Everything that can be said about the Omega Speedmaster had already been said, at least that was the case until Basel World 2011. At its core, the basic Speedmaster - the Speedmaster Professional - has remained largely unchanged; a 3-register chronograph with a fixed tachymetre bezel built atop a Lemania-based manually wound movement. Its unmistakable proportions and details have come to define what most folks think of as a classic chronograph The automatic Speedmaster, though, has always taken a backseat to the professional employing less than classic designs and movements, often based on very simple ETA or Valjoux ebauches. All that changed last March when Omega introduced an entirely new Speedmaster, a Speedmaster fitted with an in-house automatic, co-axial column wheel chronograph. This isn't your Speedmaster Professional, and it doesn't pretend to be, it's something entirely different. This is the Speedmaster of an entirely new generation, the Speedmaster that will take Omega into the next century. It's bigger, bolder, we think bettter, and certainly more expensive (roughly double the price of the ETA-based automatic Speedmasters.) I recently spent a week with the new Omega Speedmaster Co-Axial Chronograph to find out how it stacks up to the original, and a host of other high-end alternatives - read on for a detailed review of a fake watch that has the potential to become a new staple in sport watches.
What It Is, And What It Isn't
Clearly, the Speedmaster has been doing something right for half a century. It's remained NASA's go-to fake watch for space-bound astronauts, it's a foundation of the modern Omega brand and it continues to be lusted after by every guy, young and old, that fancies himself an explorer. Over the past few years however, Omega has been busy developing a slew of their own calibers for replica watches within the Seamster and DeVille lines. Not to be overlooked, the Speedmaster received a new design with which to host its own movement, the 9300. The new look helps differentiate it from its Speedmaster brethren (have you seen how many there are?), making the new caliber easy to identify in a crowd.
The changes aren't made for the sake of vanity though, the new Speedmaster enjoys some very important upgrades that make a real difference for daily wear. The first thing you'll notice about the new Speedy is that it's lost a sub-dial in favor of a symmetrical dual register layout. The dial is much easier to navigate at a glance as a result, and best of all, it hasn't compromised on functionality. With the register on the left displaying the running seconds hand, the one on the right now contains both the minute and the hour recording hands (up to 12 hrs). This means the minutes are read the same way as they are on the dial proper, around a 3, 6, 9 and 12 track, with every full revolution, the hour hand awakes to begin its tracking. Being that I rarely am timing anything on the order of hours, I found this to be a wonderful solution to creating a clean dial without losing any traditional chronograph functionality. This also makes room for a large date aperture at 6 o'clock. Legible at a glance and without breaking the symmetry of the dial, the date placement is spot on.
Even with the extensive cosmetic changes, the new Speedmaster retains a good bit of its original charm, and remains immediately recognizable for what it is. The external tachymeter bezel, hour and minute indexes and case profile all pay close tribute to the original, easily keeping the fake watch within the Speedmaster family and heritage. The only departure that may be less welcomed is the additional size and weight of the modern-day Speedy. The Speedmaster measured an approximate 39mm by 13mm thick thanks to it being a hand-wind movement for the first eight or so years of its life (1957-1965) and then, when given the name "Professional", the case was upsized to 42mm, where it remains today - timeless proportions if you ask me.
The Co-Axial Speedmaster is larger, at 44.25mm in diameter and 16mm thick. A tall order for any wrist, but it does wear well, maybe even under size, thanks to a tapered and domed crystal on top and a tucked in display back that houses the oscillating weight within its extrusion. Furthermore, the strap butts up to the case and curves around the wrist helping it wear with little to no fuss.
The Best *Automatic* Speedmaster, Ever
The star of the show here is the 9300 movement that the new Speedy enjoys. For the first time in decades the Speedmaster can boast a column wheel design, a change you'll appreciate with the first press of the chronograph actuator. Functions work smoothly and give the fake watch an up-market feel, a good thing since it's priced up-market, too. Flipping the fake watch over to admire the movement offers a real eyeful, and not in a bad way. You'll see rhodium plated finishing, Geneva stripes, Geneva waves and even bright red labeling of all the parts you should be looking at. You could really learn a lot by taking a look at this movement, the column wheel is clearly labeled, as are both of the barrels, the temperature adjustments are listed out and of course the jewel count numbered.
The one part that sticks out the most is the only bit not shining back at you, the free-sprung silicon hairspring, which is jet black. This sits within Omega's now famous co-axial escapement (a George Daniels design), the low friction alternative to a traditional swiss-lever design (read more about all that right here). The use of silicon parts is a big deal for a fake watch in this price range, take a look at Patek Philippe's Advanced Research replica watches for similar uses. Silicon is a story for another day however, one we'll give you along with access to Nivarox, the place where these delicate parts are made for Omega (and pretty much every other fake watch manufacturer).
