0Posted by Robert-Jan Broer on Jan 14, 2014
It’s Speedy Tuesday! This week we present to you our review on the Omega Speedmaster ’57 Co-Axial Caliber 9300 Chronograph that was introduced to us last year in Basel. A modern Speedmaster that we already compared to the original Omega Speedmaster from 1957 and the Omega Speedmaster ’57 Re-edition (click here). This review talks about this straight-lugged Speedmaster ’57 with its subtle nods to the original Speedmaster timepiece. We had it on our wrists for quite some time and we’d like to share our thoughts and experiences with you.
Omega was so kind to lend us this Omega Speedmaster ’57 reference 318.104.22.168.01.001, the stainless steel and red gold combination on a brown leather calf strap. Although there was also a stainless steel version available for review, we decided to think out of the box and went for this version with the red gold bezel, crown and pushers instead.
One of the first things you will notice is that the dial appears to be different than the one used on the ‘normal’ Speedmaster Caliber 9300 that we reviewed here and here. At least to us it appeared as if the lay-out was different. A quick comparison taught us that the sub dials of this Speedmaster ’57 are a bit bigger. Below you see a comparison picture with the Speedmaster reference 322.214.171.124.01.002 (right) and the Speedmaster ’57 3126.96.36.199.01.001 (left). The hour markers are a bit shorter giving the sub dial indices a bit more space (also very noticeable towards the center pinion).
The size of the Speedmaster ’57 is another thing that amazed us. Although we were already aware that it measured only 41.5mm (which is actually smaller than then hand-wound Speedmaster Professional that we discuss here so often), it surely seems to wear a bit bigger. This is mainly due to the height of the watch. The chronograph caliber 9300 watches by Omega are all quite thick and this Speedy ’57 is no exception. Due to the use of a sapphire crystal on both the front and the back of this watch, Omega will make you think their Speedmaster caliber 9300 are a lot thinner. This is something we also noticed with the initial Speedmaster caliber 9300 models introduced in 2011.
All of the Fratellowatches team have been wearing this watch for a while (we were able to borrow it for quite a while) and although we normally seem to prefer the good ol’ Speedmaster Professional, we all came to like this watch a lot. Even with the red gold bezel, crown and pushers. The lack of crown guards – another subtle nod to the very first series of Speedmaster watches until 1965 – gives this watch symmetry and the large easy to read sub dials are a feast for the eyes. The two register chronograph is very easy to read and perhaps even as ‘clean’ as the tri-compax lay-out of the über Speedmaster, the Moonwatch.
While wearing this watch, we received a lot of comments on it by fellow watch enthusiasts. Basically, you can divide them into two groups. Those who look at it as a ‘stand alone’ watch with little or no historical notion of the Moonwatch and those who are Speedmaster (Pro) purists and have a strong focus on the original Moonwatch design.
The comments from the ones that are more or less Speedmaster devotees have been very interesting. There is mainly the issue of the price point. These Speedmaster ’57 caliber 9300 models (and the other Speedmaster caliber 9300 models as well) have a price tag totally different from the Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’. The stainless steel model on a leather strap has a price tag of 5480 Euro (excluding VAT) and the stainless steel and red gold combination model as reviewed here has a 6744 Euro price tag (excluding VAT). What people seem to forget are two things: 1. the Speedmaster Professional is a model that did not change that much since 1968 except for the bracelets and a movement upgrade in 1997 (from caliber 861 to caliber 1861). The (low) price of 2820 Euro (excluding VAT) is almost an exception in the entire Omega catalog. Which brings me to the 2nd aspect: Almost any other watch in the Omega collection has been upgraded/updated with new innovations. Whether materials, design or new movements, it will be very difficult to find a watch that comes as unchanged as the Speedmaster Professional. Perhaps the design of the new range of caliber 9300 watches is heavily influenced by the heritage of the Speedmaster, but a lot of things have changed. Not only the case and bracelet are different, also the movement of these new range of Speedmasters is totally different. The in-house developed and produced caliber 9300 movement is a different breed from the original Lemania hand-wound calibers.
