Later this month, Phillip’s will be auctioning of scores of vintage timepieces. One of the highlights is the Speedmaster ref. ST 188.0002, a particularly rare Omega prototype, purportedly one of three ever made. And while any Speedmaster has a solid link to NASA and space travel, this particular one is even more so. Why? Because it was designed specifically for use by NASA.
Starting in 1969, Omega worked on a series of Speedmaster prototypes, designed to fit the needs of NASA, dubbed the “Alaska” projects. (The original Speedmaster that was worn in space not designed for NASA, rather it happened to meet NASA’s requirements.) There would be four projects in total, and the watch seen here was a result of the third project from 1978 for a watch to be used on the Space Shuttle. NASA submitted three different designs to NASA: two mechanical Speedmaster and one with an electronic tuning fork. This is the latter.
While the electromechanical movement of the ST 188.0002 was undoubtedly more technically-advanced at the time, NASA had concerns about using watch batteries in space, according to the auction listing. Thus, the panda dial, cushion-case, electronic Speedmaster here is not the reference most enthusiasts associate with Alaska III (that’d be the chosen model, a mechanically-driven Speedy with “radial” sub-dials). Still, given its rarity and direct connection to NASA, it has to be one of the rarest and most historically significant Speedmasters you could conceivably buy. Which comes at a cost: Phillip’s is estimating a sale price between $10,600 and $21,200.
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