1969 certainly was an eventful year. It is a year I would have loved to live: this was the year of the legendary music festival Woodstock; 1969 witnessed the first flight of the supersonic plane Concorde; the Rolling Stones recorded Let It Bleed; the Beatles gave the world Abbey Road; and Easy Rider and Once Upon a Time in the West were the cult films of the day. And, of course, man took his first steps on the Moon. 1969 was also a great year for the watchmaking industry with the advent of the automatic chronograph and a well-known chronograph enjoying a view of the Earth from an unprecedented perspective… Fifty years down the line, watch brands have been busy celebrating these 50th anniversaries with commemorative watches. 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 three versions available is this 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 siblings 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… 1969 will forever be associated with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic walk on the Moon along with the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch, which formed part of their equipment. This year, Omega celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 with two 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 set aside for men like President Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew and some astronauts. The 2019 Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary has the same golden dial and burgundy bezel and 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 the main innovation in watchmaking in 1969: the automatic chronograph. Among the three 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 a commemorative watch this year, a vintage-inspired chronograph with a 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, are these Monaco models produced by TAG Heuer. In 1969, the brand named Heuer was among the first 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 would eventually become one of the most iconic Heuer watches. This year, TAG offered not one but five 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 the collection, these five watches offer exclusive dials and straps. Each is limited to 169 pieces. Retrospective video can 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 with a calibre named the El Primero. This engine would become one of the most legendary chronographs on the market, 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 three inaugural watches with El Primero. The A384 revival is a faithful and cool-looking watch with restrained dimensions, a 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