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Omega Speedmaster Ultimate Buying Guide

Paul Altieri

The Omega Speedmaster boasts humble beginnings during an era in which dress watches ruled the market. Today, the iconic chronograph is widely considered to be one of the most important timepieces in history after becoming both the first watch worn in space and the first watch worn on the Moon.

The classic Speedmaster is easily among the most famous Omega watches in existence; however, the Speedmaster is also a diverse collection of Omega chronograph watches. There are countless variations of the Omega Speedmaster, including “pre-moon” references produced before 1969, the 42mm professional “Moonwatch” series, and even a number of vintage-inspired and racing-themed references. Join us as we dive into the history of the Omega Speedmaster, the key references that make the model such an icon, and some tips on how to buy an Omega Speedmaster without breaking the bank.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch

Omega Speedmaster Ultimate Buying Guide Moonwatch

Key Features:

Case Diameter: 42mm
Materials: Stainless steel
Features: Time + running seconds; 12-hour chronograph
Bezel: Tachymeter
Crystal: Hesalite; Sapphire (select models)
Water Resistance: 50 meters / 167 feet
Movement: Caliber 1861; Caliber 1863 (select models)
Strap/Bracelet: Metal bracelet or leather strap (NATO strap and velcro “astronaut” strap also included)

Click here to learn more about how to wear the Omega Speedmaster.

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Omega Speedmaster Ultimate Buying Guide Vintage

History of the Omega Speedmaster

Omega introduced the Speedmaster in 1957 with the broad arrow reference 2915. Also released the same year were the Seamaster ref. 2913 (a diver) and Railmaster ref. 2914 (an anti-magnetic watch). The 1957 trilogy was Omega’s response to a growing market of professional series timepieces developed to compete with the likes of Rolex’s Submariner and Milgauss.

At the time of the Speedmaster’s inception, manufacturers of chronographs like such were less so concerned with conforming to industry trends or captivating the eyes of those in search of flashy timepieces, and more so focused on creating watches that served their purpose effectively. It’s also important to note that, while the Speedmaster is now widely known for its accomplishments in space, the watch itself was not initially developed as an astronaut’s watch, but rather a chronograph for the racing crowd – hence it’s tri-compax dial layout and tachymeter bezel, both of which have since become defining traits of the famed ‘Moonwatch’ series.

The First Omega Speedmaster

The first Omega Speedmaster was introduced was the ref. 2915 and it remained in production for just two years from 1957 to 1959. It featured a tachymeter bezel, which was a bit of an anomaly at the time, considering most chronographs on the market during that era displayed the tachymeter scale around the perimeter of the dial. Omega was among the first to move it to the bezel, freeing up valuable dial space and enhancing legibility.

The inaugural ref. 2915 existed in several iterations over the course of its relatively short production run (2915-1, 2915-2, 2915-3), with subtle differences exiting between them. Omega continued to fine-tune the design of the Speedmaster in the years that followed. The metal bezel was swapped out for one with a black aluminum insert, enhancing the visibility of the tachymeter scale. Changes were made to the shape of the hands-on the dial, ultimately resulting in straight central and sub-dial hands instead of the ‘broad arrow’ hands found on the original model.

Enter the Omega Speedmaster Professional

One of the first Omega Speedmaster models to include the distinction “Professional” on the dial was the ref. 105.012, which first arrived during the 1960s. It sported larger chronograph pushers and a new 42mm case that featured twisted “lyre” lugs and integrated crown-guards, marking its transition into what would ultimately become its contemporary form.  These changes ushered in a modern era of the Omega Speedmaster, many of which are still present in the current generation.

By the end of the 1960s, the Omega Speedmaster more-or-less resembled the watch that we all know today. The ref. 145.012 replaced the 105.012 and marked the final Speedmaster reference to feature the Caliber 321 – the same movement that passed NASA’s tests and was worn on the surface of the moon.  While a number of updates have taken place since this point, the overall look and feel of the Omega Speedmaster have remained largely unchanged for over half a century.

The Omega Speedmaster Mark Series

The massive success of the Omega Speedmaster in the 1960s was followed by the “Mark Series” Speedmaster watches, which were produced through editions Mark II to Mark V. The collection is distinguished mainly by unusually shaped cased with integrated lugs and a flat crystal. On these watches, the tachymeter scale was no longer printed on the bezel and instead was displayed on the underside of the crystal.

The Mark II Speedmaster is easily the most famous model from the series and it is very reminiscent of the 1970s with its barrel-shaped case. Several editions were produced and a modern version of the Mark II still exists within Omega’s catalog, making it a rather interesting watch to collect. It was during this series (specifically the Mark III ref. 176.002) that Omega employed its very first automatic movement in a Speedmaster model, despite the fact that the official NASA-certified model featured a manual-wind movement.