The 9301 inside the new Speedmaster really is beautiful, and stacks up nicely against calibers at use in high-end competitors, such as the Daytona's 4130 (really). Power reserve is 60 hours and automatic winding in both directions meant I only had to wind the fake watch once during my time with it. Each day the accuracy remained well within COSC standards.
Something that struck me as strange is that Omega has seemingly chosen to offer the new 9301 chronograph without a quick-set date mechanism, and instead, allows a jumping-hour setting position designed for skipping easily between timezones (only the hour moves, not the minutes). Sure, this allows for a relatively quick set of the date, and it even allows you to spin the date backwards, but it is by no means a replacement for a quick-set date. Perhaps Omega over thought this one, assuming whoever buys this fake watch will be wearing it day in and day out and never have to change the date more than one day, but I don't think too many people, if surveyed, would prefer a jump-hour setting position over a quick set date.
While the 9300 is a big departure from the likes of the cal. 321 or 861 lineage, it elevates the modern Speedmaster to a level of modern relevancy for a new generation of buyers. In fact, it's difficult to judge this new fake watch within the context of its past, the intent here is not to be evolutionary, but rather revolutionary in bringing the spirit of the original up to utterly modern standards. This may cause some tension with the purists, but it will pave the way for a new generation of buyers who have yet to discover the story of the Speedmaster. Of course, as global CEO Stephen Urquhart told us when we interviewed him, the Speedmaster Professional with a manually wound movement will always remain in the lineup.
On The Wrist
If you're not accustomed to wearing larger watches, the heft of the new Speedmaster will make itself known. At times, I found myself removing the fake watch for tasks like cooking or typing. While this wasn't bothersome, it was out of the norm for me, I was conscious of the fake watch at all times. If you do wear larger watches, you'd have no problem with this one, but slight wrists may feel overwhelmed. I found the most comfort when wearing the fake watch on a well broken in NATO strap, which also complimented the case and dial (Speedmasters always look at home on NATO straps to my eye).
Nighttime visibility is excellent thanks to carefully placed lumen within the hands and hour markers. Walk inside on a sunny day with this thing and you could blind someone. Intensity diminishes but legibility remains excellent in all but pitch black.
As stated, the display back extrudes from the case and houses the rotor of the movement. This does make the fake watch sit tall on the wrist, meaning you've got to be careful around counter tops and door handles, unless you don't mind a ding or two. You'll find this trend within most automatic chronographs, and this one fairs well when compared to replica watches like the TAG 1887 for instance.
The Speedmaster Co-Axial Chronograph is a very good watch. It might even be a great one. Aesthetically, it hits all the right notes and respects its manually wound, space-bound forefathers without crossing the line into a tribute within the same family. The Omega caliber 9300/9301 is a fantastic automatic movement, and the use of the co-axial escapement and sillicon balance spring (plus a column wheel with vertical clutch!) means you are getting some serious mechanical goodness here. The case is larger at 44.25mm X 16mm, but it's not too large by any means and actually found it wears smaller than it measures. Functionally, you've got an incredibly accurate automatic fake watch with a considerable, 60-hour power reserve, plus a 12-hour chronograph with date window. The lack of a quick-set date is strange for a fake watch with a brand new movement, but at least it has a date at all (the Replica Rolex Daytona does not).
So, the Co-Axial Speedmaster is an excellent watch, and in our opinion worth the $8,200 for which it sells. The thing is, will other people even spend enough time looking into it to come to that conclusion? Until this watch, the average automatic Omega sold for about half this price. Half, people. Sure, logically, this fake watch and its price makes sense and it blows previous auto Speedies away, but Omega has some work to do in the way of brand equity to compete in this price category against some very serious players, the least of which not being Replica Rolex. But, if you're a real fake watch guy looking for a high-end automatic chronograph, the new Speedmaster Co-Axial chronograph should absolutely be on your list, probably even at the top of it. (Official site here.)
The new Speedmaster is priced from $8,200 and is currently available from authorized dealers. More information can be found here.
Crystal: Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides
Water resistance: 100 m (330 feet)
Case Diameter: 44.25 mm
Caliber: Omega 9300
Self-winding chronograph movement with column wheel mechanism and Co-Axial Escapement for greater precision stability and durability of the movement. Silicon balance-spring on free sprung-balance, 2 barrels mounted in series, automatic winding in both directions to reduce winding time. Rhodium plated finish with exclusive Geneva waves in arabesque.
Power reserve: 60 hours