Why I Bought The New Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Sapphire Sandwich
On the first Tuesday of 2021, Omega unveiled a slew of new Speedmaster Moonwatch references. Among which were the surprising proprietary Sedna (rose) gold and Canopus (white) gold models. But to its core, Omega kept things straightforward with the stainless steel Moonwatch. In the steel guise were four references with either Hesalite or sapphire crystal on the front glass. Each choice of crystal also had the option of a steel bracelet or strap. But only one reference ended up on my wish list. And it was compelling enough for me to sell my beloved First Omega in Space to own it. I am talking about the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Co-Axial Master Chronometer reference 310.30.42.50.01.002. Or, as I like to call it, “Sapphire Sandwich.” Why did I choose this version, and do I regret selling the FOiS? Read on to find out.
Along with unveiling the new generation Speedmaster, there was a bit of housekeeping on Omega’s website. Previously many Speedmasters that did not bear any resemblance to the watches worn on the Moon were labeled as “Moonwatch.” This misaligned categorization was always confusing as the Speedmaster did not start as a space-faring timepiece. Five years into its life, a Speedmaster got a taste of being beyond the stratosphere with the CK2998 in 1962. But from 1957, the Speedy was still a driver’s chronograph.
Let’s begin with a bit of housekeeping
Omega made the right choice in splitting out the Speedmaster into categories such as Heritage, Dark Side of the Moon, and so on. Separating the styles leaves the Moonwatch to stand prominently as a distinct collection. I mention this as my First Omega in Space that pays homage to the CK2998 also found itself in the Moonwatch category. While the CK2998 paved the way for the Professional series to receive NASA flight qualification, it never once brushed against moon dust particles.
The FOiS was a successful watch with around 16,000 individually numbered pieces.
Even so, the FOiS was a watch I was proud to own for six years. It paid a special fifty-year tribute to Walter Schirra’s Mercury-Atlas 8 mission and distinguished itself as a thinking-fan’s Speedmaster. It was a successful model with an eight-year run and around 16,000 individually numbered pieces. But it was around December; rumors began swirling that the Speedmaster First Omega in Space was to discontinue. Ceasing the production of the FOiS had me questioning what we had in store on the first Tuesday of January.
The next generation Speedmaster Moonwatch
I appreciated many features about the FOiS such as the applied logo, deep sub-dials, and pared-back dial. But it let me down on a few occasions. I found myself walking home late one night after an office party. It was late enough that disturbing my wife’s slumber was a life or death situation. So it was imperative that I knew the exact time and how much trouble I would be in with the wife. My phone battery was dead, so my watch was my only time-telling device. Under a street lamp and articulating my wrist, I could not read the time on the FOiS. The polished alpha hands against the black backdrop under dim lighting did not offer the legibility for my slightly inebriated vision.
As with the Calibre 321 revival in 2019, and the Ed White in 2020, the Moonwatch news broke on the first Tuesday of 2021.
When the announcement came that the Speedmaster was getting a makeover, I was all ears. As with the Calibre 321 revival in 2019, and the Ed White in 2020, the Moonwatch news broke on the first Tuesday of 2021. RJ brilliantly covered all the updates to the new Moonwatch. But I already knew it was the sapphire model that I was setting my sights on.
What made the new Moonwatch so compelling?
The new generation Speedy seemingly oozed attention to detail only seen in special and limited edition models. It was based on the fourth-generation Speedmaster case, namely the reference 145.012 “Michael Collins” with bolder pushers, stepped dial, DON bezel, and applied logo. The stepped dial allows for more recessed sub-dials, a bit like moon craters, that reminded me of the First Omega in Space.
Should I sell my First Omega in Space to fund this new watch?
The sapphire model also had the applied logo in the modern typeface similar to the 2012 First Omega in Space. Combining my favorite features of the FOiS with the far more legible white baton hands and upgraded Calibre 3861 movement led me to a difficult decision. Should I sell my First Omega in Space, the first Speedmaster I ever owned, to fund this new watch? With the discontinuation rumor mill spinning, the FOiS prices were already creeping up, making it even more tempting. Keeping both was not an option as I had other expensive transactions on the go in my personal life.