 Omega Speedmaster Ultimate Buying Guide Moonwatch Tritium Dial

The Omega Speedmaster Goes to the Moon

The Speedmaster’s journey to the Moon began with reference 2998, although this exact reference never reached the lunar surface. NASA astronaut Wally Schirra famously wore his personal Omega Speedmaster during his Mercury mission in 1962. It was the first Omega Speedmaster worn in space, despite the fact that the watch had not been tested yet by NASA. The ref. 2998 is now known as the “First Omega in Space” (or “FOIS” as it is more commonly referred to among collectors). Omega paid homage to Schirra’s watch 50 years later with a numbered edition ref. 311. updated to reflect modern watch technologies. The tribute watch holds fast to the retro aesthetic that defines the original Wally Schirra Speedmaster with baton and alpha hands and a case back embossed with the vintage-style Seahorse medallion.

It wasn’t until 1965 – several years after the Speedmaster first reached outer space – that the watch earned the coveted distinction of being “flight-qualified for all manned space missions,” opening the door for the timepiece to go to the Moon. Four companies submitted their watches to NASA in a bid to become the official watch used for space flight, and a Longines 235T, a Rolex Cosmograph, a Hamilton pocket watch, and the Omega Speedmaster were the watches that were delivered. The Hamilton was discounted before it had undergone any testing because it was not a wrist-mounted timepiece. After a brutal series of tests, the only watch to survive was the Omega Speedmaster.

The specific reference sent to the agency for testing was the ref. 105.003. It passed NASA’s rigorous tests and took its first trip to space aboard the Gemini 3 mission in 1965. Later that year, astronaut Edward White performed America’s first spacewalk while wearing his Speedy during the Gemini 4 mission, which has since resulted in the model’s now-famous “Ed White” nickname.

When asked about the Omega Speedmaster’s role in space flight James Ragan, the NASA engineer who performed the testing was quoted as saying, “The watch was a backup. If the astronauts lost the capability of talking to the ground, or the capability of their digital timers on the lunar surface, then the only thing they had to rely on was the Omega watch they had on their wrist. It needed to be there for them if they had a problem.”

Next, came the most legendary extra-terrestrial accomplishment for the Omega Speedmaster and a defining moment for both Omega and all of mankind – a trip to the Moon in 1969. While Neil Armstrong left his Speedmaster aboard the ship, Buzz Aldrin wore his ref. 105.012 as he stepped onto the lunar surface, immortalizing the Omega Speedmaster and instantly earning the watch its  “Moonwatch” nickname.

July 20th, 1969 was not the Speedmaster’s only trip to the Moon. It would travel with NASA’s astronauts on every lunar mission that followed. Including the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, in which the Omega Speedmaster played an integral role in getting the astronauts home safely after an explosion within the Service Module. John L. “Jack” Swigert used his Speedmaster to time a 14-second fuel burn maneuver that was essential to getting the crew safely back to Earth. The Speedmaster was also present as humankind took its last steps on the Moon when Gene Cernan wore his Speedy during the 1972 Apollo 17 mission.

How NASA tested the Omega Speedmaster

1. High Temperature – 48 hours at a temperature of 160°F (71°C) followed by 30 minutes at 200°F (93°C). For the high-temperature tests, atmospheric pressure will be 5.5 psi (0.35 atm) and the relative humidity will not exceed 15%.

2. Low Temperature – Four hours at a temperature of 0°F (-18° C)

3. Temperature Pressure Chamber – Pressure maximum of 1.47 x 10exp-5 psi (10exp-6 atm) with temperature raised to 160°F (71°C). The temperature will then be lowered to 0°F (-18°C) in 45 minutes and raised again to 160°F in 45 minutes. Fifteen more complete cycles will be completed.

4. Relative Humidity – A total time of 240 hours at temperatures varying between 68°F and 160°F (20°C and 71°C, respectively) in a relative humidity of at least 95%. The steam used will have a pH value between 6.5 and 7.5.

5. Pure Oxygen Atmosphere – The test item will be placed in an atmosphere of 100% oxygen at a pressure of 5.5 psi (0.35 atm) for 48 hours. Performance outside of specification tolerance, visible burning, creation of toxic gases, obnoxious odors, or deterioration of seals or lubricants shall constitute a failure. The ambient temperature will be maintained at 160°F (71°C).

6. Shock – Six shocks of 40g each, in six different directions, with each shock lasting 11 milliseconds.

7. Acceleration – The test item will be accelerated linearly from 1g to 7.25g within 333 seconds, along an axis parallel to the longitudinal spacecraft axis.

8. Decompression – 90 minutes in a vacuum of 1.47 x 10E-5 psi (10 E-6 atm) at a temperature of 160° F (71° C), and 30 minutes at a 200° F (93°C).

9. High Pressure – The test item will be subjected to a pressure of 23.5 psi (1.6 atm) for a minimum period of one hour.

10. Vibration – Three cycles of 30 minutes (lateral, horizontal, vertical, the frequency varying from 5 to 2000cps and back to 5cps in 15 minutes. The average acceleration per impulse must be at least 8.8g.

