Welcome to the third installment of Reference Points, our series that takes an exhaustive look at some of the most important families of timepieces in history . In this episode, we examine the legendary Omega Speedmaster, a watch that has become a brand unto itself over the last 50 years. We’ll examine the origins of the Speedmaster, its progression into the “space watch” that we know today, and how it has evolved over the years.
I will begin by pointing out what this is not. This is not a look at every watch to wear the Speedmaster name, but rather those that we would classify as true “moon watches” – meaning those with a manually wound movement from Lemania, three registers, and no date. Over the years, Omega has produced hundreds of offshoot watches, but for purity’s sake (and brevity’s, for that matter), we will focus on the purest of all Speedmasters here. Further, this is not a look at how the Speedmaster made it to space, but rather how to examine individual references to know what they should look like. Let’s get down to it.
The very first thing that one must understand about the Speedmaster is that in 1957 when it was launched, chronographs made up a very, very small percentage of watch sales – for all brands. A chronograph, or a watch with “stop watch” functionality, whether it be from Omega, Heuer, Rolex, Vacheron, or Patek Philippe, would be a purpose-built tool designed to be used by an engineer, a technician, a doctor, or a sportsman of some kind. The chronograph for the casual timepiece wearer was not a concept that would develop until some years later – really into the 1970s – and we have explored how that transition took place with the help of the Jack Heuer and the number three cigarette in America here.
This is part of the reason why sports-oriented chronographs from any maker – including Omega cheap fake watches– are so much more coveted than their simpler counterparts. Not only are they more complicated, but they are also far more rare, with a target market much narrower than their simple time-telling brothers. Consider this original advertisement for the 1957 Omega Speedmaster seen below.
Here we see two men, one piloting what appears to be a performance car of some kind, and the other with his hand on the brand new “Omega cheap replica watches high-precision wrist computer” that allows the wearer to determine the car’s speed with “no calculating. no paperwork.” How is this done? With the T.P.M. – or Tacho-Productometer scale “etched into the rim of the case.”