Hands-On: Omega Speedmaster 3126.96.36.199.01.001 Review
Earlier this year, I was asked to write an article for Omega’s Lifetime Magazine about the Trilogy watches. Including the Speedmaster 3188.8.131.52.01.001 of course. From the first moment on, I was thrilled by this watch and I didn’t need much time to order one for myself. As I am writing this, I am waiting for the watch to be delivered, but in the meanwhile I received a Speedmaster 3184.108.40.206.01.001 for review. The so-called 0000/3557 number (and there are more of these 0000s, for sample and presentation purposes).
A bit later, when I saw the watch in the flesh during BaselWorld, I was certain I made the right choice by ordering it. I read the positive reactions this watch received in general, also read some criticism towards the use of the vintage looking patina. Faux-patina, as collectors call this. Looking at the official press photos and back on the watch that is on my wrist, the patina is not as brown in the flesh. It also depends a bit on the lighting conditions.
Anyway, while awaiting my own order, I was able to at least give this Speedmaster ’57 60th anniversary a try for a couple of weeks. Long enough to come up with a real hands-on review.
I just received the watch, without the official box that will be used. I assume that it will remain the same from what I’ve seen during its introduction. A red box that shows resemblance to those very first Speedmaster boxes. Besides the stainless steel bracelet, the watch also comes with a vintage looking brown leather strap.
Trilogy and Separately
For the 60th anniversary of the Speedmaster, Seamaster 300 and Railmaster, Omega created three watches that are based on the very first references. For the Speedmaster, that is CK2915, the Seamaster 300 had reference CK2913 and the Railmaster CK2914. Michael Stockton and Balazs Ferenczi will come up later on with hands-on reviews of the Railmaster and Seamaster 300 anniversary editions. I had the honor to go ahead with the Speedmaster 3220.127.116.11.01.001. These watches are available as a set of three pieces, marked with ‘Trilogy’ on the dials but also separately, with just the limited edition number engraved on the case back. More about the set can be read in one of earlier articles here. Only 557 pieces of the Trilogy set will be produced, but each watch separately will have 3557 pieces. Perhaps not your definition of a limited edition watch, but keep in mind that Omega produces about 700.000 watches per year, so it is only a fraction of the total production. If A. Lange & Söhne would do a limited edition of 3500 pieces, that would be about half of their total production and thus hardly limited. You have to see these things in perspective I guess. Another example is the Omega Seamaster 300 ‘James Bond’ edition that was introduced for the Spectre movie. Limited to 7007 pieces. But all sold, try to get one and you will understand that you need to see these things in perspective. So I understand and share your opinion that 3557 pieces (times 3) are a lot of watches, but as long as the demand is very high, it doesn’t matter much.
Another Couple Of Speedmaster’57 Watches
Besides the original Speedmaster from 1957 and this 60th anniversary Speedmaster 318.104.22.168.01.001 re-edition, Omega already did a couple of commemorative editions. Or watches that refer to that broad arrow Speedmaster. Back in 1997, Omega introduced the Speedmaster’57 reference 3594.50, that was called ‘Replica’ but later on referred to as ‘Relaunch’ as ‘Replica’ has a bit of negative sound to it. I happen to own this reference 3594.50 and it became available in 1997 as part of a Mission Case with 22 watches, only 40 made for commercial purposes and 10 for demonstration purposes, in 1998 the watch was taken into production until 2006 or so. It is basically a Speedmaster Professional, but using the silver colored broad arrow hands, a non-Professional dial with applied Omega logo and a steel bezel (with Base 1000 engraved in it).
Below an image of the Speedmaster 322.214.171.124.01.001 I have for review and my own Speedmaster 3594.50 on a leather racing strap via StrapsbyFleur. The Speedmaster’57 was connected with race cars and only later on it became the watch worn on the Moon).
‘Replica’ would suggest that the reference 3594.50 from 1997 would be identical to the Speedmaster from ’57, which it isn’t. A badly chosen name. Anyway, it is a nice watch for what it is and is certainly influenced by some of the cool design elements of the original Speedmaster CK2915. Then, in 2013, Omega came up with another CK2915 inspired watch, this time with their in-house developed caliber 9300 chronograph movement. It actually turned into a separate sub-family in the Speedmaster collection, click here. Late 2013 I wrote a comparison article about the original CK2915, the 1997 reference 3594.50 and the caliber 9300 model, click here. Pictured below is the bi-color model, but it was also available in stainless steel.
