Home Brands Omega Review: The Speedmaster Moonwatch Co-Axial Chronograph Speeds Into My Heart

Review: The Speedmaster Moonwatch Co-Axial Chronograph Speeds Into My Heart

398
9


In the pantheon of mechanical wristwatches, the Speedmaster holds a high place. Originally built in 1957 as a reaction to the first wrist-worn chronographs coming out of competing houses, the iconic design – white on black with bold, eminently readable chapter rings and pips – the Speedmaster cemented its place in history when Buzz Aldrin wore his on the moon in 1969. Omega has been flogging that relationship ever since, much to the brand’s benefit and Speedmaster fans rabidly hunt for new and old models like madmen intent on owning stars.

Decades later the Speedmaster has maintained this original styling and functionality and, barring a few odd turns taken in the 1970s and 80s, hasn’t strayed far from the white on black design. This new model, the Moonwatch Co-Axial, pays homage first to the watch’s importance in the space race and, second, to the contributions of one of the greatest modern watchmakers, George Daniels.

I wore this watch for a week in China, alternating it with another GMT watch I own, in order to assess the legibility and usability of the piece. I was initially taken aback for reasons that should be clear to any Speedmaster fan. The traditional Speedmaster, the Professional, has four registers – a running seconds hand at 9 o’clock, a minutes register at 3 o’clock, and an elapsed hours register, going up to 12, at six o’clock, as well as a main elapsed seconds hand. To be clear, the main, “long” seconds hand doesn’t register “running” seconds but is activated by the pushers on the right side of the watch. There is no date on the Professional and it has standard baton hands with lume running the length. The Professional looks like this:

The model I’m reviewing today looks like this:

To the average watch buyer, the difference is, at best, cosmetic. However, to the Speedmaster purist (and I hold myself in that esteemed aviary of nerds) the reaction is horror. “What wickedness is this?” you cry. “Where is the hours register?”

Surprisingly, the hours and minutes register are on the same dial. The minutes turns quickly around the dial at 3 o’clock while the hours hand, slightly shorted than the minutes, turns a bit more slowly. You’ll also notice a date window at six o’clock that replaces the original hour register.

This minor change introduces a great deal of skepticism in the average Speedmaster fan but I’m here to tell you not to fear: this Speedmaster is as good or better than any other Speedy you can own. The legibility is excellent and, once you get past the initial shock, the small register change is more than acceptable. I also loved the small date window, an addition that improves the Speedmaster immensely. Even the date font hearkens back to a simpler time, being in a sort of bold, Art Deco style that you rarely see on watches anymore.

Why do I like this watch?

First, the movement is accurate to a fault and the pushers are strikingly improved over the standard Speedmaster. The co-axial escapement by George Daniels reduces the necessity of maintenance considerably thanks to the reduction in lubricant necessary over the life of the piece. As the owner of a Speedmaster Automatic and a few Seamasters, Omega watches require regular maintenance to remain accurate. I expect this watch to offer years of excellent service, whether you’re travelling to space or not.

The watch comes on a steel bracelet or leather strap and is about 44.25mm in diameter – a bold size to be sure. It is water resistant to 100m but it doesn’t have a screw-down crown so I’d be slightly concerned with giving it much of a bath.

Now for the (relatively) bad news. This watch costs about 7,300 Swiss Francs or about $8,060 USD. You’ll notice that I rail against conspicuous consumption in other posts on this site, as is my prerogative, but I rail against consumption for consumption’s sake. This item is, in short, the epitome of modern horological engineering and mechanics, on par with a handmade Bugatti or, dare I say it, an artifact of equal importance to the lunar lander (at least in terms of horological manufacturing). Non-watch nuts can argue the negative, but the Speedy is a definitive timepiece and deserves at least some modicum of respect.

Where does that leave the beginning collector or, barring that, the fellow who wants a nice watch? Well, I can whole-heartedly recommend this particular Speedmaster without reservation as it takes the best of Omega’s past and future and compresses them into a watch that almost anyone would agree is handsome, bold, and mechanically superior. Watch collectors are an odd bunch, however, so you may want to look at the traditional Professional before diving headfirst into this improvement on the original.

Either way, Omega has, in this watch, remained true to the legacy of the Moonwatch and, more important, improved on their original design without alienating the purist. It’s a hard thing to do – and they haven’t always done it well (see their ridiculous Olympic collection) – and so this Speedmaster is definitely worth a second look.

Product Page

9 COMMENTS

  1. that’s NOT a “Moonwatch”
    and the “change” is horrific, the date is absolutely ridiculous. and. the co-axial; actually; makes the watch weaker, more fragile; and the service intervals are reduced as is the beat. They still had to use lubricant on the co axial to make it run, so that is a misnomer to say that it does NOT use or need service to lubricate the parts.
    And the last iteration of the co axial had serious service issues — so much so that they had to start lubricating them and had to reduce the beat, making it less accurate.
    the co axial movement is a failure, and about as useful as a tourbillon.
    the price? is also ridiculous; this watch is NOT worth 8 000 dollars; the last co axial Speedy cost 5 000. Especially seeing the precarious future servicing and reliability of an unproven and known design flawed timepiece.

    • They added lubricant to act as a micro-cushion for the pallet since George Daniels had originally used gold which was softer. Other than that, the escapement needs no lubrication though the rest of the movement still does (hence the normal service schedule). This means that, even when the oil has deteriorated, the watch will still keep time.

      Also, Daniels always maintained that the beat rate should be lowered. Omega ignored him. Omega were wrong but eventually corrected themselves. The lowering of the beat rate didn’t make it less accurate. Just because higher beat rates have often been used to boost stability in lever escapements, it doesn’t automatically follow that a new type of escapement will be less accurate because it has a lower rate. It is inherently more stable than a swiss lever if both are poised and balanced to the same level.
      The last Speedy co-axial cost less because the escapement was attached to a warmed-over Piguet movement. It wasn’t a ground-up, hi-tech movement built around the co-axial escapement.

      And, while it’s true that there is a lot of automation in the production of a modern Omega or Rolex, if you think that they don’t get touched by a human hand then you have absolutely no idea how these watches are made.

  2. and; this watch is NOT “handmade” — hands don’t touch it; they are machine . made; just like every Rolex and SMP/PO.45 and Breitling is.

  3. @ Dgbakercan, while you are right it is not a pure ‘moonwatch’ but it sure has the DNA and more importantly, while it is again true that it is not hand-made, it is an absolutely ASTOUNDINGLY pretty watch for MANY people’s taste and indeed it is a ‘great’ movement that you are unnecesarily bashing…imagine dude, the inventor of co-ax was enknighted by the British Queen…it is not a joke in terms of achievement!!! so chill my friend, it is a BEAUTIFUL watch by a very historic maker…cut the marketing devil some slack..the fact that the product is BRILLIANT is not changed by the fact that the marketing department would embellish it to be termed the MOST BRILLIANT 😛

  4. Comprehensive review! I was looking for a review on this watch and I found here. I plan to buy one this month.

    Thank you..

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.