Omega’s Speedmaster Mark series – like this recently serviced and all original 1980 Mark 4.5 example here – was Omega’s attempt to follow the immense success of its Omega Speedmaster Professional line of Moon watches, in particular following the its 1969 presence on the Moon and the bragging rights that followed (and continue to this day). Omega decided to come up with a successor watch to fit design trends of the 1970s, thus giving birth to the Omega Speedmaster Professional Mark line, beginning with the Mark II.
The Mark II came with the same Lemania-based movement as the original Speedmaster Professional "Moonwatch," reference 145.022. The Mark series contained Omega’s original calibre 861 movement and was in production from 1968 through 1996, when Omega introduced the calibre 1861 movement.
Unlike the Speedmaster Professional, the Mark series featured barrel-shaped cases, polished chamfers, and a brushed top and sides, giving it a rather different look from the standard Speedmaster Professional case worn by NASA astronauts. The classic Speedmaster tachymeter is Professional is known for is also different – instead of residing in an external bezel, it is under the mineral glass crystal, protecting the tachymeter from scratches or disruption.
Now for some a little on the legendary Speedmaster pedigree. Omega introduced its Speedmaster line of chronographs in 1957, when it was introduced as a sports and racing chronograph, complementing Omega's position as the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games. Many different chronograph movements marketed under the Speedmaster name. The manual winding Speedmaster Professional or "Moonwatch" is the best-known and longest-produced; it was worn during the first American spacewalk as part of NASA's Gemini 4 mission and the first watch worn by an astronaut walking on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. The Professional remains one of several watches qualified by NASA for spaceflight and is still the only one so qualified for EVA. The Speedmaster line included other models, including analog-digital and automatic mechanical watches.
Beginning in 1962, NASA – anticipating the need for astronauts on space missions to move about in space outside the ship, thus necessitating the need for a wristwatch to withstand the difficult conditions of space – anonymously purchased a series of chronographs from different watch brands in an effort to find the best watch available for astronauts to wear in space.
In 1964, the watches satisfying all pre-requirements were officially purchased by NASA and subjected to a series of tests and pre-selection processes called the “Qualification Test Procedures.” Only three watches of six chronographs successfully survived this arduous pre-selection phase. The three remaining were then subjected to 11 different tests – some of the most rigorous trials endured in the history of horology:
1. High Temperature: 48 hours at a temperature of 160°F (71°C) followed by 30 minutes at 200°F (93°C);
2. Low Temperature: Four hours at a temperature of 0°F (-18°C);
3. Temperature-Pressure: 15 cycles of heating to 71°C for 45 minutes, followed by cooling to -18°C for 45 minutes at 10−6 atm;
4. Relative Humidity: 240 hours at temperatures varying between 68°F and 160°F (20°C and 71°C) in a relative humidity of at least 95%;
5. Oxygen Atmosphere: 48 hours in an atmosphere of 100% oxygen at a pressure of 0.35 atm;
6. Shock: Six shocks of 40 G, each 11 milliseconds in duration, in six different directions;
7. Acceleration: From One G to 7.25 G within 333 seconds, along an axis parallel to the longitudinal spacecraft axis;
8. Decompression: 90 minutes in a vacuum of 10-6 atm at a temperature of 160°F (71°C) and 30 minutes at 200°F (93°C);
9. High Pressure: 1.6 atm for a minimum period of one hour;
10. Vibration: Three cycles of 30 minutes vibration varying from 5 to 2000 Hz;
11. Acoustic Noise: 130 db over a frequency range of 40 to 10,000 Hz, duration 30 minutes.
By early March 1965, testing was complete, leaving – you guessed it – only the Speedmaster. At the time, NASA’s testers wrote, "Operational and environmental tests of the three selected chronographs have been completed; and, as a result of the test, Omega chronographs have been calibrated and issued to three members of the Gemini Titan III crews." James Ragan, the NASA engineer responsible for the qualification tests, has spoken about the importance of the Speedmaster by saying, “The watch was a backup. If the astronauts lost the capability of talking to the ground, or the capability of their digital timers on the lunar surface, then the only thing they had to rely on was the Omega watch they had on their wrist. It needed to be there for them if they had a problem.”
On 20 July 1969, the first manned lunar landing resulted in NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong as the first to step onto the Moon’s surface. As the electronic timing system on the Lunar Module was malfunctioning, Armstrong left his watch aboard as a reliable backup. Nearly 20 minutes after his first step, he was joined by Buzz Aldrin wearing his Omega Speedmaster Professional – making the Speedmaster the first watch worn on the Moon. Alas, a few months after this mission, Buzz's watch was stolen and never returned.
Regardless, it is from here the Speedmaster steadily gained a reputation of a reliable and historic timepiece – since the epic first steps on the Moon, the Speedmaster Professional remains the only NASA-qualified watch for extravehicular activity (EVA). Of note, Omega is currently designing a Speedmaster capable of accompanying man in a mission, planned for 2030, to Mars where temperatures range from -133°C to 27°C.
This Speedmaster Mark 4.5 comes with its original bracelet, nylon NATO strap, and Pelican travel case.
1980 Omega Speedmaster Calibre 1045 Mark 4.5, Ref. 176.0012
DIAL: Original detailed Omega and Speedmaster-signed dial, with original hands. Dial has no imperfections, with uniform lume patina, a nice touch revealing the vintage inherent in the Speedmaster design.
CASE: Original sizable 42mm (w/o crown, 44.5mm with) x 45mm stainless-steel case, with sharp caselines. Speedmaster icon inscription on back of case is detailed and crisp.
CRYSTAL: Mineral crystal, no cracks or scratches. Tachymeter is present on crystal with no wear.
BAND: Original Omega Speedmaster-signed stainless-steel bracelet, with tight links – no “desk diver” rash on buckle. This Speedmaster also comes with a dark blue and red nylon NATO strap, with stainless-steel hardware.
MOVEMENT: Original Lemania-based movement, a calibre 1045 automatic; this Speedmaster Mark 4.5 - manufactured in 1980 - was serviced in June 2020.
CROWN: Original Omega-signed stainless-steel crown.
CHRONOGRAPH PUSHERS: Pushers depress with satisfying click. Chronograph hands snap back and reset to zero with no issue.