We Answer: What Is The Right Speedmaster For Me?
A little while ago, we received a long email from our reader James. In his email, he admits he was a bit late to the game, but at least he did his homework and went through a lot of our Speedy Tuesday articles.
Now, he has a question. About which Speedmaster to buy for himself to celebrate not only his first wedding anniversary but also the birth of his first child. But before he gets to his question, he first shared a bit of background with us.
Speedmaster Mark IV
James: “I was very touched by Robert-Jan’s story (Why I Love Omega So Much) from July 25th, 2018 – I felt very similar. My grandfather always wore an Omega Speedmaster, which I really liked. I remember it as if it was yesterday: at a dinner in the early 1990s he promised me that I would inherit this watch one day; “It was the watch worn on the moon”. I was highly fascinated (at that time, of course, the Space Shuttle missions were very popular). But it was only a few years ago that I really started to get more interested in the history of space travel and all the exciting missions.
Unfortunately, my grandfather died a good decade after this one dinner, but in fact I inherited his watch. Full of melancholy, sadness and fear of further damage, I never wore it. It wasn’t in good shape anymore, but it was still running pretty good. It was not until the end of 2017 that I decided to revise it. My wedding was imminent, and I wanted to share this important moment in my life with my grandfather – at least in memory of him, with his Omega on my wrist. My grandfather would have wanted me to wear it anyway. I began to look more closely at the subject shortly before the revision and learned that although it wasn’t exactly the model worn on the Apollo missions, it was a “Speedmaster”: a Mark IV from 1973 (we wrote about it here). With a freshly overhauled movement, a polished case, a new leather strap and a distinctive scratch that I didn’t want removed, I proudly wore it to my wedding in spring 2018, but I don’t wear it on a daily basis because it’s just too special and valuable for me.
By the way, I didn’t want a wedding ring because I don’t like to wear rings. My wish was to have a daily companion in the form of a watch. We decided to wait until the first wedding anniversary, coming up soon. And now another highlight coming this year – the birth of our first child. Interestingly, Robert-Jan also mentioned this one Patek Philippe advertisement in his article that I saw a few years ago. It reminded me of the story with my grandfather! So now I already have two reasons for a significant watch – and my continuing fascination with space missions being another one.
My dream Omega is the “Dark Side of the Moon” (3220.127.116.11.01.003), closely followed by the Alaska Project (318.104.22.168.04.001) and the Silver Snoopy Award (322.214.171.124.04.003). I also really like your two Speedy Tuesday Specials – unfortunately all five are outside my price range of € 5’000.- to 6’000.-. I’m aware that this financial framework doesn’t give me too many options.”
Question – The Right Stuff
Now we have some background, James asks his question:
“So which one is the right Speedmaster for me? What I really want: the inscription “flight-qualified by NASA for all manned space missions” on the back of the watch, the possibility to wear a NATO strap and if possible something “special”. Also, I like the versions with the “deepening” at the sub-dials.
Of course I love the regular Speedmaster Professional (3126.96.36.199.01.005) very much, but maybe there is something else? Maybe a TinTin? The watch doesn’t have to be new (but preferably not as vintage as my Mark IV) – but it should suit me. I also like design, architecture, automobiles and I am a big fan of traveling the United States.”
Lengthy Answer – Which Speedmaster To Get
First of all, congrats with your first wedding anniversary and even more so with your first child this year. Definitely a life changer 🙂 I also inherited my grandfather’s watch and although not a Speedmaster, I love it a lot. I decided to restore that one to its original glory, as the dial was smudged due to some previous ‘cleaning’ attempt by a watchmaker I guess. So the dial was redone, but in a very nice way and I am happy it still has the original dial. I also tried a replacement dial, but that felt wrong somehow.
The Mark IV is an interesting watch and I had one in the collection as well at some point. It has a Lemania caliber 1342 based movement and uses a Mark II case. I think it is a bit more wearable than the Mark III, and more interesting than the Mark II due to the automatic Lemania movement.
