My Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon (3126.96.36.199.01.007) arrived after nearly six weeks of waiting. There's already a lot written about this model, but I wanted to add my two cents. The photos aren't great because I took them with a phone that doesn't have a macro mode, and the color of this watch attracts dust like crazy.
I'm still not a watch enthusiast, and this is just my second automatic watch (excluding a couple of cheap fashion brand models). There will be some blundering and engrish ahead (and I might compare the DSOTM to my diver a bit too much). At the end, there's a bit of a... plot twist.
Looking at Speedmasters
I've been keeping an eye on it for over a year, and because it's not cheap [to me], I wanted to make sure I gave it serious consideration. I considered the more classic Speedmasters and tried to persuade myself that I wanted "the real thing," Hesalite and all, then later a more realistic sapphire sandwich, before realizing I wouldn't have the stamina to polish scratches and would lose out on a date window.
The original 2013 DSOTM was always one of my favorites; it was a bit of a blasphemy, but it looked like the hottest Speedmaster out there!
Omega's marketing team did their job, but it just made things worse...
But it wasn't the only enticement.
The thing has the familiar, highly legible, and identifiable Speedy face, but it appears to have been tweaked for a more realistic modern use as a whole.
It's famous, but not overly so; it's recognizable, but not overly so; it's not regarded as a classic, but it's still valued.
With a few advancements thrown in for good measure... so I eventually bit the bullet when I came across one that was both fairly priced and came with an official warranty.
The seller cut corners on the lining, and when DHL dropped the shipping box, it didn't look so good. Even, when I opened it, I was pleasantly pleased to find it in perfect condition. There isn't even a speck of damage on the Omega card box's outer surface.
Here's the inner case, shiny and heavy.
A manual, a warranty card, a card with pictograms, and a cloth are included with the watch.
The card is stamped by an AD, as promised by the seller, and comes with Omega's four-year warranty on Co-Axials.
The main box is a work of art. Strong, heavy, and well-constructed. Extremely polished and a magnet for fingerprints. While it's beautiful, it's not practical for daily use unless you have a lot of space, so I put it away right away. It will, without a doubt, look amazing on a store show.
If I decide to keep the watch "forever," I'll probably sell it to a collector because I know I'll just store it and not get any use out of it.
Way too big?
When I first heard about it, I immediately dismissed it because of its huge size (44.25mm x 16mm thick).
The principle continued, and looking for sellers made the price more bearable. Nonetheless, it was a big timepiece. I had to try one in person at a supermarket, in the hopes of permanently burying this attraction.
The visit to the AD did not go according to schedule. I wanted it to be noticeable when I picked it, knowing it was significantly thicker than the stainless steel 41mm watch I was wearing at the time.
Nonetheless, it seemed to be smaller. What kind of enchantment was that?
I suppose the shape/size of the lugs, as well as the overall dark color, make it wear and look a lot bigger, and the weight adds to the illusion. It wasn't a Skagen, but it wasn't the beast I was expecting either.
The lugs, on the other hand, don't even come close to stretching past the elbow. It also has a very light feel to it. The weight on the wrist is difficult to notice. It will be imperceptible without the strap contact/pressure - the DSOTM weighs 91 grams. A Breitling Chronomat, by contrast, weighs more than twice as much at 209 grams!
It's bigger than my Aquaracer 500M, but because of the weight and color, it appears and feels smaller in person.
The light weight of the case, pushers, strap, and ceramic and titanium clasp all contribute to the overall feeling of lightness and comfort. Considering the scale on paper, that's very impressive.
So, if you've been avoiding this model because of its scale, don't! It has a small appearance and a small feel to it!
[I'd make a joke about "That's what she said!" but that would be childish]
The Speedmaster Grey Side of the Moon, on the other hand, does not seem immature. While checking out the DSOTM, I tried one in the shop; it looked really elegant and cool. The dial pattern is very pleasing, and it looks less sporty as a result of the buckle, making it more versatile to wear as a dress watch on occasion.
Despite the fact that the GSOTM appeared to be very special, I preferred the DSOTM because it has a distinct appearance...
From afar, the color and materials will make it appear cheap. The main explanation, I believe, is that it may appear to be yet another coated black sports watch with a cheap strap from afar. For the uninitiated, it might also seem to be a $70 quartz made of shiny plastic.
Closer inspection, however, disproves the theory. The way it reflects light has a unique quality to it. While some of the surfaces are highly polished, there is also a fascinating use of brushed ceramic. For eg, the lugs have a brushed top, a shiny strip that stretches under the bezel, and brushed sides with a stainless-steel pattern.
It has a traditional look thanks to the use of polished and brushed surfaces.
