How I Ended Up With The X-33 As My First Speedmaster
For years I thought my first Speedmaster would be the classic Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch as it is the watch with the most incredible story of all watches.
And obviously, it is the watch the Speedmaster legacy has been built on so it seemed only logical that a brand new Speedmaster Professional or a Speedmaster Professional from 1977 – the year I was born – were the go-to models for me whenever I had to decide on my first Omega Speedmaster. But as you can read from the title, it didn’t quite go as planned. My first Speedmaster turned out to be an Omega Speedmaster X-33 from 1998. And it turned out to be a great first choice that only made the Speedmaster legacy more significant for me and the hunger for more Speedmasters a lot bigger.
My love for Speedmasters
The Speedmaster X-33 is not always recognised as one of the most prolific Speedmasters. After owning the watch for some time, I can honestly say that the X-33 to me is amongst the most hardcore Speedmasters there is and a great watch to carry on the tremendous Speedmaster legacy. Besides, it is a watch that is great fun to wear because it’s one of the most practical Speedmasters out there. But I would not have told you this before I bought my X-33. And it’s not where my fascination with Speedmasters started.
Let’s rewind the clock a little bit and go back to 2003. In April of that year, I moved back to The Hague in The Netherlands, where I had lived from 1995 until 1998. When I moved back, I returned to the same building I had lived before. I met a guy that soon became one of my best friends, and he happened to be an absolute Speedmaster fanatic. We found out that we come from families that have a history with Omega watches so great stories to talk about with each other. These stories were great to share, and it made it easy for my friend to pass on all his knowledge about watches in general and Speedmasters in particular. And the enthusiasm with which he told all these fantastic stories about the Speedmaster sparked my interest in the watch and read about the Speedmasters’ place in history and finding out a lot about one of the biggest icons in the watch industry.
A little over a year later, my friend started a new website about watches and named Fratello Watches. For the people that hadn’t guessed by now, this friend is Robert-Jan. At the time he started Fratello and showed me what he was up to, we both could not have thought what it has grown into 15 years later. To this day we have remained the best of friends and Robert-Jan is single-handedly responsible for my enthusiasm about the world of watches resulting in buying watches and writing about them. And it was Robert-Jan who offered me to buy the Omega Speedmaster X-33 two years ago.
I was a bit reserved at first because it wasn’t what I had set out to buy as my first Speedmaster. I knew of the X-33, and the story behind it is a great one but the looks, the fact that it is a quartz Speedmaster and the overall idea I had about my first Speedmaster didn’t make it an offer I jumped on instantly. But Robert-Jan assured me I would not regret buying the X-33 as it is a serious watch that was developed with and for astronauts and had some fantastic features. So I didn’t think too long before I said ‘yes!’. And if you think: why didn’t you buy a Speedmaster earlier on? I can assure you it has nothing to do with Robert-Jan’s enthusiasm or my lack of interest in watches. I just spent my money on different things, especially sneakers and clothing. And although I do not regret buying all those sneakers, the amount of money I spent on them could have bought me several Speedmasters, and that would probably mean a lot more to me today. But hey, I don’t live with regrets and it’s never too late to buy your first Speedmaster.
The Speedmaster X-33 design
So there I was…with my first Speedmaster. The first thing to do after I bought the Speedmaster was completing the set by finding the box and instruction manual that goes with the X-33. Luckily I found a set quite quickly, and in the meantime, I had swapped the aftermarket strap for a NATO strap that makes wearing the X-33 super comfortable. And as far as an opinion on my purchase, I didn’t have one yet. That was all in the future. First, it was time to do some reading and get to know the watch. For all the people that would like to know more about the history and relevance of the Speedmaster X-33, I suggest you read Robert-Jan’s great Speedy Tuesday article ‘Why the Speedmaster X-33 matters’. It will tell you all you need to know on the remarkable history, different generations and available models.
In his article, Robert-Jan already mentions the looks of the watch as being remarkable and industrial but not being regarded as a beautiful watch, which is absolutely true. It is not a watch that captures many people’s imagination from just aesthetics. And most of the time that’s what we judge a watch on first, it’s the looks that make the first impression. And the design for me personally is something I focus on heavily when judging watches, up to the point that for some watches the movement becomes a lot less relevant in actually overthinking whether a watch is actually worth buying. Don’t get me wrong, there is always a balance between technique and design but the balance shifts when a watch looks really nice. It’s the shift that will make people go: I know it looks good, but for that kind of money you have better options. And what they mostly are referring to is that there are better options based on quality and technique and therefore are better value for money. And I do agree with that most of the time, but sometimes there is a watch that just keeps popping up in your mind because you feel it is special to you personally.
Now my day job also involves design as I have worked at a design agency the past eleven years. As a brand strategist that works in design, I would say that I am pre-programmed to look at aesthetics constantly. So, when looking at the X-33 at first, it reminded me a lot of 1990s design I do not particularly love. But as the first days flew by wearing the watch and getting to know all its functionalities and reading about the experiences astronauts had with the watch, I quickly forgot my initial opinion about the looks. Because when you use the watch, you soon realise that the watch is all about practicality! And it serves that purpose perfectly, and I use some of the functionalities regularly like the programmable alarm, the chronograph function and whenever I pop over to the UK, the second time zone indicator also comes in handy. And another great feature is that whenever you are fed up with the digital display, you can turn it off and enjoy the clean looks of the watch.
Living with the X-33
I can honestly say the Speedmaster X-33 has grown on me tremendously because it has proven itself to be a great functional and light watch that happens to have these characteristic nineties looks that will grow on you. I wear the watch a lot, and I wear it with great pride. Part of that pride comes from the fact that it is my first Speedmaster and part comes from the fact some people recognize the watch and tell these great stories of how the X-33 also captured their hearts. It’s like being part of a select group of people that understands and appreciates the power of the X-33. And that’s about the strongest thing a watch can do if it’s not based on the initial impression people have by judging the looks.
Besides, I think the contribution to the Speedmaster legacy by the X-33 is a lot bigger than some people might think. When I stated earlier in the article that the X-33 is maybe amongst the most hardcore Speedmasters out there, I was dead serious. If you keep in mind that the X-33 was developed for astronauts that go to space and use the watch intensively during their missions, it can be considered the Speedmaster that is closest to the original Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. And if I would have to choose as an astronaut, I would not hesitate one second and choose the Speedmaster X-33 as my preferred watch. It’s not even a question really; it’s logic. So Robert-Jan was right about the X-33. I haven’t regretted buying the watch one second, and I love my X-33 as my first Speedmaster. It does leave the question open however of what my next Speedmaster will be? Will it be the original Moonwatch? There is no other option really or is there…?
The X-33 is still in production today, be it a third generation with a slightly different design. Click here to visit the official Omega website.