May 25, 2008
by Ariel Adams
I tend to keep mega popular watches like Rolex and Omega at arms length for the most part. It’s not that they aren’t nice watches, but it is too obvious of a choice. As though you didn’t put a lot of effort into getting your watch because it is the default for many people. Walk around with an Omega and people know the brand, it’s nothing particularly unique or eye catching. But then again, there is a reason some of these models are so popular.
Omega has the rare privilege of selling true classics. And while I am not the biggest fan of all their watches, the Swatch Group owned brand has their share of laudable designs. Today I am speaking of the Speedmaster series of watches. There are experts on this watches; those fans who are familiar with the many iterations and fascinating history of the “Moon watch.” I am not one of those people, but I can tell you what I know. The Omega Speedmaster was chosen by NASA for it astronauts in the late 1960s for the Moon missions. The design is pure legibility, and the watch has a easy to use chronograph. The thin white hands on the matte black face provide exceptional clarity. And the watch itself was made to endure the high g-forces of space rocket travel, as well as low and gravity free environments. Since then the Speedmaster has remained in production and has been released in countless variations, styles, and editions.
There is no point in attempting to make reference to each of the Speedmaster watches. Along with the black faced models, white face models appeared, as well as full calendar versions, and endless alterations of the hands, bracelets, and design layout. Aside from a few very drastic variations on the theme, all Speedmaster watches share a similar look and can be attributed to the series. You’d really have to compare some of them carefully to notice the differences.
For someone looking to acquire a Speedmaster, you really don’t need to feel limited to new watches and there is a rich pre-owned market. You have several directions to go in when looking for a watch. One is a traditionalist approach looking for a classic version. Some people go for the same models that participated in the Moon landing, or other Moon missions. Other people simply like the classic looks of the early Speedmaster models and cherish the idea that some of America’s 2oth century heroes wore such watches. Note that these watches are significantly different from today’s models. Many are manual-wind movements requiring lots of attention to keep wound, along with having plastic crystals that are prone to scratching, but cheaply replaced. Further, case and bracelet design on early models is good, but not on par with the techniques and standards used today on most of the newer models.
Another approach of course is investing in new Omega Speedmaster models. These emulate the look of the earlier models, but feature sapphire crystals, automatic movements, and heftier cases and bracelets. Many of these models are good choices, but make sure the style fits your ideal. Experimental changes of the years played with various aspects of the classic Speedmaster design, so you need to carefully consider the options. Further, look out for branded special edition models that (in my opinion) detract from the appeal of the watch with logos, images, and too much extra text. An example is the 50th Anniversary Edition Speedmaster that has a distracting logo the side of on of the subdials in the upper section of the face. It’s not a bad looking image, but it should be reserved for the back of the watch as it just takes away too much from watches prime purpose; to be an attractive instrument.
A third approach is to seek out a derivative Speedmaster model. Either something as simple as one with a white face or full calendar movement, or an even drastic alteration such different hands, cases, or other features that practically make the Speedmaster a different watch altogether. Some of these can be quite appealing, others are obviously experiments from Omega that did not quite make it (lots of gold or diamond for example). It is interesting however to see what Omega has given us over the years.
Don’t expect much to change with the Speedmaster, companies tend not to mess with a proven formula. Years of Speedmaster watches don’t signify an evolution, but rather minor revisions from time to time along with technological improvements. The history is fascinating, and itself is telling of the progress made by the watch making industry. What is my pick? I like the modern approach to the time-test classic. The thinnest white hands on the minimalist functional face with, with conveniences such as automatic movements, sapphire crystals and high quality comfortable bracelets. That will do nicely for me.
For those collectors who gobble up each new Speedmaster, keep up the love; for the rest of you consider adding some manner of Omega Speedmaster to your collection to know what all the fuss is about.
See Omega Speedmaster watches on eBay here.
See Omega Speedmaster watches on Amazon here.
[phpbay]omega speedmaster, num, “14324”, “”[/phpbay]