Omega Speedmaster 105.012 – The Real Moonwatch

 In Omega Speedmaster

The current Speedmaster Professional, the descendant of the ref. 145.022, produced with minor changes from 1968 until this day, is often called the “Moonwatch.”

That’s interesting because the 145.022 wasn’t the watch first worn on the Moon. This title goes to the Omega Speedmaster 105.012.

What is it?

The ref. 105.012 was the first of the “Professional” models.

It features the asymmetric case with a crown and pusher guard, flowing seamlessly into the lugs – sort of a thicker right flank of the case.

It was powered by the same movement as all other “pre-Moons”- the cal. 321. Its introduction coincided with that of the ref. 105.003.

Both were in production since 1963. Therefore, it’s hard to speak of the 105.012 as a successor to the 105.003. It was just a slightly more modern, more avant-garde take on the very same thing.

How does the 105.012 differ from the 105.003 (except for the case)?

The step dial, except for the Professional inscription, remained very similar to that of the 105.003. However, the design of the recessed subdials has changed slightly. The edges seem to be sharper, the bottom plane of the subdials also has a slightly different appearance.

Unlike the 105.003, not all 105.012s featured tritium markings. That begs the question if the lume used was tritium, because 1963 was about the time when Omega was phasing out radium lume.

You’ll only find the dial without T markings on the 105.012-63.

The bezel remained the same “DON” as used on the 105.002 and 105.003.

It’s also worth remembering that the pushers are different, so replacements for asymmetric case Speedmasters would look rather
odd on a 105.003 if they’d fit at all!

The new pushers were shorter and wider – 5 x 3 mm vs. the 105.003’s 4.5 x 3.5 mm.

Omega Speedmaster 105.012
105.012 on the iconic 1039 bracelet. Photo credit: Bulang&Sons

The fine differences within the reference

Theoretically, it’s one reference, but within what’s supposed to be one model, you can spot some fine, yet visible things.

Casebacks

Most 105.012s (-63, 64, and 65) have a “double step” case back. This isn’t the case with the 105.012-66. The last version of the 105.012 (production ended in 1966 alright) had a single step back.

Finishing

The finishing in cases from two different third-party case suppliers is different.

Two companies made Speedmaster cases – Centrale Boites (CB) in Biel, a long-time supplier to Omega, and Huguenin Freres, the renowned supplier to a variety of manufacturers (including Vacheron Constantin).

Interestingly enough, the CB cases have a somewhat finer finishing to them.

Omega Speedmaster 105.012
Note the fairly sharp facet edges. Most likely a CB case. Photo credit: Bulang&Sons

The “lyre lugs” have distinctive facet lines, running from the bezel to the inner corners of the lugs.

In CB cases, these lines are sharp, finely done. In HF cases, they’re smoother, almost giving the impression that someone refinished the case at some point in the past, which, of course, isn’t true.

But with Omega factory service being all too well known for polishing the cases out and replacing most of the components (bezel, hands, dial), it’s understandable that you avoid what could possibly be a result of buffing out the case.

Now, it doesn’t mean you should let your guard down just because a Speedy case is by HF.

Omega Speedmaster 105.012
Smoother edges. Huguenin case, most likely. Photo credit: VintageCaliber

As mentioned before, if the watch is a -63, don’t worry about the absence of T markings. That’s just the way it’s supposed to be.

The Moon Shenanigans

Omega’s official marketing presents the 145.022, equipped with calibre 861 (Lemania 1873) as “the first watch worn on the Moon.”

Truth be told, there are two sides to their claims. Was the first watch on the Moon a Speedmaster Professional? Yes. Was the calibre 861 worn on the Moon? Yes. Only the first one wasn’t that Speedmaster Pro (145.022), and it wasn’t powered by the 861.

The Speedmasters used on the Apollo 11 mission were – according to NASA documents – 105.012s.

There were many theories concerning the reference numbers of the watches worn by Armstrong and Aldrin. Both 145.022, 145.012, both references, 2 x 145.012, 105.012 and 145.012. Well, now we know.