The bezel is polished as well, close to what you'd see on other models of ceramic bezels. There's more on that later. The sapphire crystal has a slight domed form and tends to be thick. From a side view, the fact that it isn't perfectly flat creates some distortion, making reading more difficult. In comparison to my other watch, which has a completely flat crystal, I'm not sure I like it.
The small curvature, on the other hand, makes it more appealing to look at from some angles and induces some fascinating reflections (not excessive due to the AR coatings)
The caseback crystal protrudes just as much as the front one, but since it presses against the skin, it is barely visible. It's more noticeable on the side of the crown that tends to rise up a little. I like how it creates a small gap between the case's edges and the skin, allowing the sun to shine through in an unusual way when it reaches it sideways at the right angle. Some people consider this a flaw, but I find it appealing.
On the back, you have a good view. The back viewing window reveals the well-finished in-house 9300 Co-Axial movement. Even though the rotor covers a lot, you can still see a lot of detail, such as the silicon balance spring, which is relatively shock resistant and almost completely unaffected by magnetism.
There's a lot of writing in red lettering, which depends on your style can be either fascinating or irritating. I don't think it's a problem because the font is small and adds some color to fit the jewels.
The dial appears to be easy as well, before you study the specifics closely. The subdial hands tend to be a little too stealthy at first, but they end up working out well because, unlike some busier chronos, they minimize visual noise when you glance at it to check the time. I appreciate how readable everything is.
The face, like the rest of the body, is made entirely of ZrO2 ceramic, so it should be resistant to aging and sunlight fade. It's reflective, with a smooth, polished appearance but not quite to the point of being a mirror. At the same time, depending on the perspective, it may appear "oily" and alternates between black and dark gray. It's a fascinating effect, but it's difficult to photograph.
The strap and clasp
Aside from the size, the strap was a concern, as it appeared to be a little shabby - dare I say crappy - in pictures.
However, once you get your hands on it, it tends to be well-made. It's made of a durable coated nylon fabric with a rubber overlay and soft leather on the inside. The stitching, which is white on the outside and red on the inside, is excellent. The soft leather prevents abrasion, and the strap material's versatility makes it very comfortable, similar to rubber.
Because of the leather, you shouldn't get it wet, but the DSOTM isn't designed for water sports anyway, with a 50m ranking. Another potential criticism is that, from afar, the Titanium+Ceramic clasp appears to be made of plastic or coated black steel.
The main structure of the foldover clasp is titanium, and it feels solid. On the sides and buttons, polished ceramic is used. These ceramic pieces are slightly elevated, most likely as a design option to ensure that they make contact with surfaces before the titanium, shielding it from scratches caused by table tops and other similar items.
All of the clasp elements are neatly polished and rounded, with no sharp edges ready to snag your wooly sweater's sleeves.
It closes with a reassuring click rather than much resistance. To open it, you must click two safety buttons at the same time.
There is no flex, no holes, and no rattling. The construction appears to be very sturdy and well-machined.
Similar to a Speedmaster Racing, I'd prefer a strap that completely encircled the case, leaving no gaps between strap and watch. Rubber belts are something I'd like to do in the future.
Overall, the brace is a good match for the model. It's too bad Omega just used red stitching on the inside. It could also fit well on the outside, adding a splash of color and life to match the red "Speedmaster" signature on the dial and the tip of the chrono seconds hand.
This brace unavoidably contributes to the DSOTM's sporty style. I think it will look well with a suit and tie (assuming it suits under your shirts), but it isn't a dress watch. Adding a high-quality croc leather strap could improve. On my TAG, there is no fine-grained size change, which I really like. I got lucky, because the brace is just the right size on the tightest setting.
Bear in mind that there are two variants of the original DSOTM if you're thinking about buying one. The first (2013) has a standard buckle and is referenced 3188.8.131.52.01.003. The second is 3184.108.40.206.01.007, which is the same watch head as the first, but with a Ti+ZrO2 clasp. This gives it a more refined appearance and makes it less likely to be lost by accident: if the clasp is not properly closed or your hand falls when putting it on, it will still be hanging on your wrist.
It's the brace Omega should have included in the first edition and, in my opinion, it's much superior. In 2013, the Ti+ZrO2 design may not have been completed. It's a shame that it will increase the price even further, since the x.007 model costs about $500 more. An exorbitant premium, but it can be thought of as insurance if you have "butter paws" and are susceptible to losing watches.
Back to the look
In terms of aesthetics, there's probably no need to go into great depth because this is highly subjective and a matter of personal taste, but I'll share some initial thoughts.
