The Omega Speedmaster’s illustrious history began more than 60 years ago in 1957, which turned out to be a seminal year for the brand that saw the release of not only the watch that would give birth to the first watch to visit the moon but also the Seamaster and Railmaster lines. And while the Omega Speedmaster Professional’s legacy is long and well-documented, having spent a huge amount of time in the press this year following the 50th anniversary of the moon landings in 1969, there is a slim, oft-forgotten chapter to this story that we want to focus on today: The emergence and disappearance of the Omega Speedmaster Reduced (core reference 3510.50.00).
If you haven’t heard of the “Reduced”, don’t worry. It’s not been available for the best part of a decade (having been discontinued around 2009/2010). While it was available, it was often seen as the “lite” version of the Speedmaster Professional, not just because of its smaller size (it measured 39mm wide instead of 42mm), but also because of the ways in which it departed from the original design with the intention of making the Speedmaster line more affordable and suitable for a modern market that demanded automatically-wound timepieces.
The Omega Speedmaster Reduced is not just a smaller Speedmaster Professional.
Omega Speedmaster Professional vs. Omega Speedmaster Reduced
Under the hood, the Speedmaster Reduced used an automatic ETA base caliber (2890-A2) that was upgraded to include chronograph functionality by way of a dial-side module made by Dubois-Dépraz (thus becoming the Omega Caliber 3220). This differed massively from the Speedmaster Professional, which was famously a hand-wound caliber with an integrated chronograph mechanism. While purists may not regard the Reduced as worthy of true Speedmaster status because of this, the change in the movement had a few interesting knock-on effects aesthetically, which should be noted when making a purchase decision.
The Omega Speedmaster Reduced uses a modular chronograph movement.
Firstly, whenever a bolt-on module like the Dubois-Dépraz 2020 is used (which was featured in the original Reduced models released in 1988), it affects the arrangement of the pushers and the crown. If you look at the Reduced model side-on, you will notice that the pushers sit slightly higher than the winding crown, rather than in a straight line as you would expect to see on an integrated chronograph. This is because the pushers and the crown are engaged with what are effectively two separate mechanisms geared to run on the same power source.
Secondly, the sub-dial layout is different. At first glance, the Speedmaster Reduced is clearly a Speedmaster, but just how much it varies from the Professional model doesn’t become apparent until the two are placed side-by-side. At which point the differences are patent. And there is a lot of them! The sub-dials of the Reduced are spaced out around the dial far more than the tri-compax cluster of the Professional, and this is doubly affecting due to the smaller case size. It gives the impression that the movement of the Reduced model is trying to bust its way free of the case, while the calm serenity of the Professional is marked in comparison.
Side by side, the differences between the two watches become a lot easier to identify.
Another stark difference between the two dials of these similar Omega watches is the presence of five-minute numerals on the Reduced model, which are completely absent on the Professional. With the smaller dial, this makes the display of the Reduced much more cluttered, but not in an unpleasing way.
Whether or not this resonates with you comes down to personal preference. If you are looking to add a Speedmaster to your collection and you prefer smaller diameters, automatic movements, and “active” dials rather than clean and simple displays, the Reduced might be a good option.
Perhaps the most attractive aspect of this extinct model for collectors that fit the above criteria is the fact it is far more affordable on the pre-owned market than its big brother. This is, in part, due to the movement used inside the watch, but more likely to do with its lack of provenance. It is highly improbable that Omega will ever find itself in possession of the kind of PR gold the moon landings dropped into its lap, and as such the Speedmaster Professional will forever occupy special status within the brand.
The smaller case size of the Speedmaster Reduced is perfect for those with thin writs.
Personally, though, I think the speedy Reduced is a really cool anomaly. It existed in the collection for a little over two decades, has a self-winding movement, a few neat special editions (such as the Schumacher editions, panda dials, and even a blue dial released in Japan), and fits the current trend of smaller-sized watches. With some of these models still available on the resale market and priced significantly lower than a standard Speedmaster Professional, it makes for an interesting addition to any collection.
And if you’re gunning to snare a piece of history, aim for the earlier models that debuted in the late ’80s and early-mid ’90s. These pieces still used the old tritium lume, which has the potential to age inimitably gracefully if it has been kept in the right conditions.
Because of the focus Omega has directed towards the Speedmaster Professional over the last decade, and given that the decade in question coincided with an explosion of internet coverage of the watch industry, the Omega Speedmaster Reduced is a model that does occasionally fall through the cracks. And it is those models – those just outside of the general consciousness – that collectors should look towards for the chance to snare a bargain. After all, at the current pre-owned prices, you can’t go far wrong.
The Omega Speedmaster Reduced can be purchased for significantly less than the standard Speedmaster Professional.