11. Acoustic Noise – 130dB over a frequency range from 40 to 10,000 HZ, for a duration of 30 minutes.

Omega Speedmaster Ultimate Buying Guide Moonwatch NATO strap

Omega Speedmaster Features & Options

The Speedmaster is easily one of Omega’s most iconic timepieces, which has led to it becoming an entire collection of watches, comprising numerous different editions. While its core design remains the same with chronograph functionality and a tachymeter bezel, several variations exist in regards to the case, dial, movement, size, and materials. It’s even common to see multiple iterations within a single reference number once you get outside the classic Moonwatch sub-collection.

To confuse matters even more, many references within the collection overlap production, and there have also been countless special edition models. If you don’t know what to look for, shopping for a pre-owned Speedmaster can seem like a somewhat daunting task. With that in mind, it’s important to research any Omega Speedmaster before you make your purchase.

The Omega Speedmaster debuted with a domed Hesalite (acrylic) crystal, a signature feature on many vintage timepieces. During the Mark series, there was also a flat mineral crystal variant. Today, the traditional Speedmaster Moonwatch collection includes either a domed Hesalite or box-shaped sapphire crystal.

Depending on the year of production, Omega Speedmaster watches can also feature either straight or twisted lugs. There are also countless variations of both the dial and tachymeter bezel. Including applied or printed Omega logos and the “Dot-Over-Ninety” bezel (aka DON bezel) on vintage references, just to name a few. The Speedmaster also can be found with several different bracelet options, and once you get outside the classic Moonwatch range, you will start to see two-tone, solid gold, and even full-ceramic editions.

The Movement

The model that made history on the Moon was powered by the Caliber 321, a hand-wound integrated column-wheel chronograph movement. The beloved Cal. 321 movement was developed in 1942 with the help of Lemania, a respected Swiss watch manufacturer. It is based on the Lemania cal. 2310, which was featured in a number of wristwatches produced by many heavy hitters in the luxury watch industry, such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. It is easily one of the most important and celebrated movements created by Omega.

The Caliber 321 remained in production through the 1960s before it was discontinued and replaced by the Caliber 861. While the discontinuation of the legendary Cal 321 came as a bit of a surprise, the switch did make sense. Demand for the Speedmaster was soaring and switching to the Caliber 861 lowered overall production costs and improved overall reliability. In 2019, Omega resurrected the Caliber 321, duplicating the original Moonwatch movement down to the most minute details, but finishing it in 18k Sedna gold rather than copper.

The Cal. 861 was eventually replaced by the Caliber 1861 in 1996. Both are hand-wound movements and they are more-or-less identical in terms of design and function. The Caliber 1861 replaced the copper-plated components with rhodium-plated parts and is still used to power the NASA-certified versions of the Speedmaster that Omega produced today.

The modern Speedmaster collection expands from there to include a variety of high-tech automatic movements that offer all of Omega’s latest and greatest technologies and deliver exceptional performance. However, despite these advanced new calibers, many purists believe that a true Omega Moonwatch is powered by a manual-wind movement, like the models that first went to space.

Omega Speedmaster Ultimate Buying Guide Vintage Caliber 321 Movement

Omega Speedmaster Nicknames

A watch as universally-loved as the Omega Speedmaster doesn’t remain in production for over sixty years without picking up a few nicknames. Below are some of the most common Speedmaster nicknames that you are likely to encounter.

First Omega in Space / FOIS: This nickname can either apply to the vintage Speedmaster ref. 2998 or the modern rendition of the watch, the reference 311. The nickname stems from the fact that this was the same model that was worn by astronaut Wally Schirra during his historic space flight and the modern edition is officially known as the ‘First Omega in Space’ within the brand’s current catalog.

Snoopy: The “Snoopy” is another nickname given to a particular series of Speedmaster watches developed to celebrate NASA’s prestigious Silver Snoopy Award, which recognizes excellence among NASA employees and was famously given to Omega technician Hans Widmer following the Speedmaster’s crucial role in Apollo 13’s triumphant return to Earth.

Broad Arrow: The very first Speedmaster produced, the vintage reference 2915 is often referred to as the “Broad Arrow” after its distinct arrow-shaped hour hand. Additionally, the “Broad Arrow” nickname can also apply to a series of modern Speedmaster watches that feature the same style of vintage-inspired hands.

Ed White: Enthusiasts often refer to the 105.003 worn by Ed White during the first American spacewalk as the “Ed White” Speedmaster; however the nickname can also apply to the modern recreation of the watch that is powered by the revived Caliber 321 movement.

