“The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry” I blame those kids at Fratellowatches.com, with their ‘Speedy Tuesday‘ presentations for corrupting my latest watch ‘scheme’! Once again in a turn fitting of an Ian Flemming novel, I found myself in London on a dreary, dark, cold day – minding my own business. All of the sudden an agent of a worldwide organization bent on my (financial) destruction [Harrods] flashes a glimpse of a watch to me… 3570.50.00, aka the Speedmaster Professional, aka the Moon Watch. The next thing I know, my plan to wear the Seamaster 2535.80 for the full year without discontinuation is somehow spoilt.
Splitting time between two masters indeed! For those of you not fully aware of this by now – I am a person with precious little to do and much, much less in the way of intellect. For me a MAJOR goal for the year 2013 was to simply wear ONE watch to coincide with the Chinese Lunar Calendar… Almost as I began my experiment with watch monogamy was I lead into temptation by ANOTHER Omega. The humble Speedmaster.
Up until last winter I did not ever own a Speedmaster Profesional (…well that’s not really true – I had a really cool X-33… but that’s not really the same thing, is it?) I never saw the real allure behind a watch with an acrylic (excuse me) Hesalite crystal, with an arcane manual wind movement. (A movement that doesn’t even hack, by the way!) And finally, is only nominally water resistant owing to a non-screw-down crown and wide-open pushers for the chronograph. (A voice from the back of the crowd shouts something about all the Panerai watches I’ve owned over the past few years. Security taze that person and usher him out into the back alley.) My point is – in its day – the Speedy Pro must have been a real sight to see! But in the first 13 years of the 21st century it seemed too weak and outdated for me to ever consider owning.
All that invective behind me – I bought one anyway. At Harrod’s. Full price – no discount. I bought the plainest model with the solid caseback and the stainless bracelet. My intention was not just to dislike or feel annoyed with this watch – but rather to hate it. To loathe it. Not just to sell it – but actually GIVE IT AWAY after growing angry and tired with it. Then and only then would I be able to charge into battle singing the praises of the Seiko Automatic Chronograph and pick pointless fights with all those guys who post wristshots on (so-called) “Speedy Tuesday”.
I wound up the movement, calibre 1861, calibrated it to the nearest minute (I really don’t like watch movements that don’t hack!) and strapped the watch on. There is just something inexplicable about the Speedmaster Pro design. A combination of the 42mm case (which must have seemed stupidly large 5 decades ago!) that stark black dial with those white hands and beautifully marked off indexes and that slim, finely printed tachymetric bezel that grabs hold of you and makes you really appreciate how clever it is.
Soon I found myself using the Speedmaster in place of the Seamaster for certain things. Going out for a walk? Why bother to time it at all if you’re only going to use a rotating bezel to get to within the nearest 30 seconds… use the chronograph instead to measure to within less than a second? It was also a very handy tool when my daughter started at a new school; I had to figure out the best times to leave in the mornings and afternoon to get to the campus with enough time to do any of the administrative things (namely pay her tuition!) A week or so with the Speedmaster helped to prove that with no traffic it only takes 15 min to drive. Morning school traffic adds 5-7 min. Rain adds an additional 7 min. (I never said I was launching satellites! I simply said that it was simple and clever to use!) It easily took-over wrist time from the Seamaster – especially with all of the travel. You see, with no date function, and therefore no AM/PM to worry about, setting the Speedmaster in a new timezone is as easy as pulling the crown and ‘rolling’ the minute and hour hands forward to coincide with your new locale.
The design is so clever, in-fact, that with sparsely any modifications since introduced in the heady days after the war and before the space-race it still exists today. Omega have (wisely) treated it like one of the ultimate franchises in the watch industry and gone vertical and horizontal with their derivatives and commemorative editions using newer movement, newer materials.
Omega have cashed in on the whole “First In Space” accolade. Our own Generalissimo Franco Geelen bought one JUST to wear at a Speedy Event!
They have cashed in on its legacy as the first watch worn by astronauts on the moon with a dizzying assortment of retrospective pieces.
They have even enhanced how far ‘out there’ you can go with a Speedmaster by taking the X-33 (the first watch certified by NASA for Manned travel to Mars… something I do all the time!) and revamping it with the SPACEmaster Z-33… a watch so complicated that I deleted the app on my tablet showing me how to use it after struggling to reset a countdown timer!
They have even cashed in on the legacy left behind by the Mark II edition Speedmaster with recent plans to produce an updated version! ( Read here! )
As this is really just an envoy piece to say that everyday that I spent with my Seamaster in my previous article, I also spent with my Speedmaster. I don’t want to dedicate too much real-estate to talking about the specifications of what was really a paramour piece for me. Especially one that it seems everyone else in the watch industry was already in love with before I even got my hands on one last year.
I will sum it up this way:
- Manual Wind non-Chronometer movement? It doesn’t matter – get one.
- Non-hacking movement? It doesn’t matter – get one.
- Acrylic (excuse me again) Hesalite crystal that’s going to get scratched-up constantly? It doesn’t matter. Get some POLYWATCH and then get one.
- Not really water resistant? It doesn’t matter! Get one – and keep it out of the swimming pool!
It has not one single ‘best of breed’ feature (apart from perhaps the dial which is really a work of modern art) that you could point to with confidence when debating with Zenith, Rolex, Breitling aficionados. Instead it combines all of its attributes into one relatively easy to use, easy to read, easy to live with, very captivating watch. Put it in the list with a Casio G-Shock watch, a Rolex Submariner, a Breguet Tourbillon and a Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso as one of those pieces EVERY watch collector needs to own or experience in person to truly appreciate how incredibly diverse the tradition of watchmaking is.