This Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch has a moon-phase display and a co-axial movement. Is this a meeting of features that naturally belong together? We subject the new model to our rigorous test.
| This Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch has a moon-phase display and a co-axial movement. Is this a meeting of features that naturally belong together? We subject the new model to our rigorous test.
The phrase “co-axial moon-phase” describes the Omega Speedmaster of the 21st century. It’s a mechanical timepiece, but it’s built from high-tech materials that make it robust, precise and above all immune to the effects of magnetic fields. But it doesn’t have a futuristic, technological appearance; instead, its color scheme and photorealistic moon-phase display give it an almost mythical aura.
is Omega Speedmaster combines modern Omega technology with the traditions of the Moonwatch. e Speedmaster, which debuted in 1957, was given the “Moonwatch” nickname in 1969, after it was strapped around the sleeve of an astronaut’s spacesuit for the world’s first walk on the moon. e Speedmaster Professional with acrylic crystal has been built in nearly unaltered form ever since. Hand-wound Caliber 1861 is also based on the original movement. A Speedmaster with this caliber and a moon-phase display has been available for quite some time, but it’s on its way out and won’t be manufactured in the future. e new model is its successor and hosts more modern inner workings. ese are based on manufacture Caliber 9300 with co-axial escapement, which has always been available in a Speedmaster Moonwatch. Now this tradition and these technologies come together in a new model, the Moonwatch we tested.
Like all Speedmasters, this version’s case is asymmetrical, with built-in push-pieces, crown protection and characteristic tachymeter scale. e latter is made of ceramic, with calibrations crafted from an especially hard amorphous alloy called “Liquidmetal.” Our test watch looks considerably more elegant than Speedmasters without moon-phase displays. is is due to the design of the moon-phase display, the blue dial with sunburst pattern and the blue alligatorleather strap. In this version, a tool watch has been handsomely transformed into a sportily elegant model that looks good with a business suit, a sweater or a button-down shirt. Numerous color options are available ranging from classic black, through bicolor models in brown with a silver dial and green bezel, to a white-gold model with a silver dial and a wine-red bezel. Our personal favorite is the blue version with a steel case: our test watch.
A closer look reveals a photorealistic image of the moon on the lunar display. e fidelity to detail is so high that you can see the moon’s craters and valleys. And you won’t find miniscule raster dots or similar imperfections, even under strong magnification. You will, however, discover something far more exciting. Omega has hidden here a further reminiscence from the history of the Moonwatch: a footprint left in the lunar dust by an astronaut’s boot. Aficionados might remember this image from the famous photograph taken at the moon landing.
From a technical standpoint, Omega has built the moon-phase display so it won’t need manual adjustment for 10 years. And when the time comes to reset it, the task can be readily accomplished via the crown. erefore, the watch doesn’t need a correction button, which is seldom an attractive feature. If you pull the crown out to its first position and then turn it clockwise, the moon’s phase will advance in single-day increments; turning the crown counterclockwise will cause the date display to advance in singleday increments.
e date display and its little hand represent a compromise. e watch’s basic movement supports a date subdial at the 6, but this location on our test watch is already occupied by the moonphase display. So to preserve the symmetry, a small hand-lettered date display shares a subdial with the continually running seconds at the 9. As far as legibility is concerned, this is not the best solution. But fortunately, Omega enlarged the subdials (compared to their counterparts on the chronograph without moon-phase display) so people who don’t wear reading glasses only need to use a bit of concentration to read the date. is also gives the dial greater harmony.
An innovative manufacture movement made from ultramodern materials powers the watch’s moon-phase display.
e subdial on the other side, at the 3, serves the chronograph. Here, too, we find two hands: one that can tally up to 12 elapsed hours; the other that can count up to 60 elapsed minutes. is allows the wearer to read the elapsed time just as on an ordinary clock face. However, conventional chronographs with counters for 30 elapsed minutes can more accurately measure minutes in intervals up to 30 minutes in duration, and such subdials are also quicker to read. On the other hand, the chronograph on our test watch can also be used to keep track of the time in a second time zone.
e crown can be operated easily. And the chronograph’s buttons don’t require excessive force, although some column-wheel chronographs can be operated with even less pressure.
Some chronograph movements also reveal more of their internal mechanisms. Omega has installed a large cambered window of sapphire in the caseback, adorned the rotor and bridges with a very handsome spiral pattern, and beveled and polished the edges of the flat parts. But the bridges cover nearly everything, although three apertures invite horological voyeurs to admire the column wheel.
Omega’s movement is robust, precise and well protected against magnetic fields.
Omega relies on a modern vertical coupling. A classical horizontal coupling would reveal more of the mechanism, but this vertical coupling is more functional because it instantly halts the elapsed-seconds hand and afterward allows the hand to resume its motion without any shudder. e efficient rotor winds the mainsprings in both its directions of rotation. And two serially switched barrels store enough energy for 60 hours of autonomous running, while uniformly dispensing their store of power.
Functionality continues in the balance system. Instead of giving the balance a typical motionlessly affixed cock, Omega opts for a more stable bridge. e balance can be finely adjusted via an index-free system by turning four weight screws along the rim of the balance, so it can be regulated more finely. is also allows the balance spring to “breathe” freely throughout its entire length. For aesthetics’ sake, the balance is given a black chrome coating, which harmonizes with the blackened screws used elsewhere in the movement.
e co-axial escapement ranks among the best that can be found in today’s watches. Omega is the only manufacturer that uses this system. e escapement in Caliber 9904 works on three functional levels. Unlike the Swiss lever escapement, which is standard, the co-axial escapement separates the functions of inhibiting and accelerating, thus preventing undesirable gliding friction on the pallet jewels. is results in less energy loss and better retention of lubricant oil. e escapement is lubricated with a fine film of oil.
e silicon hairspring, which is resistant to shocks and nearly unaffected by magnetic fields, further contributes to the movement’s accurate timekeeping. Together with other antimagnetic parts, it assures that even the strongest magnetic fields cannot interfere with the accuracy of the watch. is is an enormous advantage for the wearer because a magnetized movement is frequently the cause of severe inaccuracies in a watch’s rate.
e Speedmaster Moonwatch Co-axial Master Chronometer Moonphase is also the first watch in the Speedmaster line that isn’t only tested and certified as a chronometer by COSC, but also certified by Switzerland’s Federal Institute for Metrology (METAS). METAS not only tests the movement’s accuracy and afterward the precision of the entire watch, but also verifies many other factors such as power reserve, water tightness and above all the resistance to magnetic fields up to an intensity of 15,000 gauss.
Omega achieves 15 times greater protection against magnetic fields than a soft iron inner case can provide. And unlike the conventional solution, the movement can be viewed through a window in the caseback. is is one example of a useful innovation that benefits every buyer.
is brings us to the price, which is often the least pleasing attribute of our tested watches. is Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch costs $10,600. Considering the quality and variety of functions, the price represents a good, but not great, price-performance ratio. But this version costs $2,000 more than Omega’s Moonwatch Co-axial Chronograph, which seems a bit steep for the moon-phase display and METAS certification.
e Moonwatch Co-axial Moonphase is the Moonwatch of the new millennium. Its interior contains the most modern movement. And its exterior presents a realistic lunar display, including an astronaut’s footprint, thus bringing the moon closer to Earth than ever before.
The first footprint on the moon can be seen in the depiction of the lunar surface on the moon-phase display.