Ultraman: The Omega Speedmaster 145.012 appeared in the hugely popular “The Return of Ultraman” series in the 1970s and it featured a bright orange seconds hand. Today, this rare configuration is often referred to as the “Ultraman” Speedmaster. The original model was reimagined in 2018 as the Omega Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday 2 “Ultraman” ref. 311., which was released to celebrate the #speedytuesday hashtag that has become somewhat of an internet phenomenon.

Omega Speedmaster Ultimate Buying Guide Speedy Tuesday 2 Ultraman

How Much is the Omega Speedmaster?

While the Omega Speedmaster has always enjoyed rather strong demand with prices on the rise for a number of years now, there is a noticeable increase in interest following the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing in 1969, with vintage editions that feature the Caliber 321 being among the most sought-after among collectors. The original ref. 2915 Speedmaster is typically at the top of the cost spectrum, with prices for well-preserved examples reaching into the six-figure range when they sell at auction.

Its successor, reference 2998, also requires a pretty heft investment starting at around $30k and extending past $100,000 for certain examples. The most affordable vintage Omega Speedmaster watches are references 145.012 and 145.022. The ref. 145.012 was produced during the late 1960s and was the last Speedmaster model to feature the legendary Cal. 321 movements. Prices for ref. 145.012 watches start out anywhere between $10,000 – $15,000 depending on the individual watch’s condition. The 145.022 immediately followed and is available on the secondary market for around $5,000 – representing significant savings compared to its predecessor, as the ref. 145.022 does not feature the Caliber 321.

Currently in production is the ref. 311., complete with the modern version of the revived Caliber 321. It retails for $14,100 and is available second hand for around $12,000. The classic Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch models from the current generation (powered by calibers 1861 and 1863) retail for between $5,250 and $6,350. Pre-owned, the asking price varies from $3,000 to around $5,000, depending on the specific model and its configuration.

Between both vintage and modern references, the Omega Speedmaster market is extensive. With the distinction of being the first watch in space and the first one worn on the Moon, it’s clear that the Speedmaster is a true industry classic and will always hold its value. If you know where to shop and what to look for within the collection, the Omega Speedmaster offers incredible investment opportunities.

Buying Pre-Owned vs. New

Buying pre-owned is always a tempting option when shopping for a luxury watch that will hold its value. Most watches depreciate immediately after purchase and buying pre-owned lets you avoid that financial hit since it has already been absorbed by the first buyer. There is the potential to pay less than retail for your Speedmaster, and if you know where to shop, the watch might even be unworn or in otherwise excellent condition. Many reputable dealers will also take the necessary steps to certify the watch, ensuring that it is both authentic and running properly.

Buying a brand new Speedmaster will almost never be the least expensive way of obtaining one, and your selection will be limited to the models that are currently in production. With that in mind, the argument for buying a new Omega Speedmaster is that you will be the first person to wear the watch. It will be in unworn condition, your name will be on the papers, and it will come with its full factory warranty. The worry of authenticating the watch also goes out the window when shopping retail, and for those with the extra cash to spare, buying brand-new is simple, straightforward, and virtually fool-proof.

Omega Speedmaster Ultimate Buying Guide Vintage Pre-Moon

Popular Omega Speedmaster References

Below is a closer look at some of the most iconic and desirable references (both vintage and modern) from the Omega Speedmaster collection.

Ref. 2998

The core design of the Omega Speedmaster began to take shape with the reference 2998. It hit the market in 1959 and remained in production until 1963. Eight sub-references exist within the series: 2998-1 through 2998-6, 2998-61, and 2998-62. The broad arrow hands present among the ref. 2915 series are replaced in favor of sleeker Alpha hands.

Depending on the specific sub-reference, the text on the bezel also varies, with “BASE 1000” appearing within the first two iterations of the ref. 2998. That was soon replaced by “TACHYMETRE 500” on ref. 2998-3. The reference 2998 also features a black tachymeter bezel, which is now a hallmark of the Omega Speedmaster collection.

Ref. 145.012

The 145.012 marks the last of the original Cal. 321 Speedmaster models. Shortly after coming to market, the ref. 145.022 was introduced, bringing with it the cam-actuated Cal. 861. It was also produced in significantly larger quantities than its predecessors and is consequently obtainable on the secondary market for a reasonably affordable price compared to other Caliber 321-powered vintage Speedmaster watches. Although its overall appearance is largely identical to the modern rendition of the watch, the use of the Cal. 321 makes it a bit of a “sleeper” among the various vintage Speedmaster references.

Ref. 145.022

The reference 145.022 was the first Speedmaster to include the inscription “The First Watch on the Moon” on the case-back and it marks a significant turning point in the history of the collection. It also enjoyed a long production run, from 1969 into the 1980s, and it is relatively easy to find on the pre-owned market. It features the Speedmaster’s trademark tri-register dial and slim tachymeter bezel with a black insert. However, it now sports a painted Omega logo on the dial instead of the applied logo seen on its predecessors. It was also the first Speedmaster powered by the Caliber 861 manual movement.

