June 24, 2013
by Ariel Adams
The Omega Speedmaster Spacemaster Z-33 watch is the thematic follow-up to the famed Omega X-33 pilot watch that we recently discussed again as it was worn (and loved) by Astronaut Chris Hadfield (now apparently retired). The X-33 was originally released in 1998, mostly intended toward the professional and active enthusiast market as a sort of Omega answer to the Breitling Aerospace. What makes all these watches unique in the high-end space is that they are not mechanical, but rather quartz-based. Though, as I will explain, that is nothing to dissuade you from wanting one.
Yeas ago, Omega stopped making the X-33 and it quickly became a cult favorite with increasing values on the used market. The titanium watch had an analog-digital display and was, for many people, an incredible timepiece as it mixed functionality with durability – as well as a really loud alarm. Then, Omega began to announce that it would begin to phase-out quartz watches altogether in favor of promoting mechanical timepieces as well as its growing volume of in-house made movements. This was a message directly to us from the CEO. But, when telling us this information, he said that something special was also coming in the high-end quartz department. This was about a year and a half before the Z-33 was to debut, but we already knew what Omega was brewing up – and were thrilled that Omega would be returning with something in this category.
For many watch lovers, there exists a world of “high-end quartz.” These are high-quality timepieces with high-quality quartz movements. They are worlds away from your standard $50 quartz watch, yet are most always priced under mechanical watches. The allure of high-end quartz is all about utility. Many people love mechanical watches because on the exterior they have the best cases, best dials, and best bracelets. Those are things that come naturally with higher prices. At the same time, quartz movements offer features and a level of accuracy not available in a mechanical watch. In my opinion, there is room for both high-end quartz and mechanical watches in any well-rounded watch collection. We point all this out because among watch lovers there is usually an anti-quartz bias. There are a few reasons for this, but I am telling you that this should not apply to watches like the Omega Z-33.
So, in 2012, Omega released a new high-end quartz watch with the Omega Speedmaster Spacemaster Z-33 that we debuted here. After spending a fair amount of time with it on the wrist, we offer a full review. Let me just get the negative element of the watch out of the way – it is very thick. The Z-33 has a special double caseback that creates an air chamber that allows for the alarm sounds to be much louder than on most watches. Because cockpits are noisy, one of the essential features of the Z-33 is a loud alarm. The effect though, is a watch that sits tall on the wrist. It isn’t uncomfortable and it doesn’t slide around, but it is a tall watch. If you are hesitant about this element then I recommend you try one on before you buy it.