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This 'Racing' Omega Speedmaster just set a record for its reference. Here's why.
A look at the super rare Speedmaster 'Racing' dials
On January 18, Antiquorum held the first big watch auction of the year in Monaco. There are a few highlights we’ll get to in our next Week in Watches newsletter, but I wanted to zoom in on perhaps the biggest out-performer of the day, an Omega Speedmaster ref. 145.012-67 ‘Racing’ dial.
Antiquorum pegged it at a €20-40k estimate, but the rare Racing Speedmaster zoomed past this estimate, selling for €187,500. It’s a huge result for any Speedmaster, and — I believe — the biggest result we’ve ever seen for a ref. 145.012-67. Typically, this reference is found with the familiar black Speedy dial.
[p.s. yes, Ralph Ellison’s Speedmaster ref 145.012 set a record for the reference just last month selling for $667k, but I consider that more a historical artifact that’s bigger than watches.]
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So what is the Omega Speedmaster ref. 145.012-67 Racing?
In the 1960s, Omega produced a few Speedmasters with special hands, dials, and bezels that varied from the typically staid Speedmaster formula (black dial, black bezel, white hands). These include a few rare dial colors, the Ultraman, and today’s topic, Racing dial Speedmasters.
These Racing dials feature bold, contrasting colors on the outer track, generally thought to be designed to make the chronograph easier to read at a quick glance. Similarly, the hands are a bright red-orange, and most examples seem to feature a running seconds hand of the same color.
There are two generations of the Racing dial Speedmaster, making for a total of three different configurations:
Speedmaster ref. 145.012-67: Red Racing Pre-Professional (first generation)
Speedmaster ref. 145.012-67: Red Racing Professional (first generation)
Speedmaster ref. 145.022: Orange Racing (second generation)
This article focuses on the first generation Red Racing, but I’ll also give brief attention to the second generation ref. 145.022 Orange Racing that came after.
Ref. 145.012-67 Speedmaster ‘Red Racing’
According to Omega itself, it produced the ref. 145.012 Red Racing for a short time beginning in 1968.
There are two configurations of the first generation Red Racing, a Pre-Professional and Professional dial:
Red Racing Pre-Professional: These models are defined by the lack of the word Professional under Speedmaster at 12 o’clock. They also feature an applied metal Omega logo and use an Omega font similar to that you might find on earlier Speedmaster references like the CK2915 (note the long “O” in Omega, for example).
Red Racing Professional: These models have the word Professional at 12 o’clock, a painted Omega logo, and use a font that’s the same as other 145.012 examples of the era. Further, note that this example has slightly smaller subdials as compared to the Pre-Professional Racing dial (and other Speedmasters).
The Red Racing was produced for an extremely limited time in 1968, with known examples having serial numbers beginning 26.xxx.xxx. Further, most examples are in an even tighter serial range, 26.545.xxx. While perhaps once thought to be “prototype” dials, as more examples have been discovered, research and evidence seems to suggest these Racing dials originally left the Omega factory as completed watches, and weren’t put together later.
With that, it’s extremely important for these examples to get an Omega Extract from the Archives to confirm that the particular example was born with a Racing dial. There are known examples of Speedmasters that have been retro-fitted with Racing dials.
Both iterations of the Red Racing use the caliber 321 and feature a dot-over-ninety (DON) bezel. The Red Racing dial is bold and exotic, totally unlike anything else Omega was producing in its Speedmaster collection at the time. Produced right at the end of the 1960s, it’s a hint of what’s to come for watches in the 70s: big, bold, colorful designs that are a break from the often-modest chronograph designs of the 1960s.
In total, it seems as though there are likely less than a dozen of each Red Racing configuration known to today’s market. These numbers make it one of the rarest vintage Speedmasters around. It’s a totally enigmatic reference, and the only way we know what we do is by collectors comparing examples that have come to market over the years. Speedmaster resource book Moonwatch Only says there are about 8 of the Pre-Professional Racing dials and 5 of the Professional configuration.
In doing a bit of research for this article, I found less than a dozen examples that have sold at auction in the past five years. I plotted them on Instagram here. Another handful have sold at dealers or changed hands privately.
Before this week’s EUR 187,500 result from Antiquorum, the Red Racing has achieved big numbers at auction a few other times. Here are a few of the biggest:
Sotheby’s 2019: £72,500 (Professional Red Racing)
Phillips 2016: CHF 72,500 (Pre-Professional Red Racing)
That said, auction results can be all over the place for this reference, extremely dependent on the condition and originality of the lot.
Speedmaster ref. 145.022 Orange Racing
Omega produced the Speedmaster ref. 145.022 “Orange Racing” shortly after the Red Racing dials. Instead of red markings on the outer track, Omega used a bright orange paint. Additionally, the dial of the ref. 145.022 Racing is a sleek matte grey and not a true black like the Red Racing (or most other Speedmasters).
With the updated reference the Orange Racing got a new movement, the caliber 861. Omega also added a bright orange running chronograph seconds hand for good measure. Finally, the sub-dials for the chronograph function use orange hands, while the running seconds uses a white hand. It all just makes sense.
It’s thought that the Orange Racing was produced in slightly larger numbers than the Red Racing, but it’s still an extremely rare watch. Total examples known to the market today might be less than 50. The esteemed book Moonwatch Only cites about 20 verified examples.
Epilogue: Mark II and Japan Racing Edition
Around the same time as the Orange Racing, Omega produced a Speedmaster Professional Mark II (ref. 145.014) with a similar dial and hand configuration. As mentioned, the original Racing dial starts to mark a shift towards bolder designs, and the Mark II feels like the natural evolution of that, a bright, colorful dial combined with the big, audacious case of the Mark II Speedmasters.
Decades later, in 2004, Omega produced a Japan Racing Edition (ref. 3570.40.00) limited to 2004 examples inspired by the original Orange Racing. It’s a bit bigger than the vintage versions, measuring 42mm and with a20mm lug width.
Like the original Racing dials, the Japan Racing limited edition has a strong following, and prices have trended upward because of this. you might’ve been able to find an example for $5,000 a few years ago, but now they consistently trade for $10-15k, if you can find one.
Racing to the finish line
This isn’t the first time in the last few months a rare vintage Speedmaster has stolen the show. Everyone was caught by surprise when that tropical Speedmaster at Phillips Geneva sold for $3.1m back in November.
If anything, the result for this exotic Racing Speedmaster shows how strong the market is for legitimately rare vintage Speedmasters.
Personally, I love the result at Antiquorum. It’s not like Racing Speedmasters are true hype watches. Sure, any rare Speedmaster has a strong following, but the Racing Speedmaster is a real collector’s watch, almost an underground king. You have to know something about the Speedmaster to even know this thing exists, and then know even more to understand how rare it is and why this result isn’t totally crazy.
Beyond that, it’s just an awesome-looking watch.
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