It’s been years since Omega discontinued its (almost) legendary digital/analog Speedmaster Professional X-33 that, in its heyday, directly competed against a similar model from Breitling. Finally, the Swiss watchmaker has presented a totally reworked version of the piece. The 2012 Omega Spacemaster Z-33 (ref. 318.104.22.168.01.001) features an absolutely stunning (although somewhat controversial) design and belongs to the “love it or hate it” category.
If you are more or less familiar with Omega’s “real” pilot watches, you will immediately notice that the generously proportioned body of the new Z-33 is based on the design that we have already seen on their c.910/c.911 series of watches that were in production in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Featuring a much more elaborated finish (the case, which is crafted from hardened grade 5 titanium, boasts brushed, polished, and even sand-blasted surfaces,) the case keeps the same proportions, although it has become significantly larger. According to official specs, the new Spacemaster Z-33 is 53 millimeters long, 43 millimeters wide, and almost 20 millimeters thick!
Frankly, I am somewhat disturbed by the size of this thing. Omega implies that this is a true companion of a modern pilot that one can wear with a pressure suit and operate with gloved hands. Yet, I have a feeling (and the official water resistance rating of just 30 meters does nothing but reinforce it) that it will mostly be worn by desktop pilots and for many of them, the piece is going to be prohibitively huge.
As I have already noted, the timekeeper sports a quartz movement that offers just about all functionality that you can expect from an analog-digital caliber. The new thermo-compensated Caliber 5666 brings you two time zones, UTC time, alarm, perpetual calendar, chronograph, countdown timer, and, of course, a log of 10 last flights.
Since the ref. 322.214.171.124.01.001 is not equipped with a photovoltaic element, the Swiss watchmaker tried to save some energy using a pair of red LCD displays with automatic luminosity control: the displays will dim in total darkness and will achieve maximum brightness under a sun. Must be very handy.
There are only two problems with this watch.
First, you can find the same functionality in a Japanese timekeeper that, while not looking as stylish and usually not equipped with a scratch-resistant, anti-reflective sapphire crystal, will cost you five to ten times less (Omega suggests selling the digital chronograph at a minimum recommended street price of $5900): something to consider if you search for a tool watch. Second, you will never find a Japanese competitor with such a strong character that is sipping like hydrogen through every seam in its case (well, with its water resistance rating of just 30 meters I could actually say that it sips through like usual water, but that wouldn’t sound that cool, would it?)
Omega Spacemaster Z-33 Analog Digital Flight Computer 3126.96.36.199.01.001 specification
Price: $5900 (MSRP)
Movement: Quartz, Caliber Omega 5666, thermo-compensated, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 9
Functions: Hours, minutes, perpetual calendar, alarm, UTC, two time zones, countdown timer, chronograph
Power reserve: 24 months (End of life indicator)
Dimensions: 43.00 mm x 53.00 mm
Case height: 19.85 mm
Dial: Black, a pair of LCD displays
Hour markers: Luminous
Hands: Skeletonized, luminous
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Black rubber strap with red “Omega” and “Speedmaster” inscriptions or a brown “Soft Touch” leather strap
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective on both sides
Back: Solid, engraved