1992 might not be a year that’s widely spoken of when discussing the Speedmaster timeline. But I assure it surely deserves a lot more talking up.
50 years prior, Omega concluded a project they called the 27 CHRO C12, which yielded the calibre 321 (Omega’s version of the CH 27). 15 years later, in 1957, the same calibre 321 took on the task of powering the Speedmaster in its first decade. Let me be clear: That accounts for six of the Speedmaster’s initial references, the 2915, the 2998, ST 105.002, ST 105.003, ST 105.012 and ST 145.012. Of which, it was the ST 105.003 that earned the Speedmaster its stamp of approval from NASA — Flight Qualified for all Manned Space Missions.
The calibre 321 was a triumph of engineering that proved its worth on earth, the moon and in the nothingness of space. Ken Kessler told the story in his earlier Speedmaster roundup article, saying that, “At 56 hours into flight, on April 13, 1970 a ruptured fuel tank on Apollo 13 lunar module had caused all of its electrical systems to shut down.
“Soon after, the crew lost the majority of power to the craft. They knew that their only option for survival was to use the moon’s gravitational pull to slingshot them around and back to earth. But there was one major problem — the angle of the craft’s re-entry. Too steep and it would burn up upon re-entry; too shallow and the craft would bounce off earth’s atmosphere, leaving the crew floating helplessly into space.
“Using Jim Swiggert’s Omega Speedmaster, the crew used the lunar module’s manually controlled descent propulsion engine to create a precisely timed, 14 second mid-flight course correction. This allowed them to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere successfully causing both the astronauts and the watch that saved them to indelibly become inked into one of the most remarkable moments in human history.”
It was with the introduction of the reference ST 145.022, in 1968, that Omega took on the calibre 861 for the Speedmaster, switching from the earlier column wheel chronograph system to the shuttle cam system instead. Thus, effectively ending the calibre 321’s 25-year long reign.
1992 — Jubilee 27 CHRO C12 Reference BA 148.0052, First COSC Certified Manual-Wound Speedmaster
Therefore, when time came to celebrate the calibre 321’s 50th birthday, Omega chose to do so with a special watch and yet another, special movement. This was the 1992, Jubilee 27 CHRO C12 Speedmaster. That’s already reason number one, why the BA 148.0052 is a significant piece in the Speedmaster timeline. The watch was made in an edition of 999 numbered watches with solid case backs and 250 watches with display backs in a special presentation box.
Secondly, this was the fourth Speedmaster that Omega had made in 18k solid yellow gold. The prior pieces were the 1969 Tribute to Apollo XI reference BA 145.022, the 1980 Apollo XI — fashioned off the 1969 BA 145.022 — reference BA 345.0802 and then in 1991, there was the Perpetual Calendar reference BA 175.0037.
The third reason why this watch is not to be taken lightly is because this was the very first black dial yellow gold Speedmaster. Prior yellow gold Speedmasters, all had gold dials.
Now, the fourth reason why the watch is special is because, while there was another black dial yellow gold Speedmaster later in 2000, note that the BA 148.0052 can be immediately be distinguished because the of gold frames around its three sub dials. The only other Speedmaster that has such a dial is the 7-piece MIR 365 edition. More on those Speedmasters later.
Before we go on to the fifth reason why this is a cool watch, here’s an interesting observation. Other than the Speedmaster Professional being Flight Qualified for all Manned Space Missions, by NASA, Omega never really brought the Speedmaster or any of its movements over to a certifying body to have its chronometry certified. Sure the Speedmaster proved itself in the heat of whatever had been thrown at it in its lifetime, but a watchmaker’s commitment to having a watch chronometer certified does instil a different sort of confidence.
So it was in 1992, when with the BA 148.0052, Omega introduced the third generation of manual-wound movement to be used in the Speedmaster that the brand also gave the world the first COSC certified manual-wound Speedy. This movement was the calibre 864.
The MIR Gold Speedmasters
Quick segue now to the gold MIR watches’ story. From July 1993 through to July 1994, 35 Omega watches were brought up to spend 365 days aboard the MIR space station. There were 10 refence ST 145.0022.105.1 in steel with a leather strap, 18 pieces of the refence ST 345.0022.105 in steel with a steel bracelet, 5 pieces of the refence BA 145.0052.035A in gold with a leather strap and lastly, 2 pieces of the refence BA 345.0052.035 in gold on a gold bracelet.
The purpose in having the watches in the space station for such an extended period was to observe the long-term effect of zero gravity on mechanical movements. At the end of the year long experiment, the watches were brought back to Omega and found to be working perfectly. Later, in 1995, the complete series of watches was sold off to the public to mark the Atlantis-MIR Russo-American rendez-vous from June 29 to July 3, 1995.
1992 — Rare Hand-Crafted Limited Edition, Skeleton Reference BA 145.0053
But going back to 1992 — this was the year that Omega also produced one of the most ornate Speedmasters to date: The ref. BA 145.0053, Rare Hand-Crafted Limited Edition, Skeleton. The watch had a solid gold case with a heavily skeletonised dial and the gold plated — highly decorated and skeletonised — calibre 867, which like the calibre 864 was COSC certified as well.
On top of the yellow gold version, Omega also made platinum and white gold versions of the watch, limited to just 50 pieces. The reason why these were made in such a small number was because it took one watchmaker 150 hours to craft the skeleton work on each watch.
The point to make here, is that in a timeframe when the desirability of solid gold Speedmasters is on an upward trend and the 1969 Tribute to Apollo XI reference BA 145.022 and the 1980 Apollo XI BA 345.0802 are already demanding sky-high prices — an example of the BA 145.022 recently sold with Phillips in Hong Kong for US$45,900 (before buyer’s premium) — the 1992 Jubilee BA 148.0052, remains severely underpriced.
Underpriced yes, but let’s think of it this way: It’s the watch that celebrates the 50th birthday of the mighty caliber 321, it’s the fourth solid gold Speedmaster ever made, it’s the first ever gold Speedmaster with a black dial that only appears again on the MIR gold Speedmasters and lastly it marks the first ever COSC certified manual-wound Speedy. For all the significance that the BA 148.0052 holds — at current prices — for you the Speedmaster collector, this watch presents nothing short of a bloody steal.