While it still goes by the line’s “Moonwatch” nickname due to being one of the NASA-certified models – as do the modern versions of the watch that Omega produces today, the reference 145.022 was never actually worn on the Moon. However, it did take a trip to space with astronaut Ron Evans during the Apollo 17 mission.

Ref. 311.

From the twisted lugs on the case to the straight hands and the larger 42mm case size, this edition of the stainless steel Omega Ref. 311. is every bit a modern Moonwatch; however, it still sticks closely to the overall look and feel of the models that first went to the moon. At the retail level, it is accompanied by an official price of $5,350. Secondhand, the ref. 311. can be found for around $4k. Enthusiasts of the brand will appreciate the use of a manual-wind Caliber 1861 movement and Hesalite crystal – just like the original flight-certified models.

The Dark Side of the Moon

Omega continues to celebrate the legacy of the Speedmaster by releasing various special edition timepieces, and the “Dark Side of the Moon” is just one example. The Apollo 8 mission was the first to travel to the far (dark) side of the Moon. The polarizing black ceramic case defines this unique series that celebrates this historic feat.

The collection is varied and includes editions worn on coated nylon fabric or leather straps. The case is 44.25mm in diameter and offers water-resistance up to 50 meters. Powering the watch is a modern Caliber 9300 automatic movement, which made its debut during Baselworld 2011. It features a Co-Axial movement with rhodium-plated components and a 60-hour power reserve.

References currently in production include:

– 311. / Nylon Bracelet
– 311. / Nylon Bracelet & Fold-over Clasp
– 311. / Nylon Bracelet “Black Black”
– 311. / Leather Bracelet “Sedna Black”
– 311. / Leather Bracelet
– 311. / Leather Bracelet “Vintage Black”
– 311. / Leather Bracelet & Diamond Bezel

Snoopy Eyes on the Stars

Omega has released a few editions of the Snoopy Speedmaster. However, the ref. 3578.51.00 was the first to display the beloved cartoon dog somewhere on the dial. With a 42mm case, Hesalite crystal, and cal. 1861 manual-winding movement, the ref. 3578.51.00 is every bit a classic Speedmaster. What sets it apart and makes it so collectible is the charming Snoopy astronaut on the sub-dial at 9 o’clock. The watch also features a matching Snoopy medallion on the case back, complete with the inscriptions “Eyes on the Stars,” “Snoopy Award,” and “The Moon Watch.” Produced in quantities of only 5,441 pieces, the original Snoopy a very prized collector’s item.

Omega Speedmaster “Reduced”

This wouldn’t be an “ultimate” guide without some mention of the now-discontinued reduced series. While the current Speedmaster sports a 42mm case, the “Reduced” opts for a smaller 39mm case. Other slight nuances to its design include further spacing between the center of the dial and the chronograph registers. The dial also displays the distinction “Automatic” on the dial in reference to the Caliber 3220 self-winding movement that beats within the case, which is absent from the 42mm series. If you prefer the size and weight of a smaller Speedmaster and enjoy the functionality of an automatic movement, then the Reduced series will likely appeal to you and it can typically be found at a significant discount compared to the full-size version of the watch.

While the Omega Speedmaster started out as a watch for the automotive racing crowd, it has since evolved into an entire line of luxury chronograph watches. It is frequently said that the Speedmaster is a watch that every collector should own at some point or another because it is considered to be an icon and a classic for a reason. Regardless of the specific model you choose, every watch from the Omega Speedmaster collection is a high-end precision timepiece from a legendary manufacturer that offers a history and heritage that few brands can match.

Omega Speedmaster Ultimate Buying Guide Silver Snoopy Edition

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch vs. Speedmaster ’57

When it comes to chronograph watches, the Omega Speedmaster is easily one of the most famous. Yet, unbeknownst to some, the Speedmaster is actually a highly varied collection, and distinguishing between different Speedy models can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Today, we’ve picked two popular versions, the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch and the Speedmaster ’57, to examine further so that we can highlight their origins, similarities, and differences.

Omega Speedmaster ‘57

Omega first introduced the Speedmaster chronograph specifically for motorsports in 1957 as part of a trilogy of professional watches – the other two were the Seamaster 300 dive watch and the Railmaster antimagnetic watch. And the current Omega Speedmaster ’57 collection is a tribute to that original maiden reference.

The Omega Speedmaster was the first chronograph to move the tachymeter scale from the dial to the bezel for better legibility. While later models included printed bezel inserts, that very first Speedmaster had an engraved steel bezel, which is now the defining characteristic of modern Speedmaster ’57 watches.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch vs Speedmaster 57 Comparison

Another common design trait across all Speedmaster ’57 watches are round symmetrical cases with straight lugs and no crown guards. Other nods to the first Speedy found across some (but not all) Speedmaster ’57 models include the Broad Arrow hands, the three-link steel bracelet, and beige-colored lume to mimic the patina that develops with age.

