Our Answers To The Most Common Omega Speedmaster Questions
We’ve been covering the Omega Speedmaster on a weekly basis now for many years and in the comments section of these articles, countless questions have been asked about the watch. We have selected some of the most common and reoccurring Speedmaster questions and done our best to provide the answers. Should you find yourself in need of more information about this Omega classic, then read on, as you might just find the answers you are looking for.
The Omega Speedmaster is hotter than ever before, not only because of its popular editions like the Silver Snoopy Award 50th anniversary but also because of the recent long-awaited update on the movement and bracelet. You could also say, that these new Speedmaster models are a result of the iterations (mainly limited editions) of the last few years. The return of the Dot-Over-Ninety bezels (which first took place in the Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday Ultraman edition of 2018); the new bracelets that were used in the Apollo XI watches from 2019 (both gold and steel); the introduction of the new caliber 3861 movements in those models; the use of design elements such as the applied logo, but also the step dial and beveled case back, etc. It all comes together again in the new Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Master Chronometer (reference 310.30.42.50.01.001 and variations).
As you might imagine, we receive quite a few messages from our readers with Speedmaster questions. From the most common “What model should I start with?” to more in-depth questions regarding the type of bracelets, movement iterations, and dial versions. If you’re a die-hard Speedmaster fan, you might not find the following answers surprising. However, I do hope you will still pick up a fact or two that you didn’t know before.
1. What Speedmaster Should I Buy?
The most common question we receive is about what Speedmaster you should buy. That’s a difficult one to answer, without knowing who you are. My first Speedmaster Professional was a vintage reference 145.012-67 from 1968. I purchased it in 1999, and still have it in my collection today. At the time, there wasn’t as much information out there on the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch as there is today. And in all honesty, I was more interested in a more modern Speedmaster Pro with caliber 861 or 1861, but those were pricier than a vintage one. Unthinkable in today’s market.
In hindsight, I am very happy I went for the 145.012-67 with caliber 321. Or better said, I’m glad I had to go for the caliber 321, as my budget didn’t allow otherwise. In general, my suggestion is always to go for the Moonwatch with a hand-wound movement. Whether that’s a new Speedmaster Professional Master Chronometer or one of the previous references, is less relevant. However, there are many more Speedmasters to choose from.
Try to find out what you are after when building up a collection. Is it the Moonwatch only? Or do you want to go after the quirky stuff like a Speedmaster Speedsonic f300hz, Speedmaster LCD, X-33, etc? Or what about a Mark III or Mark V? Do you want to go vintage, or only modern? These are things I can’t answer for you, but you have to discover yourself. What makes your heart tick faster? By reading extensively about Speedmasters, you will eventually find out. Also, make sure to try on some different models.
2. How much should I pay for an Omega Speedmaster?
For a while now, Omega has shown the prices of its watches on the official website. Depending on the country you are in, you can see the actual retail price of your watch. That’s also the price that you can expect to pay in Omega boutiques. Other than in boutiques, you will also find Omega watches for sale at authorized dealers around the world. Unlike Omega boutiques, you may be given a discount on a Speedmaster at one of the authorized dealers. It also depends on the model, the relationship you have with the authorized dealer, and whether you purchased there in the past. Don’t expect miracles on the Speedmaster Professional, with the current high demand there’s little to no reason to give a discount on them.
For pre-owned Omega Speedmasters, prices are a different ballgame. It heavily depends on the model or reference, and the demand and supply of these models. For pre-owned and vintage Speedmasters, the condition of the watch is incredibly important. A vintage 1970s Speedmaster Professional can be found for about €5000. But it would also not be unheard of to find one for more than twice that amount. It all depends on their condition. Always do your homework, use Chrono24 for an indication of prices or use the price chart from Speedmaster101 to have an easy overview per reference number. Speedmaster101 also updates its Speedmaster price chart on a regular basis.
My tip for buying pre-owned or vintage is: buy the best you can afford with your budget! I would rather buy and overpay for a perfect 105.012 or 145.012 than buy the cheapest 105.003 you can find that is in a poor condition. A vintage Speedmaster in good condition also increases your pleasure in wearing and owning the watch.
Starting with (pre-owned) Speedmasters? Try a Moonwatch 3590.50 or 3592.50 from the early 1990s with tritium dial and hands, reference 1479 bracelet, and with box and papers. They look amazing with their beautiful yellow-ish patina, use one of the best bracelets Omega ever made for the Speedmaster, and are relatively easy to find with box and papers.
