Review: The Newest Omega Speedmaster Might Be the Best One Yet

The design tweaks are subtle but effective

March 10, 2021 10:11 am
omega speedmaster review
The Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Master Chronometer
Omega / Nasa

If you’re the sort of person who is choosing to read an article about watches, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with the Omega Speedmaster. One of the absolute stalwarts of watchdom, it’s best known as the “moonwatch,” as it was the watch NASA chose to equip their astronauts with for the first moon landing. The fact that the exact watch one could go purchase from their local Omega dealer was tough enough to last in space — in fact it was the only readily available consumer product besides perhaps a velcro patch issued as part of an astronaut’s uniform — rightfully cemented its status as an icon. It has remained as such for more than sixty years, so when Omega announced in January that they had completely revamped their legendary “Speedy” with the introduction of the brand new Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Master Chronometer, we knew we wanted to get our hands on one. Luckily, the fine folks handling Omega’s PR were willing to indulge us and sent us one to live with for a week. Here are our thoughts.

For the purpose of full disclosure, I want to make a confession. Though I am a completely unabashed watch nerd, I never really desired a Speedmaster. I respected it for what it was, and I would argue without hesitation that it belongs on any list of the most important watches in history, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t move me. Admittedly, part of that may have been snob factor on my end. While an undeniably good watch, it somehow lacks the presence — or maybe ostentation is a better word — of some similarly storied luxury Swiss watch brands. I’ve often thought of it as the horological equivalent of the Mazda Miata. By every measurable criterion, the Miata is one of the greatest, purest sports cars ever made. People who really, really know cars, who understand how they work, who have the skill to drive them will tell you that you must own one at some point in your life, yet there are many self proclaimed “car guys” who would never buy one for image sake. Since I’m already feeling confessional, I’ll also admit that I was guilty of the latter until one summer when I spontaneously purchased a second-gen Miata and was unable to wipe the ear-to-ear smile off my face right up until the point I managed to catch it on fire. (Very much my fault and not the cars.) So, would a week with a Speedmaster similarly make me realize that ego had gotten in my way, and that the Speedmaster really was as awesome a watch as people had been saying since my parents were in shortpants?

The new Speedmaster Professional Master Chronometer is available in four different versions — red and white gold and two in steel — and what arrived in the mail was the steel version sporting a sapphire crystal as opposed to the historically accurate, retro-tinged hesalite. This particular model is affectionately known as the “sapphire sandwich” as it also features a translucent sapphire display back which reveals the new movement. My initial impression was was positive: it carried an impressive but not overwhelming heft, the finishings were to an incredibly high level, and the use of white hands and hour markers as opposed to the metal tone most brands use really popped against the black dial.

Omega’s PR had included a note that if the watch needed to be sized it could be taken to the nearest authorized retailer, but as someone who owns a set of watchmaker’s tools and stubbornly prefers to do such things himself, I grabbed my screwdrivers and set off on what I assumed would be a fairly routine task. I quickly learned another quirk of the Speedmaster: that as opposed to the typical one- or two-piece screwbar to easily remove links from a bracelet, Omega uses a three-piece design featuring a non-threaded central bar with a tiny, independent screw on either side of the link. And when I say these two screws are tiny, I mean they are very, very tiny. Like grain-of-sand tiny. So after spending about fifteen minutes on my hands and knees trying to find the one I’d accidentally dropped on my rug, I decided to take Omega’s advice and seek out my local retailer, M.P. Demetre in Charleston, South Carolina. Demetre, located inside of an ornate former bank building, is one of a dying breed of grand old-school jewelers that were once common on American Main streets. Along with having the bracelet swiftly resized, the friendly visit also allowed me to compare the new Speedmaster Professional with an example of the previous model they still had in stock. The changes are subtle — the Speedmaster has, for the most part, followed a Porsche 911-esque “evolution not revolution” design maturity over the past seven decades — but side by side, the subtle changes are apparent. Immediately noticeable is how much more prominent the stepped edges of the main dial and sub-dial are, imbuing the Master Chronometer with a much more three-dimensional appearance. A thinner second hand gives the stack of all three hands a more stylish touch, and vintage geeks will note that the dot at the 90 on the tachymetre bezel is now once again askew, but the most prominent difference to the two watches is without question the bracelet. And, oh, what a bracelet it is.

As someone who prefers their sport watches all metal, one of the things that had held me back from loving the Speedmaster was the factory bracelet. It always seemed a bit clunky as compared to the watch itself. Shark mesh-style bracelets and leather or nylon bands made Speedies look better in my opinion, so I had fully assumed that upon receiving the test model I would swap out the bracelet for a side-stitched leather strap. It was a pleasant surprise when, upon opening the box, I found I quite liked this newest bracelet. And the more I wore it, the more I realized that I really, really liked it. Sporting a thin, rounded center link surrounded by thicker, similarly rounded outerlinks separated by a narrow polished link on each side and tapering subtly from its 20mm lug width, the bracelet manages to achieve a look that could be described as a hybrid of the Rolex Jubilee and President bracelets and does so in a masterful fashion. I did indeed swap the bracelet out for a favorite suede strap for a few days and vastly preferred the factory metal. I’d highly encourage anyone who may have been turned off by prior versions of the Speedy bracelet to give this one a try.

Most watch enthusiasts can relate to the self-indulgent act of admiring their own timepiece at various angles throughout the day, and the amount of pleasure those glances give me are how I gauge if I really like a watch. The new Speedmster is a watch that looks great from a number of different vantage points, and I found myself smiling at it often. From the side, the combination of the aforementioned bracelet, the twisting lugs, and raised sapphire crystal give the watch a downright elegant look. Speaking of those twisted lugs, someone asked me to report back as to whether those lugs were actually as dangerously sharp as some had reported. In short- yes, they actually are quite sharp; as a test I used them to cut a slice of cheese which they did so just as smoothly as a knife, yet due to the height of the display crystal on the rear of the watch, they never actually come into contact with your skin. Could this still pose a problem? Possibly, but after a week of wearing the watch in all sorts of conditions, I never once found that they poked, snagged or scraped myself or any other surface.

While elegant from the side, the Speedy is all sport when viewed from above. As someone with thin wrists who generally prefers a 36mm and eschews anything above a 40mm, I was worried that the Speedmaster would be overwhelming on the wrist. In person however, the watch “wears” much smaller, and gives the impression of a watch no larger than my other 40mm sport watches. That the subdials are the same black as the rest of the dial without any contrasting chapter rings makes the whole dial seem much less busy than other chronometers, and between the deep contrasts of the stepped dials and those bright white hands, it’s just a downright handsome watch. I will agree that the dots on either side of the 12:00 marker do indeed, as some have pointed out, look quite a bit like cock’n’balls, but my inner perpetual twelve-year-old found that quite amusing.

The Speedy was the only watch I wore for the week, and in everything from a bathing suit to a business suit, it never looked out of place. The pushers for the chronograph functions operated with a satisfying click, and being able to stop, start, and reset them while watching the mechanisms that allow it to do so operate through the sapphire display back was equally pleasing. I very much enjoyed having this watch on my wrist for a week, and in looking back on the photos I snapped with my phone for this article, I found myself with the sort of tinge one gets seeing photos of an ex-lover with whom things ended prematurely. In conclusion, I’m now a believer. For the first time in my life, I really want to own an Omega Speedmaster. And not just any Speedmaster, I want to own the new Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Master Chronometer.

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