Both happened to be 105.012, making the cal. 321, not the 861, the original Moonwatch movement.

Omega Speedmaster 105.012
Calibre 321 in a Speedmaster 105.012. Note the OXG import code on the balance cock, indicating it was sold in the USA. Photo credit: VintageCaliber

I don’t pretend to know why the 145.022 was marketed as the Moonwatch and why the calibre 861 became famous as the Moonwatch movement.

A bit of a chaos in the documentation, maybe?

Or maybe because it was better for something in production and not something discontinued, to enjoy that fame.

If it works, it works, and if it sells, it sells.

Availability and pricing

There’s only one less common version of the 105.012, and that’s the 105.012-64. They’re usually 500-1000 dollars more expensive than the other versions which go for between 9000 and 15000 USD.

Which – again – is a lot, because we’re talking about mass production, of a fairly common model.

Omega Speedmaster 105.012
105.012 on a gorgeous strap. Photo credit: Bulang&Sons

If you really need a pre-Moon but don’t want to spend that much, you’ll be better off with a 145.012.

However, if you’re a “hopeless case” of a space geek with a ton of NASA stickers and gadgets everywhere, you might want to consider the 105.012.

You’ll need deeeeep pockets though. Not just for the watch itself but also for maintenance. Parts for the 321 are expensive since they’re becoming rare and hard to come by.

Oh, and if you’re more into the Speedmaster’s racing heritage, it’ll be a good choice as well. Omega advertised both the 105.012 and the 105.003 with an emphasis on motorsport.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Louis J Curl
    Reply

    Thank you very much for this article. It has been very helpful. If possible, I seek your council regarding the value of a watch I currently own. During my senior year at the Military Academy (1968), I purchased a Speedmaster Professional. Watch Reference is 105.012-66. Serial 24957697 and Calibre 321. I have owned the watch since purchase and it has been with me during 26 years in the Army and 25 years in government Service. The watch does not have an asymmetrical case which I find curious. I would greatly appreciate any assistance you can give me in determining the value of the watch or point me to someone who can assist me. In any case, thank you in advance for whatever support you can provide.
    Respectfully,
    Colonel Louis J Curl (Ret)

  • R.F.
    Reply

    Tachymetre Ring Info:

    One thing that was realized awhile back, yet is unknown by many today, is that after reaching 60 seconds, the numbers on the tachymetre ring become the seconds (working backwards along the ring), and the minutes become the Units per Hour.
    So, for an event that takes one minute and twenty seconds (80 seconds) to complete, 45 of those events can happen in an hour (45 minutes on the dial).
    90 sec. is 40 Units/Hour
    100 sec. is 36 Units/Hour
    120 (two minutes flat) = 30 U/H
    3:00 min.(180 sec.) = 20 U/H
    4:00 (240) = 15
    5:00 (300) = 12
    6:00 (360) = 10
    7:30 (450) = 8
    10:00 (600) = 6
    12 (720) = 5
    15 (900) = 4
    20 (1200) = 3
    24 minutes (1440 sec.) = 2.5 U/H

    The numbers should not be started late (300 or 400), nor should they extend down to 55 and 50, as ROLEX has mistakenly done. The “Units/Hour” should go between 55 and 60, to leave room for the high numbers (a more complete timing range for distance traveled, containers filled, parts produced or transported…

    In addition, having these numbers on the bezel is bad. This introduces parallax, which interferes with an accurate reading. Parallax is when two objects are not on the same plane, or surface, in this instance. To eliminate parallax when reading the units per hour, the viewer must be aligned precisely with the watch, so they are perpendicular to the dial (rotated to read straight across, not at an angle).
    Vintage chronometers had the tachymetre numbers on the dial, just beyond the minute ring for easy reading. Chronometers from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s had those snail-shaped spiral lines at the center of the dial. They wound down to only 20 U/H for three spirals, or 15 U/H for four, and wasn’t a good idea.

    Thanks for a great website.

    R.F.

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