I love watches, particularly those that have history. I have spent an almost immeasurable amount of time on Ben Clymer’s HODINKEE and I can say with some certainty that it has greatly improved my appreciation of Horology (yes, I learnt the word Horology from HODINKEE as well). However, this year, when I was about to take a plunge and finally buy my first real watch, HODINKEE did not have what I was looking for: an in depth review of the Omega Speedmaster Professional, more commonly known as the current and mostly true to the original Moon Watch.
The Omega Speedmaster in its most current form is not the watch that Wally Schirra wore into space. While the functionality is identical (a time only, three register chronograph) the watches are really quite distinct. There are several fantastic articles that are written about Schirra’s watch, and even an almost faithful reproduction by Omega. When i was in the market however, I was not really looking for a vintage re-production but instead the one that I grew up thinking was the watch that made it to the moon. Enter the Omega Speedmaster Professional.
For any watch, the thing that matters the most to me is the dial, and I find it to be the best place to start talking about the Speedmaster. The dial is a simple high contrast black with white print and a very traditional three register chronograph layout. There is no date window and while this is a minor inconvenience for me at times, it hardly bothers me. For a purpose driven watch such as this, the absence of the date is completely justified. The hands are simple batons that run across a printed dial with stick indices. The readability of this dial is honestly unmatched. The indices and hands are coated with super luminova and provide great legibility in low light conditions. With the beautiful black dial and domed crystal, I honestly love how well everything is laid out. Nothing feels crowded on the dial, and the more I look at it, the more I love it. My only minor quibble with the the dial (and this really is just me being picky) is that Omega symbol is printed instead of being applied as it was on older models. The chronograph registers contain a mix of Arabic numerals and stick indices.
The color scheme of the dial is beautifully complemented with the a black and white aluminum bezel insert with a base 500 tachymeter. The bezel seamlessly melds into the domed Hesalite watch crystal; Omega’s version of plexiglass. If you get the exhibition case iteration of this watch (aptly named the ‘Sapphire Sandwich’), you can get it with the sapphire crystal on both sides although personally I prefer the Hesalite.
For me, sapphire crystal lacks the warmth of the plexiglass, and particularly with a watch this old school seems rather out of place. While not as scratch resistant as sapphire crystal, plexiglass does not shatter quite as easily which if you’re interested in space travel, might be important. You can easily buff out scratches with Poly Watch which I have had great success with. And of course, the original moon watch did come with plexiglass after all, not sapphire crystal, so there is that bit of history should it matter.
So far as the inner workings of the watch go, it uses a manually wound Lemania (an ebauche movement maker now under the Swatch Group hence in a way making this an in-house movement) 1861 cam lever actuated chronograph movement. This is, in my opinion the main distinction from the original Schirra Speedy which used a column wheel actuated chronograph (the 361 movement; a markedly more upscale chronograph setup). The newer movement was not used in the Speedmasters until 1968/69 and hence the moon watch got the updated workhorse movement, which in my personal (and definitely not expert) opinion makes it better suited for a tool watch. The back of mine, currently states with pride that this is the first watch on the moon (believe it or not, it made it there on Aldrin’s wrist not Neil Armstrong’s).
If you look at the photo above, it shows the solid case back version of this watch. I chose this because I do not think that a sapphire exhibition case back (the one I mentioned earlier) works on a tool watch. When I purchased this the list price was USD 4400 and I was able to negotiate it down to USD 3800 while the Sapphire Sandwich retails for around a grand more.
One thing to keep in mind is that the solid case back version of the 1861 movement is rhodium plated with some plastic components and an approximately 42 hour power reserve, while for aesthetic purposes the exhibition case version opts for gold and rhodium plating and no plastic parts. I don’t particularly care about the presence of plastic parts because if it survived the moon, what is the worst that could happened on my wrist?
Honestly I love how it feels on the wrist and does not feel like it’s full 42mm size and does not weigh too much either. Once I had the bracelet off, and the rallye strap on (God bless Crown & Buckle), I just could not stop wearing it, although there are some important points to note here. The watch case is a combination of polished and brushed surfaces, and both get scratched somewhat easily. In part that is what motivated me to take the bracelet off because it also contains a combination of the two, and while a scratch here and there adds character, a banged up bracelet just looks sloppy. Also, the back lugs of the watch are all polished, so if like me you want to switch out the strap be very careful when you take the bracelet off. The last thing you want is to scratch the mirrored back lugs on your brand new watch.
In conclusion, this watch hits all the right notes. While truthfully a sports watch, it remains an easy one to dress up or dress down and while not chronometer rated, the watch has kept excellent time in the short while that I have owned it. I can now tell you that it takes exactly a minute and twenty-two seconds for my bagel to get perfect toasted . Go try one on, and I assure you, you will be in love. If you are in the market for a reliable watch that offers you a piece of history and nails the modern, masculine, elegant trifecta, make it a Speedmaster Professional.