However, unlike the original 1957 Speedmaster, the contemporary Omega Speedmaster ’57 features larger cases measuring 41.5mm cases and automatic Co-Axial movements. The choice of movement also means a dial redesign to include only two sub-dials at 3 and 9 and a date window at 6 o’clock. Furthermore, though the Speedmaster was originally only offered in stainless steel, Omega makes Speedmaster ’57 models in a range of materials including steel, gold, and two-tone configurations.

The only exception to the above design details is the special 60th Anniversary Speedmaster ’57. Unveiled in 2017, this limited edition commemorative watch is essentially a reissue of the 1957 Speedmaster, complete with a 38.6mm steel case, matching steel bracelet, tri-compax dial, and a manual-wind movement inside.

Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch vs Speedmaster '57 Comparison Guide

Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch

When Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins blasted off from Kennedy Space Center in 1969 to begin their journey to land the first humans on the Moon, the three astronauts were equipped with NASA-issued Omega Speedmaster Professional chronographs.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar surface, quickly followed by Buzz Aldrin – Michael Collins flew the Command Module Columbia alone in lunar orbit while his two crew members were on the lunar surface. And when Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the Moon, he had his Omega Speedmaster Professional strapped to the exterior of his spacesuit. Ever since then, the Speedmaster became known around the world as the “Moonwatch.”

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch compare Speedmaster '57 Guide

However, since the Speedmaster is now such a varied collection of different watches, the models known as Moonwatches are the direct descendants of the watches worn by the Apollo 11 astronauts. Like their predecessors, the modern Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch models are stainless steel chronographs with 42mm cases, black tachymeter bezels, black dials, and hand-wound movements. The cases of the Moonwatch professionals are asymmetric, characterized by twisted lugs and crown guards.

Today, Omega offers the choice of Hesalite crystals (like the vintage versions) or modern scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, along with the option of a matching steel bracelet or black leather strap. Moreover, those Moonwatch models with sapphire crystals on the dial-side also have sapphire on the display caseback for a view of the movement inside. Current production Moonwatches run on Caliber 1861 (or the derivative, Caliber 1863, for the exhibition caseback versions), which is different from the original Caliber 321 that powered the original Speedmaster Professional watches that went to the moon.

However, it must be noted that Omega did revive the famed Caliber 321 movement in 2019 and has used it across some special Speedmaster editions but not the regular production Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch 42 models – yet.

Omega Speedmaster Pro Moonwatch vs Speedmaster '57 Co-Axial Comparison

Speedmaster Moonwatch vs. Speedmaster ’57

Below you’ll find a quick rundown of the main design specs between the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch vs. Speedmaster ’57. These specs apply to the regular-production models and not the special limited-edition versions.

Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch

  • Case: 42mm; Asymmetrical
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Crystal: Hesalite or Sapphire
  • Bezel: Black; Printed Aluminum
  • Dial Layout: 3 Sub-Dials
  • Case-Back: Solid or Sapphire
  • Movement: Manual

Omega Speedmaster ’57

  • Case: 41.5mm; Symmetrical
  • Material: Stainless Steel; Gold; Two-Tone
  • Crystal: Sapphire
  • Bezel: Engraved metal
  • Dial Layout: 2 Sub-Dials + Date Window
  • Case-Back: Sapphire
  • Movement: Automatic

Whether yo go for the Speedmaster Pro Moonwatch or the Speedmaster ’57, these two modern Omega chronograph watches both pay tribute to important models in the brand’s archives. One reminds us of the original intention of the Speedmaster as a watch for motorsports, while the other reminds us that the Speedy was a part of one of humankind’s greatest achievements. Which Omega Speedmaster do you prefer? The Moonwatch or the ’57? Tell us in the comments below.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch versus Speedmaster '57 Co-Axial Comparison guide

Omega Dark Side of the Moon: A New Speedmaster Honors the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 8

More than 50 years ago, Apollo 8 – the second manned mission in the Apollo space program was launched, becoming the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth’s low orbit, reach the Moon, orbit it and return home safely. It was also the first manned spaceflight launch from Florida’s famed Kennedy Space Center.

Astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders were the first humans to see the dark side of the Moon with their own eyes and the first to see Earth as a whole planet, among other feats; it would be another year before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would actually land on the Moon during Apollo 11. Here’s one of the most striking additions to the iconic Omega Speedmaster collection.

Omega Dark Side of the Moon

Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon

As Omega enthusiasts are well aware the brand had played a critical role in space missions including Apollo 8 since 1965 when NASA officially designated the Speedmaster as “flight-qualified by NASA for all manned space missions” after rigorous testing and placed an initial order of 15-20 watches. Now Omega is celebrating the semi-centennial with a limited edition timepiece, the Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8. Priced at $9,750 apiece, it’s an evolution of the first black ceramic Dark Side of the Moon Speedmaster that Omega launched in 2013, which has become popular with collectors if not as beloved of Moon Watch purists. Another notable model is the Grey Side of the Moon, which was launched in 2016 with a meteorite dial.

