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Originally created for race car drivers, the Omega Speedmaster was adopted by astronauts, & certified by NASA, earning the title of the first watch worn on the moon. Today the Speedmaster collection contains a vast range of chronograph watches from classic hand-wind models in stainless steel to self-winding references with ceramic cases. View our full selection of used OMEGA watches.
Reaching the level of visibility that the Omega Speedmaster collection now enjoys does not happen overnight. Generations of watchmakers have come and gone, but the Speedmaster, which made its debut in 1957, remains an ever-present superstar.
Icons on pedestals as high as the one occupied by the Speedmaster usually require a little boost from history to reach such status. You don’t get that kind of respect without earning it. And being the first to do something – by luck or design – is always a great way to write your name into the watchmaking history books. Just as Rolex’s position as the market-leading sports watch was confirmed with the creation of a truly water-resistant case in 1926, so too was the Speedmaster forever blessed the moment Buzz Aldrin’s foot hit the surface of the moon (Armstrong, although in possession of a Speedmaster, elected to leave his behind, making Aldrin the first man to wear a watch on the moon).
The “Moonwatch” (a humble Speedmaster Professional) forms the basis of most modern models’ design. Since those high-flying days of 1969, several renditions have been brought out in an attempt to diversify and reinvigorate a collection that needed neither diversification nor reinvigoration. Most have duly departed (with the curious Speedmaster Reduced leaving the collection in 2009), but variety still exists within this supremely popular family, with many current models being made from space-age materials that had never even been mentioned in the context of watchmaking when Apollo XI took the Speedy on the trip of a lifetime.
The Speedmaster enjoys dual fame. Firstly, it is unquestionably one of the industry’s most recognizable models, with a classic NASA-certified Omega Speedmaster Professional being one of a handful of watches you might expect someone from outside the industry to identify correctly. But beyond this, the Speedmaster is also a cult phenomenon, inspiring rabid groups of collectors throughout the industry to obsess over the tiniest details in the model’s development and production.
There is enough history and nuance within the Speedmaster lineage that it is possible to build a collection around nothing but this family (and spend a lifetime tweaking your line-up). For that reason, it is an absolute classic and a model of which the industry and its fans show no signs of tiring.
The Speedmaster’s origins stretch all the way back to the very first wrist-worn chronographs produced by Omega during the 1920s and ‘30s in preparation for Omega’s role as the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games. This technology was refined and miniaturized by the time the first Speedmaster was released in 1957 as part of Omega’s trio of ‘Professional’ watches, alongside the similarly famous Seamaster, and the less-often discussed, antimagnetic Railmaster.
Conceived as a sports chronograph, space travel was not even part of the conversation when development began. Underpinning the model’s relevance to motor racing is the tachymeter bezel, most frequently used for measuring the speed of an object over a known distance. This feature, although perhaps less directly useful for space travel than a Pulsometer or Asthmometer (which might have been useful for astronauts to check their physical condition), has remained virtually unchanged throughout the family’s history and is one of the Speedmaster’s most established attributes.
Another feature of the original Speedmaster watches, which has only recently been updated, was the plexiglass (or hesalite) crystals. Their domed appearance gave the Speedmaster its signature look and, quite unwittingly, played a significant role in the Speedmaster being selected by NASA thanks to its resistance to shattering when exposed to fast-moving Space dust. While scratch-resistant sapphire is now used on the majority of modern Speedmaster watches, Omega still produces a version of the classic Moonwatch that retains its NASA-certification and is fitted with a traditional hesalite crystal.
Several different handsets were used on the Speedmaster before the baton hands used today were settled upon. Along with these aesthetic updates, so too did the early movement – the Cal. 321 – find itself replaced by the 861 in 1968/69 (later replaced by the 1861 which can be found in the current-production version of the NASA-certified Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch). Unusually, however, the watches worn by the Apollo XI crew were fitted with the earlier 321 – an anachronism that collectors are quick to point to in the discussion of what makes a Speedmaster a true moon watch.