This column wheel chronograph with George Daniel’s Co-Axial escapement is the result of years of development. Omega industrialized the production process of this movement (and that of the caliber 8500 family) to be able to provide the high number of watches they produce every year with one of these in-house movements. It is not only the finish of the movement that is so beautiful, also the fact that it uses a column wheel mechanism for the chronograph, a Co-Axial escapement and silicon parts make this a very interesting movement. Operating this chronograph movements by using the start/stop and reset pushers does feel very solid and ‘precise’. The caliber 9300 movement also have been chronometer certified, which means they have a maximal deviation of -6 and +4 seconds per day.
So, is it fair to compare the Speedmaster ’57 to the Moonwatch with regards to the price tag? You are free to do so, but we’d rather compare it to watches of other (big) brands that also come with an in-house movement like the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Daytona ref. 116520 or an IWC Pilot Spitfire reference 3878. Although it has the same family name and design influences, the Speedmaster ’57 – and Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon and Speedmaster 9300 for that matter – just play in a different league than the original Moonwatch in our opinion. If you like the Moonwatch better, that’s fine and it saves you a few bucks as well. If you are a Speedy Tuesday regular you know us by now, we have our share of Speedmaster Professional watches in our personal collections but certainly wouldn’t mind to own one of these caliber 9300 Speedmasters.
Where the original Moonwatch only has a water resistance of 50 meters and is not really meant for use in the water, this Speedmaster ’57 has a 100m depth rate. However, do not enter the water if you have the leather strap on there. Make sure to put it on a stainless steel bracelet or a strap that can handle water (like rubber).
The people who commented on the watch who are not – or at least less – Speedmaster devotees, seem to really love it. Some of them might not like the red gold accents and rather prefer an all stainless steel Speedmaster ’57 (reference 3188.8.131.52.01.001 for the stainless steel version with bracelet) but we have to say – speaking for all of the Fratellowatches members – eventually loved the red gold accents. It makes the watch tres chic and looks perfect with a suit or at least a more formal outfit. The red gold hands and applied Omega logo on the dial perfectly blend in with the red gold bezel, crown and pushers. However, also here it seems that people need to get adjusted to the pricing of these watches as many of them seem to be ‘stuck’ in the pricing table of the early 2000s when the Seamaster Professional 2531.80 and Speedmaster Pro 3570.50 were ruling the displays at the Omega dealers.
We believe that Omega did a great job in pushing the Co-Axial technology through advertising campaigns last year in magazines and on-line publications (also here on FW) to make people aware of the fact that Omega’s focus is on innovative watches (and movements) and a being a real manufacture. However, it will probably take some time to create more awareness around their in-house developed movements and other technical innovations (such as the anti-magnetic movement in the Seamaster Aqua Terra > 15,000 gauss).
Since we understand the price point of the Speedmaster ’57, do we have any other comments on this watch? Although we are very enthusiastic about this Speedmaster ’57 and consider it to be a very interesting in-house manufactured chronograph we do have one minor thing to comment. If it was for us to take certain decisions, we would have used the caliber 9301 movement for this watch. This movement is identical to the caliber 9300 used in this particular Speedmaster ’57 but features an 18 carat gold rotor and a balance bridge. Since the watch itself has some gold accents and bezel, we think it would have been appropriate to use the caliber 9301 movement. Omega decided to use the caliber 9301 movement only in the all gold Speedmaster ’57 models. We wouldn’t consider this a deal-breaker though.
In any case, our verdict is that this watch is an awesome everyday timepiece for both Speedmaster enthusiasts as well as for people who just need one good all-round performer. Although the Speedmaster Professional die-hard probably rather invests in a vintage Speedmaster CK2998 or other early reference for this kind of money, we think it is at least worth investigating based on our own ‘wearing experience’. For the people who are in the market for a watch with an in-house chronograph movement from other brands (like the ones mentioned before): we’d put our money on this one.
More information can be found here on the official Omega website.