Tropical Dial ‘US 6th Fleet’ 105.003-65 Omega Speedmaster
The Speedmaster has no shortage of nuance. Its ardent supporters will not let you forget. But arguably, the clearest delineation in the pre-moon time, when this was just a chronograph aimed at racing, was its lugs. Straight lugs became lyre lugs directly after this, the 105.003 better known as the ‘Ed White’ for its time worn on the first historic space walk on Gemini IV. In fact, Ed wore two for Houston and mission time. Straight-lug Speedmasters are where it began and what many find the most desirable. It is testament to the Speedmaster’s massively legible design that its usefulness wasn’t limited to racing. It wasn’t even limited to Earth. But this example has a very different story to tell.
This Ed White was delivered in December 1966 to the US 6th Fleet, the Naval force responsible for Europe-Africa. We see many early Speedmasters delivered to US military bases or PX, they’re not ‘issued’ watches but part of a deal Omega made with the US Military to buy in bulk discounted. Sailors needed watches, Omega made them. It is very possible that this watch was on the wrist of a sailor during the Yom Kippur War, where 6th Fleet had many skirmishes with the Soviet Navy’s 5th Squadron or responding to the misidentified IDF attack on the USS Liberty in ’67. The history of this watch will remain unknown, except that its time living life fully is proudly displayed in its metal and, more notably, a perfect tropical dial. From its time sailing, the black nickel alloy has warmed to an even 70% chocolate.
After all the advertising and reading we consume around watches, it’s easy to believe that the modern 321 Speedmaster or Submariner, for instance, is a tool watch. In technical definition, they are. In practical application, they are luxury products: scarcity, queuing, and intimidating MSRP. The gentlemen who bought this Speedmaster had a job to do, and the watch fit into that role. That is, in the simplest definition of a tool watch, an instrument. And you can sense that honesty about its presence. Like many old true tool watches, Subs, Daytonas, or Speedies, this is an object that gets better by the year. It’s the antithesis of an iPhone, requires nothing from the external world to operate, and asks for nothing but a wind in the morning in order to distract you with its beauty for the rest of the day. The time, chronograph, and rather significant history are just a bonus.
In condition, this example is honest and hard worn. The dial is a standout, warm tritium, original application judging by the level of patina inside the seconds hands and looking closely at the plots. The dial is even chocolate, better than we often see. Its case is quite full, probably with a polish or two, and sporting a caseback engraving ‘Lulin – 25.XII.67’. The endlinks are wrong, but the bracelet is right, probably replaced over time. It comes with an extract noting delivery to the US 6th Fleet, from a well-regarded French retailer who specializes in Speedmaster.