Omega Speedmasters of the Eighties
This article is about the Speedmaster Professional watches of the 1980s, a difficult period for Omega.
With the introduction of the Mark II in 1969, the Speedmaster collection went far beyond the watch we all think of when someone says “Speedmaster.”
Standard Professional models
The “workhorse”, or the Professional 145.022
Truth be told, not much has changed in the Speedmaster from the mid-1970s until the 1980s.
By the 1980s, it had the domed dial (successor to the “step dial”) that we know from the Speedies of today and it still had the “Tall Tachy” DNN bezel that replaced the DON circa 1969/1970.
The 345.0808 was introduced in 1980. Basically, it was the origin of all the display back Speedmasters.
Referred to as the “Apollo XI”, it appears that the reference applies to a number of limited editions, in production well into the 1990s.
As opposed to the standard Pro, it featured the cal. 863, finished ever so slightly better than the ordinary 861.
“De Luxe” model, introduced in 1989.
Basically, it’s a standard Pro on the outside with a display back and powered by the calibre 863.
The technical part
The only thing that did actually change was the reference number.
Obviously, with the introduction of 7-digit reference numbers, 145.022 became 145.0022. By 1989, the reference number has changed again, with the transition to yet another reference number system. The 145.0022, the reference of the basic Moonwatch changed to 3590.50.
Serial numbers of Speedmaster Pro models have obviously departed from the standard Omega serial number system by 1969. Whatever the reason for this might be, in the 1980s it also turned somewhat chaotic.
For example, a watch with a serial pointing to a certain year could have in fact been made two years earlier or later. That said, without info from the Omega archives, the precise year of manufacture of a 1980s Speedmaster isn’t easy to find out. Well, the theoretical one is, but the actual year can well be considerably off from that.
Pro, but not-so-Pro – the odd or special models
The Stafford Speedmaster
Known for one of them having been engraved and presented to the famous astronaut, General Thomas P. Stafford, the ref. BA 345.0802 was something of an oddball of its own.
It bears a superficial resemblance to the 1969 limited edition BA 145.022, however, the differences are rather obvious. While the dial and hands are still non-luminous ones (black hands, hour markers with black inlay), the hour markers are long ones (as opposed to the ’69 limited edition). The bezel is black with gilt print, but then again, so was the service bezel often installed on the BA 145.022. The font definitely sets it apart. While the BA 145.022 featured a throwback to the applied logo and the “Oval O” font from the late 1950s, the “Stafford” had the ordinary font used since the mid-1970s.
Another interesting thing is that the watch featured a display back, which was a novelty back then, as well as a non-standard movement. The cal. 861L closely resembled the contemporary cal. 1861, especially that it was rhodium plated, as opposed to the standard coppery finishing of the 861.
Only a few hundred of these watches were made.
An even less common twin brother of the “Stafford”, only in white gold. This short-lived reference was made in circa 20 specimens, all of which were made for the German market.
Two-tone. Steel case, gold bezel with black insert, two-tone 1171 bracelet, solid case back, cal. 861. Pale gold dial, silver sub-dials.
Introduced in 1987, made exclusively for the Italian market. Also a two-tone case, however with a different bezel – full gold one, without an insert. Black dial, gold subdials, white hands.
DD 145.0022 “German Edition”
Same case as in the DD 145.0022-1. Different dial – white/off-white, subdials not recessed, with a gold frame around them. T SWISS MADE T printing – unusually – above the minute track.
Special models aside, the 1980s were difficult years for Omega.
Unlike the 1960s models, it doesn’t seem like there were any particularly interesting “oddballs” among regular production Speedmasters of the 1980s. That might be slightly disappointing, but let’s not forget, that a typical Speedy Pro from the 80s would have already developed the cream-coloured patina to the lume. Music to the ears of the collector who wants a nicely patinated Speedmaster but doesn’t want to overpay.
While the limited editions from back then are unfortunately pricey, with “Stafford” and white gold models fetching wild prices at auctions, the 80s standard Pro is still a reasonable choice.
Obviously, there’s a ton of specimens with replaced dials (no tritium markings) and bezels (contemporary DNN with the “low Tachy” font instead of the “Tall Tachy”).
Specimens with replacement parts aren’t desirable, but a replacement doesn’t hurt their value as much as in a 1960s or 1970s piece. Still, usually there are plenty of really decent specimens to choose from.
Do you have an 80s Speedy or do you want to add one to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.