Just When You Thought the Omega Speedmaster Couldn't Get Better, It Did

The iconic watch worn on the moon just got its biggest upgrade in decades.

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Omega

You don't want to mess too much with something as iconic as the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch. And yet, it was inevitable: just announced, the watch’s movement is getting its first major upgrade in decades. Is this still the same Moonwatch everybody knows and loves, only better? In many ways, yes — but it also comes with a price hike.

Perhaps even more than most watches, the movement inside the Speedmaster is an important part of its appeal. That's because Omega offers more than just the looks of the watch worn by the astronauts, but the technical features that helped pass NASA's stringent tests. The movement now powering the Moonwatch is called the 3861 and it looks nearly identical to the 1861 it replaces, but includes some notable upgrades.

First introduced in 2019 in a solid gold Speedmaster, watch fans expected that the 3861 would eventually trickle down to the standard production models as it's now done. It's still a hand-wound movement with a similar power reserve (now 50 hours rather than 48) as the 1861 —it even looks nearly identical, for those who look closely at such things — but with some important upgrades.

The improvements are summarized in the movement's designation as "Co-Axial Master Chronometer." What is that? The Co-Axial escapement is Omega's celebrated movement technology that features in its best watches (more on that in our complete buying guide to Omega watches), and Master Chronometer means it's passed the brand's own, very stringent tests. In other words, it's some of the best movement technology Omega offers.

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Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 3861 manually wound movement.
Omega
omega
The "step dial" is a tribute to early versions.
Omega

The improvements further include a silicon hairspring, which helps achieve resistance to magnetic fields to around 15,000 gauss (useful in a spaceship, for sure). What fans intimately familiar with the Moonwatch will notice in their daily lives is that the new movement offers a "hacking" feature to help set the time more precisely, which the outgoing 1861 lacked.

These are certainly nerdy, technical details, but they're important to the enthusiast community that the Moonwatch is largely geared toward. For the new watch models that include the 3861 movement, Omega also included certain subtle details to please that crowd and differentiate the new models from the last generation. They include indented "step" subdials and design touches that refer to early "space era" Speedmaster watches like the placement of dots on the bezel in relation to their numbers (70 and 90, specifically). The steel bracelet option has also been given a design refresh, and now features five links per row and subtle differences in finishing between the models featuring Hesalite and sapphire crystal.

One of the biggest changes in the new Moonwatch, however, isn't technical or aesthetic — rather, it's in its price. Part of the Speedmaster's appeal has long been that its cost seems very reasonable for all that it offers. It's expected that improvements would entail a premium, but the outgoing watches were easy to mentally round down to around $5k in their most basic configuration — whereas the new versions with Hesalite (plastic) crystals start at $5,950 on a strap and cost $6,300 for the bracelet version.

Other versions will cost more with a sapphire crystal and exhibition case back to view the movement. There are even 18k (Canopus and Sedna) gold versions for significantly more (read: $35,000+ more). Any way you look at it, the steel version is still a hell of a watch for the money.

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