FROM FRATELLO WATCHES

Comparative Review: The Modern and Vintage Omega Speedmaster Mark II


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).

Omega Speedmaster Mark II Racing

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.

Speedmaster Mark II "Rio 2016" Olympic Games edition

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.

Omega Speedmaster Mark II Racing

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.

Omega Speedmaster Mark II - side view
Omega Speedmaster Mark II Rio 2016 - back
Omega Speedmaster Mark II - back

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. 327.10.43.50.01.001 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.

Omega Speedmaster Mark II vintage vs. new - side-by-side
Omega Speedmaster Mark II vintage vs. new - on wrist

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.

Omega Speedmaster Mark II vintage vs. new - stacked
Omega Speedmaster Mark II vintage vs. new - sides

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 327.10.43.50.01.001 and has a price tag of approx 4,600 euros (including VAT). The orange Speedmaster Mark II racing is Reference 327.10.43.50.06.001 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.

Omega Speedmaster Mark II vintage vs. new - clasps

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.

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18 Responses to “Comparative Review: The Modern and Vintage Omega Speedmaster Mark II”

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  1. John Woloszyn

    The 1st and 3rd pictures of the Speedmaster II Racing above look identical to the watch my parents gave me upon graduating from law school in 1969. Truly one of my favorite watches. Unfortunately, a steam bath caused internal moisture and corrosion, and I reluctantly through the watch away. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember my watch being an automatic. If memory serves me correctly, the watch was a quartz movement. Could I be wrong?

    Reply
  2. Roland Smith

    I really appreciate this information. I need to have an expert tell me what Speedmaster professional model I have. I think it maybe close in time to the Moonwatch.

    Reply
  3. Hendryana

    i think the omega vintage more point…cause when we used it we will remember how we appreciated the history of this watch

    Reply
  4. Johannes Awondatu

    Well, I like all the Omega watches., as it was my first watch, but could they make a new modes?

    Reply
  5. Shawn

    I would say the real vintage.

    With rapid increase in value of Speedmaster Professional cal. 321 The Omega Speedmaster Mark II is an Excellent investment over time.

    There are no investment vehicles that can outperform vintage watch collecting. Besides they are fun to wear and useful for…..oh ya, telling time!

    Reply
  6. Meir Barac

    I also love the vintage version because of its character . As “vintage” is not the same like true vintage.

    Reply
  7. vintageguy

    for me, vintage rules. If I wanted a current Speedmaster, I’d buy the current MK2. I like the cushion shape more.

    Reply
  8. Geronomo12

    My white lettered 1969 Mark II was my first good watch. I wore it 24/7 for the first 5 years that I owned it. I have over 70 fine timepieces but by chance I happened to be wearing this watch when I opened this site today. I met many of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. This watch is my favorite and means more to me than any other watch.
    My Personal Holy Grail and it is on my wrist right now just like it was 46 years ago. I paid $195 back then. That was the retail price, a full $20 more than the original Speedmaster.

    Reply
  9. JBarstool

    I am under-educated in such matters, but never one to shy from offering an opinion:
    There is no question – the vintage. The lines are softer, more sinuous. Both watches are beautiful, but the – to me – somewhat more sleek, ‘lighter’ vintage just hits all the right spots.

    Reply
  10. Al Booth

    I purchased the new version, and am very impressed. The new track on the outside edge of the dial is lighted from underneath, by a liner of Superluminova. Neat touch.

    And there is no comparison in the bracelets – the old ones feel cheap and flimsy; the new ones are not only solid, with screw adjustable links (finally) but also has Omega’s micro-adjustment buckle that does not require any tools.

    I may look for an old one for my collection, but the new one has it all over the old. Just because something is old/vintage does not necessarily make it better.

    Reply
    • Hello Al,

      Thanks for your comment. Although I don’t believe the comparison is a discussion between good or bad, I do believe that most modern / new watches are per definition better than the vintage ones. However, people buy vintage watches for different reasons than people who buy a new watch. I do love the new Speedmaster Mark II but I decided to go with an old one (as pictured in the article btw). I feel it has a bit more character because it is +40 years old, worn, scratched and I love the hand-wound caliber. The new watch has a lot of advantages, admitted. I love how Omega executes their re-editions, it is done in a great way.

      Enjoy your Speedy Mark II!

      Reply
  11. Martin Walport

    The new MKII is without doubt a fabulous watch with impressive improvements, but if you wish an investment I would still put my money in a vintage model.
    You could probably buy two decent examples for the price of the new version, and they are bound to rapidly increase in value.
    But hurry, as I would suggest the introduction of the new MKII, will increase interest in the vintage examples?

    Reply
    • Hello Martin,

      Till now, I haven’t seen a big increase in prices of the vintage Mark II. Something I would have expected, but it is not happening (yet).

      RJ

      Reply
      • Albert Kotzé

        Hello Robert-Jan, I notice a definite increase in the price of the Mark IIs over the last 2 years. They were selling for around $1200 for perhaps 6 years and the last 6 months or so they are advertised for over $2000.

        Reply
  12. Evitzee

    My future wife bought me a MKII Speedmaster as an engagement gift back in 1972…..still have it but I don’t wear it anymore. I should put it on and wear it for a change.

    Reply
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