However, these watches are still inspired by the original and certainly not a re-edition. In 2015 Omega did one more iteration of the Speedmaster’57 caliber 9300 and put some broad arrow hands on it, instead of the leaf hands on the 2013 model (a review can be found here). None of the Speedmasters that Omega introduced before the current Speedmaster 3126.96.36.199.01.001 comes as close to the original reference CK2915 from 1957 as this one. Perhaps they weren’t intended to do so of course.
The Omega Speedmaster 3188.8.131.52.01.001 Ticks a Lot of Boxes
Well, with the experience of owning the 1997 model and having tried and reviewed the later Speedmaster’57 collection, I was more than happy to receive the new Speedmaster 60th anniversary edition. I’ve handled a couple of CK2915 watches (click here for example) and I would love to own one, but unfortunately they’ve become very – very – expensive. Besides that, even if you have the cash for such a vintage CK2915 Speedmaster, it is not an easy task to obtain one that is in perfect condition or in the condition you want it to be (right tone of dial, patina, condition of the bezel and bracelet etc.).
I don’t say that the new Omega Speedmaster 3184.108.40.206.01.001 60th anniversary is the answer, but it does offer an interesting alternative if you like the looks and appearance of the original Speedmaster CK2915. First of all, there’s the size of 38.6mm (the regular Moonwatch is 42mm), which is identical to the size of the CK2915. Then, there’s the dial and hands that shows a very good resemblance of the original ones. Of course, the new Speedmaster 60th anniversary uses Super-LumiNova instead of radium but there are some boundaries that Omega has in creating such a commemorative edition I imagine. Omega decided not to use the same case as the First Omega in Space (introduced in 2012), which was commemorating the Speedmaster CK2998, it has slightly different dimensions.
As written above, Omega did use some brown-ish color for the hour markers and luminous material for the hands. Some purists feel it is too brown and rather preferred it to be white, others (including me) do like this tone of color. I do consider myself a purist as well, but I can definitely live with some ‘modern’ decisions in a watch. The applied Omega logo and typography of Omega and Speedmaster are done very nicely. The dial has the long hour markers all the way to the rehaut. I’ve read some criticism towards the rehaut as well, but I think it is very much depending on the angle from which a photo was taken. I am happy that Omega didn’t choose to come up with a brown dial to recreate a tropic dial, like the one pictured above. Although I like how it looks, it would be a bit too gimmicky perhaps. I think the matte dial and brown-ish Super-LumiNova is just fine, without overdoing it.
You also have seen the bracelet already of course. A re-interpretation (I put it mildly) of the original reference 7077. I don’t want to sound negative about it, as I love the look & feel of this new bracelet (with screwed links), but it would have been nice if it not only was a tad bit thinner (not as thin as the original though), and with a smaller clasp. To my taste the clasp is a bit too wide, but it does work like a charm. The pushers are easy to operate for releasing the clasp, but the best part is inside. With a small pusher, you can extend the bracelet by about half a link. Back in the day, the clasps had this micro-adjustment where you needed a toothpick but they weren’t up to modern standards anymore. With the newer bracelets, you sometimes were fiddling too much to get it right, especially during warm days.
So even though I feel the bracelet a bit too thick and the clasp is a notch too wide, it does give a lot of comfort in return. The links are screwed, like on the modern Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’ bracelet (since 2014). It isn’t just one screw that has to go in, no, Omega uses two smaller screws that keep a small pin locked in the center. Audemars Piguet has the same system for the bracelet for example, where Rolex uses just one long screw. Below, a close-up of the clasp of the Speedmaster 60th anniversary. The size of the end-links is 19mm, so it will not fit your Speedmaster Professional. Just saying.
The bracelet (there’s a reference STZ006810 on there) has the traditional finish, using a brushed center link and polished outer links. This is how the original 7077 and later references (such as the 1039) were also finished. I keep repeating that it is very difficult to design a decent bracelet, and I’ve never liked the modern version of the Speedmaster bracelet to be honest (although it is comfortable). This new bracelet, with a few tweaks, could be the next best thing in my opinion. Despite the thickness, it does wear very comfortable and also puts some weight to the watch.
Before I move on to the movement, there’s a few more things to say about the case. The 38.6mm case of course lacks a crown guard, but the crown has this little ‘Mercedes’ (Naiad) mark in the Omega logo. The Naiad crown has to do with a water resistance, keeping the moisture out (not waterproof though). A neat little detail.
