The clue’s in the name, really.

While today the universally revered Speedmaster is linked inextricably to NASA, the moon landing and space exploration, when it was launched in 1957, Omega had a far more earthbound market in its sights. With its high contrast white on black dial, robust and reliable chronograph movement and its tachymeter scale moved outboard to the bezel for improved legibility (the first watch to ever think of that ingenious move) it was obvious the brand was originally targeting actual and would-be motor racers—masters of speed, if you will.

Of course, fate famously intervened and the Speedy’s ‘downfall’ as a racing companion was brought about by it being the only watch built well enough to pass NASA’s battery of tyrannical trials. By 1965 it had become flight certified for the most demanding environments imaginable and Omega had bagged themselves the greatest marketing bonanza in the history of horology.

The Speedmaster’s Racing Heritage

However, notwithstanding the Speedmaster’s inseparable association with all things celestial, its technical abilities have still made it a favourite among a number of motorsport’s famous names.

Besides the well-known Schumacher collaborations which we’ll get onto in a moment, Belgian driver Willy Mairesse wore a Speedy throughout his five-year F1 career in the 1960s as well as during his stints at Le Mans and his 1962 Targa Florio victory.


Former Ferrari president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo sporting his Omega Speedmaster MKII.

Similarly, Italian aristocrat Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, former president and chairman of Ferrari and manager of their F1 team, the Scuderia, wore his MKII Speedmaster habitually. And fearless German Wally Röhrl, two-time world rally champion in the early ‘80s, was rarely seen without his silver-dialled MKIII. But for their part, Omega did comparatively little in the formative years of the Speedy to really push the racing connection, presumably content to concentrate instead on its loftier ambitions. But the late ‘60s did bring some short-lived exceptions.

The Speedy Alternatives

In the 1960s, Omega produced several variations on the traditional black and white Speedmaster. Among these we can find a handful of rare dial colours, the iconic 'Ultraman' with its orange chrono hand and, between 1968 and 1970, the so-called Racing dials. Like all good stories, the origins of the Racing Speedmasters are shrouded in mystery. No one seems to know exactly why or how they came about, only that with their chequered-style red and white outer minute track and bright red-orange handsets they seemed designed both to be read more easily at a quick glance and to simply offer an extravagant alternative to the classic monochrome. What is clear is that they were produced in tiny numbers.

The Racing Dial Speedmasters

The dials were fitted to two generations of the original Speedmaster, the ref. 145.012 (known as the ‘Red Racing’ due to their red hour and minute hands) and the ref. 145.022 (the ‘Orange Racing’ for its orange chrono hand), with the Red Racing split between ‘Pre-Professional’ and ‘Professional’ models.

What’s the difference between Professional and Pre-Professional? Omega added the ‘Professional’ designation to the Speedy in the summer of 1965 when they started using a new asymmetrical 42mm case with crown guards and twisted lyre lugs. However, these early years of the watch were fairly chaotic and, just to confuse matters, both of the Red Racing models in this instance use the same case but the Pre-Professionals are just missing the word ‘Professional’ on the dial, have an applied metal logo instead of a painted one and use a slightly different font for the Omega signature. The sub dials were also marginally bigger.

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The original Speedmaster Racing ref. 145.012, known by collectors as ‘Red Racing’.

Happily, both versions used the same movement, the celebrated Calibre 321, and feature the same DON (dot-over-ninety) bezel. To call these watches rare is to greatly understate matters. According to available serial numbers, they were made for only a few months of 1968, with experts suggesting there are only about a dozen examples in circulation—eight Pre-Professionals and five Professionals. The last one to appear at auction, a Pre-Professional, sold for €195,000 in 2022.

As for the Orange Racing ref. 145.022, these came along in 1969 and swapped the black dial for a silky grey one, with orange indexes and chrono hands rather than red. Here the hour and minute hands were white and there was a red border to the minute track. Inside ticked the Calibre 861, a Lemania-based movement which was cheaper to build than the 321. Still incredibly scarce, there may be about 20 in existence.

