1969 certainly was an eventful year. 1969 is a year I would have loved to live. This was the year of emblematic music festival Woodstock. 1969 saw the first flight of supersonic plane Concorde. The Rolling Stones recorded “Let It Bleed“, The Beatles gave the world “Abbey Road” and “Easy Riders” and “Once Upon a Time in the West” were on silver screens. And, of course, mankind stepped foot for the first time on a land that wasn’t its natural habitat. 1969 was also a great year for the watchmaking industry, with the advent of the automatic chronograph and a well-known chronograph looking at Earth from an unprecedented perspective… Without surprises, watch brands celebrated these 50th anniversaries with commemorative watches and here are the best of the lot.
Glashütte Original SeaQ 1969 Limited
Let’s start with the least expected model (obviously, you have an idea of what the other watches will be…) This year, Glashütte Original introduces a brand new line of watches, named Spezialist, and the first model that has been launched is a dive watch named SeaQ. Among the 3 versions available was an ultra-limited watch – 69 pieces only – as a reference to the model that inspired the collection, a relatively unknown but cool-looking dive watch produced in 1969. The SeaQ 1969 Limited Edition only differs from its non-limited sibling by details on the dial. This new watch shows a historically-relevant case, with 38.5mm diameter, and a dial that clearly plays on vintage trends. A cool, rather unusual but finely crafted diver with retro flair.
Quick facts: 39.5mm diameter x 12.15mm height – stainless steel case – 200m water-resistant – Calibre 39-11, in-house – automatic time-and-date – rubber or nylon strap – limited to 69 pieces – EUR 8,500
Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary GOLD Limited Edition
Objectively, it would be impossible to have an article based on 1969 watches without a Speedmaster included… 1969 will, forever, be associated with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepping foot on the Moon surface, and with the watch part of their equipment, the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. This year, Omega did celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11, with 2 different models. In addition to the steel version here, our favourite is the model that pays tribute to the gold reference BA145.022, a watch produced in 1,014 pieces, with 39 of them being offered – among them to President Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew and some to astronauts. The 2019 Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary has the same golden dial and burgundy bezel and, main features, an 18k “Moonshine” gold case and the first Master Chronometer hand-wound chronograph movement. Certainly not the cheapest but the look is simply amazing.
Quick facts: 42mm diameter x 14mm height – “Moonshine” 18k yellow gold case – 50m water-resistant – Calibre Omega 3861, in-house, Master Chronometer certified – hand-wound chronograph – 18k yellow gold bracelet – Limited to 1,014 pieces – CHF 32,000 or EUR 32,000
Seiko Prospex Automatic Chronograph 50th Anniversary Limited Edition SRQ029
Now we move on to 1969 main innovation in watchmaking: the automatic chronograph. Among the 3 brands to launch such movements on the market was Seiko, with the Calibre 6139, an integrated, column-wheel chronograph engine. In order to celebrate this milestone, Seiko has produced this year a commemorative watch, a vintage-inspired chronograph with steel case and panda dial; the Prospex 50th Anniversary Limited Edition SRQ029 – paying tribute to a 1969 Seiko Panda Chronograph with Calibre 6138 (the successor of the 6139). This new model will be produced in 1,000 pieces, available from December 2019. And it looks great!
Quick facts: 41mm diameter x 16mm height – stainless steel case – 100m water-resistant – Calibre 8R48, in-house – integrated automatic chronograph – stainless steel bracelet – Limited to 1,000 pieces – EUR 3,700
TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre 11 Limited Editions
Another watch (well, in fact, a collection of watches) to celebrate the automatic chronograph, this time produced by TAG Heuer. In 1969, the brand named Heuer was among the firsts to introduce this kind of innovative movement in a new, avant-garde model with a square case and a bold design, the Monaco. Equipped with the famous Calibre 11, it will become one of the most iconic Heuer watches. This year, TAG offered not one but 5 commemorative pieces for the 50th anniversary of both this watch and its movement, one Monaco limited edition for each decade. Based on the classic “Steve McQueen” Calibre 11 model, which is still in collection, these 5 watches offers exclusive dials and straps. Each is limited to 169 pieces. Retrospective video to be seen here.
Quick facts: 39mm x 39mm – stainless steel case – 100m water-resistant – Calibre 11, based on Sellita – automatic modular chronograph – perforated leather strap – each model limited to 169 pieces – CHF 6,400 or EUR 5,950 (each model)
Zenith El Primero A384 Revival
Last but not least, the third manufacture that launched an automatic chronograph movement in 1969 was Zenith, and with a calibre named the El Primero. This engine will become one of the most legendary chronographs available, first because it featured a high-frequency and second because it is still in production. Apart from the rare and exclusive 50th anniversary set of watches presented in January, Zenith also released another model, this time not limited in production, as a tribute to one of the 3 inaugural watches with El Primero. The A384 revival is a faithful and cool-looking watch with restrained dimensions, historically-relevant movement and panda dial. And this one is easily available.
Quick facts: 37mm diameter x 12.60mm height – stainless steel case – 100m water-resistant – El Primero 400, in-house – automatic, integrated chronograph – stainless steel ladder bracelet – CHF 7,900 or EUR 7,900
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.