Answers To The 10 Most Common Speedmaster Questions A short Speedmaster FAQ for this Speedy Tuesday by Robert-Jan Broer May 12, 2020 MIN READAnswers To The 10 Most Common Speedmaster Questions
In the 20 years that I have been collecting Speedmasters, I’ve been posed countless questions on this watch. In this article, I will answer some of the most commonly asked Speedmaster questions we receive.
We receive quite a few messages from our readers with Speedmaster questions. From the most common “What model shall I start with?” to more in-depth questions regarding the type of bracelets, movement iterations, and dial versions. If you’re a die-hard Speedmaster fan, you might not find all answers surprising. However, I hope you will read a few things you didn’t know before. Without further ado, our answers to the 10 most common Speedmaster questions.
1. What Speedmaster Should I Buy?
The most common question we receive is about what Speedmaster you should buy. That’s a difficult one to answer, without knowing who you are. In hindsight, I did very well, but I believe I started the wrong way myself. In 1999, I purchased a Speedmaster 145.012-67 with caliber 321 as my first Speedmaster. I was actually after a young pre-owned, but my budget didn’t allow (yes, those caliber 321s were cheap back then). You should always buy what you love and like best. I am happy with my decision in hindsight, but a newer model would have been better for me at the time, as I used it as my daily watch being a student.
Try to find out what you are after when building up a collection. Is it the Moonwatch only? Or do you want to go after the quirky stuff like a Speedmaster Speedsonic f300hz, Speedmaster LCD, X-33 etc? Or what about a Mark III or Mark V? Do you want to go vintage, or only modern? These are things I can’t answer for you, but you have to discover yourself. What makes your heart tick faster? By reading about Speedmasters a lot, you will definitely find out. Also make sure to try some different models.
2. How much should I pay for an Omega Speedmaster?
For a while now, Omega shows the prices of its watches on the official website. Depending on the country you are in, you can see the actual retail price of your watch. That’s also the price that’s expected to pay in Omega boutiques. Besides boutiques, you will find Omega watches at authorized dealers around the world. Depending on your relationship with an authorized dealer, you might find yourself receiving a bit of a discount.
For pre-owned Omega Speedmasters, the prices are a different ballgame. It heavily depends on the model or reference, and the demand and supply of these models. For pre-owned and vintage Speedmasters, the condition of the watch is super important. A vintage 1970s Speedmaster Professional can be found for 4000 Euro, but also for more than twice that amount, depending on its condition. Always do your homework, use Chrono24 for an indication of prices or use the price chart from Speedmaster101 to have an easy overview per reference number.
My tip for buying pre-owned or vintage is: buy the best you can afford with your budget! I rather would buy and overpay for a perfect 105.012 or 145.012 than buy the cheapest 105.003 that looks like it has been on the rail track for a week.
Starting with (pre-owned) Speedmasters? Try a Moonwatch 3590.50 or 3592.50 from the early 1990s with tritium dial and hands, reference 1479 bracelet and with box and papers. They look amazing with their beautiful yellow-ish patina, use one of the best bracelets Omega did for the Speedmaster, and are relatively easy to find with box and papers.
3. How often should a Speedmaster be serviced?
This one is a very common question and basically applies to all watches. But let’s make it a bit more specific, and also indicate how much a Speedmaster service cost. Normally, I would use a 7-8 year interval for having a Speedmaster (Professional) serviced. If you wear the same watch every single day, you might want to do it more often, if it is part of a collection and it is not an everyday watch, you can stretch the interval a bit.
More interesting perhaps, is how much a Speedmaster service will cost you and where you should have it serviced. Omega has a number of service centers (including at its HQ in Bienne), and for a Speedmaster in steel, they will charge €750 for a complete service.
A gold or platinum Speedmaster will cost €950 for a complete service. This includes the disassembly of the entire watch and cleaning of all components. It also includes replacement or overhaul of all worn parts in the movement. For vintage watches, ask for the special service form in the boutique, where you can indicate what you want to have done and more importantly, what should be left alone.
You can argue that this is a lot of money, but all parts that need replacement will be replaced. Tubes, crown, pushers, gears, Hesalite, hands (if necessary) etc.
A watchmaker’s perspective
We inquired with our watchmaker, who is independent and works for a number of boutiques and shops. He charges €400 for the disassembly, (ultrasonic) cleaning and polishing (if this is requested) of external parts. It also includes the disassembly, cleaning, and replacement of worn parts. Except for expensive inner parts that need replacement, he needs to charge more for that. A mainspring will always be replaced he indicated, for example, as well as gaskets etc. He let us know that the €750 for the overhaul at Omega isn’t even that expensive, given the fact that they just replace everything that is worn.
That said, finding a skilled watchmaker is one of the things that should be top of your list when starting to build a Speedmaster collection. Not that they often break, but you want a reliable address for service overhauls. Someone you can trust with your precious Speedmaster.
4. Can you swim with a Speedmaster?
A lot of Speedmaster questions and comments are about its water resistance. And often we find that people just assume it isn’t water-resistant at all. The Speedmaster has a Seamaster logo on the case back, which indicates they are somewhat related. While you can use most Seamaster models to dive, the Speedmaster can’t be used for that. What you can do though, is swim with your new Speedmaster. Even the Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch”, with a water resistance of 50 meters, can be used in the water. But just take note that you shouldn’t operate the pushers or crown underwater.
Also — and this is very important — only do this when you are absolutely certain the gaskets are still in good shape. If you use the Speedmaster in the water, make sure to have the gaskets replaced every 12 months. Some Speedmasters have higher water resistance, like the Speedmaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer Moonphase models. These are water-resistant up to 100 meters.
