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The Omega Speedmaster - The Best Alternative and Homage Watches.

Posted on August 28 2019

Northwind Watches

The Omega Speedmaster - The Best Affordable Alternatives and Homage Watches.

 

It may seem a little surprising when you look back at the space race and the technology the two Superpowers brought to the table. Everything looks dated. From the cumbersome, slow computers to the astronauts uniforms. It can take a little bit of imagination to picture what that world looked like then.

No internet, no mobile phones, and no digital watches.

The first Space flight was in 1961. The same year the Jaguar E-Type was launched and the contraceptive pill was made available on the NHS.
The accurate measurement of time was crucial to the success of these early missions. Watchmaking technology, like the rest of that used, was fairly limited. Mechanical watches were just that - mechanical. They seemed a little bit out of place in the space age.


Initially the watches available to NASA and the Russian Space program were essentially the same as those available to the public. High quality precision instruments no doubt, but nothing specifically designed for this job.


As the space race progressed so did the design of the watches. In Russia, under the Communist system, watches were designed and produced by state owned factories. Factories that now go down in watchmaking history. In the US the procedure was slightly different. The government went shopping. We've previously discussed this process here when looking at how the US government sources it's military watches.


What's so fascinating about the development of space watches is that it was a marriage of old mechanical timepieces with the space program's then cutting edge technology. Men orbiting the Earth in rockets but having to hand wind their watches. Added to that is the development of these watches as the functional needs became apparent. Read more.


For watch nerds there's also the stories of these space pioneers who had their own individual influence on this history. Astronauts and cosmonauts who chose their own watches or collaborated with manufacturers to get the watches that they needed.


Speaking of the moon landings, SciFi author J.G. Ballard said that they had killed the public's interest in space exploration. Man had landed on the moon and there was nothing there. Elon Musk's SpaceX may be promising new frontiers in space exploration but it doesn't quite capture our imagination the way those early flights did. That could explain why we enjoy the history of space exploration so much. For those in the past it represented a bold, ambitious future. For us now it is viewed as history, and for watch enthusiasts there's nothing more satisfying than watches associated with the historical high points of the 20th century.


Omega’s ‘Moonwatch’ is arguably the king of space watches. The watch was worn in 1969 by Buzz Aldrin during the first manned lunar landing marking it out as one of the most iconic watches of the 20th century.

Originally the Speedmaster was designed as a sports chronograph, although it was naturally favoured by pilots. When, in the mid 1960’s, NASA solicited bids for watches to be used in the space program, the shortlist consisted of Rolex, Omega and Longines. Following a series of tests the Speedmaster was officially chosen as the NASA approved watch.

1965’s Gemini 3 mission was the first to use these officially qualified watches and later that year Ed White wore one as he made the first American space walk during Gemini 4. The watch was subsequently worn on Apollo 11, the moon landing.

Typically, the story isn’t quite as straightforward as you’d expect. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, decided to leave his Speedmaster in the craft as a backup. So it was Buzz Aldrin, his colleague, who took his own watch on to the moon's surface 9 minutes later. As he said:

“few things are less necessary when walking around on the Moon than knowing what time it is in Houston, Texas. Nonetheless, being a watch guy, I decided to strap the Speedmaster onto my right wrist”

Sadly, this is another historically significant watch that is now lost. This time when Aldrin sent it to The Smithsonian.

The watch itself is a black faced chronograph with the sub-dials arranged in a Compax layout at 3,6 and 9 - similar to the legendary Rolex Daytona. With it’s black tachymeter and slim white hands it’s a subtle and stylish watch, and along with the Sea-master, is at the forefront of Omega’s range.

If you’d like to go into the Speedmaster story in depth have a look at this book.

The Speedmaster is understandably a desirable watch. Produced by a Swiss luxury brand it’s priced accordingly. New ones start at £3k+.

Therefore we’d like to highlight some of the more affordable alternatives. Watches with a similar styling but at a reduced cost.



