I lived a milestone recently, a few weeks ago I graduated from the Gemological Institute of America and I am now a Graduate Gemologist (I get to put the cool little G.G. after my name). I thought this was the right reason to give myself a graduation gift. There has been one watch that I have pined for, to add to my collection, for quite some time. Being the Omega fan that I am, it won’t surprise you to find out that it is, of course one of their models- The Speedmaster professional. So I rewarded myself with a 1968 “Pre-moon” Omega Speedmaster. There are a number of reasons I chose this particular watch, but one very important one I’ll tell you about later on. For now we will dissect why I like this model.
It is a Chronograph: Men like machines; gauges, speed, and technology. The chronograph captures all of this in one package all available on your wrist. The chronograph balances aesthetics, technical prowess and utility all effortlessly and equally. They are typically masculine timepieces waiting to spring into action metering; Le Mans races, Olympic track events, and medium-rare tenderloin. No other watch allows you to connect with the movement the way the chronograph does. Starting the timer, you’ll hear a solid click of the clutch engaging and the sweep hand smoothly journeys around the dial. The Speedmaster testifies that its wearer is both capable and refined.
It is a Tachymeter: The Tachymeter measures speed with the aid of the marked bezel around the watch dial. Start the chrono at a specific marker and stop it at a second marker as you speed by. Where the hand stops on the bezel and some simple math will tell you the rate of speed you traveled between those two markers. As airplanes and cars became recreational as well as for transportation measuring speed became the predominant use for a chronograph tachymeter. Many styles of tachymeter have been ubiquitous at exhibitions of speed like flying and auto racing ever since.
It is Mechanical: Until 1969, chronographs were all hand-wound. Conventional wisdom saying that there was not enough room for both the movement and the self-winding components. That changed in 1970 when four different automatic chronograph movements were introduced. There is still something to say about the feel and interaction of a manual wind movement. Its wonderful to hear the escapement tick and see the hands sweep, marching continuously around the face.
It is a vintage piece: A vintage watch has a history a life before you owned it. It is sort of nostalgic to imagine what the previous owner may have worn this watch for, and why he wore this over any other piece. It can be nostalgic even if it is a new watch, but a historically significant vintage design. This leads me to the most important reason I chose the Speedmaster.
It has history: The word “chronograph” comes from the Greek language and literally means “time writer.” The chronograph was developed as early as the mid-1800s out of a need to time events lasting longer than one minute. Doctors used them to time patients’ pulse rates, soldiers to measure the distance of enemy fire, and scientists used them to precisely time experiments. In 1965, NASA commissioned a study to decide which chronograph would be best suited for the Apollo moon missions. After a series of brutal tests on a number of top watches, the Omega Speedmaster emerged above the rest. This watch’s history was instantly out of this world when it became the first watch worn on the moon, it soon was recognized as the most legendary chronograph in history when it was used to time a critical thruster burn in the crippled Apollo 13 craft, ensuring the crew made it safely back to Earth. NASA has relied on the Speedmaster for many years, and numbers of them have now been worn in space.
The Omega Speedmaster Pro: Its design hasn’t really changed at all since its inception in the 1957, save for a few alternate models and special editions. The movement has changed little as well. Omega began using the caliber 321 in the Speedmaster when it was released. Shortly after they changed it to the 861 which is different from the 321 only in the cam and balance wheel and few other updates. The 861 stayed the same until 1996 when it received a finish in Rhodium and became the caliber 1861. So basically Omega said “don’t mess with success“. The Speedmaster also carried a shatterproof hesalite crystal when it went to space. NASA chose this over other materials to avoid fragmented watch crystal floating into their instruments if something should break. Modern Speedmasters are available with a more scratch proof sapphire crystal. Omega will be also releasing a remake of the first Speedmaster that made it to space later this year. If you want to own a piece of history, one of the most recognizable watches in the world then check out the Speedmaster, wear it and you are bound to be swell.