For this week’s Vintage Eye for the Modern Guy, we’re tackling one of the most significant watches in horological history — a universally known, collected, and loved chronograph: the Omega Speedmaster Replica Watches. In 1957, two years before the first American manned mission to explore the moon, the very first Speedmaster was produced and labeled Reference CK 2915. The watch was originally marketed as a racing chronograph, targeting men with sports cars. That chronograph, below, although the first and often most valuable, was not the watch that made Omega an icon.
In the early 1960s, NASA engineers tested the Speedmaster reference ST105.012 alongside watches from Rolex, Longines, and Wittnauer for a variety of space-qualification tests. They evaluated each watch’s ability to withstand intense shock, sky-high and below-freezing temperatures, unfathomably massive pressures, and decompression — and all of this while still reliably telling time. In July 1969, the champion of these tests, the Cheap Replica Watches, visited the moon as the whole world watched, and earned itself the appropriate moniker, “Moonwatch.”
Today, the Speedmaster is no longer a single collection but rather a collection of eight distinct sub-series that bare the famous name. Together these are the Moonwatch, Speedmaster ’57, Mark II, Racing, Speedmaster, HB SIA, Skywalker X-33, and Spacemaster Z-33. Comprising many different movements, 10 case sizes, and anywhere from zero to three subdials, there are currently 80 different Speedmaster variations. For brevity, we’ll focus on two specific models — the Speedmaster ’57 and the Cheap Omega Replica.
This is a good watch. I could be more artisanal in the words I choose to describe it, but at the most basic level this is a really good watch. Is it the same as the original? No, but it does do quite a bit to match it. Details that were overlooked in the 1950s are now accented to a new definition, and all these changes came together in an attractive contemporary watch. And yet, the actual piece has a very different look from the original. In fact, there are so many differences between the vintage and modern variations of the watch that it almost seems odd that Omega Replica refers to the modern watch as “’57.” The general color scheme and design are similar, but it’s three subdials versus two plus a date window; it’s an understated tachymeter, logo, and pushers versus a central component of the watch; even the steel bracelets are quite different. Maybe this is the natural progression of a timepiece, but considering it’s only a fifty-year hiatus, it seems an odd decision to make such dramatic and noticeable changes.
The Moonwatch Professional line displays the continued production of a legendary watch. Omega stuck to its guns and has matured with age: the dial is aesthetically reminiscent of the original’s, and the movement has been altered only ever so slightly for precision, durability, and finesse. Truthfully, I can find little issue with the Professional. There is a reason why, since 1969, Omega Replica Watches have catered to every piloted mission by NASA to the moon. The watch has rightfully earned the honor, and continues to prove it by demonstrating both technical prowess and a timelessness few other watches have achieved.
It may not seem like it, but I have a real soft spot for Omega. It’s hard not to fall in love with the timelessness of the brand’s classic pieces, and for that reason I find myself wishing that Omega would proceed with more caution in its celebrity promotions, expansion of model options, and promotion of its own heritage. The Cheap Omega Replica was the first watch on the moon not because it had a color combination for every personality, or because George Clooney said it should be, but rather because it was the most suitable watch for the demanding task at hand. NASA, one of the most accomplished engineering organizations of all time, wanted a tool it could rely on and simply would not settle for any less.