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Omega's bold MKII Speedmaster is the perfect platform for an eye-catching Racing Dial.

There was one other Speedmaster Racing. Around the same time as the Orange Racing models appeared, Omega launched the futuristic-looking Speedmaster MKII. Big and bold and with an avant-garde barrel-shaped case, the ref. 145.014 was a fitting home for the flamboyant colours of the Racing dial.

The Modern Racing Speedmaster

In recent times, Omega has leaned more into its motorsport pedigree by releasing a series of Speedmasters with differing styles of racing dial.


A Speedmaster Racing 'Michael Schumacher' which sold for £3.600 on Watch Collecting in August 2023.

In 1996 they brought the legendary brothers Michael and Ralph Schumacher onboard as ambassadors and together created a collection of searingly bright yellow and red dialled-versions of the Speedmaster Reduced. With a smaller 38.5mm case and the convenience of an automatic movement, the Reduced models are often seen as the ideal entry point into Speedy ownership. Likewise, in 1997, Omega created a special blue model for Michael Andretti, one of the most successful drivers of all time.


A limited edition 2004 Omega Speedmaster Professional "Japan Racing". Part of Watch Collecting's Motorsport Collection.

But perhaps the closest we have come to those incredibly rare vintage originals is 2004’s ref. 3570.40.00. A limited edition of just 2,004 pieces and sold exclusively in Japan, the ‘Japan Racing’ holds over the grey dial and red and orange outer track of the MKII Speedy from 1970. Power even comes from the natural successor to the Calibre 861, the Calibre 1861 and, such is the level of renewed interest in Racing Speedmasters, the watch’s cult following has brought significant premiums to asking prices.

The Speedmaster Racing that Wasn’t

In 2013, Omega rocked up to Baselworld with a host of new watches, among them the ref. 311.; a standard-issue Speedmaster with a couple of quirks. Firstly, it had an intriguing red and white chequerboard chapter ring, and the inscription on its case back (the ‘Flight Qualified by NASA…etc.’ legend of all Moonwatches) was also in red—the first and still only time it’s happened.

Among the other watches Omega had brought, this ‘Racing’ dial underwhelmed and the model sank into obscurity. That was until the actual story around the model broke and it was revealed that it had not originally been intended as a Racing dial at all but rather an homage to one of the most famous fictional characters ever.

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An Omega Speedmaster Professional "Tintin". Part of Watch Collecting's Motorsport Collection.

Omega had teamed up with Moulinsart, publishers of the beloved Tintin books, to create a ‘Tintin Speedmaster’. That chapter ring took its colouring, appropriately enough, from the rocket in the books Destination Moon and Explorer on the Moon and the watch had initially been intended to include a picture of the rocket on the dial. Tintin himself, together with his terrier, Snowy, had been due to be immortalised on the case back engraving.

For reasons unknown, however, the deal between the two companies fell through and so Omega hastily repurposed their new Speedy as a Racing edition. Since then, the ‘Tintin’ (as it was quickly christened by collectors) has literally rocketed in value. Only made from 2013 to 2016, it is estimated there are fewer than 2,000 on the market and prices have more than doubled since 2018.

The Current Racing Speedmasters

You will find 10 Racing examples in Omega’s contemporary Speedmaster catalogue. All feature 44.25mm steel cases, with one flagship Sedna gold model, and each is powered by the in-house Master Chronometer Calibre 9900. Every piece has two sub dials as opposed to the more usual tri-compax arrangement, with a stacked three o’clock totaliser which displays both elapsed hours and minutes.


A contemporary Omega Speedmaster Racing which sold for £5,500 on the Watch Collecting platform in June 2021.

Dials range from black and white to grey and blue and the ceramic bezels are filled with 'Liquidmetal' numerals. In true Racing Speedmaster tradition, there are several models heavy on the orange accenting, whether on the hour and minute hands or the chrono indicators, echoing those long ago fabled prototypes. A thoroughly modern collection, the latest editions are perfectly in keeping with the Speedy’s original purpose.

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