9,4 / 10
Extremely rare limited edition
1st owner with full original documentation
This watch is an extraordinarily well preserved example of Speedmaster Apollo-Soyuz from the late 1970s.
All its parts are conform and in very good condition.
- Original owner
Finding an Apollo-Soyuz model is quite a big challenge, but it becomes almost unique when it comes from its very first owner, meaning the person who bought it new from an Authorized Dealer at the end of the 1970s.
The present model is accompanied by its original warranty from Omega, the original purchase invoice, and a short letter from the owner. Furthermore, the clasp of the bracelet is engraved with his initials and the name of a French gentlemen drivers club (that he actually founded).
- French delivery
The extremely unusual feature of this example is that it has been bought in… France!
We all knew that the Apollo-Soyuz limited edition from the 1970s had been commercialized by the Italian distributor De Marchi. And that this Italian distribution probably explains the letter I engraved on the caseback, together with the individual number of the piece.
We have already observed some rare examples with a correct serial number (range 39.180.xxx – 39.181.xxx), but without nor the I letter nor the individual number. And we did not have any clear explanation about this.
Actually, the Apollo-Soyuz was not a success when it hit the market in 1976. Many people were surprised by the fact that there was no “Speedmaster” mention on the dial, and they were not (yet) used to see this kind of logo on a dial. This explains why De Marchi did not reach the objective of selling all the 400 or 500 pieces, and probably decided to export a few of them to other countries. Given the fact that the “Italian” engravings were made locally in Italy and not in Bienne by the factory, De Marchi probably sent these few watches without any of these “Italian” mentions on the caseback.
The present watch has been purchased new in 1979 in Paris, at the Aldebert boutique, which was a very well-know dealer in the French capital at that time. The warranty card has the Aldebert stamp, and the original purchase invoice too, both with the name of the original owner.
This peculiarity makes this watch even more interesting. And it definitely represents an extraordinary opportunity for every Speedmaster collector.
About the model
On May 24, 1972, a project was signed for a link-up in space between an American Apollo and a Soviet Soyuz (Союз) spacecraft.
The historical significance of this agreement is apparent in the context of the 1970s during the Cold War between the two superpowers.
The mission successfully took place from July 15 to 25, 1975, with a first docking on July 17.
The American crew consisted of Commander Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand and Donald Kent “Deke” Slayton. The latter was one of the Original Seven astronauts selected for the NASA space program. He was nevertheless judged unfit for space flight because of a heart murmur and went on to hold a important job within NASA as the person responsible for selecting the crews of the Gemini and Apollo programs. He was nevertheless given permission to fly on the Apollo-Soyuz mission, at the age of 51.
The Soviet crew consisted of Commander Alexey Leonov, who made the first space walk a few months before Ed White, and Valery Kubasov.
The five men were all equipped with Speedmaster Professionals, although Leonov had worn an OMEGA Flightmaster on his previous flights.
To mark this historic event, OMEGA’s exclusive distributor in Italy, the De Marchi company in Turin, sold a limited edition of Speedmasters a year later. It is generally acknowledged that the production volume of this series was 500 units, all for sale in Italy, which is consistent with the letter I engraved on the casebacks of most of these models. We have no evidence of this production number, and although we did manage to find delivery invoices for 400 Apollo-Soyuz watches to De Marchi, we found no information about any extra copies.
This first limited series in steel has a number of specific features:
- a special dial, decorated with the mission badge at 12 o’clock in place of the usual Speedmaster and Professional,
- the main hour markers going through the minutes track as in the 1960s models,
- a special caseback with a bas-relief of the Saturn 1B rocket against a map of the world,
- a limited-series number with the letter I on the flat of the caseback,
- 5.5mm instead of 5mm-diameter pushers,
- modified caseband to accommodate the wider pushers,
- a special 1168/633 bracelet with links of an unusual design.
All the watches in the delivery invoices have movement numbers between 39.180. xxx and 39.181.xxx.