Remarkable solid gold Omega Speedmaster presented to Apollo 12 moonwalker Alan Bean
Alan Bean’s personally-owned and -worn 18K solid yellow gold Omega Speedmaster Professional BA 145.022 watch intended for presentation to him at a special gala dinner on November 25, 1969, at the Hotel Warwick in Houston; Bean was, however, still in Apollo 12 quarantine at the time, and received the watch later on. Omega initially created 26 of these gold commemorative watches—known as the ‘Tribute to Astronauts’ watch—to present to NASA astronauts alive and deceased, with the case back of each watch specially engraved with a quote, the name and missions of the astronaut, and a unique number relative to when the astronaut flew into space. This watch’s case back, issued as “No. 26,” is encircled, “Astronaut Alan Bean, Apollo 12,” with his role on “Skylab Mission II” added later by Bean's Houston jeweler. The special central quote reads: “To mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time.”
The first gold Speedmaster that Omega created, the watch features an 18K gold case with the same design cues and dimensions as the regular steel Speedmaster Professional. The gold bezel has a burgundy red aluminum inlay, with the famous ‘dot over ninety,’ and a special solid gold dial, indicated by the “OM” next to “Swiss Made,” which means ‘Or Massif’ or ‘solid gold.’ The hour markers are made of onyx, have two facets each, and are set in gold frames. The hands are black with gold centers and give wonderful contrast to the solid gold dial. The gold bracelet (1116/575) features hollow links and a small 14mm gold clasp with striping decoration. Inside the 18k gold 42mm case ticks the Lemania-based copper-colored chronograph caliber 861 with a steel brake; this caliber 861 has a ticking speed of 21,600vph and uses 17 jewels. Includes a very rare, non-original Omega Speedmaster box with a design of the cratered lunar surface (this box was provided with the steel version of the anniversary watch). The watch received official Omega authorized service in 2018 (nothing cosmetic done, only lube, etc.) and is in fine functional condition; cosmetically, it exhibits light wear from use, primarily noticeable in scratches to the bracelet's clasp.
Accompanied by a handwritten letter of provenance from Alan Bean, in full: "I hereby certify that the accompanying Gold Speedmaster Watch, engraved on the back, 'Astronaut Alan Bean,' 'To Mark Man's Conquest of Space with Time, Through Time, On Time,' 'Apollo 12,' 'Skylab Mission II,' was awarded to me by the Omega Watch Company in a ceremony in Houston shortly after the completion of the Apollo program. I have worn the watch over the years, particularly on special occasions." Worn often throughout the decades, there exist several photographs of Alan Bean with the watch on his wrist—including during Skylab training, in an official NASA portrait, and at one of his later art exhibitions.
After the moon-flown Omega Speedmaster Pros—property of the United States government—these Apollo XI commemorative 18K gold chronographs stand at the forefront of space watch lore. Issued in an extremely limited number to commemorate the Apollo 11 landing, the first twenty-eight watches produced were reserved for President Richard Nixon (#1) and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew (#2), followed by the 26 astronauts who paved the way for the moon landings in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Only 19 of the 26 astronauts honored were able to attend the gala dinner at which they were presented—the Apollo 12 crew was still in quarantine after their return to Earth on November 24, 1969, and the Apollo 1 crew were being recognized posthumously. These early watches all feature the special central engraving, "To mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time." The publicly available version of the watch (numbers 33-1000) was issued with a caseback commemorating Apollo 11 and the Speedmaster's status as 'the first watch worn on the moon.' Omega returned to the special engraving for the astronaut watches later issued to the crews of Apollo 14-17.
The elusive gold astronaut chronograph also takes a place as the most expensive Speedmaster Pro ever sold: in October 2022, RR Auction sold Wally Schirra's example of the Apollo 11 commemorative 18K gold Omega Speedmaster Professional chronograph watch (Ref. BA 145.022) for nearly $2 million. Unlike Schirra's, this example was owned by the moonwalker who followed in the immediate footsteps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. A truly remarkable example of an iconic timepiece.
Bonhams, The Space History Sale, April 21, 2015.