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History of the Omega Speedmaster

For decades the Omega Speedmaster has embodied the essence of auto racing and held a coveted spot at the forefront of racing-inspired watches. What makes it so special? Let’s trace the evolution of this quintessential racing watch.

Omega Speedmaster, It Was Part of a Trilogy

When we first met the Omega Speedmaster in 1957 it was not alone, launched in conjunction with the Seamaster 300 CK 2913 dive watch, and the Railmaster CK 2914, which had antimagnetic properties for train travel.

In the 1950s, Omega was the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games and so stopwatch chronograph functions were high on their list of priorities. It was only natural that the very first Speedmaster (ref. CK2915) had a triple-register chronograph design that’s remarkably similar to the Speedmasters produced today. Dubbed the “Broad Arrow” for its hour hand, this ode to classic Italian auto racing was only in production for three years, making it popular with collectors today.

Omega Speedmaster

Omega Speedmaster Moon Madness Takes Hold in the 60s

We got a few more similar versions of the Speedmaster in the late 1950s and early 60s. Omega started putting “Professional” on the dials in the summer of 1965, during one of the watch’s most notable periods in the midst of the Space Race.

So much has been said about the Omega Speedmaster and its association with space missions. A Speedmaster, famously called the “Moonwatch,” was worn by astronaut Walter Schirra on the Sigma 7 launch in 1962 and one went along for the first lunar landing in 1969. The watch continued its association with NASA during the decades that followed.

Mark II Ushers in the 70s

As Omega peered over the edge of a new decade, they sought designs that would take them from the 60s into the 70s. Enter the Omega Mark II, with a striking barrel-shaped case that was unconventional at the time. The original Mark II that debuted in 1969 came in two versions, one with a black-and-white design scheme, and a special racing edition with orange elements.

We only got a few years of Mark IIs, as Omega soon moved on to Mark IIIs. But in 2014 Omega gave us an updated edition of the Mark II with all the trademarks of the original.

Mark III Takes the Reins

The Speedmaster Mark III had an eye-catching design when it was unveiled in 1971, and praise for its modern lines continues to this day. With its signature Flightmaster case, this first of the automatic Speedmasters was also the very first to have a date function, a day-night indicator, and sub-dial features that match today’s modern Speedmasters. Available with blue, silver, and black dials, the Mark III is an atypical entry, which makes watch aficionados love them even more.

Omega Speedmaster

Things Get Funky in the 70s

Cultural norms were upended in the 1970s. Music and fashion were breaking barriers like never before. Revolution was in the air. Omega had to shake things up and deliver some designs that fit with the times. One such example is the Speedmaster 125 that debuted in 1973.

One look and you can see why the watch might have its detractors. It’s big, bulky, and the dial looks like something you might find on an old Russian submarine. But the watch has its throwback charms and some historical significance as it was released to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Omega’s founding.

Digital Days With the X-33

Here’s one from the late 90s that’s for the quirkier of collectors. The “Mars Watch” didn’t go as Omega had wished. Hoping to build on their “moon“ success, the watchmakers went for the next step of Mars exploration, but the campaign never generated excitement. Still, the Mars move gave us one of the more unusual members of the Omega Speedmaster family, the Speedmaster X-33.

Your eyes do not deceive you. That is a digital display on a Speedmaster, which functions like both a digital watch and a mechanical chronograph. While this hybrid never made it to Mars, it was involved in several space missions and used by astronauts on the International Space Station.

Omega Speedmaster Celebrating 50 Years in 2007

 Many recall the recent 60th anniversary Speedmaster in 2017. And that’s an impressive addition to the catalog, with a design that mirrors the very first Speedmaster from 1957. But discerning collectors have taken more note of the 50th anniversary Speedmaster we met in 2007.

The 2007 watch broke a few norms on the its Golden Jubilee birthday. While most Speedmasters have matte dials, this one went with a lustrous enamel dial. The usual 50 meters of water resistance was doubled to a depth of 100 meters. And on the inside, Omega placed the much-praised caliber 3201 movement.

Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon to Today

In 2013 we got a tribute to the lunar-landing days of the Speedmaster with the now-classic Dark Side of the Moon. This ceramic “Moonwatch” is aptly named with its stark black design. And it is ceramic through and through, from its case and chronograph pushers to the caseback and dial, made from black zirconium oxide ceramic. While the watch does harken back to the long-over Space Race, it’s a decidedly modern timepiece. Omega streamlined the design by taking three subdials down to two, and beefing up the size of the case, to boldly go into the contemporary world.

So where do you fall? Are you a modern watch wearer who prefers a sleek ceramic Speedmaster? Maybe you take to vintage charm from the 70s or perhaps lean more to one-off oddities from the 90s. With over eight decades of Speedmasters to choose from, surely there’s one that suits your style.

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