Grail Worthy: The Omega Speedmaster Ref. 2915-1

Grail Worthy: The Omega Speedmaster Ref. 2915-1

| 04.29.24

The late 1950s brought respite from the cauldron of fire that was the 1940s.

Though the Iron Curtain had descended in the East and the prospect of a prolonged, ideological conflict loomed large in the collective public consciousness, progress was nevertheless everywhere. An economic boom in the United States meant that the average American had significantly more time for leisure, while wartime technologies and new industries provided both employment and capital to afford workers a more enjoyable life. 

  Recreational SCUBA diving came of age, as did international air travel on jet aircraft. Families purchased more and better automobiles, using them to traverse the nation’s highways; color television made its sparkling, multi-chromatic appearance. The International Geophysical Year brought global scientific cooperation back to the fore — and gave Donald Fagen the kernel of an idea for a track on 1982’s The Nightfly

Sputnik, the first man-made satellite to enter low-Earth orbit - (Image by National Air and Space Museum)

It was against this backdrop that the Space Age took shape. A fearsome competition for hegemony of the firmament pitted East against West as the Americans and the Russians each attempted to send men beyond our atmosphere — and get them home alive. History was made on October 4th, 1957 as Sputnik was successfully launched into low-Earth orbit, signaling the start of the Space Race. The world would never be the same. 

The Genesis of the Speedmaster

Early Omega ad, including trench watches and chronographs, WWI era - (Image by Medium)

In Switzerland, the local watch industry was hard at work spitting out millions of timepieces for both local and global consumption. Having adopted the American model of mass production, it now eclipsed its New World counterpart and set the standard for what constituted a fine, commercially available watch. Omega Watch Company, founded as La Generale Watch Co. in 1848, designed and built a wide variety of models, including chronographs powered by ébauches from movement specialists such as Lemania. However, such chronographs were specialty instruments meant for the wrists of scientists, engineers, doctors, and other professionals, and not yet the commonly available fare of 21st-century horology.

Omega Speedmaster Ad "For Men Who Reckon Time in Seconds" - (Image by Watch Books Only)

In 1957, Omega released a watch that would change not only the fate of the company, but also that of the larger horological landscape. The Speedmaster Reference CK2915, marketed “for men who reckon time in seconds,” rewrote the playbook for what constituted a professional’s chronograph. With its large 38.5mm stainless steel case, luminous dial, and triple-register chronograph display, it was already markedly different than much of its competition. But Omega’s decision to put the tachymeter scale — or “Tacho-Productometer” scale, in 1950s Omega parlance — on its bezel (rather than on the dial) marked the Speedmaster as special, and came to influence makers such as Rolex and Heuer. Suddenly, here was a supremely legible chronograph that could be used to effectively measure speed, distance, and production output without interfering with the readability of the main time display.


The 2915’s large, lume-filled ‘broad arrow’ handset — a hallmark of this reference — would later disappear, making these early Speedies readily identifiable and distinct from the later “Moonwatch.” A screw-down caseback promised water resistance up to a respectable 200 feet, while the aforementioned tachymeter bezel was stainless steel, and not yet the familiar black aluminum of later models. (Some exceptions do exist. The Reference 2915 was made in three iterations, and 1950’s 2915-3 sometimes features a black aluminum bezel and ‘alpha’ hands. A transitional reference, it seems to have been produced with whatever parts Omega had in stock — including those destined for the follow-on reference, the 2998.)

Omega Speedmaster Ref.2915-3 - (Image by Speedmaster 101)

The dial of this early tool watch was no less revolutionary: Matte black, its ‘pie pan’ design includes a stepped edge that blends beautifully into the rehaut. Its dash-shaped hour markers are coated in luminescent radium, while an outer 1/5th-seconds track allows for precise timing. Its recessed chronograph totalizers — a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, a 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, and a running seconds display at 9 o’clock — likewise feature white scales for ease of reading, while the Omega logo, wordmark, and “Speedmaster” text feature just below 12 o’clock. The ‘broad arrow’ handset, with its ample lume, is distinct to the Reference 2915.

The hand-wound Calibre 321 in all its glory

Beating within the Reference 2915, Omega used its hand-wound Calibre 321. The first column wheel-equipped Omega chronograph movement, this calibre was based upon the 27 CHRO C12p, itself an outcropping of Lemania’s CH family of movements. Developed by watchmaker Albert-Gustave Piguet, the 27 CHRO C12p was given Incabloc shock protection in 1945 and an adjustable jumper spring in 1946. Taking on the “321” designation in 1949, it would go on to form the power plant of several other Omega chronographs in addition to the first Speedmasters.

Our Reference 2915-1

Omega Speedmaster Ref.2915-1 - IN THE SHOP

On offer at Analog:Shift is a very special Speedmaster Reference 2915-1. In addition to possessing the aforementioned, matte black dial configuration with beautifully aged, creamy lume; signature steel tachymeter bezel; and ‘broad arrow’ handset of early 2915 examples, this particular watch offers even more for the in-the-know collector. Featuring its correct, signed Omega crown, it also boasts a correct, stainless steel flat-link expanding bracelet with #6 end links and a signed blade clasp; its screw-down caseback is likewise correctly stamped “Speedmaster.” 

Omega Speedmaster Ref. 2915-1 with its full kit

But that’s not all: Accompanying the watch is a correct, red Omega presentation box; papers; a period-correct booklet; an original Speedmaster advertisement; and an extract from Omega’s archives confirming production and delivery to Italy in 1957. That's right — this is a first-production year Speedy; in short, it's a collector’s dream.

Made between 1957 through 1959, production numbers on all Reference 2915 Speedmasters — across all three variants — are said to total roughly 3,000-4,000 examples, with 2915-1 production numbers pegged in the 300-500-piece range. To find one in this condition, accompanied by its period-correct ephemera and paperwork, is not only rare — it’s the horological equivalent of a hybrid solar eclipse. 

Because while the Moonwatch is the Speedy that gets all the glory, it’s the Reference 2915 that provided the basis for that most famous of chronographs. Without the intrepid spirit and notable design acumen of Pierre Moinat and Claude Baillod, the early NASA astronauts might very well have strapped something different to their wrists upon their first spacewalks — and upon the surface of the Moon.


Whether you’re a Space Age aficionado, a watch collector, a history buff, or a design fiend, there’s no denying the importance — both horological and historical — of the Speedmaster Reference 2915-1. Make an appointment with Analog:Shift today to examine or purchase this exceptional timepiece!