Unsolved Mystery: The Story of Buzz Aldrin’s Omega Speedmaster

By Montredo in Watch 101
May 9, 2019
Unsolved Mystery: The Story of Buzz Aldrin’s Omega Speedmaster

The Speedmaster Professional became the “Moonwatch” because of the historical impact of this timepiece. Worn by the astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the ST 105.012 is not only the first watch to traverse the surface of the moon, but also one of the most significant wristwatches of the 20th century. The circumstances surrounding its mysterious disappearance have fueled the legend surrounding this official timepiece of Apollo 11’s mission equipment. Over the years, it’s become a legendary artifact: one that bore witness to one of the greatest achievements in humankind’s history.

Vanished on the Way to the Smithsonian

Just a few short moments after Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin became the second human being to set foot upon the moon. Ultimately, it was Aldrin that made the Omega Speedmaster into the Moonwatch. The timekeeper that wrote history in 1969 vanished without a trace just a few years later. The circumstances surrounding its disappearance are sketchy at best and unanswered questions remain even today.

At the beginning of the 1970s, Buzz Aldrin arranged for the transfer of his “Speedy” to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. where the watch was set to be permanently exhibited. A team of transport carriers were contracted under a special order from NASA to deliver the watch to the museum. However, much like a thriller’s prologue, the watch was somehow stolen in transit.

Unlike Neil Armstrong’s Speedmaster Professional, which had served as a timekeeper onboard the lunar module during Apollo 11, Aldrin’s Moonwatch never reached the Smithsonian. NASA was especially displeased by the loss and promptly organised the return of all Speedmasters used during the first moon landing mission. Later on, Aldrin mentioned that he felt badly for his former colleagues. Neil Armstrong and others had grown particularly fond of their Speedmaster Professionals, holding them in high regard as a unique souvenir of their legendary accomplishment. However, NASA required them to hand them over.

The Mysterious Number 43

Over the years, new rumours made the rounds about the most symbolic timekeeper in American history. In 2003, the owner of a Speedmaster believed he had discovered the long lost Moonwatch after he found a small engraving with the number 43 on the inside of the caseback. Supposedly, Aldrin had been issued a Speedmaster Professional with this very identification number. The owner, Morley, had purchased the watch at the beginning of the 1990s. He originally found it in a student’s newspaper advertisement, whose father allegedly discovered the watch on a beach in Santa Barbara, California. Its asking price: 175,- USD.

Morley contacted the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and NASA directly and both took the matter very seriously. Morley also began a legal dispute for its ownership and in turn, NASA arranged for an expert opinion report to verify its authenticity. It was determined one year later, that Morley’s Speedmaster was not the original Moonwatch. Buzz Aldrin and the United States also publicly confirmed that it was not authentic. The origin of the caseback engraving was never clarified and it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that it was just a regular service marking.

Ownership Wouldn’t Be Clear

Today, the Moonwatch would easily go for a million sum on the open market, but as with any item of historical significance, it would be difficult to label it with an exact price tag. Even after all the time that has passed, it’s still possible that the watch might suddenly turn up, like the long lost Breguet Marie Antoinette which unexpectedly reappeared. However, the pricelessness of the Moonwatch isn’t at face value, compared with the opulent gold pocket watch and its umpteen complications. Maybe its current owner is unaware of its significance, thinking that it’s just a regular Speedy model. It’s also not entirely clear, if the Buzz Aldrin Speedmaster even exists anymore. 

In case it does suddenly turn up, its ownership would still have to be resolved. Buzz Aldrin, NASA, and the Smithsonian Museum would all come into question. In 2003, all three considered themselves the watch’s rightful owners, even though the authenticity of Morley’s Speedmaster hadn’t been thoroughly substantiated.

If the Moonwatch still exists, then it must be out there somewhere. Maybe in the possession of a lucky but unknowing owner, or just tucked away safely in a drawer or safe. However it may be, the last chapter in the story of the original Speedy has yet to be written. At Montredo, we offer the latest version of this legendary timepiece right here.

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