Omega Dark Side of the Moon

The chief characteristic of the Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8 is its skeleton dial, which is sure to create some differences of opinion among enthusiasts. Omega first released a skeletonized version of the Speedy in 1992, but this time the movement has been darkened giving it a more menacing appearance. It was also “laser-ablated to precisely decorate the bridges and main plate with realistic imagery of the lunar surface,” Omega notes. The dial-side is a light shade to represent the view of the moon’s surface from Earth, while the back of the watch shows the dark side that is only visible from space. This modified version of the brand’s Calibre 1861 is called the ‘Cal. 1869’ as a tribute to the first moon landing in 1969.

Omega Dark Side of the Moon

The entire watch is produced in black zirconium oxide ceramic, with contrasting yellow varnished chronograph hands and a tachymeter scale and crown filled with Super-LumiNova. The black perforated leather strap also contains a section of yellow rubber through its middle continuing the black and yellow highlight scheme. The casebook is engraved with the words “WE’LL SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE”, spoken by Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell on board during Apollo 8 as the spacecraft was about to lose radio contact with ground control as they began to orbit the dark side of the Moon.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum

We knew Omega would launch something big on the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing – after all, Apollo 11’s astronauts were all issued Speedmaster Professionals by NASA for their historic spaceflight. And the Swiss watchmaker did not disappoint! Not only is this a Speedmaster in platinum, but it also comes equipped with the legendary Caliber 321 movement. Let’s take a closer look at the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum introduced to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum

Omega Caliber 321

To the delight of Omega fans everywhere, the brand announced earlier this year that the Caliber 321 movement would soon return. In the watch world, the Lémania-based Caliber 321 is known as one of the most beautifully designed and important mechanical chronograph movements ever made.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum

It was the movement selected to power the very first Speedmaster in 1957 and Omega continued to use it in Speedmaster models throughout the 1950s and most of the 1960s. In fact, the Speedmaster Professional ST 105.012 that Buzz Aldrin wore around his spacesuit when he took his first steps on the lunar surface ran on a Caliber 321 movement.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum

In 1968/1969, Omega ultimately discontinued making the manually-wound Caliber 321 and replaced it with the easier (and less costly) to manufacture Caliber 861 (also manually-wound). For the last five decades, Omega enthusiasts spoke wistfully about the Caliber 321 and could only get their hands on one if they opted for a vintage Speedmaster.

But now, after careful research and reconstruction, the Caliber 321 movement is back in regular production, and Omega selected the brand new platinum Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 to debut it.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum

The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum stays faithful to its 42mm size, but as the name of the watch declares, the case is fashioned from a platinum alloy mixed with gold. Vintage Speedy fans will recognize that the case design is based on the ST 105.012, characterized by an asymmetric case and twisted lugs. Other retro-inspired touches include the applied vintage Omega logo on the dial, in addition to the “Dot over 90” on the bezel.

While the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum has a case design and a movement that have histories that stretch back 50 years, there are modern details on the watch too. For instance, the black bezel has been crafted from high-tech ceramic, complete with the famed tachymeter scale (the 1957 Speedmaster was the first chronograph to feature the tachymeter scale on the exterior bezel) in white enamel.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum

To emphasize the watch’s history with moon exploration, the black onyx dial of the Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum is home to a trio of sub-dials made from real slices of moon meteorite. 18k white gold was used for the hour and minute hands, as well as the hour markers. To top it all off, the watch is fitted with a black leather strap and platinum buckle. Of course, the beauty of Caliber 321 is on display thanks to the sapphire caseback – rosy hues and all.

No word yet on the price of the Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum, or if it will be a limited edition piece; but for now, let’s just take a moment to enjoy this handsome watch and what it represents for Omega’s history and the future of the Speedmaster collection.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Platinum

The Omega Speedmaster Grey Side of the Moon “Meteorite”

This year at Baselworld 2016, Omega announced the new Speedmaster Grey Side of the Moon “Meteorite” (ref. 311. As the official chronograph for astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission, the Omega Speedmaster is the only watch qualified by NASA for use outside of a spacecraft and beyond Earth’s Atmosphere. On July 21st, 1969, Buzz Aldrin actually wore an Omega Speedmaster while traversing the lunar surface.

Omega Speedmaster “Meteorite”

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch

First introduced in 1957, and nicknamed the “Moonwatch”, the Speedmaster line has always celebrated its affiliation with space travel. The Omega Speedmaster collection, Grey Side of the Moon “Meteorite”, takes the space theme one step further, using pieces of an actual meteorite as the dial of the watch.

