In this new series, we take on various watch-related questions, which have been googled by a large number of people.
Regardless of whether the question is good, ordinary, or just plain silly, we’ll try to answer it, either by digging through whatever we can or by stating the obvious.
Either way, you’ll have the answer you were looking for.
What is the best Omega Speedmaster?
Do you prefer the long or the short answer? Usually, that’s the question I’d reply with, but the point is that there’s no definitive answer to that.
The real answer is different for every person, as it depends on your watch preferences, and it’s something only you can answer.
Vintage vs. contemporary
The choice here depends mainly on collectible value. An ideal compromise between collectible value and not spending too much would be a 145.022 from the 1970s. Perhaps even a 145.012 with the cal. 321 if you have a higher budget.
In terms of the movement, the cal. 321 is probably the better choice because it has a column wheel. The downside is that if something goes wrong, the parts will be expensive, and they can be hard to find.
In terms of contemporary, if you want the closest thing to a 1960s/1970s Speedmaster, the Pro with reference no. 3126.96.36.199.01.005 (42mm, steel, hesalite crystal, cal. 1861, a direct descendant of ref. ST 145.022) is probably the best choice.
I wouldn’t recommend the CK2998 limited editions because they’re not even remotely close to the original CK 2998. But then again, if you want a modern twist on the “straight lug” Speedmasters, then why not?
Hesalite vs. sapphire
Because Omega currently offers the Speedmaster Pro in both crystal versions, here’s a small breakdown of what these two materials are like.
Hesalite is the fancier name for plexiglass. It scratches easily but doesn’t shatter, and it’s cheap to replace. It has been used for something like the last 8-9 decades.
Sapphire is in use since the 1960s, more or less. It doesn’t scratch unless it has an anti-reflective coating, or it comes in contact with a brick wall or a sidewalk.
When it shatters, it falls out, and it no longer provides even basic protection for the dial. A sapphire crystal is expensive to replace.
I’m afraid that of the hand-wound Speedies, there isn’t anything smaller than the Pro or the FOiS. So, you’re out of luck if 48mm from lug-to-lug is too much for you.
In terms of the diameter, there’s the 39.7mm “First Omega in Space” reissue of the ref. CK 2998, but the lug-to-lug size in both the 42mm and the 39.7mm is the same, at 48mm. You can read more about that in this article.
Well, of the relatively recent models, there’s the Speedmaster Racing, with a column-wheel version of the Valjoux 7750, smaller than the hand-wound Pro.
There’s a Speedmaster Racing with the cal. 9900, without the big crystal fitted in the case back that the 9300s used to have. However, the diameter is 44.25mm, with a lug-to-lug size of something like 50mm. One thing, though, they all have a sapphire crystal.
From older models, you can try the Speedmaster Reduced, which will give you the Speedmaster Pro looks, a hesalite crystal, and in a smaller size (which is connected to the point about size issues). Then again, it has a modular chronograph movement based on the ETA 2892, opinions about which are mixed, especially in terms of servicing. The Omega service center has been known to swap out the whole module now and then.
In terms of vintage, there’s the Mark III, Mark IV, and Mark V, all of which had automatic movements by Lemania. Pretty solid ones, and given that they weren’t exclusive to Omega, sourcing spare parts might not be quite the nightmare that it is with the cal. 321.
So, there you have it. Frankly, it’s back to the starting point.
There’s no such thing as one Speedmaster to rule them all. It all depends on which one you like and what you’re looking for.