With regards to your question: Which Speedmaster to buy. That’s a tough one although for me it is at least clear you need some variation of the original Moonwatch for sure. The references you mention: Alaska Project, Silver Snoopy Award, Speedy Tuesday 1 and 2 as well as the Tintin are limited editions or produced in limited quantities. In any case they are all sold out, and you might need to stretch your budget if you’re after one of them. Even the Tintin is not the €3500 watch it was for a long time. The Dark Side of the Moon should be close to the higher end of your budget, but you might need to stretch it a tiny bit.
Although the Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon is also on my own list, it never makes it to my collection because I keep running into Moonwatch models that I rather have. That said, I do appreciate the Dark Side of the Moon a lot and think it is one of the nicest modern Speedmaster (or chronographs in general) watches of the last few years. The caliber 9300 movement is a wonderful piece of modern watchmaking and the ceramic case, dial and bezel give this watch a very specific look & feel. The first versions came with a soft strap on a buckle, later on they changed (upgraded) this to a folding clasp. I might say that I prefer the buckle, as folding clasps tend to get a bit too thick on the wrist somehow.
The 44.25mm diameter is a larger than the 42mm case of a Moonwatch, but I don’t find it really bothersome. The watch doesn’t wear so big. The later models with the racing dial (like this one) have a slight advantage that they are a bit thinner, and they use a later variation of the chronograph movement (caliber 9900). But yet I prefer the Dark Side of the Moon. I do think that Omega made a little mistake by creating a bit too many variations on the Dark Side of the Moon. The Grey Side of the Moon was kinda cool, but all the other variations was just too much. Perhaps also just a bit too early. People wanted the Dark Side of the Moon, and the demand was high so I feel that Omega made a miscalculation by offering variations on this watch. I am sure the demand went down a bit due to this.
Last year Omega introduced the Apollo 8 model (click here for our hands-on Speedmaster Apollo 8 article), which is a variation on the Dark Side of the Moon, but with the hand-wound Lemania movement. It is an awesome watch, even though the use of yellow needed to grow on me, but the price is not likely to come down to your budget anytime soon.
A Modern Moonwatch
I would say you need a Moonwatch. The current Moonwatch is perfect, and fits your budget. It comes with a nice box (that I don’t even have) with some Speedmaster accessories. The current model also has a bracelet that has screws instead of push pins, which is a good thing. If the engraving ‘Flight-Qualified by NASA for all manned space missions’ is an absolute requirement, you can go far back when you are considering a pre-owned Moonwatch as well. The Speedmaster Professional had this specific engraving since late 1971 (with the 145.022-71 reference) and still uses it today. There’s one little complexity here though: I think you want to be able to wear this watch on a daily basis. Perhaps hand it over to your child when he or she has a certain age.
“The scratches and possible dents on there will be yours and not made by someone else”
Although it might feel more interesting to purchase a vintage Speedmaster today, I think nothing beats buying a new watch and create your own history with it. The scratches and possible dents on there will be yours and not made by someone else in the last few decades. I think your son or daughter will love that even more.
My advice is therefore the following:
Purchase the regular Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’, with Hesalite crystal and stainless steel bracelet. You can wear it with NATO or a nice strap of course. Make it your daily watch, and of course you should be careful with it, but it will get some nice wearing marks over time. This is the perfect gift for your son or daughter in the (far) future. A watch that was worn by his or her dad, and also with his in his or her memory. It will make it even more special when you hand it down.
Now, if there’s still craving for something vintage. I would actually save up and purchase something vintage to wear on the side. Or just wear your grandfather’s Speedy. But if budget allows, have a look at one of the 145.022-71 (the -69 is getting expensive), as it still has the step dial. The later 145.022 models are also perfect of course. You can find more information in our Speedmaster 145.022 Buyer’s Guide on this model. Another interesting consideration would be to buy a early 1990s Speedmaster Professional, the model with caliber 861 (or even 863) with a tritium dial. These 1990s versions tend to have these yellow-ish hour markers and luminous hands. It looks wonderful, and besides the yellow accents you are likely to find one with its original (grey) leather box and papers. These models, also known as reference 3590.50 and 3592.50 (transparent case back) come with a very nice stainless steel bracelet, with reference 1479. According to many enthusiasts, one of the best and nicest looking Speedmaster bracelets ever.
Are you reading this and have a different opinion or advice? Leave it below in the comments.