The Omega Speedmaster series is perhaps most famous for the success of one of its members – the Moonwatch. But the heritage of the Speedmaster pre-dates it being selected by NASA for use on its missions. The heritage of the Speedmaster, as the name might suggest is steeped in motor racing. It was the Ref. CK 2915 which was the first Omega to bear the Speedmaster markings in 1957, as a sports and racing chronograph. The Speedmaster Racing Master Chronometer we review here draws its inspiration from the historical roots, and blends in the aesthetics derived from the Racing Dial language that Omega developed in the 1970s.
The Origins of Omega’s Racing Dial
The racing dial draws its inspiration from the early years of the Speedmaster. The racing dial first saw light in a 1968 release of a rare Speedmaster model, with an alternating minute track. The “Racing” style refers to the bicolour minute markers and orange hands, added to make the chronograph easier to read for those in the air or on the racetrack.
Our research, and we were told also Omega’s own research, found the exact origin and purpose of the 1968 dials to be shrouded in some mystery. But the design caught on. The Racing Dial theme was adopted for the Speedmaster Mark II Racing produced in the early 1970s, and appeared again in the 1990s in the colourful dials of the Schumaker series.
In 2004, Omega released a special Speedmaster Racing (Ref. 145.0022) for the Japanese market in a limited edition (unnumbered) of 2004 pieces. And when the new generation of the Speedmaster Mark II was released 10 years after that, the Racing Dial made its appearance again. For 2017, the Racing Dial makes its return.
The Omega Speedmaster Racing Co-axial Master Chronometer
For Baselworld 2017, Omega announced the début of the Speedmaster Racing series with two models in the collection. The first in 18K Sedna™ gold and a beautiful blue dial, ceramic bezel with a Ceragold™ tachymeter scale. The second is in stainless steel with a matt black dial, polished ceramic bezel a brushed Liquidmetal® tachymeter scale.
Before we dive into the review proper, enjoy this short video clip by Omega.
The Case, Dial and Hands
The case is a rather massive 44.25mm in diameter. But it is worth noting that the Speedmaster Racing is thinner than its predecessors. And though some might struggle with the large case, many others will find it to be a good fit. On the author’s wrist, it fits rather well, and sits comfortably. Admittedly his wrists are neither tiny nor huge, but at 7.5-7.8 inches in diameter, he can wear most watches rather comfortably. Your mileage may vary.
Both versions carry an alternating minute track in the racing style, and is intended for better visibility. And we agree, The markings are clear and legible, and it is easy to read both the time as well as the chronograph readings under good or less than good light conditions. The bevelled arrowhead indexes are filled with Super LumiNova. The sub-dials are also slightly enlarged over those in the other Speedmasters to improve readability.
The overall aesthetic of the watch is rather pleasing, the bold graphics notwithstanding. Or perhaps the bold graphics make for a more attractive watch. The beautiful bezel belies the complexity of its manufacture. In the Sedna gold version, it is in ceramic bezel with a Ceragold™ tachymeter scale. Ceragold is a special process, developed by Omega which allows encrustation of 18k gold into ceramic, resulting in a final finish which is smooth and polished. The stainless steel editions bezel is in ceramic bezel with a brushed Liquidmetal® tachymeter. Liquidmetal is also an Omega developed alloy which is harder than stainless steel, and bonds well with ceramic.
While we find the blue dial of the gold edition to be absolutely ravishing and mesmerising, we nod a slight preference for the stainless steel edition as the dial is perhaps more true to the Racing Dial philosophy. Dare we say it, the dial aesthetics is more racy (pun intended). This edition retains the bright orange for the hands on the continuous seconds, the outer edges of the hour and minute hands, and the arrow tip of the chronograph seconds hand. The hour marker dots are also in the same orange, as are the words Tachymétre imprinted on the bezel. While the gold edition is more understated, the orange accents now replaced with 18k Sedna (Omega speak for rose/red gold), which hints at the racing heritage, but remain altogether more elegant. Horses for courses, we guess.