3. How often should a Speedmaster be serviced?
Normally, I would recommend a 7-year interval for having a Speedmaster (Professional) serviced. Whether that’s a vintage reference or the latest model with Master Chronometer movement. If you wear the same watch every single day, you might want to do it more often, if it is part of a collection and it is not an everyday watch, you can increase the service interval a bit.
More interesting perhaps, is how much a Speedmaster service will cost you and where you should have it serviced. Omega has a number of service centers (including at its HQ in Bienne), and for a Speedmaster in steel, they will charge €750 for a complete service. Omega is very transparent about the cost of service, which is openly published on their website here.
A gold or platinum Speedmaster will run you €950 for a complete service. This includes the disassembly of the entire watch and cleaning of all components. It also includes the replacement or overhaul of all worn parts in the movement. For vintage watches, ask for the special service form in the boutique, where you can indicate what you want to have done and more importantly, what should be left untouched.
You can argue that this is a lot of money, but not only is the service done to Omega’s high standards, all parts that need replacement will be replaced. This includes the crown, tubes, pushers, gears, Hesalite, hands (if necessary), etc.
From a watchmaker’s perspective
We inquired with our watchmaker Paul (@paul_divawatchmaker), who is independent and works for a number of boutiques and shops. He charges €400 for the disassembly, (ultrasonic) cleaning, and polishing (if requested) of external parts. His price also includes the disassembly, cleaning, and replacement of worn parts. Except for expensive inner parts that need replacement, he needs to charge more for that. A mainspring will always be replaced he indicated, for example, as well as gaskets, etc. He let us know that the €750 for the overhaul at Omega isn’t that expensive, given the fact that they replace everything that is worn.
That said, finding a skilled watchmaker is one of the things that should be top of your list when starting to build a Speedmaster collection. Not that they often break, but you want a reliable contact for these service overhauls. Someone you can truly trust with your precious Speedmaster.
4. Can you take your Speedmaster swimming?
It would seem that this is quite a recurring question and topic of discussion for many of you. It is also a popular subject for countless Speedmaster memes out there. Most of the time, we find that people just assume it isn’t water-resistant at all. Since 1957, Omega’s Speedmaster has had the Hippocampus logo on the case back, which we explained here. Although it was indicative of water resistance in the past, today’s standards are quite different.
Though it may be clear that the Speedmaster is not suitable for diving purposes, unlike the Seamaster. What is often not so clear is that you can indeed take your new Speedmaster for a swim. Even the Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch”, with a water resistance of 50 meters, can be used in the water. But just take note that you shouldn’t operate the pushers or crown underwater. We’ve checked this officially with Omega, and they also let us know that the watches are tested for water resistance with a substantial margin.
Also — and this is very important — only do this when you are absolutely certain that the gaskets are still in good shape. If you use the Speedmaster in the water, make sure to have the gaskets replaced every 12 months. Some Speedmasters have higher water resistance, like the Speedmaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer Moonphase models. These are water-resistant up to 100 meters.
I wouldn’t recommend swimming with the older and vintage Speedmaster models that only have a 30M rating. Even if they are in pristine condition and recently serviced, you’re better off keeping them out of the water.
5. Is the Speedmaster still being used by astronauts?
A very common question we receive is about the use of the Omega Speedmaster by astronauts. Or if NASA still issues the Omega Speedmaster to astronauts. The answer to this is that all astronauts who are going into space via Russia (including NASA and ESA astronauts) receive a Speedmaster Moonwatch, as well as the digital X-33. Of course, you will see a lot of different watches in space on the wrist of astronauts. Some prefer their own watch or have a connection with a brand other than Omega. However, the only watch that NASA ever qualified for manned space missions is the Omega Speedmaster. In recent space endeavors, like the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 or even the Blue Origin New Shepard project, you could see the Speedmaster in action. In short, yes, the Speedmaster is still being used by astronauts today.
6. How often should I wind my Omega Speedmaster (Professional)?
Omega’s hand-wound calibers 321, 861, 863, 864, 866, 1861, 1863, 1866, 3861 are all used in the Speedmaster (pre-)Professional models. And let’s not forget about the beautiful hand-wound caliber 3201 (F. Piguet base) that was used in the 2007 enamel-dialed Speedmaster, made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Speedmaster. These watches have a power reserve between 48 hours and 52 hours (depending on the caliber). You only need to wind these watches when they are almost out of power, but if you prefer to do so every morning, it’s fine as well. What you shouldn’t do, is wind them while they are on your wrist. This can cause unnecessary tension on the winding stem and the movement.
7. How accurate is the Omega Speedmaster?
This is another one of the most asked Speedmaster questions as until recently, the Moonwatch was not a chronometer-certified watch. So the answer depends on the movement inside. Omega uses a tolerance of -1/+11 seconds per day on average, for a non-chronometer chronograph with a mechanical movement. This would be totally fine by me, but your watchmaker may be able to get it even more precise. If a Speedmaster is more than 10 seconds off per day, I would consider having it regulated.
