Every Tuesday on my website, www.fratellowatches.com, we tackle a topic related to Omega Speedmaster watches. This article comes to us from the “Speedy Tuesday” archives, and focuses on my opportunity to review, compare and contrast the modern Omega Speedmaster Mark II with its vintage predecessor from 1969.
After the Omega Speedmaster Professional won the race to the Moon in 1969, Omega thought it was time to come up with a watch that was perhaps a bit more up-to-date and ready for the 1970s — design-wise, that is, as the watch would still need to handle the same abuse as the Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch” could. Sometime in 1969, Omega introduced the first Speedmaster Mark II, which was actually a Speedmaster Professional Mark II. (For non-native-English-speaking readers: the “Mark” in the name stands for a new or revised/improved version; it is similar to calling something a “2.0 version” these days.) The Speedmaster Mark II came with the same Lemania-based movement as the Moonwatch, Reference 145.022. This movement is Omega’s Caliber 861 and was in production from 1968 through about 1996, when it was succeeded by the Caliber 1861 movement. The Speedmaster Mark II had a barrel-shaped case that looked totally different from the asymmetrical Speedmaster Professional case. The regular Speedmaster, which was issued to NASA astronauts, was still in production, however. Throughout all the Speedmaster Mark series, the regular Speedmaster Pro remained available (and, of course, remains so today).
When Omega ceased production of the Speedmaster Mark II in 1972, the Mark III already had been introduced. The Speedmaster Mark III was succeeded by the Mark IV in 1973. Then there is the Mark 4.5 (which is a Mark IV with a different movement, an Omega Caliber 1045), which came on the market in 1974. The last one of the Speedmaster Mark series is the Mark V, introduced around 1984. Confusing, right? There are even more models in between and some slight variations on the above. In any case, Omega decided to do a Speedmaster Mark II reissue in 2014, and we noticed that the watches were already in the Omega boutiques before their official introduction at Baselworld 2014. Just like the original Speedmaster (Professional) Mark II watches, there are a few variations available of the Omega Speedmaster Mark II Co-Axial 2014 models. There is a black-dial version and a racing-dial version as well as a Speedmaster Mark II “Rio 2016” Olympic Games edition (pictured below) that we saw during our appointment with Omega.
As you can see on the photo of the Speedmaster Mark II Racing (below), the barrel-shaped case and bracelet are very similar to those on the original version. We will come to that comparison later on. If you take a closer look, you will notice that the dial is somewhat different from the original. The racing track is a bit different from the original, which had a red outer track and an orange Omega logo at 12 o’clock. However, the biggest differences are perhaps in the text on the dial and the fact that the new Speedmaster Mark II 2014 model has a date aperture. Instead of a no-date, hand-wound chronograph movement – like the one that is still being used in the Speedmaster Professional 357x.xx series – Omega decided to use its Caliber 3330 movement. This movement has a column-wheel mechanism, a co-axial escapement, an Si14 silicon balance spring and a power reserve of 52 hours. It has little similarity with the original movement, except for the tri-compax layout of the dial, of course.
People have asked us about the base movement for Omega Caliber 3330, as it is not one of Omega’s in-house-developed chronograph movements (the Caliber 93xx series). We tend to think that it is based on some ETA caliber that has been tailored for exclusive use by Omega only, hence the Si14 balance spring and co-axial escapement. It is understandable that Omega decided to use this movement. It is probably not a watch for the purist – although it is an awesome timepiece – but more for someone who loves vintage watches but wants to wear something new. There also may be some collectors who just feel that they need a piece like this in their Speedmaster collection. We believe that the target audience, though, is the guy who loved seeing the vintage Speedmaster Mark II on the wrist of his father or grandfather and has decided to go with a similar timepiece with all the modern technology inside. For the purists, there are still some great pre-owned vintage Speedmaster Mark II models out there that are priced attractively.
So, would you opt for the old, original Omega Speedmaster (Professional) Mark II or would you rather have one of the modern versions? We’ve put the old Speedmaster Mark II Ref. 145.014 next to the new Ref. 3126.96.36.199.01.001 and show you the optical differences between the two. (We’ve already discussed the movements a bit so need to compare those.) The dimensions of the contemporary Speedmaster Mark II are 42.4 mm x 46.2 mm, whereas the vintage model measured 41.75 mm x 45 mm. This means that the newer model is slightly bigger, which is evident in the photos below.
On the dial, you will notice that – besides the date window, obviously – there are other differences between these two. It seems that the new Omega Speedmaster Mark II with the matte black dial has the same graphics printed on it as the racing version, with the exception of the use of orange for some of its accents. The minute track and hour markers are quite different from the Speedmaster Mark II 145.014 model. It is clear that the old model has a dial that is more similar to the Speedmaster Pro “Moonwatch” than to its 45-years-younger successor. The hands have also changed a bit, and are now a mixture between the original Speedmaster hands and the Speedmaster Mark III hands. Although the vintage Mark II in the photos is a bit roughed up, you can clearly see the similarities between the style of finish on the case and bracelet. The polished edges on the case give a superb contrast to the sunburst brushed finish of the upper side of the case. Keep in mind that the Speedmaster Mark II’s sunburst brushed finish is a magnet to scratches – this doesn’t have anything to do with the material, only with the type of finishing – and it will require a pretty good watchmaker to deal with this. In any case, we’d advise you to have this finish redone by Omega, which has the proper machines and knowledge.
The bracelet clasp is also something that you will immediately notice when comparing these two. The old steel clasp is just a straightforward folding buckle whereas the new clasp is in line with all the other modern Omega clasps — two release buttons and easy to resize. Again, the one you’d choose depends on your personal preferences and whether buying a vintage watch is in your comfort zone. Buying a nice vintage watch of any kind will require a bit of research. For the modern guy who merely wants a modern watch with a cool, vintage look, today’s Omega Speedmaster Mark II Co-Axial might be the right choice. The black dial version is Reference 3188.8.131.52.01.001 and has a price tag of approx 4,600 euros (including VAT). The orange Speedmaster Mark II racing is Reference 3184.108.40.206.06.001 and has an (approx.) 4,600-euro price tag. A vintage Omega Speedmaster Mark II 145.014 in good condition can be found for below 1,800 euros. For now, that is.
The official presentation on this Speedmaster Mark II watch can be found on the Omega website, where you can switch off the light to see the illumination of the dial and where you can resize the bracelet. What model do you prefer? The vintage Mark II or the new model? Let us know by leaving a comment below; we are curious to know.
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.