The uninitiated often ask me: just how many Omega Speedmasters do you have, and how to you even tell them apart? To which my answer is, “Not nearly as many as I’d like to have,” and “To me each one of them is unique and different.”
The first thing is that I collect Speedmasters across all time periods. So, while I love the vintage watches, I also equally adore the timepieces that are of more recent days. My journey started innocuously enough because I like the color blue and was looking for an appealing medium sized sports watch in this color.
I soon landed upon the 39.7mm Omega Speedsmaster CK2998 from 2016 (ref. 3220.127.116.11.02.001). But it was only when I started examining the watch that I was quickly caught up in the amazing combination of vintage elements, such as the Calibre 1861, the movement found in Speedmasters since 1969, combined with incredible details such as a blue ceramic bezel with a luminous tachymeter.
The fact that the folks at Omega, who I would come to know as Raynald Aeschlimann, Jean-Pascal Perret and Gregory Kissling, would even think of something so cool demonstrated to me that they truly loved watches. From there I ended up with a Silver Snoopy, then the first Speedy Tuesday based on the Alaska III with “radial” subdials, then went back in time for a Tintin, then caught the vintage bug and ended up with a gold 145.022-69, three Ultraman 145.012-67 watches — one of which was delivered to Mexico and was on a Holzer bracelet — a 105.012-66 Central Boites case, two 145.022 tropical dial watches, and grey racing 145.022-69, then went back to contemporary classic for a Japan Racing before picking up the Speedy Tuesday II Ultraman.
What I loved so much about the Speedmaster is how different in expression each version is. I also love how Omega as a company is able to make versions of the watch that are retro, like the two Speedy Tuesday watches; retro-modern such as the Silver Snoopy and the CK 2998 Blue with their ceramic bezel and luminous elements; expressions of haute horlogerie as is the case with the double assembly Calibre 321 equipped watches and also, totally and unapologetically modern — the best example of which I feel is — the incredible “Dark Side of the Moon” series launched in 2013.
In 2013, it should be known that the black watch theme was one of the most prevalent in the industry. I’ll refrain from calling it a trend because it is clear that all black watches are very much here to stay. However, what I admired about Omega was when they decided to launch an all-black Speedmaster, they did it with total integrity and to showcase their amazing ability in material innovation, specifically zirconium oxide or ceramic.
And while other brands had by this time come up with all black ceramic versions of their sports chronographs, no one had done it with such total balls-out commitment. Omega made the 44.25 case out of ceramic that was polished on the lugs and brushed on the caseband, perfectly emulating the iconic finish on the steel watches. And oh yes, the case was formed from a single block of ceramic. Let’s just say, few had the knowhow at that time to produce a monobloc ceramic case.
Then it added ceramic pushers and crown and even a ceramic buckle to the watch. Then even went one step further and crafted the dial of the watch in ceramic. Adding to the unabashed bristling modernity of this watch was the use of the calibre 9300 an absolute badass vertical clutch, column wheel activated chronograph movement that featured a Co-Axial escapement and a silicon hairspring.
The fact that this movement passes the Master Chronometer Certification means that it also has shock absorbers and a balance staff made from non-ferrous material that cannot be magnetized. Even the name of the watch “Darkside of the Moon” in reference to Apollo 8’s mission to be the first to circumnavigate the moon’s dark side, which also conjures up the Pink Floyd song, is incredibly cool.
The Dark Side of the Moon family is today one of Omega’s most successful. It now comprises of the standard model in polished ceramic with red highlights, the Black Black ultimate stealth expression with its blacked out matt ceramic dial, a gold and black model called Sedna Black — in reference to Omega’s proprietary palladium enriched Sedna gold, which doesn’t lose color over time — a model with vintage Tritium colored indexes, hands and tachymeter called Vintage Black and my personal favorite, the Pitch Black which is a ceramic model with luminous hands, full indexes, subdials and tachymeter.
But of all the various Dark Side case Speedmasters, perhaps, the most impressive was the 2018 “Dark Side of the Moon” Apollo 8 (ref. 318.104.22.168.01.001). This model created for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8 mission, featured the Dark Side 44.25 ceramic case, a racing style seconds track, a sapphire dial and an incredible Calibre 1861 that had all its plates and bridges laser ablated with a photo realistic interpretation of the moon’s surface relief, then treated in black to replicate the view of the Apollo 8 astronauts as for the very first time in human history they orbited the dark side of the moon. What was truly beautiful about this watch is to witness the beauty of the chronograph works in brushed steel in stark contrast to the distinct black bridges and plates.
The “Dark Side of the Moon” Apollo 8 is one hell of a sexy watch. But it was when I set eyes on the latest ceramic Speedmaster, specifically, the Speedmaster Alinghi that I realized the full expressive potential of this high-tech watch. The timepiece celebrates Omega’s partnership with the America’s Cup winning sailing team.
Indeed, the last time I think I was this excited about sailing was when Audemars Piguet and Alinghi partnered to create the first forged carbon fiber Offshore. Since, then Alinghi has gone on to partner with different brands but this new collaboration is nothing less than stunning.
The dial is similar to the Apollo 8 in that it features a solid racing seconds track for the chronograph seconds, but a sapphire to reveal the movement, specifically a calibre 1865, which has a “thinner and lighter design,” according to Omega.
Using laser ablation, the mainplate and bridges have been decorated with a carbon fiber motif that evokes Alinghi’s new TF35 catamaran’s carbon fiber hull. At the minute counter at 3 o’clock is a red display that can be used for either the 3 or 4 minutes of tactical time, before a race starts.
At 6 o’clock the traditional sub dial for the hours has been replaced with an aluminum disc in the form of the Alinghi logo. The thing is that regardless of if you’re a yacht racing fan or a Speedmaster fan the resulting design of the Speedmaster Alinghi is just spectacular.
Ernesto Bertarelli, founder and president of Alinghi, says, “It’s been an immense pleasure to collaborate so closely with Omega on this wonderful new timepiece. Throughout our history, we’ve been very aware of the watchmaker’s incredible expertise in sports timekeeping and passion for sailing.
“So, it is a very special moment to have worked on a watch together and now see the exquisite results. It’s the perfect start to our relationship and a real sign of more to come in the future.”
Raynald Aeschlimann, president and CEO of Omega states, “The new watch is about two great Swiss brands combining their passion for innovation and sailing. To match Alinghi’s state-of-the-art boat creation, we’ve harnessed some truly impressive technology, along with the best materials and a very original design concept.”
It’s a great partnership but the coolness of the watch transcends the collaboration in that I feel it will be a future collectable. So you see as I said in the beginning there is always room for another Speedmaster and with Omega absolutely crushing it creatively, this seems like a forgone conclusion in this case.
Manual winding caliber 1865; hours, minutes and small running seconds at 9 o’clock; chronograph with central chronograph seconds hand, 30-minute totalizer at 3 o’clock and 12-hour totalizer at 6 o’clock; 48-hour power reserve
44.25 mm case in black zirconium oxide ceramic; water resistant
Perforated black and red rubber strap