A version of this story first appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today for more stories like this one, plus receive a $15 gift card to the Gear Patrol Store.
Improving upon a classic is never an easy feat, especially one as beloved as the Omega Speedmaster Professional. But at some point, even stalwarts like the Speedy need upgrades, especially when advancements in watchmaking technology promise better performance, higher accuracy and increased comfort.
With that in mind, meet the new Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Co-Axial Master Chronometer. While many incremental updates to classic models elicit yawns from die-hard fans, such is not the case with the Speedy Pro. Powered by the Master Chronometer–certified calibre 3861 movement, it's a more accurate, more robust, longer-running watch than its predecessor. It's also equipped with a redesigned dial and a new bracelet, each of which alone would be enough to excite longtime Speedy fans. Taken together, they've thrilled the Omega community and are sure to welcome legions of new admirers into the Moonwatch fold. Of course, all this innovation isn't cheap. On a bracelet, this Speedy lands at a base price of $6,300, clocking in around 20 percent more expensive than the last Hesalite-equipped iteration.
To be clear, the calibre 3861 is no longer brand new — it first saw the light of day in March of 2019, powering the all-gold Speedmaster Apollo 11 Anniversary Limited Edition; and it has since appeared in two more models. The transition from these limited-production models to the standard, stainless steel Professional was all but inevitable, but it's still notable that the series 1861/861 movements are being officially retired after over 50 years of service in the Speedmaster.
The 3861 is certainly a significant improvement over the 1861. Master Chronometer–certified, the 3861 is accurate to within 0/+5 seconds per day. It can also resist magnetic fields of up to 15,000 gauss, it's more shock resistant than the 1861 and requires less frequent service, and its power reserve has increased by two hours. Put it inside a case that can withstand wild temperature fluctuations, rapid decompression and high pressure, and you have a timepiece better suited than ever for manned space flight, even if most examples will never make it farther than the troposphere.
The watch's matching steel bracelet has likewise been improved. Its five-link construction features thinner center links with either mirror- or matte-polished intermediate links, a taper from 20mm to 15mm, and a redesigned folding clasp with an engraved logo and two-position micro-adjust. In addition to giving the watch a more refined, luxurious look, the new bracelet is also more comfortable than its predecessor.
So why the choice of mirror- or matte-polished links on the bracelet? The Speedy Pro has long been available in two distinct versions: one equipped with a modern, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, the other paired with a vintage-style Hesalite (plexiglass) crystal. Purists prefer the Hesalite for several reasons, not least of which because it's the type of crystal approved by NASA. (If your watch crystal were to break in space, the last thing you'd want would be tiny shards of sharp glass flying around your spacecraft.) Befitting its all-business identity, the Hesalite version comes with matte-polished intermediate links on the bracelet and a solid case back, while the flashier, more modern sapphire version's bracelet features mirror-polished inner links and a transparent sapphire case back.
Depending the version, the case back will either feature the words "Co-Axial Master Chronometer Professional Moonwatch" and "Flight-Qualified By NASA In 1965 For All Manned Space Missions" (Hesalite) or "Co-Axial Master Chronometer" and "The First Watch Worn On The Moon" (sapphire). Additionally, the Omega globe logo is present on the inside of the top right lug, while the case metal is listed on the bottom right lug. (The watch is also available in two gold versions, "Sedna" gold and "Canopus" gold.)
As for the watch's famous tachymeter bezel, it now features a throwback touch in the form of a small dot over the "90" mark, rather than next to it — a reference to early Speedmaster models and a detail that watch geeks love. The dial itself also features references to retro Speedys, such as the ST105.012 (the model worn on the moon in 1969), where the edge with the minute/seconds track and hour indices is raised slightly. Finally, the Hesalite version comes with a painted Omega logo, another throwback, and the case has been slimmed down compared to recent iterations.
The whole package wears like a dream. At 42mm wide, the Speedmaster Professional isn't a small watch and never has been, but somehow the inwardly curving, twisted lugs of its case manage to redirect some of the design's heft. The new, more tapered bracelet also helps slim the watch down, and of course the thinner cases are exactly what the doctor ordered.
Because the case is slightly asymmetrical and the pushers and crown are integrated into its right side, they don't protrude into your hand as on certain other chronograph designs. And because the bracelet is so comfortable and articulates well, you don't necessarily notice that you're wearing a large watch.
The pusher action on the chronograph from the new 3861 movement is buttery smooth and a pleasure to use, while the dial — despite the presence of 30-minute, 12-hour and running-seconds subdials — is incredibly legible. (The green glow of the Super-LumiNova also ensures that the watch is easy to read at night, a must for a tool watch like the Speedy.) Fans of vintage Omega will be satisfied with the "dot-over-90" bezel and the stepped dial, while those who value comfort will appreciate the luxurious new bracelet.
As for the negatives here, there aren’t many. Some Speedy fans will be disappointed by the price tag, which puts it out of reach for many casual watch buyers. However, when compared to Rolex’s Daytona, which has a base price of $13,150, Omega’s flagship chronograph remains somewhat down-to-earth.
And how can you argue with an engine as refined as the 3861, made in-house by Omega, the world's second largest watch manufacturer, and calibrated to the highest possible standards of accuracy? If such a movement on its own isn't worth a premium over the previous model, I assure you that the movement, the bracelet and the dial together absolutely are. Suffice it to say that the 3861-based Speedmaster Professional isn't just another monthly "drop" from Omega. It's a testament to the quality and professionalism that the Swiss marque infuses into its watches — watches that have been to the Moon and back.
Movement: Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 3861
Power Reserve: 50 hours
Price: $6,300 (Hesalite on bracelet); $7,150 (sapphire on bracelet)