The Omega Speedmaster has always been a favorite of watch lovers, and it’s seen increased attention thanks to some record-breaking auction results, not to mention the sheer insanity surrounding the MoonSwatch release.
It’s the first “nice” mechanical watch for many enthusiasts, and for some, it’s the only watch they’ll ever own. Let’s discuss some key points to keep in mind if you’re considering purchasing an Omega Speedmaster. There’s even a slightly controversial one towards the end.
1. The Size of the Omega Speedmaster
First up, let’s talk about sizing. If you’ve had the chance to get hands-on with a lot of watches, then you’ll know that the numbers on paper don’t always correspond to how a watch feels on the wrist. And if you read articles online on the subject of watch sizing, then you’ll know that the Omega Speedmaster is often cited as a timepiece that’s a little deceptive.
On paper, a Speedmaster Professional typically measures 42 mm in diameter, 47 mm lug-to-lug, and 13 mm in thickness. Although that sounds big, the final product feels more compact. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the 42-mm diameter includes the crown guards, but the bezel width is only about 40 mm, meaning the Speedmaster wears more like a 40-mm timepiece. Second, the 13-mm thickness includes the domed crystal and caseback. When you’re wearing the watch, these elements will largely disappear, leaving you with the case middle as the main element, which is quite thin.
2. The Real Omega Speedmaster, aka “Professional Primacy”
I’m calling the next point “Professional Primacy.” As a long-running model with a rich history, it’s no surprise that there are a ton of Omega Speedmaster variations on the market. These include the classic Omega Speedmaster Professional, automatic versions like the Speedmaster Reduced, moonphase versions, calendar models, Olympic Speedmasters, anniversary Speedmasters, some funky 1970s models, and much more. And, like any watch with a robust lineup, there is a bit of hierarchy to be aware of.
A former colleague of mine (with rather strong opinions) once said, “An automatic Speedmaster is NOT a Speedmaster!” I don’t necessarily agree with that statement, but I would recommend starting your Omega Speedmaster journey with the classic, manually-wound Speedmaster Professional. With so many variations and limited editions on the market, it can help to start things off grounded in the center of the catalog before working your way outwards to the fringes. Plus, there are always people looking to buy pre-owned Speedmasters, so selling one later on down the road won’t be hard.
Here’s a quick point on lume. Around 1997, Omega switched the luminescent material on the Speedmaster from tritium to LumiNova. Rolex has a similar “lume timeline” as well, which is important to keep in mind for two somewhat opposing reasons. If you value visibility in low-light conditions, then choose a Speedy made after the year 1997. But if you love the warmth and character of vintage tritium, then choose a Speedy from an era prior to this.
4. Servicing the Omega Speedmaster
Let’s talk maintenance. Watches are machines, and all machines need a tuneup every now and then. Robert Jan-Broer, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Fratello Magazine, Mr. Speedy Tuesday, and the Internet’s foremost expert on Omega Speedmasters, recommends getting them serviced once every seven years on average. If a Speedmaster is your daily driver, and you’re putting more miles on it, you may want to have it checked out a little more frequently. If it’s one watch in a larger collection, then you can go longer without a service.
5. Parts and Originality
The Omega Speedmaster has been in production for over 60 years now, with countless references popping up along the way. Many elements will change from reference to reference, including movements, hand shapes, bezel styles, crown guards (or lack thereof), lume types, caseback styles, crystals, logos, etc. These are relatively minor differences at the end of the day, but since watch collecting is all about the details, it’s helpful to know what combination you prefer most. And perhaps more importantly, it’s helpful to know that the watch you’re getting has the correct parts, especially if it’s a vintage model.
6. Omega Speedmaster Water Resistance
This is going to be the most controversial point in this article, but yes, you can technically swim with an Omega Speedmaster on your wrist. If you follow watch memes on Instagram, then you’ll likely have seen a meme or two (or hundreds) about the Speedmaster’s lack of water resistance. Many think the watch that went to the moon can’t handle a casual swim. This has some truth to it, and I would not recommend swimming with a vintage Omega Speedmaster with 30 meters (3 bar, 98 feet) of water resistance, or one that hasn’t been pressure tested in the last couple of years. But modern Speedmasters are water-resistant to 50 meters (5 bar, 164 feet), which is considered safe for a dip in the pool. Just make sure not to use the pushers or crown when it’s submerged, or else your Speedmaster may turn into, well, a Seamaster.
Now that that’s settled, let’s wrap this up. This has been a quick introduction to the main things to keep in mind if you’re considering purchasing an Omega Speedmaster. Your dream Omega Speedmaster is out there waiting for you!