Selling the FOiS for a sapphire sandwich
So, I decided to sell the FOiS, and it was a swift and straightforward process via Chrono24. But it would be a while until I would buy the new Moonwatch. After only online watch purchases for the entirety of 2020, including the Breitling Chronomat, Oris Divers Sixty-Five, and Longines Heritage Classic, I yearned for the in-person retail experience, just as Andreas said yesterday. So I waited until the weekend following the re-opening of non-essential stores in the UK before pulling the trigger. It was also from a retailer that I bought the First Omega in Space from in 2015.
Coming to the store, I knew the sapphire Speedy was the watch for me. But I still wanted the celebratory glass (or few) of champagne, bracelet sizing, and that buzz that follows. Following the purchase, a few things became apparent to me. The watch is listed as a 42mm diameter case size. In actuality, the visual dimension of the prominent stepped bezel is 40mm, with 42mm, including the asymmetrical crown guards. It got me thinking about my other watches. My Breitling Chronomat 42 “Frecce Tricolori” is 42mm on the bezel (not including the screws) but is 46mm with the crown guards. So goes to show the variance in how watch brands specify measurements.
How the new Moonwatch bracelet feels
The most overt change to the Speedmaster was the bracelet overhaul. The five-link construction resembled the outgoing bracelet to the untrained eye, which served as the Speedmaster design since 1996. But it doesn’t take long to spot the differences. The most dramatic change is the tapering from 20mm at the lugs to the 15mm clasp. The clasp is still a little wider than the 14mm of the Moonshine Apollo XI, of which this bracelet shares a similar aesthetic. But reading the stats, I was a little concerned about the clasp feeling too delicate.
In comparison with my Oris Divers Sixty-Five, this watch had the same 20mm lug end that tapered down to 16mm. I felt this was small already, yet the new Speedy clasp was even narrower at 15mm. However, when I tried it on, the deployant felt sturdy and balanced — visually and ergonomically. Considering the taper of the bracelet, it was well proportioned.
The Nixon bracelet also uses female end links from the lugs, which helps it articulate and contour to the wrist. Using male end links on the older bracelet often protrudes the links from the lugs, preventing the bracelet from gradually dropping down. Omega also gives the option for fully brushed links on the Hesalite version. The Hesalite bracelet looks nice, but similar to RJ when he discussed the Grand Seiko White Birch, the little bit of contrast finish “adds a bit more depth.” Another reason why I was veering towards the sapphire version with the polished inlays. However, the smaller links on the Nixon-style bracelet optically reduce the amount of polished space. My final praise for the new bracelet is the lip underneath the case. This extra step allows the end link to slot firmly in place without incorporating the tabs that protrude to hold the end-link in place that may also scratch the lugs’ underside.
A movement on full display
For some, the biggest upset was that only the sapphire model had the transparent case-back. While the Calibre 3861 was introduced in 2019, this is the first time the mechanism is on full display within a stainless steel case. And being this is my first Speedmaster with a transparent case-back, the view is worth the exhibition window. When I got the new Speedmaster, we shared it on our Fratello IG account (follow us if you haven’t already). We welcomed the 3,000 likes and many positive comments. But it didn’t take long for followers to question why I went for the sapphire version and not the Hesalite. I prefer the doming and clarity of the Hesalite and the closer connection to the space program. But I figured it was far simpler to swap the sapphire glass for Hesalite at a later stage, rather than adding the sapphire case-back to the Hesalite model.
Having Calibre 3861 visible makes the difference. While lucky owners of the Moonshine Apollo XI were able to gaze upon the Geneva stripes, anglage, and straight grain polishing, it was nice for steel owners to get the same view. The upgrades, including co-axial escapement and Master Chronometer certification, were a selling point but not tangible benefits. When it comes to the hacking seconds, however, this was a real plus.
Ultimately, I am delighted with pulling the trigger on the new Moonwatch. Selling the First Omega in Space was a tough pill to swallow. But in all honesty, if I still had both, the FOiS would spend a good proportion of its time in the box. Many have been criticizing the sharp undersides of the case of the new Moonwatch. To the touch, it can feel sharp, but it never once caused discomfort and was no different to watches such as the Tudor Black Bay. Maybe beveled edges would soften that area of the case, but I prefer the distinct sections of the case profile. In contrast, the bracelet is silky smooth and has the majority of contact with the skin.
With hacking seconds, applied logo, sapphire case-back, and stunning bracelet, the new Moonwatch checked many boxes for me. The watch is available from many retailers and Omega boutiques for €7,000. You can find more details on the Omega website here.