Both models are powered by the same movement, the C.9900. The Sedna gold version is called C.9901, but is essentially the same movement with a Sedna gold rotor and balance bridge. The C.9900 was Omega’s first chronograph to receive the new Swiss Federal Institute of Meteorology (METAS) certification.
The movement is certified to have a resistant to magnetic fields reaching 15,000 gauss. It is equipped with a silicon balance-spring on free sprung-balance, 2 barrels mounted in series, automatic winding in both directions. Central hour, minute and chronograph seconds hands, small seconds hand and 12-hour and 60-minute recorders.
The movement is visible from the sapphire case back and the finishing is de rigeur for Omega. Finishing is not at the exalted haute horlogerie levels, but is consistent with the mid-luxury segment, especially focusing on the tool like nature of the watch.
Outward radiating Côtes de Genève style rules are made on the bridges. The anglage and counter sunk openings are also made in a high engineering standard.
The chronograph is commanded by a column wheel, and is smooth in its operations, offering a nice, light but positive feel of resistance as the buttons are engaged.
The watches come with OMEGA’s full 4-year warranty.
The space of a racing inspired chronograph is rather crowded, with many illustrious watches. The Speedmaster Racing in steel with strap is S$11,700 incl GST and with a stainless steel bracelet costs a pretty S$11,850 with GST, and in gold with leather strap for S$34,100 with GST. Here are some considerations for possible competitors.
In terms of pricing, it is compares quite well with the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, an iconic watch which is also born out of motor racing. Arguably, the Daytona has set many world records, especially for the watches with the so called Paul Newman dials. And generally Daytonas are highly sought after. The current version on the Rolex catalog is a rather constrained item, stocks being very limited. The Daytona sports their in-house C.4130 movement, and comes with the Rolex Chronometer Certification and a 5 year guarantee. The standard steel cased Daytona is equipped with a ceramic bezel and stainless steel bracelet retails for S$16,660 incl GST, rather more expensive than the Omega Speedmaster Racing in equivalent configuration. The Daytona is also available in Everose gold and a crocodile strap for S$36,650 with GST, and is perhaps a closer comparison to the Sedna gold Speedmaster Racing.
Another chronograph with a racing heritage is the Chopard Mille Miglia Classic XL 90th Anniversary Limited Edition is powered by the Chopard Calibre 03.07-, hand wound, with Geneva Seal and COSC. In a gold case, it retails for US$43,880. This watch is rather massive at 46mm case diameter. A less expensive option, with possibly a Valjoux 7750 or variant movement is also available from Chopard as the Mille Miglia 2017 Race Edition. In stainless steel, the movement is automatic, and the retail is only US$6,840, and is delivered with a rubber strap embossed with Dunlop tyre patterns.
We think there is a certain mastery in a collection which has stood the test of time. The Speedmaster collection by Omega certainly has. It started life as a sports racing watch. Evolved into the Moonwatch by winning the tender bid by NASA.
The series continued from strength to strength with the two Snoopy editions, with the Dark/Light/Blue Side of the Moon series, and many other variants.
It then captured the imagination of the Internet and her netizens. #SpeedyTuesday, began in the bowels of social media by the Instagram postings by a certain Robert-Jan Broer. It began highly popular and Instagrammers were showing pictures of their Speedmasters and using the hashtag every Tuesday. Omega, kudos to them, recognised this phenomena, and introduced a special watch, called Speedy Tuesday which was only available online on 10 January 2017. It was sold out within hours of its Internet-only launch.
And this year, we find this Racing Dial Speedy. A beautiful and certainly fitting tribute to the long history and lineage.
Priced at S$11,700 for the stainless steel edition, and only S$150 upcharge for the steel bracelet, and S$34,100 for the Sedna gold version, the pricing is set more ambitiously than other Speedmasters. The Speedy Tuesday was sold at a retail of S$8.400.