Is there a watch with a more storied history than the Omega Speedmaster? The Rolex Daytona or James Bond’s Omega Seamaster might come close, but none can boast of being qualified by Nasa for space exploration. None can also claim to have played a crucial role in the survival of the stricken Apollo 13 moon lander and its crew.
The Speedmaster was chosen by Nasa to be used by all Apollo astronauts, owing to its toughness, eligibility, and ability to tell accurate time when subjected to a range of tests designed to simulate space and moon missions.
Away from its ‘Moonwatch’ credentials, the Speedmaster is also a highly reputable Swiss timepiece, complete with a tachymeter on its bezel for measuring average speed over a known distance, and a three-dial chronograph with a stopwatch, 30-minute recorder and 12-hour recorder.
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Available with leather, steel and fabric straps, the Speedmaster recently underwent its first major upgrade (although remains visually almost identical) in a generation, complete with an all-new movement and increased price. This review focuses on the previous generation with its 1861 movement, but to the casual watch fan, that and the latest model are remarkably similar.
Omega Speedmaster Review: Specs
- Reference: 318.104.22.168.01.005
- Case size: 42mm
- Thickness: 14mm
- Lug width: 20mm
- Water resistance: 50m
- Movement: 1861
- Crystal: Hesalite
Omega Speedmaster Review: Hardware and design
We can’t discuss the Speedmaster’s hardware without first mentioning the stainless steel case back. Normally we would lament the lack of a crystal back giving a view of the movement within, but in this case, the inscription ‘Flight-qualified by Nasa for all manned space missions...the first watch worn on the moon’ is a worthy replacement.
The Speedmaster’s design has remained largely unchanged for decades, giving the watch a vintage feel without looking overtly retro. The black bezel features a tachymeter that can be used to calculate the average speed of an object travelling a known distance. What does this mean? If you time a vehicle travelling one mile, using the stopwatch function, you can use the tachymeter to quickly calculate its speed.
This tool is evidence of what the Speedmaster was originally intended to be, before it blasted off into space and landed on the Moon: A watch for racing drivers. This link helps explain the overall look of the watch, with the black dial and white markings resembling the dials of vintage sports cars.
The chronograph is controlled with a pair of pushbuttons at the two and four o’clock positions, and the time is adjusted with the crown at three o’clock. The crown is also used to wind the movement, which has a power reserve of 48 hours. This is a shorter power reserve than some other watches, but there is something special about the act of manually winding the watch every day or two, as if part of your morning ritual.
We like how the Speedmaster suits a great range of straps. Omega sells the watch with black leather and a stainless steel bracelet, and also includes a NATO strap in the box, complete with extension straps that are replicas of those used by Nasa crew to fit the watch over their spacesuits.
Also included in the huge box is a Speedmaster paperweight, a book documenting the history of the Moonwatch, and a tool for swapping out the strap. It’s all beautifully presented and helps to make the Moonwatch feel even more special.
Omega Speedmaster Review: Movement
The watch reviewed here is the previous-generation Speedmaster with Omega’s own 1861 movement, which featured in the Moonwatch for decades. It has since been replaced by a model with Omega’s new Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 1863 movement.
Omega Speedmaster Review: Verdict
A Moonwatch is a must for anyone looking to build a Swiss watch collection. It carries with it a story greater than any other wristwatch, and to our eyes looks great while doing it. There are many variations of Moonwatch, with Hesalite and sapphire crystals, steel and transparent case backs, steel bracelets and leather straps, all-gold special editions, and of course the ‘Silver Snoopy’ special.
The fragile Hesalite crystal won’t be to everyone’s taste. I like how it looks and feels, but admit that it does scratch and scuff very easily. That said, a quick polish with some PolyWatch is all that’s needed to make it look like new. I also like the domed look of the crystal and the way it rises from the steel bezel.
More than a stylish and practical watch, the Omega Speedmaster is a piece of history on your wrist.