On the case back of the watch we don’t find a sapphire crystal (luckily) or the ‘Flight Qualified’-engraving (luckily), but just the Seahorse medallion and the wording ‘Speedmaster’ and ’60th anniversary’. The very first Speedmaster CK2915 references did not have an engraving at all, later on it received the Seahorse and ‘Speedmaster’ written in the bevel. It wasn’t until the CK2915-3 iteration (also the last CK2915) that had a case back like the one on this Speedmaster 3220.127.116.11.01.001. I love the fact that they kept the step (or double bevel) in the case back. You will find the unique number of the limited edition engraved here as well. All demos and watches for presentation purposes have the 0000 number. As you can see below the case back looks a bit smudgy, and perhaps it is, but these are also tiny scratches that tend to show off on the glossy polished case back. This is a demo watch, so it probably has seen some abuse during the last few months. I always put watches on the crown on my night stand for example, but rest assured that the majority of the people just lay it flat on the bracelet. The bracelet then hits the case back and if you don’t have TLC for a watch, it does scratch. Here’s the result of some journalists and other people not really caring about a watch.
The Speedmaster 318.104.22.168.01.001 60th anniversary does not feature the original caliber 321 movement, but instead the hand-wound caliber 1861. This movement is the current version of the caliber 861 that was introduced in 1968. To my best knowledge, but it is difficult to get confirmed, the rights or license for the original caliber 321 is with Breguet. However, I believe that from the Trilogy, meaning the Speedmaster, Seamaster 300 and Railmaster, the Speedmaster 322.214.171.124.01.001 is really staying true to its ancestor as it uses the Hesalite crystal and a hand-wound movement instead of having a sapphire crystal and a modern Co-Axial Master Chronometer movement (while the Railmaster CK2914 was a hand-wound watch). The Lémania based Omega Caliber 1861 is a reliable work-horse chronograph and will do the job perfectly. I am more than happy to have this movement in my upcoming new watch than – for instance – the caliber 9300 or another 3-register Co-Axial alternative. Although I like these in-house movements a lot, a historical piece like this should have something more close to the original.
On The Wrist – Speedmaster 3126.96.36.199.01.001
Not the best image below, but it does show how this Speedmaster 60th anniversary plays with light. The polished broad arrow hands and applied Omega logo as well as the polished outer links of the bracelet really catch the sun light.The 38.6mm case wears a bit smaller than its 42mm Moonwatch brother, but by no means too small or ‘fragile’. The large winding crown and chronograph pushers also help to visually enhance the size of this watch of course. The lug-to-lug size is 48mm, the same as the Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’, it appears longer though as the Speedmaster 60th anniversary has straight ends while the ‘Moonwatch’ lugs are pointy.
Especially when worn on the vintage strap that comes with this watch, I can imagine that even some of the more hard-core Speedmaster collectors will mistake it for a CK2915. That is not the intention of this watch I guess, but it just shows how much it corresponds with the original Speedmaster.
The Speedmaster 3188.8.131.52.01.001 has a list price of €6800 (including taxes) which is very far away from the price of a CK2915, in any type of condition. However, when compares to the regular Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch, there’s quite a difference in price. The standard Moonwatch has a retail price of €4300 today. Is the Speedmaster 60th anniversary worth the price difference? From a rational point of view I guess not, but for collectors of Speedmasters it doesn’t matter. The watch has been received with applause and I also didn’t have to think very long before I ordered mine. I do believe that compared to other brands, €4300 Euro for the Moonwatch is almost a bargain, but €6800 is something that takes a second (and third) consideration for many people. Let’s just hope that the current Moonwatch stays accessible for the fans (new and old).
Having all that said, I feel it is a €6800 well spent and I am looking forward to the day it will arrive. I have no idea whether it has been sold out already, but if you want to add the Speedmaster 60th anniversary to your collection, I’d rather inquire about it today than wait another couple of weeks. Sure, it has a couple of debatable elements, such as the color of the hour markers and hands or the thickness of the bracelet and size of the clasp, but all together it is a magnificent tribute to the original Speedmaster CK2915 from 1957. I’ve been wearing this sample watch for a couple of weeks now and it was hard to take it off and wear something else. It will make the wait for my own piece even harder.
Click here for more information on the Speedmaster’57 via Omega on-line.