In 2019, Omega announced that they would be bringing the legendary Cal. 321 movement back into production. While the revived movement would follow the same architecture of the original from the 1960s, it would benefit from a couple of aesthetic tweaks (such as the use of Sedna gold bridge plating as opposed to copper-based plating) to improve longevity. At the moment, the Caliber 321 is only available in the platinum-cased ref. 3220.127.116.11.99.001 with a retail price of $59,400. Who knows what the future holds for this storied movement reference, but those in the know speculate it is likely Omega will find a way to outfit a stainless steel watch with its resurrected 321 before long.
The modern 318.104.22.168.01.005 is the scion of all classic Moonwatches that came before. An attractive price (for such an established watch) and a host of cool accessories included in the package (a branded loupe, a strap-change tool, two fabric straps (one of which in the same velcro style as used by astronauts), a caseback medallion that doubles as a paperweight, and a gorgeous, fabric-coated presentation chest that, unlike so much packaging in the industry, is actually worth keeping).
In terms of collecting Speedmasters, this is a piece that should either kick-off the pursuit, or join the party as soon as possible. It is the benchmark against which all modern Speedmasters, and many industry chronograph watches are measured.
For those of you that find the asking price of $59,400 a little high for a 321-powered Speedmaster, fear not. While it isn’t really accurate to say any Omega 321 is “cheap” there are certainly more “affordable” models on the pre-owned market if strapping the original movement to your wrist is of importance.
The classic NASA-approved Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch with a hesalite crystal comes at an official retail price of $5,350 - which is a remarkable entry-point for one of the industry’s undeniable stalwarts. On the pre-owned market the same, bog-standard Speedmaster Professional can go as low as $3,500, representing arguably one of the best value for money purchases available in the luxury watch industry.
Some of the newer iterations – made using high-tech materials such as ceramic or Sedna gold – break the five-figure mark, but still offer excellent performance to price ratio. These models feature modern state-of-the-art movements, and can also be picked-up pre-owned at a noticeable savings over retail price.
Rapid appreciation is the norm for strictly limited models, which often sell out within a few hours of release. If you fancy yourself as a true Speedmaster collector, being hot on the button is essential if you have any plans to snare a rare edition. And if you do – no matter what you paid for it – hold onto it for as long as you can – it will be tempting to sell when you see the sky-high asking price of sold-out limited editions on some of the most famous secondary market websites in the world, but those figures are likely to go in one direction only (especially if the watch is aesthetically desirable as well as being scarce in number).
Case in point: The Omega Speedmaster 'Speedy Tuesday' Limited Edition was restricted to 2,012 pieces and priced at $6,500 when it was released almost three years ago. It sold out in four and a half hours. Nowadays, the average price for one of these beauties on the resale market is well over $9,000. As far as material investments go in the modern world, that’s about as good as it gets.
Below is a table outlining the retail prices of current-production Omega Speedmaster watches.
|Model||Reference||Case Size & Materials||Retail Price (MSRP)|
|42mm; Stainless Steel||
|Speedmaster Mark II Co-Axial Chronograph||
|42.4mm; Stainless Steel||$6,250|
|Speedmaster '57 Co-Axial||322.214.171.124.01.002||41.5mm; Stainless Steel||$9,000|
Speedmaster '57 Co-Axial
41.5mm; 18k Gold
|Speedmaster Racing Co-Axial||3126.96.36.199.04.001||40mm; Stainless Steel||$4,800|
Speedmaster Racing Co-Axial Master Chronometer
|3188.8.131.52.01.002||44.25mm; Stainless Steel||$8,750|
|Speedmaster 38 Co-Axial||3184.108.40.206.02.002||38mm; 18k Gold + Steel||$9,300|
|Skywalker X-33||3220.127.116.11.01.001||45mm; Titanium||$5,900|
In regards to brand partnerships, it doesn’t get much bigger or grander than the Olympic games. Omega’s relationship with the Olympics began in 1932, and since then, it has been the official timekeeper for 26 Olympic events, only occasionally ceding to brands such as Seiko and TAG Heuer. In addition to providing essential services to the competing athletes, Omega also produces several Olympic-themed watches for the buying public.
