Why we love Speedmasters
Omega Speedmaster plays quite a prominent role at AWCo, here is why:
By Thomas van Straaten on 29 April 2020
Why we love Speedmasters
If you have ever been to our store, you may have noticed that the Omega Speedmaster plays quite a prominent role. Both physically, we usually have multiple variants prominently displayed, and mentally, we love talking about them. What is it about this watch that makes it so attractive? Let’s dive in!
"A vintage watch silently implies a story. It is like a time capsule in that sense."
While this article is not about the history of the Speedmaster (you can write books about that, and some people have!), it is worth touching upon shortly. Vintage watches are all about history. A vintage watch silently implies a story. It is like a time capsule in that sense. This is why watches with historic significance are much more sought after than models that had a smaller impact on our world.
We challenge you to name a watch with a more impressive story than the Speedmaster. Even though it was intended as a racing chronograph, it was selected by NASA as the official watch for manned space missions in an era when such selections were made on merit alone, not on a big commercial sponsorship deal. In fact, Omega did not even know their watch was being evaluated.
In a century with massive low and highlights, the moon landing of 1969 was definitely one of the biggest highs. Two Speedmasters were on that lunar module and a third one was in the orbiter. When the second man (Neil Armstrong left his in the module at first) stepped onto the lunar surface, so did the Speedmaster. And Speedmasters were worn by astronauts on all subsequent Apollo missions, many on the moon itself. Nice one, Omega!
And they were not merely convenient time-telling devices. On Apollo 13, the one that only barely made it back to earth in one piece, the Speedmaster played a crucial role. When all systems were down, the Omega chronograph was used to time rocket bursts, crucial to bringing the ship back into the earth’s atmosphere. The Speedmaster was a vital piece of that amazing mission, for which it was later decorated with a Snoopy award.
So the Speedmaster earned a place right there at the heart of one of humanity’s biggest feats.
It is easy to overlook the Speedmaster nowadays, as it is such a familiar sight. But try to look at it through the eyes of someone in the 1960s, when chronographs were tiny and featured extremely busy dials. The Speedmaster looked positively space-age!
Looking closer, you will see what a design masterpiece it actually is. Focus on the bezel and dial. There is a ton of information there, but somehow it looks extremely clean and balanced. There is a strong visual hierarchy, meaning you always find the information you are looking for at a glance. It is extremely legible and purely functional. Such form-follows-function design tends to age well, and boy, it has!
The use of negative space, the fonts, the relations between different elements (rule of thirds or golden ratio all around!), it all adds to a beautiful and completely timeless look. A brand new Speedmaster does not look like some re-issue of a sixty-year-old watch. Yet it is! Omega needs a boat-load of faux-patina brownish lume to trigger some sort of vintage feel in their re-editions because otherwise they just look like contemporary watches! Which other watches can make that claim, other than a handful of Rolex classics?
Even the size is clever. 42 Millimeters across sounds massive, but we find in practice that it fits 90% of male wrists perfectly. The external tachymeter and short, twisted lugs optically shrink the watch. It has a visual presence without being chunky or cumbersome. If you find a modern one too big due to the flaring endlinks of the modern bracelet, come and try on a vintage model. You will be happily surprised by the fit of a Speedy on a vintage steel bracelet.
"There is a strong visual hierarchy, meaning you always find the information you are looking for at a glance."
A whole lotta watch
It is always tough to talk about money and value in this market, as this is completely relative and it is easy to sound blasé. But the Speedmaster is a whole lotta watch for the money. Considering the level of quality, NASA-proof tech, design, and history you get, it is unparalleled.
It has always been produced in relatively large numbers, which means it is relatively easy to get your hands on. But I dare say (and this is a completely personal cat I am throwing among the pigeons here) that it can easily stand up against legendary chronographs that command multiple times its price. Even if you look at pre-moon examples, which are infinitely rarer, you can get an amazing original example, even from “the year” 1969, for less than a new Rolex Daytona. As Kanye would put it: that’s cray!
Something for everyone
The Omega Speedmaster is an easy watch to get into. First of all, there is a lot of fascinating info out there. You can spend weeks reading about the Speedy. It is one of the best-documented watches out there.
If you get a new Speedmaster Professional or a decent vintage one of a common type, you will have a one-watch-collection straight away, under 5-6k. Throw it on a croco strap for business meetings and on a NATO or bracelet on the weekends and you are all set. You will have a great looking, great performing watch that is easy to maintain and a great conversation starter.
In fact, as long as you are confident about originality and state, you really cannot go wrong with a Speedy Professional. And, if by some miracle, you find it is not really for you, it is easy to sell as well. Although a brand new one will drop some value at first.
But once you fall under the Speedmaster-spell, a whole world opens up for you. There are infinite tiny variations among models and even within models. Maybe you like a step-dial? Or a straight writing caseback? The lugs of an Ed White variant or a nice 321 caliber dot-over-ninety specimen? You can go as deep as you like!
Just look at AWCo’s owners, Roel & Toesja. Avid Speedfreaks themselves, they have built a world-class collection of Speedies, among which one that has actually been in space and the very first reference from 1957, the CK-2915. And they are far from done…
But if you just want that one great watch to one day pass onto the next generation, any “normal” Speedmaster Professional will suit that role perfectly. There is something for everyone.
Why we love our Speedies
Adding it all together, there is the rich history and significance, the near-perfect design, the technical quality, the value, and the potential for going deep. You can even get one in full yellow gold if the steel models lack a certain je ne sais quoi for you.
On a personal note, there are many watches I love and I have to admit, it took some time before I really got into the Speedy. But now that I have, the Speedmaster is the one watch to rule them all for me. Try one on. Thank me later.
Written By Thomas van Straaten