Few watches have true historical provenance of this calibre and arguably none greater than the watch I am writing about today. A timepiece that has been around since 1957, tethered to one of mankind’s greatest achievements; the Omega Speedmaster means so much to so many, this review is an important one.
For those who love watches there will come a time where you have considered owning, currently own or have enjoyed ownership of a Speedmaster. Hopefully the ideas I share with you in this article can help you in each stage of your Speedmaster journey.
Omega’s Speedmaster range has reached an abundance of variations with new colourways and limited editions being released at a consistent rate, but I am grateful to say that my first long term experience with a Moonwatch will be in its quintessential form. This 3590.50 features a hesalite crystal, manual wind 1861 movement and solid caseback. The Moonwatch has remained largely unchanged in its aesthetic since 1964, with this iteration produced from the early to mid 90’s. The ‘T Swiss T’ text below the 6 o’clock marker denotes the dial features tritium luminescent properties, the only major clue that this Speedmaster was not produced in the 21st century. The 42mm case wears smaller than its dimensions would suggest, more like a large 40mm. Paired with a black nato strap, it makes the watch even easier to wear, so comfortable on the wrist and just looks the business. What did catch me off guard was just how light the Speedmaster is, especially on a leather strap or said nato. Chronographs can be large or hefty which makes for great wrist presence at the cost of wearability. Benevolently, the Speedmaster endures no such sacrifice.
With a matte black dial opposed by white hands, text and indices, the Omega Moonwatch doesn’t quite feature the drama of a fume or enamel dial, leaving the wearer to appreciate the core design traits that have made this watch an icon. At a glance it is easy to identify what all the fuss is about, nothing screams sport watch like a compax layout chronograph. But dig a little deeper, pay a little more attention, there is so much more on offer. The sub-dials are sunken ever so slightly, giving subtle yet effective emphasis on the running seconds, minutes and hour counters. Further, those sub-dials receive ever so fine circular snailing finishes which only reveals itself in the most opportune lighting. The more time you spend with the Moonwatch, the more joy it induces. Under macro zoom, the 3590.50 was a playground when it came to these unique details and provided ample evidence to support the cult following of this Omega. The printed text remains crisp as ever, with the tritium lume plots aging to a light custard colouration offering a drop of diversity from the otherwise greyscale dial. It is truly intriguing to see a watch with natural patina. Confirmation that the watch has lived a life before you became the owner and instils confidence that the timepiece will continue to serve its purpose far beyond your tenure as its keeper.
Having spent the better part of the last two years wearing watches with sapphire crystals, the signature tint associated with acrylic crystal was apparent immediately. Synthetic sapphire has a cool, blueish coloration, while the properties of Hesalite create the slightest amber complexion, which goes a long way to complement and accentuate the matte finish of the dial and aged lume. Speedmasters used by astronauts (past and present) employ this Hesalite crystal. Due to synthetic sapphire’s propensity to shatter under stress, where acrylic fractures, it is deemed the latter is far safer for traversing space as the smallest amounts of loose debris can give rise to dire consequences. This is mind, winding the Speedmaster at the beginning of your day gives a moment for pause, leading you to consider that astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin, Wally Schirer and Ed Hadfield may have done something of the same. Although their view of the solar system far exceeds the window pane of any office, they too would be looking at the very same dial and winding their Speedmasters at the start of their days to ensure it to keeps time. With the level of technology that the human race has been able to formulate and implement in space travel, it is equal parts ironic and romantic that the number one companion for each astronaut is a mechanical, manually wound chronograph that rose to fame 60 years ago.
If you’re the grab and go type operator, the Speedmaster may not be for you. However, winding the watch every day did not deduct from the ownership experience, it enhanced it. It builds routine and with each turn of the crown allows you to enjoy a more intimate connection to the watch in a way an automatic or quartz watch does not. Enthusiasts are right to question the ever-growing list of Speedmaster limited editions, but lets not forget the biggest positive aspect being that if the classic Moonwatch design isn’t for you, there is almost certainly a Speedmaster that is. Whether it be a hot take on the classic Moonwatch blueprint or some of the more exotic variations, it enables owners to select the offering they feel resonates best with them, a conversation that is always fascinating when fellow watch geeks meet.
I found the Speedmaster created a slow release of joy and appreciation through long term wear, a totally new experience for myself. It consolidated its incredible reputation and highlighted exactly why this watch is the icon that it is. It takes something special for a product to remain both successful and unchanged for 60 years, as well as a brand that is brave enough to believe they got it right the first time around.
The Speedmaster would feel perfectly at home within a collection of watches. With 50 metres water resistance this is not what you would take to the open waters (let alone in the swimming pool) and some may feel the consistent need for winding tedious. But in a collection, the Speedmaster fulfils the criteria for a wide range of occasions, leaving room for other watches to bring delicate artistry or functional capability.
The Moonwatch enjoys rich heritage, tool watch origins and a timeless design which outlines everything that makes this timepiece special and I am grateful that I had the chance to enjoy it for this week!
Thanks for reading!
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