Bulova Lunar Pilot

Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph



1971’s Apollo 15 mission was interesting for watch enthusiasts because the missions commander Dave Scott damaged his Speedmaster during EVA-2, a lunar walk. During EVA-3 he wore a backup Bulova chronograph prototype that he’d agreed to test out for a friend. This was the only privately owned watch to reach the moon’s surface and it subsequently sold at auction for $1.6m.

The Lunar pilot isn’t a direct homage, although the general aesthetic is there. The dial and the white baton hands in particular are very close to the Omega’s.

Bulova have recently created a modern quartz version of this watch, the Lunar Pilot Chronograph. This modern replica has the specifications you’d expect, a high performance quartz movement, stainless steel case and 50m water resistance.

 

  • Stainless Steel Case
  • Case Shape: Circle
  • 43mm Diameter
  • Dial Colour: Black
  • Japanese Miyota Quartz Chronograph Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • Date window
  • Black leather strap
  • 50M water resistance

 


Davosa Race Legend

Davosa Race Legend Chronograph


Like Omega, Davosa is Swiss brand with more than a century's heritage. Beginning as a small one man company the business expanded as the sons became involved, and in 1987 the first watches were released under the Davosa banner.

Davosa is a very affordable brand, and the Race Legend is a great starting point for an Omega styled watch. At a quick glance this could be a Speedmaster.

It has the same style case, the matching subdials, correct hour and minute hands and the black tachymetre. There’s only a few touches, like the addition of a date window and the shape of the second hand, that differ from the Omega. If it’s the slight difference that appeals to you then it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the coloured variations that Davosa produce.


  • 42mm Stainless steel case
  • 12mm Thick
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • Quartz Chronograph Movement
  • 50M Water resistance



Fossil Sport 54 CH3030

Fossil Sport 54 CH3030 Chronograph



American fashion brand Fossil, from their inception, have specialised in producing reasonably priced retro styled watches. It makes sense that they’d produce another vintage looking chronograph - we’ve previously included a watch of theirs our article about the Rolex Daytona.

The Sport 54 is marketed as a watch for car enthusiasts. Reminiscent of vintage race car gauges with its three sub-eye chronograph timer, bold indexes and technical dial it’s not a direct homage to the Speedmaster. But you can see the obvious similarities.

This particular variation has a blue dial and tachymetre and like the Davosa there’s a date window.

  • Quartz Chronograph movement
  • 44mm Stainless steel case
  • 14mm thick
  • 22m Stainless steel bracelet
  • 100M water resistance

 





Stuhrling 814.01 Octane

Stuhrling Octane 814.01 Chronograph



This relatively new watch company sold over a million watches in 2017 and have positioned themselves as a brand selling affordable luxury. They’ve released a number of watches that clearly take inspiration from well known luxury brands and this model from the Octane range gives a nod to the moonwatch.

The case, tachymetre and colouring are all recognisable from the Omega, but the sub-dials, hands and use of numbers all give the watch some of its own distinct styling. At 40mm it’s a little smaller than some of the other watches on the list.

  • 40mm Stainless steel case
  • 11m thick
  • 18mm stainless steel strap
  • Swiss quartz movement

 



Pulsar PT3609X1

Pulsar PT3609X1 Chronograph



Pulsar was initially a watch brand owned by Hamilton. The brand was most notable for producing the world’s first electronic digital watch. However, in 1978 the brand was purchased by Seiko.

Japanese giants Seiko are among the biggest watch manufacturers on the planet. Founded in the late 1800's the company has progressed from its initial production of clocks to the forefront of wristwatch design and manufacturing. Along the way the company released the world's first quartz watch, the first quartz chronograph and introduced the innovative Kinetic models – a marriage of mechanical automatic watch features with quartz accuracy.

So Pulsar have their own history, an association with Hamilton and are now owned and produced by Seiko, using Seiko’s movements.

This model ticks pretty much all of the boxes of a Speedy homage.

  • 45mm stainless steel case
  • 12mm thick
  • Mineral crystal
  • Quartz chronograph movement




Timex T2P184

Timex-T2P184-chronograph



Timex can trace its origins back to the mid 1800s and the creation of Waterbury Clock Co, which would become Timex a century later. During this period Timex produced watches and other components for government contracts before creating a new tough low priced watch.

