Without a doubt one of the most iconic watches ever designed, the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch model has just been revamped in order to keep improving its quality standards.
Of course, when you update the design of such a classic, the approach has to be very careful to ensure that the distinctive look of the watch is not altered and its strong identity not lost. We are glad to say that Omega made an excellent work in this sense.
Following our introductory article that we published on January 4, we recently had the opportunity to put our hands on the two versions with steel bracelet of the new Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Master Chronometer: ref. 310.30.42.50.01.001 with hesalite glass and ref. 310.30.42.50.01.002 with sapphire crystal.
Choosing between the two is not so easy as each of them has its strengths. The key differences between the two versions lay in the glass protecting the dial (hesalite vs sapphire), the caseback (solid vs transparent) and the bracelet (all brushed vs brushed/polished).
The two new Moonwatch versions: with hesalite (on the left) or sapphire crystal
But before discussing the differences between the two versions, let's consider the main novelties of the Speedmaster Moonwatch 2021 or, to be more accurate, the Speedmaster Moonwatch Master Chronometer. In fact, the most remarkable new feature coming with the latest generation of Speedmaster Moonwatch models is represented by the Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 3861 in replacement of the Calibre 1861 that equipped the Moonwatch since 1997.
While the two calibres share the same architecture, 50% of the parts of the 3861 have been replaced with non-interchangeable parts.
Thanks to the use of anti-magnetic alloys and the Co-axial escapement with a silicon balance spring, Calibre 3861 made it possible to certify the entire watch as a Master Chronometer, Omega's highest standard of precision, chronometric performance and anti-magnetism.
The Moonwatch is now unaffected by even the most extreme magnetic fields reaching 15,000 gauss (the same level as a typical MRI scanner).
The Calibre 3861 has not only improved its chronometric performance (from +10/-1 seconds per day on average for the 1861 to +5/0 seconds per day on average) but also its power reserve, increased to more than two full days or 50 hours.
Moreover, it now features a hacking seconds function that stops the seconds hand whenever the crown is pulled out. Useful to set the time more accurately.
In order to earn the Master Chronometer distinction, each finished watch must pass a number of tests performed by an independent body, the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS). The 8 main tests are the following:
1. Average daily precision of the watch over 4 days and in real life wearing conditions.
2. Function of COSC-approved movement during exposure to 15,000 gauss magnetic field.
3. Function of the entire watch during exposure to 15,000 gauss magnetic field.
4. Deviation of daily precision after exposure to 15,000 gauss magnetic field.
5. Water resistance.
6. Power reserve.
7. Deviation of rate between 100% and 33% of power reserve.
8. Deviation of rate in six positions.
In accordance with the Calibre 3861’s frequency (3 Hz or 21,600 vibrations per hour), the minute track of the dial is now split by 3 divisions, as opposed to the 5 divisions of the previous model. This way, when you stop the chronograph seconds hand, the read-out is more accurate.
The change in the divisions had already been made in recently launched special editions like the “Speedy Tuesday” Limited Edition, the "Ultraman" Limited Edition, the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition or the Silver Snoopy Award 50th Anniversary.
This is not the only change that can be noticed in the black dial. The first Speedmaster models had a recessed minute track but in 1974 Omega introduced a flat dial that was in use until 2021. With this new Moonwatch generation, the step dial is back.
The central minutes and seconds hands are now slightly domed at their ends to follow the bevel of the step dial. The counterweight of the central seconds hand has a teardrop shape instead of a flat one.
The Ω symbol is now applied and not painted while the spacing of the "Omega" logo has been increased. The word "Speedmaster" has also been enlarged to match the width of "Professional".
The dial layout is classic, with the chronograph minutes and hours counters at 3 and 6 o'clock respectively and running seconds at 9 o'clock. Central hands and indices are treated with Super-LumiNova for improved readability in poor light conditions.
The steel bezel with an anodised aluminium ring has not changed except for two small details for die-hard fans: the famous “Dot over Ninety” referring to the position of the dot near the 90 in the tachymeter scale, and a dot diagonal to 70.
The case streamlining of the new Moonwatch takes inspiration from the 4th generation Moonwatch, commonly referenced as the ST 105.012 and famous for being one of the watches worn by Apollo 11 astronauts who landed on the moon in 1969.
The classic 42 mm asymmetrical case has twisted lugs, crown guards, flat-capped chronograph pushers and a double bevel case back (instead of a single bevel like in the previous reference). Water resistance is maintained at 5 bar (approximately 50 metres / 165 feet).
To protect the dial, two options are available: hesalite glass or sapphire crystal.
Hesalite/plexiglass was used in the Moonwatch worn on the moon so this version is more faithful to the original. And just like it, it comes with a solid caseback.
Hesalite offers excellent optical properties with no reflections when you are in front of it. Only at certain angles you can see light reflections that emphasise the domed look.
This material is pretty soft compared to sapphire crystal so it might be more exposed to scratches. On the other hand, hairlines can easily be removed using a polishing paste.
Hesalite was a proper choice for a watch that had to be worn during space missions. In fact, in case of a severe blow, hesalite would crack instead of shattering into many pieces, something potentially dangerous in space for both the crew and the onboard systems.
The other model is equipped with a virtually scratch-proof sapphire crystal with anti‑reflective treatment inside. It is dubbed the "Sapphire Sandwich" because it features a sapphire crystal also on the back to showcase the Calibre 3861.
The new Moonwatch is presented on a new five-arched-links-per-row bracelet which appears to be a great improvement compared to the previous one.
Links are smaller and more rounded. They feature screws instead of the old pin and tube set-up.
More compact for enhanced comfort on the wrist, the new clasp is very well executed, with a polished Omega logo on a satin-finished cover with a groove motif. Beautifully refined with a width of 15 mm, it also includes two polished pushers in a new oval shape.
The bracelets of the hesalite and sapphire crystal versions differ for a detail: the first has a fully brushed finish while in the second the thinner links are polished. Both watches have their strap options, in black nylon fabric for the hesalite model and in black leather for the sapphire one.
The new Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Master Chronometer has raised the bar on all fronts, improving in terms of finishes, precision and reliability. This comes at a cost, of course, and retail prices increased. Nonetheless, especially when compared to some competitors, the Speedmaster Moonwatch is still competitively priced considering the "icon" status and the overall quality of the watch, coming with a 5-year warranty not by chance.
The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Master Chronometer with hesalite glass has a price of Euro 6,000 with nylon fabric strap (ref. 310.32.42.50.01.001) and Euro 6,300 with a fully-brushed stainless steel bracelet (ref. 310.30.42.50.01.001).
With sapphire crystals, prices are Euro 6,800 on a leather strap (ref. 310.32.42.50.01.002) or Euro 7,200 with a bracelet with polished and brushed links (ref. 310.30.42.50.01.002).
The hesalite glass gives the Moonwatch a nice vintage charm. The fully brushed bracelet emphasises its DNA as a professional tool. On the other hand, the sapphire crystal versions adds a touch of elegance with its polished links while also offering the possibility to appreciate the beautiful 3861 movement through the sapphire crystal case back.