Where contemporary limited edition Speedmasters are concerned, it seems to be that Japan has somehow had the good fortune of being issued with some of the coolest instances of the hallowed timepiece. Case in point: The 2003 reference PIC 3570.31 Mitsukoshi Special Edition and after that, the 2004 reference 3570.40 Japan Racing Dial. Needless to say, both references are highly sought after and are on an ever-upward trajectory where desirability and price point are concerned.
For today, we’ll focus on the 3570.40 Japan Racing Dial. But first, a trip down memory lane and the origin of this unusual dial.
1967-1968: The 145.012-67s (and One Example of a 105.012)
The story, as it is recorded in Grégoire Rossier and Anthony Marquié’s, Moonwatch Only, the racing type dial first appears in a small batch of Speedmasters produced between 1967-1968. The watches were steel, twisted-lug cased 145.012-67s, loaded with the caliber 321 and had DON bezels.
These had black dials with white minute tracks and, red and white hour indexes. It had all of its chronograph related hands in white, while the hour and minute hands were in red. There are six documented instances of this variation of the watch, which had a Pre-Professional dial with the applied metal logo and the words “Omega Speedmaster” in the style of CK2915s.
There are four documented instances of the Professional dial variation of the watch with the more familiar printed logo, a more modern variation of the OMEGA printing and, of course, PROFESSIONAL printed under Speedmaster, in a third line. Moonwatch Only, also, points out that these had smaller counters. Oddly enough, one of the four, is a ST 105.012 rather than the ST 145.012. Go figure.
1969: The 145.014 Mark II
In 1969, the Racing Dial evolved along with the case shape of the Speedmaster. The Speedmaster had now taken on a barrel-type case, very reminiscent of the 70s. Point to remember is that the Mark II was loaded with regular black dials and, as well, the Racing Dial, which had a grey base with a red ring on the outer edge of the dial. Hour markers along this outer edge were now orange, coated with a luminous pigment, with yet another set of white hour markers further in.
On the Mark II Racing Dials, the Omega logo was in orange with all of the time keeping hands in white and the time measuring hands in orange. Keep in mind, for now that the Mark II, also, had a chrono seconds hand that looked at lot like the one from the 1968 Ultraman. And, with that I’ll leave it there, because Wei Koh’s already written a substantial story on the subject of the Mark II, which you can read here.
1969/70: The 145.022-69
Now here’s where things get interesting. The Racing Dial, also, appeared in a small batch of ref. 145.022-69 watches, over the same period as the Mark II. Moonwatch Only lists that 15 instances of the watch have been identified and verified.
But here’s how we can suggest that the Racing Dial used in the ref. 145.022-69 was made very intentionally for the watch by Omega. The 145.022-69 has a Racing dial that’s stepped up, in the center of the dial, with the familiar red ring and minute track placed on the lower step, which forms the outer diameter of the dial. Whether it was intended for production or just as an experiment, still remains a mystery. The Mark II Racing Dial has no step, with the three subdials sloping on the sides into a lower center.
Remember the Ultraman-type chrono seconds hand on the Mark II? The 145.022-69’s central chrono hand was orange, but it was shaped like that of regular black dial 145.022-69s. This particular attribute, we can’t quite attach to the Racing Dial 145.022-69 with certainty, because there exist anomalies, with instances of the watch fitted with the Ultraman-type chrono seconds hand.
2004: The Limited-Edition Japan Racing Dial Reference 3570.40.00
It’s been determined, now, that all of the historical Racing Dial watches, of the late 60s, were all delivered to Switzerland. But for some reason, when Omega made the decision to reissue a Racing Dial Speedmaster, they made the watch very specifically for sale within Japan, only.
In 2004, Omega launched the ref. 3570.40.00 Japan Racing Dial in a limited run of 2004 pieces. The watch took inspiration quite directly from the 1969/70 145.022-69, in that it has all of the colors used in exact order on the dial. No stepped center, but it does slope up from the sides into the center.
As much as I said there is some confusion about the chrono hand used on the Racing Dial 145.022-69, Omega clearly went with the Ultraman-type for the 2004 reissue.
Specifications aside, it seems that in recent days, the Japan Racing Dial’s taken on an intense following with prices headed skyward. A quick Google search of the watch will bring up several listings on forums and such, where instances of the watch were listed, as recent as back in 2016, for round about US$5,000. And then, add Phillips to your search and you’ll come across a piece that was up for sale at their May 29, 2018 Hong Kong auction that sold for well over US$15,000 (buyer’s premium included).
Thing is, if you really want a Racing Dial Speedy, odds of coming across a Black Racing dial 145.012-67 are astronomical. And if you think the Japan Racing Dials are going taking on high prices, the two times Phillips had Black Racing dial Speedies for sale, they sold for CHF 72,500 (START-STOP-RESET sale May 14, 2016) and CHF 40,000 (May 12-13, 2018). The reason why the piece in 2016 sold for far higher, is simply because it was in far better condition.
How about the Mark II Racing Dial? Again, prices are on an upward trend, there were no more than 150 made in its production timeframe and fair condition instances are hard to come by. More on this in Wei Koh’s article on the Mark II 145.014.
Of the 145.022-69, I’ve been able to find three instances at public auctions. Christie’s had one at their December 15, 2015 sale that sold for US$ 32,500. Phillips at their START-STOP-RESET sale, in 2016, sold one for US$ 57,500 (approximated from the listed CHF 57,500 sale figure). Lastly, Sotheby’s had one at their May 14, 2017 sale that sold for US$ 72,500 (approximated from the listed CHF 72,500 sale figure).
Which then means that, with 2004 made, if you had to get your hands on a Racing Dial Speedmaster, the Japan edition is your best bet. Snap ‘em up when you can find one, especially while prices remain under the US$ 20,000 mark. Because, you can be very sure it’s not going to stay there for too long.