would be perfect because of the combination between the dark-brown sole and the bordeaux swoosh that evoke the colour of the Speedmaster “Nixon”.
You could attempt a touch of humour with a Heron Preston belt in NASA orange. It would stand out, but it would also distract from your wrist!
Once dressed, you could dive into the Moonwatch Only book and discover the history of this exceptional watch.
A company of the Swatch Group, OMEGA has been behind major revolutions in watchmaking technology and the timekeeping of numerous Olympic Games. Its watches are worn by world-famous celebrities and have travelled to the moon, the depths of the ocean and everywhere in between.Find out more >
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