I’ve never been asked to go to the moon. In fact I’ve never even been asked to go into space. I realise these two facts might not surprise you. I imagine either endeavour would be a challenge, not least to the people who would be tasked with getting me there in the first place.
However, despite neither NASA, nor the European Space Agency, seeing fit to call upon my unique skills, if asked, I know which watch I’d wear. There really is only one choice and those of you who know me or have spent any time on my site will know how much affection I have for this iconic, historic, unrivalled watch - the Omega Speedmaster.
Like everyone else, you’ll probably know it as the ‘Moonwatch’. It’s understandable given the fame it acquired as the watch officially “certified for space flight” following a final, gruelling three-way battle with Longines and Rolex.
After all, you don’t go to the moon and then not shout about it. I’m given to understand Neil Armstrong had a passion for farming and teaching in later life and musical theatre in his youth. Hands up those who knew that about the first man to step on the moon’s surface.
Thought not - No, you go to the moon even once and that’s what they put on your Wikipedia page.
Except, that’s not really why I’d have chosen the Speedmaster. I love this watch and would have chosen it for lots of reasons, but it wouldn’t simply be because it was the one all my fellow astronauts adorned. I have my own reasons.
As well as never having been asked to go to the moon (or even in space), I’ve also never been asked to name a watch. Another remarkable oversight I’m sure you’ll agree. But interestingly enough, my passion for this astonishing watch was ignited not by tales of space travels, but by the reputation it held first as the driver’s watch. (personally I might have gone with Time-master, which probably illustrates I’m as ill qualified to name watches as I am to drive spaceships).
Speedmaster was a name given to this watch not for the 6 miles per second it travelled at to escape the earth’s gravity (25,000mph!), but because of its heritage as a pure motorsport watch. To me that’s what it first was and it is still the quintessential track watch.
Its looks, construction, supreme quality and timing versatility makes it the definitive 1950’s/60’s racing timepiece.
That how I first saw it, first appreciated it and first recognised it as perhaps my own personal favourite. And one glance around my collection will tell you how much I love this watch.
Back in 1957, the year of its birth, it was part of the “Professional” collection, alongside the Seamaster 300 and the Railmaster. The ‘Speedy’ was introduced as a racing and sports timepiece with its 1/5th of a second chronograph, reflecting Omega’s position as the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games.
The name ‘Speed’ was chosen because of the tachymeter ring that encircles the dial (this was actually a world-premiere at the time as the Speedmaster was the very first chronograph to take the tachymeter away from the dial and to have it on a bezel outside the crystal).
The rest of the name follows Omega’s convention: ‘Master’ was used for the professionally oriented watches, such as the Seamaster (diving tool) and the Railmaster (antimagnetic tool for engineers). Yet however it came on its name, Omega had given birth to
So how do we judge a classic? For me it has to both hark to its origins and reflect everything of the period it was first conceived (a big tick here for the Speedmaster is the ultimate in mid-century retro chic in my view) But in doing so a classic must also have relevance today and carry a timeless appeal that is reflected in the light revisional touches this watch has endured over the decades. (I’m looking at you too Rolex!) A brand new Omega Speedmaster Professional would be as recognisable to a racing driver in the late fifties as it is to the collector investing in a 2019 moon landing anniversary re-issue. It is an utterly, and ironically, timeless watch from a bygone era of adventure, exploration, risk and pure adrenaline.
From the original 1957 Speedmaster CK2915 through the legendary ST105.012 ‘Moonwatch’, these pieces are, and should be, the very heartbeat of a collection. A true collector breaks down into those who own a Speedmaster and those who are going to own one someday. It’s that important a watch. And oh, is it a beautiful thing to behold! Something that is often overlooked.
The timeless design of the case itself which began as a 37.5mm (huge for its time) and has only crept up in the intervening years by a few mm, pays homage to it’s motorsport heritage. The three iconic sub dials, ever present with tiny detail changes over the decades, have been mimicked by many but never bettered in my opinion.
The baton hands combine utility and aesthetic in a way that proves you can actually have the best of both worlds and the multiple functions of the watch bely the simplicity of design and balance that make this icon instantly identifiable amongst any collection.
A Speedmaster will always jump out and so it should. In my view it occupies a place in the pantheon of watches for a whole raft of reasons. Yes it heralded a number of firsts from the de facto leader in sports timing in the 50’s. Yes it went to the moon and came back safely having played it’s part. But for me, this is the watch I wear on a bright morning, on an empty, as I drop down a gear and look at that utterly beautiful face just daring me to speed and adventure.