Even before the Omega Speedmaster became the first and only watch on the moon, the technical Svengalis at the brand’s head office in Bienne, Switzerland were working on creating the ultimate watch for space under the code name “Alaska Project.” The impressive evolutionary act involved a four-part protection system.
The first related to optimizing the movement for space, which meant changing parts of the Caliber 861, such as pivots, to components made from special alloys to better resist the extreme temperature variations in space. Part two related to optimizing the case: for the first time, titanium was selected for its greater strength, resistance and lightness. Part 3 related to the dial which had to provide maximum visibility even during severe vibrations – hence the space capsule shaped chrono minute and hour counters – and resist the unfiltered UV rays in space, which resulted in its silver white color. The final part in a resoundingly cool act of overkill was a bright red anodized aluminum protective case.
Ok, what is relevant to us here is that while producing the five prototypes of the titanium case, Omega decided to radically re-think the shape of the basic watch. The prototypes for what would become known as Alaska I all featured a futuristic and even beefier barrel-shaped case which though ultimately not selected by NASA, would forge the genetic blueprint for the Omega Flightmaster watches, designed as professional equipment for pilots, and the legendary Speedmaster Mark II.
The Speedmaster Mark II was launched in 1969 under the reference number 145.014. It featured the same shuttle cam operated chronograph caliber 861 which had become standard fare for the Omega. Where it was really distinct was regarding its case. The Speedy Mark II looked like it had arrived here by smashing through the space-time continuum, it was as bold of a rupture from the classic round case shape for sporting chronographs as had ever been imagined. It was meant as a symbol of Omega’s fearless push into the future. Amazingly, it must have been a divisive watch even back when it was launched, as by 1972 it had been discontinued.
The other distinct element of the Speedmaster II is its dial. It came in two versions with a black dial similar to the classic Speedmaster Professional. But it also came in the now famous Racing Dial. Now hang you say, because aren’t there both Black Racing dial ST 105.003 and 145.012 watches in existence? Sure but the common consensus is that those were watches fitted with prototype dials that were never commercialized. But there was also a miniscule number of 145.022-69 with a slightly different Grey Racing dial found in the Speedmaster II again the belief is that there are no more than 150 such watches that were delivered in Switzerland in 1970 and were more of an experimental series than a real production run. (Yes there was a Japan Special Racing series created in 2004)
No, what is clear is that the decision was taken at Omega to make the Racing Dial synonymous with the Speedmaster 2. And this is one of the coolest dials ever created. Its iconography consists of a grey dial with a burgundy seconds track. All time-telling hands are rendered white while hands related to the chronograph function are rendered orange. It is important to note that both the standard hour markers as well as the orange hour markers on the dial are coated with luminous paint. The tachymeter of the watch is printed onto the bottom of the glass of the timepiece for optimized visibility.
What is important to think about when eyeing a vintage Mark II is that the complex finish on the uniquely shaped case has to be refinished at Omega to retain its integrity. Looking through the cluttered and at times chaotic landscape of Chrono24 will unveil innumerable Speed Mark II’s but look closely and you’ll see the majority of the cases are not correctly finished. In fact most of those watches are severely beat up. The top part of the case has a subtle but distinct sunray treatment and the distinct bevel running vertically along each side of the case needs to be perfect and razor sharp.
Our particular Speedy Mark 2 is slightly more expensive than the market rate for these watches, but that’s because it comes from a recent service from Omega and was clearly put away and never worn ever since. The movement is in equally great condition and its Caliber 861 is one of the best performing we’ve ever put through the paces. In addition, this watch comes with all original links for the bracelet. Finally, the dial on the watch is perfection with the orange of the hands faded to the perfect patina. We see a lot of Speedmaster Mark 2’s out there but this the nice one we’ve played with for a long time and as these watches are one of the most accessible ways to get into vintage Omegas, we’d rather offer the best condition one we could find.