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April 20, 2024

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch: white immaculateness

Watchmaking is a world in which tradition still plays an important role, and in which many reassuring certainties exist. One of these is the Omega Speedmaster’sblack dial: unique and recognisable for over 65 years. Every now and then, however, something unexpected happens to disorient enthusiasts: from black, that dial turns white. White or cream, it doesn’t really matter: the Omega Speedmaster completely changes look, with references that quickly become the most sought-after watches among collectors.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch White Dial

In 2024, it happened again. Or rather, back in November 2023 during an Omega event in New York, when something strange appeared on Daniel Craig’s wrist. Very few, in fact, missed to spot a special piece worn by the actor – who we are more used to seeing with a Seamaster when he is in James Bond’s shoes. It looked like an unprecedented version of the classic Moonwatch, with a dial in a pale colour. And no, it was not the silver dial of the Moonwatch Canopus Gold. To the eye, it looked like steel.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch White Dial

The mystery was revealed in early March, when the brand unveiled a new Omega Speedmaster in steel with a white lacquered dial. A watch destined to enter and remain in the current collection, unlike other white references created in limited editions. Which ones? Basically, three to remember: the 1997 Speedmaster 40th Anniversary ‘Albino’, made for the Italian market, the 2008 Alaska Project – a revival of models created between the 1960s and 1970s – and the 2015 Speedmaster Moonwatch Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award. To refresh our memory, we will quickly review them after describing the new reference.

THE NEW WHITE DIAL OMEGA SPEEDMASTER MOONWATCH 

So, let’s start with the new Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch with a white lacquered dial, reference 310.30.42.50.04.001. This time, the decision to use the colour-non-colour par excellence was expressly dictated by the desire to emphasise the watch’s strong connection with space. You will read everywhere that the white of the dial recalls that of the astronauts’ suits when they are performing activities outside the shuttle or the space station. And that the red Speedmaster inscription at 12 o’clock refers both to the outer case of the Alaska Project I and to the colour of the stripes which, on the suits, represented the commander rank.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch White Dial
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch White Dial

All true. What is worth emphasising about this watch, however, is the incredible elegance that the white lacquer finish gives not only to the dial, but to the whole Speedmaster. Remarkable for a timepiece that has always favoured sporty over formal wear. The lacquering’s luminosity is uniform, accentuating the so-called ‘step’ design of the dial, while at the same time smoothing and softening its finish.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch White Dial

Let us remember that, when we speak of a ‘step’ design, we are referring to the different depths of the chapter ring, the central part and the chronograph counters. Well, on the new Omega Speedmaster Moonwatchthese steps are softened, smooth, homogeneous to the entire design, especially when looking at the dial from the side. The black applied hour markers counterbalance this softness, standing out sharply along with the red tip of the chronograph seconds hand.

DESIGN DETAILS

Generally, the design of this reference is characterised by a high-end finish applied to every single element. Starting with the 42 mm case which is in steel, just as the vintage-inspired bracelet, featuring a design with five curved links on each row. The classic aesthetics are integrated with fine workmanship alternating between polished and brushed details. In addition to the bracelet version (which costs €9,100), this Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch is also available with a black micro-perforated leather strap with white racing-style stitching (€8,700), or a rubber strap with antibacterial treatment (€8,700). The latter is decorated on the inside with a positive relief motif reminiscent of the lunar surface – a further reference to the watch’s space vocation.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch White Dial
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch White Dial

Also worthy of note is the bezel, which Omega has crafted in black anodised aluminium. To further embellish this reference, the brand has equipped it with the famous ‘Dot over 90’ on the tachymeter scale. A common term among aficionados which, we should remember, indicates the presence of the indicator dot above the number 90 on the bezel (and not beside it); a design detail that characterises Speedmasters produced before 1970, and which today are highly prized and sought after.

THE CALIBRE

Inside the case beats a movement that is state-of-the-art on the market. It is the Co-Axial Master Chronometer calibre 3861, a hand-wound chronograph movement equipped with a Co-Axial escapement. Certified as a METAS-approved Master Chronometer, it is resistant to magnetic fields of up to 15,000 gauss and has a free-sprung balance with a silicon spring that is essentially non-magnetic.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch White Dial

It is visible through the sapphire crystal case back. More than the rhodium-plated finish and the bridges worked with a Côtes-de-Genève motif, what is most impressive is its harmonic architecture: hiding it behind a closed case back would actually have been a pity. The transparent case back does not affect the case’s water resistance, which is guaranteed up to 5 bar. The Co-Axial Master Chronometer 3861 calibre is an updated version of the Calibre 321 that the astronauts had been wearing to the moon since 1969.

