No one can argue that racing chronographs from the 60’s aren’t cool. There’s just something about those reverse panda watches powered by the classic valjoux movements. When you pick one up today, you can easily imagine those scuffs and scratches on the case coming from an accident at turn 3 (when they really happened just like our scuffs and scrapes do by bumping into a door frame).
We are also seeing a return to vintage style right now. With the prices of old Daytonas or Autavias going sky high, Tag Heuer wisely brought back the classic design (although that bezel has let itself go in the last 40 years and the original elegant design has plumped up a bit too much to my eye). I’m an admitted sucker for these remakes. The combination of historic design with modern techniques and support is hard to beat.
So that brings us to the new #speedytuesday Speedmaster Professional from Omega. The limited-edition, online-only watch checks all the right boxes: reverse panda, old school logo, brushed case, leather strap, surprising lume (won’t find that on a vintage watch!), and cool (although modern) story tied to watch collecting. I was sold on the look back in February and made it onto the reserve list right before they sold out.
What’s missing from the #speedytuesday is the racing heritage that goes with the look. Instead you get a throw back to the watch that could have been if Heuer and Rolex had focused on space and Omega had stuck with automotive. Despite numerous “racing” edition watches (even the limited edition Speedmaster Pro Racing turned into the Tintin), when you think of the SPEEDmaster, you don't think of automotive. What you get instead is one of the most classic chronographs of all time cosplaying as something else. But does it work?
I actually think it does. Let’s face it, for the $6500 MSRP on the #speedytuesday, you can’t pick up a similar vintage watch from Heuer or Rolex. The closest alternative is the aforementioned Autavia release that came out this year, but while it has the brand street cred, it doesn't capture the original as closely as some of the modern remakes do (or even as well as the Carerra CS3111 did). There are a host of other valjoux-powered vintage watches that share the look for a similar or lower price point, but they don’t check the box for me in the same way.
What doesn’t work?
- The look of the brushed hands is perfect and a nice update from the standard variety Speedy. However, when paired with the silver subdials, it gets harder to read at a quick glance - a similar argument about the modern Daytonas.
- The leather strap it comes with is very nice. Honestly, a touch too nice. Part of the fun of these watches is playing Barbie Dress Up with straps, so its not a huge knock at all. Also, its hard to slam a strap for being too nice when they dropped the bracelet entirely. As a result, about 2017 new #speedytuesday owners have driven prices of vintage Speedmaster bracelets on eBay into the stratosphere.
- The black and white nato strap that comes with the watch is sharp looking in photos. In person, the prison stripes don’t work well with my day to day attire. If I turn to white collar crime, I am well prepared for the look.
- The slow pace these reserved watches are getting out to buyers is unfortunate. I was in one of the lucky first batches. If I were still waiting until September, I would be very frustrated right now. For those waiting, keep the faith, its worth it!
What does work?
- The hashtag name is tricky. It was widely ridiculed when VW made the #PinkBeetle model. That was a desperate grab for relevance and trying to be hip. I actually like the link to the online community in this one.
- I thought the lumed sub-dials would be too much, but they are more subtle in person than I thought. It also sets the watch apart from a pure retro cash-in and gives it something unique.
- The buying experience was actually pleasant. Omega scores points with me for being one of the few watchmakers where I always feel welcomed in their boutiques. Unlike Patek, Vacheron Constantin, and the awful local jewelers peddling Rolexes where it feels like you always get sized up and rejected as a tire-kicker by an unknowledgeable salesperson who doesn’t recognize the Lange 1815 on your wrist. Its no wonder the gray market and online sales are exploding while Swiss makers are fretting over shrinking margins. At the Omega boutique, my salesperson was as excited as I was about the new release. Basically I walked in and paid full retail and left happy. Score one for Omega.
While they sold out months ago, these watches don't appear to be selling for insane Silver Snoopy prices on the secondary market. That's good because it encouraged me to keep and enjoy it and not flip it. If you get the opportunity to try one on or pick one up, give it a shot. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.