Omega Speedmaster Mark II – 45 Year After Its Introduction
After the Omega Speedmaster Professional won the race to the Moon in 1969, Omega thought it was time to come up with a watch that perhaps was a bit more up-to-date and ready for the 1970s. Design wise that is, as the watch should be able to withstand the same abuse as the Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’ could handle. Somewhere in 1969 Omega introduced the Speedmaster Mark II. Actually, a Speedmaster Professional Mark II. The ‘Mark’ in its name stands for a new or revised/improved version, for the non-native English readers. It is like calling it a 2.0 version these days.
The Speedmaster Mark II came with the same Lemania based movement as the Moonwatch, reference 145.022. This movement is Omega’s caliber 861 and has been in production since 1968 till around 1996 when it was succeeded with the caliber 1861 movement. The Speedmaster Mark II had this barrel shaped case that looked totally different from the a-symmetrical Speedmaster Professional case. The regular Speedmaster, that was issued to NASA astronauts, was still in production though. During all the Speedmaster Mark series, the regular Speedmaster Pro was always available (and still is).
When Omega stopped the production of the Speedmaster Mark II in 1972, the Mark III already had been introduced. The Speedmaster Mark III was succeeded by the Mark IV in 1973. Then there is the Mark 4.5 (which is a Mark IV with a different movement, an Omega caliber 1045) that came on the market in 1974. The last one of the Speedmaster Mark series is the Mark V that was introduced around 1984. It is confusing right? There are even more models in between and some slight variations on the above. For a great overview you better read Chuck Maddox’s Omega Speedmaster Mark Series of Chronographs article.
In any case, Omega decided to do a Speedmaster Mark II reissue earlier this year and we noticed that the watches were already in the Omega boutiques before the official introduction in BaselWorld.
Just like the original Speedmaster (Professional) Mark II watches, there are a few variations available of the Speedmaster Mark II Co-Axial 2014 models. The black dial version and the racing dial version are reissued and on top of that there is a Speedmaster Mark II Olympic Game Rio 2016 edition that we saw during our appointment with Omega.
As you can see on the photo of the new Speedmaster Mark II Racing above, the barrel shaped case and bracelet are very similar to the original version. We will come to that comparison later on. If you take a closer look, you will notice that the dial is somewhat different from the original. The racing track is a bit different as the original had a red outer track and an orange Omega logo at 12 o’clock. However, the biggest difference is perhaps in the wording on the dial and the fact that the new Speedmaster Mark II 2014 model has a date aperture. Instead of a no-date hand-wound chronograph movement – like the one that is still being used in the Speedmaster Professional 357x.xx series – Omega decided to use their caliber 3330 movement. This movement has a column-wheel mechanism, a Co-Axial escapement, Si14 silicon balance spring and a power reserve of 52 hours. It has little to do with the original movement, except for the tri-compax layout of the dial of course.
People already asked us about the base movement for this Omega caliber 3330 as it is not one of their in-house developed chronograph movements (caliber 93xx series). We tend to think that it is based on some ETA caliber that has been tailored for exclusive use for Omega only, hence the Si14 balance spring and Co-Axial escapement.
It is understandable that Omega decided to use this movement. It is probably not a watch for the purist – although it is an awesome timepiece – but for the people who love vintage watches but are not willing to go there. An exception might be collectors that just need a piece like this in their Speedmaster collection. We believe that the target audience though, is the guy who loved the vintage Speedmaster Mark II on the wrists of his father or grandfather and decides to go with a similar timepiece with all the modern technology inside. For the purists, there are still some great pre-owned vintage Speedmaster Mark II models out there that you can buy for an attractive price.
The finish and quality of the case and bracelet are amazingly good. Especially the bracelet is something that surprised us in a very positive way, it looks amazingly like the original ref. 1162 bracelet (and yes, there was also a ref.1159 bracelet that looked slightly different). Perhaps the design of this bracelet on this Speedmaster Mark II is something Omega could also apply on the bracelet of the Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’. It would make the appearance of the modern Speedy Pro a bit more easy on the eyes.
As you can see on the photo above, the case back looks like other Speedmaster (Automatic) models that are now in the catalog. The case back has the Seahorse embossed as well as the Speedmaster wording and Omega logo. The Rio 2016 version has a special case back of course, bearing the Olympic Games 2016 Rio logo. This particular model will be limited to 2016 models but has the same (technical) specifications as the regular Speedmaster Mark II reissue. The tachymeter print on the inside of the crystal is a bit different color wise, and the sub dials have gold rings.
So, would you opt for the old and original Speedmaster (Professional) Mark II or would you rather buy one of the new versions? We’ve put the old Speedmaster Mark II ref. 145.014 next to the new ref. 3220.127.116.11.01.001 and show you the optical differences between the two. We already discussed the movements a bit and the comparison between those two would make no sense in this article.
The dimensions of the new Speedmaster Mark II are 42.4mm x 46.2mm where the vintage model measured 41.75mm x 45mm. This means that the new model is slightly bigger, which also shows in the photos below.
On the dial, you will notice that – besides the date window obviously – there are some more differences between these two. It seems that the new Omega Speedmaster Mark II with the matt black dial has the same graphics printed on the racing version, with the exception of the use of orange for some of its accents. The minute track and hour markers are quite different from the Speedmaster Mark II 145.014 model. It is clear that the old model has a dial that is more similar to the Speedmaster Pro ‘Moonwatch’ than to its 45 year younger successor. The hands also changed a bit and are like a mixture between the original Speedmaster hands and the Speedmaster Mark III hands.
Although the vintage Mark II in the photos is a bit roughed up, you can clearly see the similarities between the style of finish on the case and bracelet. The polished edges on the case give a superb contrast to the sunburst brushed finish of the upper side of the case. Mind you that the Speedmaster Mark II sunburst brushed finish is a magnet to scratches – this doesn’t have anything to do with the material, only with the type of finishing – and it will need a pretty good watchmaker who can do this. We advice you to have this redone by Omega in any case, they have the proper machines and knowledge on how to do this.
The bracelet clasp is also something that you will immediately notice when comparing these two. The old steel clasp is just a straight forward folding buckle where the new clasp is in line with all the other modern Omega clasps. Two release buttons and easy to resize.
Like we wrote above, whichever one you choose depends on your personal preferences and whether buying a vintage watch is in your comfort zone. It does need a bit of study if you want to buy a nice vintage watch of any kind. For the modern guy who merely wants a modern watch with a cool vintage appearance, the new Omega Speedmaster Mark II Co-Axial might be the right choice.
The black dial version is reference 318.104.22.168.01.001 and has a price tag of approx 4600 Euro (including VAT). The orange Speedmaster Mark II racing is reference 322.214.171.124.06.001 and has a (approx) 4600 Euro price tag. A vintage Speedmaster Mark II 145.014 in good condition can be found for below 1800 Euro. For now that is.
The official presentation on this Speedmaster Mark II watch can be found on the Omega website, where you can switch off the light to see the illumination of the dial and where you can resize the bracelet.
What model would you prefer? The vintage Mark II or the new model? Let us know by leaving a comment below, we would be curious to know.