1970 British Military Omega Speedmaster Professional NAAFI
This Speedmaster NAAFI although used by the military remains in excellent original condition. Featuring its original stepped dial, containing the original tritium lume showing a nice consistent patina. The original hands, which hold a slightly darker patina – a known occurrence for this reference, and indicates the originality of the lume used. Sitting atop the dial, this example also features the original Omega plexiglass with its symbol in the centre. Some collectors consider this the icing on the cake regarding originality.
Furthermore, this example is powered by a cal. 861 movement with its correct 30.9xx.xx serial number. Housing the movement, the 43mm stainless steel case appears to be unpolished and has its correct case back with reference 145.022-69. The iconic Omega Hippocampus (Seahorse) emblem on the caseback also remains visible. Surrounding the dial and crystal, our example has its original Dot Next to Ninty (DNN) tachymeter bezel.
Featuring the original Omega flat link bracelet dated 1/71, with a small amount of stretch to the bracelet links to be expected.
Overall, the watch is presented in collector’s condition, unpolished, original and featuring patina in line with its age. Beyond its condition, however, this watch is also accompanied by a recent Omega Extract of Archives showing delivery in 1970 to the British Military Suppliers NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes). This suggests that our example was most likely issued to, and used by, military personnel during service. Not many examples were delivered to the NAAFI, and as such, this example is part of a small collection of timepieces with this historical provenance. If you are looking for a 145.022-69, then this example is one of the best you will find for its original condition and established provenance.
The Speedmaster Professional’s History
Released in 1957 and based on Omega’s earlier chronographs from the 1920s and ’30s, the Omega Speedmaster is one of the most iconic chronographs of all time. The word “icon” tends to be thrown around a bit in the watchmaking industry, but the Speedmaster deserves its plaudits. Named after the purpose of the tachymeter along its bezel, the Speedmaster was designed for race car drivers and pilots who needed to time events, calculate average speeds and make other rapid calculations on the go, say while driving a racecar. While these adrenaline-fueled activities might be not for the faint-hearted, they aren’t the reason the Speedmaster has become such an iconic timepiece. Instead, the reason is somewhat out of this world; it went to the Moon.
Following a gruelling series of tests against several other brands, the Speedmaster got to debut in space during the Gemini program of 1965. Worn by astronauts on the outside of their spacesuit while fitted to a very long nylon strap, akin to a modern NATO, that would wrap around their arm several times; the Speedmaster quickly rose to fame thanks to its prominence in photos. Omega shrewdly used these images of the Speedmaster being worn during spacewalks in their marketing material to establish the connection between their watch and space. Given this was, by far, the most exciting theatre in which a company’s product could be used at the time due to the intense public interest in the Space Race, it proved to be quite the marketing success.
Following its use on the Moon during the Apollo missions, the Speedmaster has gained legendary status. Saving one mission from inevitable failure and enabling astronauts to return home, the Speedmaster earned Omega a Silver Snoopy Award, acknowledging the timepiece’s contribution to the safety and success of that particular mission.
The Ref. 145.022-69
The world of vintage watch collecting can often be filled with the most minuscule of details that seem to have no real impact on the watch. We, as watch enthusiasts, know the reasons we look for these small details, but we are mindful of them too sometimes. The Omega Speedmaster is a watch that has both those small and rather massive details, often in varying proportions depending on the reference. The Omega Speedmaster ref. 145.022-69? It has everything you could want in a vintage timepiece.
Starting with the most significant detail that any vintage collector will want to know, the Omega Speedmaster ref. 145.022-69 was the very last pre-moon Speedmaster reference. With its production running from 1968 to 1970, it includes no reference to the moon landing on its caseback. As such, it offers a frozen glimpse into Omega’s history, whereby their most crucial milestone had not been reached.
Next up, we have the ref. 145.022-69’s iconic stepped dial. Differing from the 145.022-74 and onwards’ flat dials, these stepped dials are preferred as they break up the dial into two sections, the centre and periphery, thus increasing legibility, important aspects to consider a tool watch. These steps also carry aesthetic benefits as the sunken subdials provide visual depth to the Speedmaster’s design thanks to their pie-pan styling and concentric graining within.
Finally, the ref 145.022-69 was the first Speedmaster Professional to use the new cal. 861 movement, which replaced the legendary calibre 321 Lemania movement. Let’s get into that below.
The Movement Cal. 861
Legendary amongst Speedmaster fans, this ref. 145.022-69 features the iconic 861 calibre manual-wind movement. Introduced in 1968 and used far into the 2000s, the cal. 861 has become the Speedmaster’s archetypal movement. A direct replacement for the cal. 321 movement, the cal. 861 was designed by the very same man, Albert Piguet of Lemania. Using a cam-actuated system for operating the chronograph, instead of a column-wheel, the cal. 861 features the most common technology at the time and so operates with the same vintage appeal as its aesthetics provide.
Omega and NAAFI
Having supplied watches to the British Armed Forces since 1930, Omega officially became their single largest supplier for timepieces in 1940, with Omega providing over 110,000 timepieces to Britain’s Ministry of Defence to support its Air Force and Navy pilots during World War II. Famed for their uncompromising quality and robust construction, Omega timepieces were the Navy, Air and Air Forces Institutes’ preferred choice, and its clear why. Pioneering developments in anti-magnetism, water-resistance, and shock-proofing led to Omega’s reputation as one of the best tool watch manufacturers around, a reputation they still hold today.
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