The List




The List


Omega Speedmaster


Although there are a small number of people of varying levels of lunacy (pardon the word-play) who still believe that the 1969 moon landing was the world’s greatest hoax, most of us could not fail to be astonished by the achievements of Armstrong et al. That they navigated and travelled the three hundred and eighty thousand kilometres with the assistance of roughly as much computing power as the average Sinclair Spectrum only increases one’s admiration.


On the astronauts’ wrists, as most Omega fans will know, was the Speedmaster; the only watch at the time that was certified by NASA for space flight, following a rigorous testing regime, which resulted in the model being chosen over similar chronographs from Rolex, Breitling and Heuer.

Later on, during the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, the Speedmaster’s accuracy even enabled the astronauts to time the secondary rocket bursts that helped to take the stricken ship back to earth.

But it is not the Speedmaster’s illustrious past that has gained it a place on The List; it is the elegantly simple design that has, apart from a brief foray into 1970s soft edged futurism, remained true to most of its original styling cues for fifty years. A Speedmaster Professional bought today, will differ only slightly, in visual terms, from the ones worn by US astronauts in the 1960s.

Of course, some changes have taken place under the skin; the movement is still manually wound, but is now a cal.861, rather than a cal.321, as was in the watch worn by Aldrin on the moon. Although this may be anathema to some purists, the cal.861 is a more accurate movement than its predecessor, albeit one that is certainly cheaper to produce than the cal.321. In fact, the Speedmaster Professional model with the transparent case-back actually uses a modified version of the cal.861 (the cal.863) that is restyled for better looks (including the replacement of any plastic parts with metal ones.)

Omega has produced innumerable variations on the theme of the Speedmaster over the last forty years, with varying success. There have been Michael Schumacher special editions, models with added complications, such as moon phase functions, and even ones that included a small image of Mickey Mouse on the dial. Avoid these. The Speedmaster is all about simplicity and durability, which means that the Professional is the only version worth having, and even then it must be in steel only; gold watches are, without exception, best left for hip hop stars and South American drugs barons.

The Speedmaster differs from many of the other watches included in The List in its very availability; most upmarket watch retailers will have in stock at least one Professional model. But, somehow, this ubiquity does not taint its reputation. The Speedmaster somehow, despite its popularity, remains a relatively rare sight, certainly in Europe. It has never attained the level of omnipresence that, say, the Rolex Submariner has, despite having a similarly distinguished heritage.

Of course, this is a positive advantage in the context of The List; a watch with both style and providence that does not also adorn the wrist of every ageing playboy in the South of France can only be a good thing.