I wouldn’t recommend swimming with older and vintage Speedmaster models that are indicated with a 30M rating. Even if they are in pristine condition and recently serviced, keep them out of the water.
Nicole Stott and her Speedmaster X-33 (photo by NASA)
5. Is the Speedmaster still being used by astronauts?
A very common question we receive is about the use of the Omega Speedmaster by astronauts. Or if NASA still issues the Omega Speedmaster to astronauts. The answer to this is that all astronauts who are going into space via Russia (including NASA and ESA astronauts) receive a Speedmaster Moonwatch from them as well as the digital X-33. Of course, you will see a lot of different watches in space on the wrist of astronauts. Some prefer their own watch or have a connection with a brand other than Omega. However, the only watch that NASA ever qualified for manned space missions is the Omega Speedmaster.
6. How often should I wind my Omega Speedmaster (Professional)?
Omega’s hand-wound calibers 321, 861, 863, 864, 866, 1861, 1863, 1866, 3861 are all used in the Speedmaster (pre-)Professional models. And let’s not forget about the beautiful hand-wound caliber 3201 (F. Piguet base) that was used in the 2007 Speedmaster with enamel dial for the 50th anniversary of the Speedmaster. These watches have a power reserve between 48 hours and 52 hours (depending on the caliber). You only need to wind these watches when they are almost out of power reserve, but if you do so every morning, it is fine as well. What you shouldn’t do, is wind them while they are on your wrist. This can cause unnecessary tension on the winding stem (and thus movement).
7. How accurate is the Omega Speedmaster?
This is another one of the most asked Speedmaster questions, probably because the Moonwatch has no chronometer movement (with a few exceptions). This depends a bit on the movement inside. Omega uses a tolerance of -1/+11 seconds per day on average, for a non-chronometer chronograph with a mechanical movement. I’d say I would be OK with that, but your watchmaker might get it even more precise. If a Speedmaster is more than 10 seconds off per day, I would have it regulated.
A chronometer-certified Omega Speedmaster should be accurate to within -4/+6 seconds per day on average, this is the COSC standard. The performance might go a bit down over time (years) though. Some Speedmasters are Master Chronometer certified. These have an accuracy of 0-5 seconds per day deviation on average. More strict than chronometer and also anti-magnetic up to 15,000 gauss.
8. Where to buy an Omega Speedmaster?
You can buy direct from Omega, via one of their boutiques or by ordering directly on their website. Besides that, Omega has a large retailer network where you will find a selection of their watches. If you want to buy a pre-owned Speedmaster, you can find tons of dealers and private sellers offering Speedmasters. You can find pre-owned Speedmasters in our Fratello shop, but you will also find a lot of listings of vintage and pre-owned Speedmasters on platforms like Chrono24.
Always make sure to do your homework, and hopefully, our specific Speedmaster buying guides will help you with that. You will also find offers in specific Facebook groups or on the omegaforums.net platform, for example. A place with knowledgable people and a lot of enthusiasts. Due to this, their sales forums are more or less “self-regulating”. Always take into account that you might need to deal with customs and if you buy pre-owned, make sure to calculate the cost of a service overhaul in your budget or make sure the seller can provide paperwork of recently performed work.
9. What is the difference between the caliber 321, 861, and 1861?
Omega’s caliber 321 (both the original one as well as the new one) is a chronograph with a column-wheel mechanism. This was the movement used in the first Speedmasters, from 1957 till 1968. It was succeeded by the caliber 861, because of cost-efficiency mainly and it has a higher ticking speed (21,600vph vs 18,000vph). Both are great movements, and neither holds a real functional advantage. The caliber 861 was succeeded around 1996/1997 with the caliber 1861 movement, an extra jewel, and a different finish. For the 861 and 1861, there are quite a few additional variations like the (1)863 (nicer optical finish), (1)866 (moon phase module), and 864 (chronometer certification).
For two years, caliber 1869 also existed. That one uses an 1861 base movement for the Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8 with a very special Moon finish. Last but not least, in 2019, Omega introduced the new caliber 3861. Based on the caliber 1861, the 3861 consists of approximately 50% new parts and has the Master Chronometer certification. It has been used in the Apollo 11 in stainless steel and the Moonshine gold. Omega indicated during the Speedy Tuesday event last December, that this movement will be also used in a new generation of Speedmaster Moonwatch models.
The new caliber 321 is now available in a platinum Moonwatch version, and will become available in the new Speedmaster “Ed White” 105.003 in steel. Although parts are interchangeable with the original caliber 321, the new movement has a Sedna (rose) gold finish whereas the original caliber 321 has a copper-colored finish.
Buzz Aldrin’s new Speedmaster Professional
10. Where is Buzz Aldrin’s Speedmaster?
I close the list of 10 most common Speedmaster questions with one that keeps us all occupied at times. Buzz Aldrin was the first astronaut to wear his Omega Speedmaster on the surface of the Moon. He was wearing the Speedmaster Professional reference 105.012, to be precise. Former NASA engineer James Ragan, who was responsible for testing the cameras and Speedmasters of the astronauts, said that Buzz Aldrin supposedly shipped his watch (with other equipment from the mission) to the Smithsonian. Apparently, it never made it to its destination. Neil Armstrong’s Speedmaster (as many other astronauts Speedmasters) are still around and property of the US government. These flown Speedmaster watches can be often found on display in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Omega’s own museum in Biel, Switzerland, also has a number of flown Speedmasters watches on display. Do you have specific Speedmaster questions you’d like us to answer? Don’t hesitate to drop us a note.
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About the author
Ever since he was a young child, Robert-Jan was drawn to watches, even though it were digital Casio and quartz Swatch models at the time. In the mid-1990s, his interest increased when he started to read about mechanical watches in… read more
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Even when it’s not Speedy Tuesday.Original Article