Omega Speedmaster “Meteorite”
For this limited edition piece, Omega has sourced slices of the prehistoric Gibeon meteorite that landed in Nambia many millennia ago. The ribbon-like, Widmanstätten pattern of the sliced meteorite is absolutely stunning, and because it naturally occurred in outer space, each dial will have a unique pattern, and no two watches will be exactly the same. Very similar to Rolex’s Cellini released at Baselworld 2017.

Omega Speedmaster “Meteorite”

Keeping with the space-age theme of the dial, the 44.25mm case of the Omega Speedmaster “Meteorite” is made from grey ceramic, while the bezel has been crafted out of Omega’s Ceragold – a process in which 18-karat gold is fused to ceramic to make a single, seamless piece. The particular blend of Ceragold on the Speedmaster “Meteorite”, known as Sedna, is Omega’s proprietary blend of rose gold, that combines gold, copper, and palladium to create a unique, yet highly durable red-toned gold alloy.

Powering the Grey Side of the Moon “Meteorite” is Omega’s Co-Axial caliber 9300 movement – a co-axial escapement chronograph, with a Si14 Silicium balance spring and a vertical clutch. This rock-solid movement is the same one found in other contemporary Speedmasters, and its inner workings can be observed through the Speedmaster’s sapphire, exhibition caseback.

Omega Speedmaster “Meteorite”

Throughout the years, Omega has released other limited editions of the Speedmaster that have alluded to its lunar heritage. There has been the “Dark Side of the Moon”, the “White Side of the Moon”, and even another “Grey Side of the Moon”. This is not even the first Speedmaster to feature a dial made from a meteorite. The Apollo-Soyuz Speedmaster, released at Baselworld 2010 also had a dial made from a slice of a meteorite; however, this particular rendition is the first time that Omega has crafted the Speedmaster’s tachymeter scale from Ceragold.

Despite not being mechanically new, or entirely original, the slices of Gibeon meteorite give the Omega Speedmaster Grey Side of the Moon “Meteorite” a unique appearance. This limited-edition timepiece will be priced just north of $13,000 and will be delivered on a grey alligator leather strap with a folding clasp made of ceramic and titanium.

Paul Altieri
  1. Loved your Omega moon watch history, i am interested.

    Is the automatic watch heresy? and lessens its value?

    Which movem should be bought , the 321 or one of later movements.

    What is cost for used in excell condition?

    Thank you, Yes, I am old BC fan, many Jesuit preps grad there!

    • Purists are always going to want the classic manual-wind model, but the automatic Speedmaster models are also great watches. Purists appreciate the classic hand-wound models because they are closest to what was worn by astronauts during the early days of space exploration, but the automatic-winding models do offer more day-to-day convenience and can often be found with additional complications such as date displays, triple calendars, moonphases, etc.
      As far as movements (among the classic manual wind models), the vintage Cal. 321 models typically are the most collectible (and expensive) but the later-era versions such as the Cal. 861, 1861, 1863, etc. are also great movements with proven records for reliability. Additionally, they can often be found in examples that are significantly more affordable than their older, Cal. 321 counterparts. With the exception of the new-generation Co-Axial Cal. 3861 models, none of the previous classic manual-wind Moonwatch references are chronometer-rated, and aesthetics will be largely similar, so it really comes down to whether you want a vintage example with a historical movement or its modern counterpart that offers a very similar on-the-wrist experience.
      Regarding the different prices for Omega Speedmaster watches, just take a look at our website for the most up-to-date pricing and availability!

      • Hi – I am an amateur collector with a few watches in my growing collection (mostly Seikos plus a few micro-brands). I am in the lucky position that my family want to buy me a high quality watch for my 50th and I have settled on a Speedmaster Moonwatch. Their budget is not high ie. around $6k AUS. What is the best/most collectible Reference No. that can be had for this budget? I am keen on the manual wind with the observatory caseback, but can be swayed to another option. Any advise/assistance will be appreciated.

        • A Speedmaster is an excellent choice! With a budget of around $6k, any one of the classic Moonwatch models – full-size, manually wound with three registers and no date (either a Hesalite or sapphire crystal) – will be an excellent option and the differences will be minimal between different references of the same configuration. The current-production models benefit from Omega’s new Co-Axial movements and have more refined bracelets – if you can get one of them within budget, any of those will be an excellent option, but the older models offer an incredibly similar wearing experience and are closer to what astronauts have actually used throughout much of space exploration. Realistically, when choosing between classic Moonwatch references, there is no way to go wrong.
          In truth, the crystal type is one of the biggest factors, as the display casebacks are only available on the sapphire crystal models. However, there are discontinued Moonwatch references that are sometimes referred to as “Hesalite Sandwich” models, which feature Hesalite crystals above their dials and sapphire display casebacks. Here is a link to more info about these Hesalite Sandwich Speedmaster models: https://www.bobswatches.com/rolex-blog/watch-review/omega-speedmaster-hesalite-sandwich-references.html

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