Omega Speedmaster Ref. 105.012-66 (CB Case)

For watch enthusiasts with a love of both history and minutia, the Omega Speedmaster is a gift that never stops giving. It was the first vintage watch I found in the wild and has since become the watch I’ve owned most through the years (as I write this in early 2020, I have owned 25 different Speedmasters to-date). Perhaps it’s only after being buried in Speedmasters for the past seven years that I have the space to reflect on my evolving tastes within the model, which may strike a chord with fellow Speedmaster enthusiasts. Indulge me, if you will.

In the beginning, it’s typically a binary decision for a would-be buyer: vintage or modern. For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll focus on the vintage “branch” of that decision tree. Many collectors initially set their sights on a reference 145.022 from the mid-1970’s, which can be generally be found for ~$3.5K in good condition. It’s a wonderful entry point into the world of vintage Speedmasters for a relatively low table stake, but many collectors will inevitably shift their focus to earlier and rarer models. Perhaps you’re able to scratch that itch with a great pre-moon (caliber 321) Speedmaster, which satisfies you…until the siren song of straight lug references hits your ears and it’s all you can think about. I could continue with this downwards spiral, but you get the point – for those who are wired such as me, you’ll always want the rarest and most beautiful version of the thing that you love.

Those who are familiar with my collection know that I’ve been lucky to own a number of straight lug Speedmasters over the years (some of which are pictured above), such as my “cornerstone” Ed White, a 2998-62, and a rare blue bezeled 105.003-64. I was also able to land my earliest Speedmaster, a very rare 2998-3, through an insane amount of persistence and luck (if you haven’t read that story, it’s well worth clicking the hyperlink above). After rehabbing my 2998-3 example, however, I found myself at a bit of an impasse.

It wasn’t that 2915’s and early 2998’s had lost their luster, but sourcing those references comes with a very substantial pricing premium over the 2998-3 I already owned and only small, incremental design changes. It was like when Truman’s boat hits the edge of the ocean at the end of The Truman Show. I was ready for a second act in my Speedmaster collecting arc: rather than chasing the earliest and most expensive references for rarity’s sake, my focus shifted towards more “common” Speedmaster references in excellent condition. Which brings us to the titular 105.012-66CB you see here.

In the summer of 2019, the Omega Speedmaster enjoyed a fairly lengthy time in the spotlight. The 50th Anniversary of the moon landing was fast approaching and media outlets (both inside and outside of the watch world) were interested in discussing the Speedmaster’s role in NASA history. In the months leading up to the anniversary, I was approached by a writer from The Atlantic to provide a vintage collector’s perspective on the watch’s enduring legacy. I agreed to contribute to the article, mostly to prove to my family and close friends that my watch obsession isn’t completely crazy (“see, if The Atlantic validates my obsession then you have no choice!”), but also because I was curious to see if my small contribution would encourage email queries from original owners of Speedmasters. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” but in this rare instance…it actually worked.

I received a handful of emails from Speedmaster owners in the weeks following the article’s publishing, though most of the watches in question were in poor condition (changed parts, lost lume, etc.). Then there was the fifth email. It was from a gentleman named René in The Netherlands who was writing on behalf of an older friend looking to simplify all non-essential possessions. I’ll let René explain:

“In 1966 – I was 13 years old then – I visited…my parents’ best friends. Their son, at that time 20 years old, had just bought this Omega Speedmaster. He let me put it on my wrist and wear it for a few hours and it was so big for my tiny wrist. In the 53 years that followed, the image of that Speedmaster was somewhere hidden in my brain and from time to time, it emerged. But then came marriage, career, children.” After many years, the gentleman re-connected with his friend, asked about the Speedmaster, and learned that it was still in the original owner’s possession. “I hoped to be able to purchase it, but then discovered and found that it was out of my financial range. I offered to help him sell it, as he’s a retired man and still has some nice plans, but has no means to sell it.

Attached to the email were a few pictures taken in a dark room with a flash, which typically aren’t ideal in terms of evaluating the condition of a vintage watch. A few things stood out though – the flat, beveled lugs of a CB case were immediately visible, the lume appeared to be outstanding, and one of the pictures included the watch resting in it’s original box. I quickly responded that I would help them evaluate all options on the table, but in the interest of full disclosure, I was interested in purchasing it for my own collection. The reference 105.012-66CB isn’t necessarily “rare” within the overall vintage universe, but finding one with direct provenance in this condition was precisely what I aspired to focus on in the next phase of my Speedmaster collection.

One of the things that makes the hunt for vintage watches so intoxicating is that it’s often fraught with challenges or obstacles that must be overcome. The initial part of this hunt was easy, but the next steps were not. For starters, René was acting as a good samaritan and was the key link in the sale, as the original owner did not speak English. Unfortunately this meant there was a 2- or 3-day lag between all of our messages. Then came a bigger hurdle: the original owner was leaving for summer holiday and wouldn’t be in contact with René for the next two months. When pursuing an original owner watch, two months is essentially an eternity and I had no idea if the underpinnings of our deal would remain in-place following the holiday.

Roughly three months after our initial email exchange, I received another email from René, who relayed the next challenge: the owner was back from holiday and still interested in selling, but he was reluctant to participate in a long-distance sale. I wasn’t about to book a flight to The Netherlands, so it was time to get creative. Who could I rely on to act as a proxy?

Enter: The charming, inimitable International Man of Mystery, Sacha Davidoff, who, in a purely serendipitous coincidence, was headed to Amsterdam later that week and would be there for a number of days. René and the original owner made plans to meet Sacha at his hotel in Amsterdam, and a week later, the hand-off took place. By the time I received the Speedmaster from Sacha, the pursuit had taken over four months, but as you can see, the spoils were well worth the perseverance. I can’t imagine wanting (or finding) another one owner Speedmaster Professional in this condition with a similarly rewarding story, so I anticipate this watch being a permanent part of my collection.

The Nitty Gritty

This is what I would consider to be a nearly perfect example of a 105.012-66CB Speedmaster. The hallmark facets on the top of the lugs are razor sharp and unpolished, the caseback engraving remains deep and unaltered, and the luminous material has aged to a lust-worthy and vivid shade of yellow with no signs of degradation or discoloring.

The only two nits to pick are a small ding on external bezel ring (near the “60” marking at the top center) and slight discoloring of the lume at the base of the minute hand. Both of these are very minor issues in my opinion and do not have any tangible impact on the watch’s value or attractiveness. In addition to the stunning watch itself, the owner had retained the original presentation box, as well as the flat link 1039 bracelet with 516 end links, which only adds to the tremendous opportunity it presented. In a word: keeper.