This week, we come to the last and arguably the most famous of Omega’s 60th Anniversary Trilogy, the Speedmaster. This newest piece, like the Railmaster and Seamaster anniversary models released alongside it, is a vintage re-issue of the very first Speedmaster that came to market in 1957, a full 12 years prior to the “Moonwatch” touching lunar ground in 1969. This watch was the CK 2915-1 (vintage picture, below), what came to be known as the “Broad Arrow,” and it set out to be the racing chronograph of choice for men who drove fast. Since this first release, the Speedmaster has inspired a massive following both in and out of the watch world, and today stands as one of the most iconic watches on the market today.
This modern re-issue (Ref. 318.104.22.168.01.001) is, like the two other members of the Trilogy, a faithful re-creation of the original watch, but with many benefits bestowed by modern manufacturing. Its steel case is 38.6 mm in diameter, with both polished and brushed facets, all in the traditional slim-lined Speedmaster outline. It uses simple pump pushers and a thick, signed crown with a small vintage Naiad symbol (which somewhat resembles the letter Y; picture below via Fratellowatches) within the center of the Omega logo. Outlining the face is an outer bezel with tachymetric scale, an element that gave the Speedmaster its original claim to fame: the vintage reference was the first watch to have this scale on its outer bezel rather than on its dial. Finally, the watch has a solid caseback featuring the famous Speedmaster seahorse emblem laser-engraved at its center, a 60th Anniversary and limited edition marking, and the specific number for the watch out of the 3,557 total produced.
The re-creation’s black dial is also faithful to the original, yet differentiated in its noticeable use of faux patina for its luminescent accents. With an outer minute ring distinguished at each hour by an emboldened, printed tick mark, along with the double dots added for the 12 o’clock position; the slightly indented subdials for running seconds, and a 30-minute and 12-hour counter; and the “broad arrow hand configuration”— the dial has vintage Omega written all over it. The brand opted to use the applied vintage-style Omega logo and Speedmaster script towards the top of the dial, which is a subtle but handsome touch compared to the larger, printed logos seen on many other modern Speedmasters.
Inside the watch is the manually-wound Omega Caliber 1861, capable of a 48-hour power reserve. Significantly, Omega opted to use this movement — which is an Omega-adjusted and rhodium-plated-finished Lemania 1873 famously known for its presence in the original Moonwatch — instead of a more modern movement. This choice has caused controversy among fans of the watch, with purists arguing it adds to the historical intrigue of the re-edition, and others displeased that the movement is missing some of the technical advancements Omega has become known for, particularly in the areas of magnetic resistance and extreme accuracy. In comparison to the other two watches in the Trilogy, the choice of this movement (pictured below) is an anomaly, as the two others use the modern Omega Caliber 8806, a movement famous for the attributes mentioned above. As I referenced before, the Speedmaster 60th Anniversary Edition will be limited to 3,577 examples, and is currently priced by Omega at $7,250.
Like the other two watches in the anniversary Trilogy, the differences between the original watch and its modern re-creation are minute. Most noticeably, the different levels of finishing and overall manufacturing quality between the two pieces is apparent. The most distinct of these is the quality of the bracelet, which seems sturdier and more luxuriously finished on the modern piece. Yet, this change should come as no surprise, as it’s the difference between a 1957 tool watch and a 2017 luxury collectible. Some of the other changes are seen in the slight enlarging of the crown, giving it a sturdier appearance, and in the more refined tachymetric scale, which uses smaller numerals and more distinguished markings.
Plainly, these differences are inconsequential compared to the overall similarities between the two watches, and the extra attention to detail Omega clearly paid in developing the modern piece. For example, the brand could have opted to use a more modern automatic movement, but it did not, choosing instead a caliber historically relevant to the series. The brand could have added a subtle date window, as it has on other of its “Broad Arrow” re-creations, but it did not, instead sticking with the tried and tested configuration laid out in 1957. Finally, as Robert-Jan Broer at Fratellowatches pointed out, the brand could have opted for a 20-mm bracelet as compared to the 19-mm, but chose against it, opting for historical accuracy over contemporary practices and convenience.
Overall, the brand sought to build a watch that commemorated the 60th Anniversary of one of the most famous watches in the world, and Omega did just that. The company limited it to a 38.6-mm size, gave it a Naiad crown, added only hints of faux patina, and, finally, finished it to such a luxurious level it will undoubtedly become an in-demand watch not only on its historical significance, but on its own merits, too.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which look at the historical inspirations for the Bremont Supermarine Type 301, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first learning about horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.