As well as its involvement with the Olympics, Omega’s long-term association with golf is renowned. Omega has sponsored the PGA of America, the Dubai Desert Classic, and the Omega European Masters. As such, it is common to see many golfers sporting Omega watches as they make their way around the fairways.
Perhaps the most famous golfing ambassador for Omega is Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy. The three-time major winner proudly wears a Speedmaster (as well as several other models from his collection). While McIlory’s career trajectory has often threatened the stratosphere, it has never reached the once-thought unreachable heights of Omega’s most famous spokesperson, Buzz Aldrin.
When you’re an aspiring astronaut growing up with a mother whose maiden name was Moon, you can be forgiven for thinking that fate is on your side. Perhaps that is what imbued the young Edwin Aldrin to pursue his dream. An excellent student, Buzz (as he became legally known in 1988 following years of the nickname trumping his given name) was more interested in flying airplanes. After earning a place on the Apollo program, Aldrin got more than his wish, when he and fellow crewmen Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins were selected to journey to the moon. Their successful mission inspired an entire generation, and Buzz went on to become Omega’s most famous face.
George Clooney grew up with his eyes trained on stars like Buzz Aldrin and it is unlikely he ever dreamed that he would become one of the leading lights of Hollywood. His filmography and list of accolades dwarf most in the industry. A proud Omega wearer and true lover of exploration and endeavor, Clooney straddles the elegant high-society in which he plies his trade, and the gritty, workmanlike ambition of those behind some of the brand’s most revered models.
What model to choose from the vast array of available Speedmaster watches really comes down to your purchase motivations. Are you an experienced or neophyte collector looking to make a splash with a money-is-no-object kind of attitude? If so, the pre-owned marketplace is a fairground of opportunities. But for those who love the aesthetic but not the prices associated with the classic models, buying one of the newer references (or one of the less popular models from the past) may be the way to go.
If wearability is paramount and movement provenance doesn’t matter to you, then the petite Speedy Reduced (produced from the late eighties until 2009) is a very cost-effective option, with plenty of pre-owned pieces available starting around $2,500. It’s a handsome, wearable piece, but it won’t garner the same level of collector kudos as a standard Moonwatch (although that’s not to say it won’t find its feet in the second-hand market in years to come as people start to warm up to its quirky charms).
In addition to the Speedmaster Reduced, there are plenty of odd iterations of the Speedmaster line that have been released and retired over the years. Browsing through the pages of the Bob’s Watches Omega department will no doubt bring back fond memories of some models time seems to have forgotten. But on some occasions, the revisionism of history is very much to its detriment. Who can forget the 6/9/12 layout of reference 3210.50.00, the angular case of Speedmaster Mark II reference 518.104.22.168.01.001 released to commemorate the Rio Olympics in 2016, or the blue bi-compax dial of reference 322.214.171.124.03.001. These may not be occupying top-spots on collectors’ wish-lists, but that means they offer entry to the Speedmaster family at an extremely attractive price point.
An extremely attractive option would be to chase down one of the many limited Speedmaster models being produced by Omega at the moment. Some of the most popular examples have been created in collaboration with the “Speedy Tuesday” community started by Dutch online magazine Fratello Watches in 2012. The downside? You have to be quicker on the trigger than the Sundance Kid to snare one of these fleetingly-available beasts. Chances of picking up Speedy Tuesday limited editions on the resale market are slim (and hotly contested when they arise), so if you want one, be prepared to camp out in front of your laptop as time ticks down towards the release date and be ready to pay the full price (and be happy about it).
But above all others, the classic Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch” is the place to start. Reference 3126.96.36.199.01.005 is powered by the Lemania-based 1861 movement, comes on an exquisite steel bracelet, and is packaged in one of the most impressive watch boxes you’re likely to see. You can choose to switch out the steel bracelet for the leather strap (but considering the price difference, you would have to be crazy to do that rather than just buying the leather strap separately), or to sub out the classic hesalite crystal and closed case back in favor of sapphire display windows, but for many, the traditional closed design is the one that real purists lust after.