A chronometer-certified Omega Speedmaster should be accurate to within -4/+6 seconds per day on average, which is the COSC standard. The performance might get slightly worse over the years after the watch is first purchased or after it is serviced. The current Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch is a Master Chronometer, certified by Metas (and COSC). These Speedmaster watches (with caliber 3861) have an accuracy of 0/+5 seconds per day. The watches are also anti-magnetic up to > 15,000 gauss.
8. Where to buy an Omega Speedmaster?
You can buy direct from Omega, via one of their boutiques or by ordering directly on their website. Other than that, Omega has a large retailer network where you will find a selection of their watches. If you want to buy a pre-owned Speedmaster, you can find tons of dealers and private sellers offering Speedmasters. You will also find a lot of listings of vintage and pre-owned Speedmasters on platforms like Chrono24.
You will also find offers in specific Facebook groups or on the omegaforums.net platform, for example. A place with knowledgeable people and a lot of enthusiasts. Due to this, their sales forums are more or less “self-regulating”. Always take into account that you might need to deal with customs and if you buy pre-owned, make sure to calculate the cost of a service overhaul in your budget or make sure the seller can provide paperwork of all recent service work. Remember, always make sure to do your homework — with which our Speedmaster buying guides will hopefully help you.
9. What is the difference between the caliber 321, 861, 1861, and 3861?
Omega’s caliber 321 (both the original one as well as the new one) is a chronograph with a column-wheel mechanism. This was the movement used in the first Speedmasters, from 1957 till 1968. It was succeeded by the caliber 861, because of cost-efficiency mainly and it has a higher ticking speed (21,600vph vs 18,000vph). Both are great movements, and neither holds a real functional advantage. The caliber 861 was replaced around 1996/1997 by the caliber 1861 which had an extra jewel and a different finish. Although the latest iteration of caliber 861 was already very similar to the later caliber 1861. For the 861 and 1861, there are quite a few additional variations like the (1)863 (nicer optical finish), (1)866 (moon phase module), and 864 (chronometer certification).
Caliber 1869 has also been around since 2018. This movement uses an 1861 base movement for the Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8 with a very special Moon finish. Last but not least, in 2019, Omega introduced the new caliber 3861. Based on the caliber 1861, the 3861 consists of approximately 50% new parts and receives the Master Chronometer certification from Metas. It has been used in the Apollo 11 in stainless steel and Moonshine gold. And in the new Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Master Chronometer. Pictured above from left to right, you see the 3861, 1861, and (new) 321.
The new caliber 321 is now available in a platinum Moonwatch version and in the new Speedmaster “Ed White” 105.003 in steel. Although parts are interchangeable with the original caliber 321, the new movement has a Sedna (rose) gold finish whereas the original caliber 321 has a copper-colored finish.
10. Where can I find my Speedmaster’s serial number?
Especially when someone is on the hunt for a pre-owned or vintage Speedmaster, the serial number can be very useful. When was the Speedmaster exactly produced? To which country was it shipped, and when? The serial number of the Speedmaster can give reveal these details. Omega has a pretty impressive archive, and you can request an extract, using a serial number, which gives you every bit of information about a specific watch. However, you do need to have the serial number in order to retrieve this information. Every Speedmaster has its serial number engraved on the movement. On modern Speedmaster Professional watches (reference 3590.50 and onwards) you will also find it engraved on the backside of the watch, on one of the lugs.
11. Where is Buzz Aldrin’s Speedmaster?
I close the list of Speedmaster questions with one that keeps us Speedy lovers’ minds turning. Buzz Aldrin was the first astronaut to wear his Omega Speedmaster on the surface of the Moon. He wore a Speedmaster Professional reference 105.012, to be precise. Former NASA engineer James Ragan, who was responsible for testing the cameras and Speedmasters of the astronauts, said that Buzz Aldrin supposedly donated his watch (with other equipment from the mission) to the Smithsonian. Alas, the watch never made it to its destination.
Neil Armstrong’s and Michael Collin’s Speedmaster (along with many other astronauts’ Speedmasters) are still around and classed as property of the US government. These flown Speedmaster watches can be often found on display in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Omega’s own museum in Biel, Switzerland, also has a number of flown Speedmasters watches on display. Want to know more about Speedmasters, click here. Do you have specific Speedmaster questions you’d like us to answer? Don’t hesitate to drop us a note.
*This article was first published on May 12th, 2020, and updated with new images, answers, and facts.