The Super-LumiNova-coated white-gold hands and applied white-gold indexes look more luxurious than the white hands and applied luminous indexes on other Speedmasters, which is a good extra. It's difficult to catch in pictures, but the face appears to be refined and tidy/easy to read.
The bezel is made of ZrO2 ceramic, as previously mentioned. The silver-gray scale lettering is inset along the ceramic bezel using lasers, which are then packed with Chrome Nitride (CrN).
CrN is a hard, inert thin film coating with a strong adhesion—molecular bond that performs well in corrosive conditions and withstands slipping wear. I'm not sure how it compares to ceramic+LiquidMetal bezels, but the combination of ZrO2+CrN should result in a bezel that is scratch/fade resistant and capable of retaining its as-new appearance for several years.
Despite its hardness, as with any ceramic bezel, you can avoid slamming it against something too solid.
As compared to the Aquaracer, one thing I found is how much stronger the lume is. Despite the fact that the indices are much smaller, it glows brightly, even even when not in the dark. Super-LumiNova coating is extremely efficient. It most likely lasts longer as well, but I didn't compare.
And the ceramic thingy
Many interesting black watches have a scratch-resistant DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating, but it is thin and can be damaged by rough handling, leaving silver-colored scratches. With zirconium dioxide ceramic, this isn't a problem. Except for the movement, the DSOTM is almost entirely made of ceramic.
The pushers are also ceramic and have a strong feel to them. Pulling out the crown is difficult, at least not when wearing the watch, since the gap for a fingernail is small. It won't be an issue unless you have to change the time/date regularly.
On a more realistic note, I've read extensively about the use of ZrO2 ceramic and am familiar with its benefits and drawbacks. Because of the different construction, removing the ceramic back with the window is not as easy as with steel Speedmasters. Separating the breakable ceramic back from the rest of the case should be painless with the right tools and treatment. This detail, combined with the complexity of the 9300 Co-Axial movement, could result in higher service costs.
Drops must be avoided, but that is the case for any watch. In this scenario, a misstep might cause the case to be damaged to the point of requiring repair, which won't happen with stainless steel. In exchange, it is scratch/ding resistant, which is something I enjoy because I plan to wear it everyday, with care but also susceptible to the scratching of my desk at work and other daily wear and tear.
There aren't many posts about chipped xSOTM models, but there are a handful. They might not be important given the model's popularity, but who knows. I hope I'm not proved wrong one day, but I believe the benefits of my use style outweigh the disadvantages. It should theoretically be able to outlast me. The strap fabric is by far the weakest of all the materials. This watch isn't appropriate for use as a tool watch, but it wasn't meant to be.
The Omega Co-Axial 9300 movement is well-known, so there's not much to tell about it. The DSOTM was checked on a timing machine by WatchTime magazine, which found an average daily gain of 2.3 seconds (2.2 seconds with the chronograph on).
I've been recording the accuracy of my DSOTM since I got it two months ago, and it's actually at +1.6 seconds a day, despite keeping the chrono on the majority of the time (I like seeing shiny things move). That's a lot more than I expected from the 9300.
With my other watch (based on a Sellita SW200), I'm getting +4.0-4.5s/day, so anything below that is an increase.
In comparison to my other watch, the rotor on this one is very noisy. When you raise your hand to touch your forehead, for example, this is very obvious.
This appears to be standard in all 9300s, based on what I've read. When you've gotten used to the noise from the rotor and regular activity, it's actually very fun.
I'm in Europe, and this DSOTM was available for a fair price (-26% off retail) from a small seller who got it from a German AD. Since I still see such a watch as a wearable cash deposit, I took advantage of the discount, which is another reason why I hope it looks fresh for a long time. There are certainly less expensive ceramic watches available, but I don't believe there is anything that offers the Speedmaster's history and many of its characteristics (full ZrO2 case, including dial/pushers, ingenious use of ceramic+titanium in the clasp, in-house chrono movement, back crystal, lightweight, etc) for a lower price.
In my view, it is certainly worth a premium over a stainless steel sapphire sandwich, but this is highly dependent on the buyer's taste and preferences.
I like how it manages to be a unique watch, a modernized version of a classic with little resemblance to the NASA days but still an impressive Speedmaster that can be worn on a daily basis. It looks fantastic without drawing too much attention to itself or shouting "luxury." It's a strange one because it seems to be sturdy on the hand, but the weight makes you almost forget you're wearing it. It also has the odd characteristic of appearing cheap and sporty from afar, only to fully reverse that once you get up close and see how well constructed and detailed it is.
Whatever you think of its appearance, it is still a completely black watch, which may seem a little somber and, if worn every day, can become tiresome to others. Everything to think about.