Presented at the Baselworld 2016 trade show, the Speedmaster Moonphase Chronograph Master Chronometer (ref. 304.33.44.52.03.001) is one of the most attractive takes on Omega’s constantly growing collection of the legendary “moon watches.” Combining striking exterior with an advanced, anti-magnetically shielded movement, the device tries really hard to be worth every single dollar that the Swiss watchmaker wants you to spend on it.
When the first Speedmaster was first introduced almost sixty years ago, it didn’t have any particular inspiration of becoming a sort of living legend. It was simply yet another sporty chronograph that also happened to keep a good time thanks to a winning choice of Caliber 321 hand-wound movement that powered it. As it sometimes happens, the watch was chosen by NASA for its space program and the rest is History with a capital ‘H’.
This new version of the iconic Speedmaster may never find its way to the low Earth orbit, but the Swiss watchmaker still invested a lot of time into making the timekeeper as resistant to magnetic fields (that surround us virtually everywhere affecting not only our health but also the ability of your mechanical watch to accurately count seconds of your life) as it is possible while keeping it look as elegant as it is. Equipping it with their new Caliber 9904 self-winding mechanism, Omega virtually decimated competition since there are not so many dressy chronographs that also happen to be the best when it comes to magnetic protection and doesn’t cost like a space ship.
The Case & Strap
Omega is known for its expert use of “solid” colors (the jovial Seamaster Planet Ocean Platinum Orange Ceramic is, perhaps, the first model that comes to mind here, although there are more affordable options on the market that use the same ‘dum vivimus vivamus’ philosophy in their exterior) and this new model is no exception here. The juicy, albeit a bit dark, the blue color of the dial with its rhodium-plated elements is nicely matched by a blue leather strap with contrasting light-grey stitching, as well as by blue ceramic bezel. The latter, by the way, has its standard tachymeter not simply engraved, but filled with their signature “Liquid Metal” alloy, an amorphous non-corrosive metal alloy that is 1.5 harder than steel. Often used to replace other metals in applications ranging from kinetic weapons to phone and USB stick casings, it was developed by Caltech around 15 years ago and is now distributed by a company conveniently called Liquidmetal Technologies.
Since the ref. 304.33.44.52.03.001 is animated by a thick self-winding mechanism (more on it below,) the 44-millimeter body of this Speedmaster measures almost 17 millimeters from top to bottom. This is still considered acceptable for a “sporty” chronograph, yet you should bear in mind that the watch may not be particularly comfortable to wear if you plan to combine it with dress shirts that also happen to have tight cuffs.
Another thing that you should pay attention to is the lug-to-lug size of this watch. Measuring approximately fifty millimeters in length, it looks great on wider wrists, but may not look especially hot if your wrist is narrower than average. Just don’t forget to try this one on your wrist before ordering one online. After all, it is you who will have to wear this expensive beauty for at least nine hours per day, try to make the most out of it.
Apart from that, I don’t see any serious ergonomic issues here: the crown is massive enough to provide good grip, while the chronograph push-pieces make an impression like they would be convenient to any human being that has at least a thumb and an index finger on his or her hand.
Omega goes to great pain to make the dial look as attractive as technically possible for a timekeeper that was originally designed as a tool watch. While the dial still looks deceptively simple using nothing more than sun-brushing on the plate itself, the usual “Speedmaster” hour and minute hands, and a set of applied hour markers, it makes a strong impression with the way that all elements of the dial fit together.
To further increase the Speedmaster’s legibility, the hour, minute, and second hands on this chronometer are covered with Superluminova. Although the luminous strips are thin, my experience with other Speedmasters makes me pretty confident that they will glow brightly enough for the time to be easily read even in a move when your eyes usually need a moment or two to adjust after brightly lit silver screen to the meager glow of the luminous compound.
Even the pair of sub-dials, each sporting two hands (the one at 9 o’clock features a circular date indicator with the usual bright red moon crescent pointer and a small seconds display, while the other at 3 hours features a combined chronograph counter with 12-hour and 60-minute totalizers) and featuring rhodium-plated rings around them, don’t look too cluttered: they make an impression that they were supposed to be here all the time since the original was first unveiled back in ?1957. The same goes for the beautifully finished moon phase indicator makes the dial look even more striking.
Yes, the number of indicators makes the time a bit less readable than most sporty three-handers, but, all things considered, I must admit that Omega’s designers did a great job making this new Speedmaster as easily legible in all lighting situations as it is.
The movement is, perhaps, the most interesting thing here. The Caliber 9904 is one of the latest iterations of the Master Co-Axial series that is equipped with a non-magnetic Silicon Si14 balance spring and features a proprietary anti-magnetic alloy for even better protection against magnetic fields. The mechanism features the same anti-magnetic rating as the earlier Seamaster Aqua Terra that was the first in the world to withstand up to 15,000 gausses without any measurable effect on its ability to keep time.
As far as I understand, the mechanism is based on the same Caliber 8508 that powered the aforementioned Aqua Terra but is a lot more complex featuring a chronograph, a simple circular calendar, and a moon phase indicator that only needs to be adjusted every 10 years of continuous operation. The latter maybe not heart-stopping now when there are timekeepers with moon-phase complications that can keep in sync with the biggest celestial body on our sky for whole 128 years (actually, even a relatively inexpensive Chr. Ward C9 Moonphase can do this trick,) but it is not the main selling point here, although the moon disk is done with almost frightening attention to even the most minuscule details.
The total number of components was hence increased to 368, while the jewel count was up to 54. With its two spring barrels mounted in series, the caliber features a surprisingly non-impressive power reserve of just 60 hours. Well, it is still enough even if you plan to wear it only on office days.
As usual, the Caliber 9904 features their signature Geneva waves in Arabesque motif over something that looks like rhodium-plated steel with red inscriptions that is nicely accented by polished and blackened screw-heads, barrels and balance wheel.
Since Omega wanted to further stress both the timekeeper’s anti-magnetic properties and its ability to keep time, they decided to form a sort of partnership with METAS (Swiss Federal Office for Metrology and Accreditation) that officially certifies every movement for compliance with the highest possible standard imaginable for the industry. It looks that at this time Omega is the only watchmaker that sells you something more besides attractive exterior design and an expensive logo.
The Pricing & Availability
It is reported that the Speedmaster Moonphase Chronograph Master Chronometer will be offered at a minimum recommended price of 9400 Swiss francs that roughly translates to $9200. If this is indeed the case, the watch will be less expensive than Breitling Transocean Chronograph 1461 that offers perpetual calendar functionality but comes sans ceramic bezel and doesn’t feature magnetic shielding and generally looks like a less rational choice.
The date of international availability is still to be officially announced.
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Omega Speedmaster Moonphase Chronograph Master Chronometer (ref. 304.33.44.52.03.001) specification
Price: CHF 9400 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic (winding in both direction), Caliber Omega 9904, in-house, 368 parts, two barrels, anti-magnetic to 15,000 Gauss, certified as a Master Chronometer as tested by METAS (Swiss Federal Office for Metrology and Accreditation), Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 54
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 60 hours
Movement decoration: Geneva Waves in Arabesque, blackened screws, barrels and balance wheel
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, moon phase, chronograph
Case: Stainless steel
Bezel: Ceramic, Liquid Metal tachymeter scale
Size: 44.25 mm
Case height: 16.85 mm
Lug width: 21 mm
Dial: Sun-brushed, blue
Hour markers: Luminous, applied, rhodium-plated
Hands: Polished, luminous, rhodium-plated
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Blue leather strap with contrast stitching on steel fold-over clasp
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective coating on both sides
Back: Sapphire, antireflective coating on the inner side