Marketed with the slogan "Timex – Takes a Licking and keeps on Ticking", and featured in elaborate stunts to show its durability, the new watch helped the company become a market leader. By 1962 a third of all watches sold in the US were manufactured by Timex.

This model plays with the Speedmaster design and adds a touch of colour. The blue hands and the large numbers make this quite an eye catching watch and the silicone strap add a sporty vibe.

  • 42mm stainless steel case
  • 8mm thick
  • 20mm black silicone strap
  • Mineral crystal
  • 50M water resistance
  • Quartz chronograph movement

 




Zeppelin Black Line Chronograph

Zeppelin Blackline Chronograph



German company Zeppelin produce quite a wide selection of watches with the majority having a vintage styling. At the core of the range are the German pilots and bauhaus models - very much marking the brand out as a German manufacturer.
This model has enough of its own design that it doesn’t scream Speedmaster. The case is slightly different, the sub-dials larger and the date window has a cyclops. Still, overall it ticks a lot of boxes that interest us. At 40m it's one of the more modestly sized watches here. A full 5mm smaller than the Pulsar.

  • 40mm Stainless steel case
  • 11m thick
  • Mineral crystal
  • 20mm black leather strap



Seiko Prospex SBDM013

Seiko Prospex SBDM013


Japanese giants Seiko need no introduction.

This model from the Prospex range was a Japanese Domestic Market release. We’re not supposed to wear these. It also doesn’t help that it’s now discontinued. But if you can your hands on it you’re guaranteed the level of quality and bang-for-buck that Seiko are renowned for.

This is a solar powered watch, in a titanium case, and in Japan it boasts that it’s radio wave controlled. It will use radio waves to contact the nearest atomic clock and set the time for you. It also has a sapphire crystal and 100M of water resistance.

  • 41mm Titanium Case
  • 12.5 thick
  • Sapphire crystal
  • 20mm Titanium bracelet
  • Solar Powered
  • Radio Electric Wave Correction (Japan Only)
  • 100 M Water resistance



Gigandet G3-011

Gigandet G3-0011 Chronograph



Gigandet are a brand with some Swiss heritage, having been founded there around 100 years ago. It seems that the brand has been relaunched recently and is now German owned and based. They make affordable watches that get decent reviews and are often powered by Japanese Seiko movements.

The G3-011 is an attractive chronograph that does tip a hat to the Speedmaster but is far from a homage. It’s tempting to say that there’s more different than there is alike between the two watches. The case, dial, hands and bracelet all diverge - but overall it still manages to look like the Omega.

With a Japanese Miyota movement and 100M there’s a lot of watch for the money - less than £100.

  • 43mm stainless steel case
  • 11.6mm thick
  • 22m stainless steel bracelet
  • Mineral crystal
  • Quartz chronograph movement
  • 100M water resistance

 



Swatch Night Flight

Swatch Night Flight Black Chronograph



The Swatch Group is one of the giants of watchmaking, employing over 30,000 people. They own, amongst others, Blancpain, Hamilton, Longines, Rado and Tissot. They also own Omega.

So this is a watch inspired by another that Swatch already owns the rights to.

Like a couple on the list, this model has a lot in common with the Omega, but it’s not a direct homage. Noticeable differences includes the hidden lugs on the case and bezel. There’s also a quirky round date window at 6 o’clock.

  • 43mm Stainless steel case
  • 13mm thick
  • Mineral crystal
  • 22mm stainless steel bracelet
  • Quartz chronograph movement
  • 30M water resistance

 


Corgeut

Corgeut Black Chronograph



Chinese brand Corgeut make homage watches. That’s it. They basically produce cheap remakes of classic Swiss brands.

But they do it well.

The Speedmaster homage looks like to should and is powered by a Japanese movement. It has a domed mineral crystal to add to the vintage feel.

  • Japanese quartz movement Full functional chronograph
  • 40mm stainless steel case.
  • 13.2mm thick
  • Mineral crystal

 

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