WHITE OMEGA SPEEDMASTERS: THE ALBINO MOONWATCH

That being said, let’s come to our brief excursus on the Moonwatch dressed in white. The Speedmaster 40th Anniversary, a.k.a. ‘Albino’, was launched by Omega in 1997 in only 500 pieces, and only for the Italian market. Its dial is actually in an off-white colour, tending more towards a cream shade. It has black hands for contrasting legibility, with black Super Lumi-Nova. Since Omega started using Super-LumiNova for its Speedmasters in 1997, this chronograph was one of the first references to have it.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 40° Anniversary Albino 1997
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 40° Anniversary Albino 1997
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 40° Anniversary Albino 1997

Another special feature of the watch is the fact that it is a so-called ‘sapphire sandwich‘, i.e. a watch with a sapphire crystal on the dial (instead of a hesalite crystal) and one on the back. Through the latter we can see the calibre 1863, first introduced in 1997 just as the Super-LumiNova illumination.

CODE NAME: ALASKA PROJECT

The story of the Alaska Project is more complex, the 2008 model that today is among the most sought-after by collectors being its direct descendant. The story behind this Omega Speedmaster with a white dial began in the late 1960s, when NASA engineer James H. Ragan, who had previously worked on watch and camera testing procedures for the Apollo project, continued to develop specifications for the astronauts’ gear.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Alaska Project 2008

The project name ‘Alaska’ had little to do with the American state. In fact, Omega used code words for many of its projects to minimise the risk of industrial espionage. These names often included those of cities or countries. The code name Alaska Project was used until the late 1970s.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Alaska Project 2008

The first Speedmaster prototype Omega completed according to these specs was the 1969 Alaska Project in titanium. The movement, based on Omega’s calibre 861, was designed to use different materials and oils to resist high temperatures, and the case was protected by a red anodised aluminium outer case. In addition, the watch had a silver/white dial to better reflect sunlight and heat. Hence the origin of the white dial for this series.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Alaska Project 1969
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Alaska Project 1969
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Alaska Project 1969
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Alaska Project 1969

Finally, this model had two chronograph hands shaped like rockets, or more precisely, shaped like space capsules, for better legibility. They worked as arrows pointing towards the minute and hour tracks when reading conditions were not optimal, mainly due to vibrations on board the spacecraft. The shape of these hands would characterise the following models, through the 1970 Alaska II and all those of the same decade, up to the 2008 reference.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Alaska Project 2008

The latter has a white dial, black capsule-shaped hands for the chronograph counters, and a red chronograph seconds hand. What has changed is the use of Super-LumiNova instead of tritium. As for the red outer case, it is somewhat different from that of the 1970 Alaska II. It bears a text specifying that it is the ‘Alaska Project‘ watch, an ‘instrument for extreme temperatures in space’. In addition, the 60-minute scale is not highlighted in silver, and the back is different as well: the original was aluminium-colored, the 2008 version is all red.

THE 2015 SNOOPY SPEEDMASTER 

The 2015 edition of the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award was presented at Baselworld. The basis for that 1,970-piece limited edition is the classic Omega Speedmaster, a 42mm case chronograph made from both polished and brushed steel, with a 3-counter dial and the Omega calibre 1861. For the more observant, a Snoopy Award edition of the Speedmaster is nothing new, as Omega introduced a first version (limited to 5441 pieces) in 2003, with a Snoopy patch in the 9 o’clock counter and a dedicated caseback.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award 2015

The 2015 Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch displays a black and white colour scheme and several details reminiscent of that space mission and award. The dial features a white background with black lettering and black hands, while the luminous hour markers present a white outline with upper cavities filled with black paint. The small seconds counter at 9 o’clock shows Snoopy with a cartoon bubble saying ‘Failure is not an option’.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award 2015

Another curious detail of that reference is the 14-second scale on the dial, which starts at 0 with the inscription ‘What could you do in 14 seconds?’. This is a reference to the duration of the thrust the astronauts had managed to create to get the module into orbit and then safely back to earth. The bezel is also specific to that edition: although it may look similar to that of the classic Moonwatch, it is made of polished black ceramic with a tachymeter scale in Super-LumiNova.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award 2015
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award 2015

It is therefore clear from what you have read so far that what we wrote at the beginning of this article is true (watchmaking is all about certainties), but that you should always be prepared for surprises. Even a legend like the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch can have some good ones in store: those who will get a hold of them will be lucky.

By Davide Passoni