The Omega That Got Away

I’m a new Watch Cruncher—very happy to have found this quality platform to enjoy the hobby with fellow enthusiasts. WatchCrunch seems to me to be a more friendly, engaging and less superficial community/environment for discussing and sharing watches than other places I’ve tried. 

In a recent post about “diminishing returns” (https://www.watchcrunch.com/Munky1/posts/diminishing-returns-13162) there were discussions about the alleged merit of pricier watches compared to cheaper alternatives. I thought I would make a post about the story of my first luxury watch purchase. Warning: It’s a bit of a long post.

For my 40th birthday, I saved and saved and saved to purchase my first “luxury” watch, an Omega Speedmaster Professional (3570.50.00) from the secondhand market. I had read every online article on this and other Speedy references, and watched every YouTube video about how this is a “must have” in every serious collection. Prior to the Speedy, I’ve only owned Timex, Citizen, and Skagen watches. I also owned a Jorg Gray JG6500 (Obama Watch), and an “Akriboss XXIV” skeleton watch from my girlfriend. (OK, I may have also have bought a MVMT dress watch. 😂)

Anyway, I bought the Speedmaster Pro and I was over the moon (!) with it. My first Swiss manual wind chronograph timepiece! It was the nicest watch I had ever had my hands on, and I was charmed by its beautiful design. The contrast of the black dial and white hands and indices. Those sexy twisted lugs. The antiquated domed plexiglass with the laser-etched Ω logo. The font on the dial seemed old fashioned but classy at the same time. The case back with the Omega seahorse and the historical connection to the NASA moon missions. I enjoyed playing with the chronograph pushers and seeing the hands reset to zero. True to its reputation as a “strap monster,” the Speedy looked good on every strap I put it on. Brown leather strap. Yup. Bond NATO strap. Yup. It looked good on its own bracelet, too. And this watch, if needed, could survive a journey to the moon on a spaceship!

I was beginning to understand the love for this watch, and the appeal of luxury watches in general. An stylish design with so many interesting details to look at anytime you choose to glance at your wrist. A living, ticking, precision-made machine that is also a work of art and looks cool as hell on your wrist. And at that time, it was the most money I have ever spent on a non-essential item and it felt both exhilarating and a little dangerous. What if it breaks, what if it gets stolen? I was going to make sure I never lose sight of this watch!

I sold my Speedy 3 months later. I felt kind of bad because it was my “grail” watch at the time, but to be honest I didn’t know very much about luxury watches at all when I bought it and I probably did it because of its reputation rather than what I personally wanted from a watch within a relatively small collection. But I didn’t know that until I bought the watch and wore it for a few months. I just didn’t connect with it the way I’ve read that other people did.

  •  I didn’t care for its relatively short power reserve and having to hand-wind it everyday so it didn’t stop on me in the middle of the day. 
  • It was more fragile than I wanted my daily watch to be—you can damage the watch if you push the reset pusher while the chrono is running. It only has a 50m rated water resistance, and I was afraid to get it wet. Since the watch is a manual wind, you can also break the watch by overwinding it. The “Hesalite” crystal is easy to scratch up.
  • Which brings me to the construction and quality of the materials. The Speedmaster Pro (Hesalite) has an acrylic/plastic crystal, plastic hands, and printed indices. For a watch that costs more than $3k USD,  I expected, or rather, I wanted more.
  • The accuracy of the Speedy also left something to be desired (I was getting +12 to +14 seconds a day even after an Omega service) and the movement doesn’t even hack. 
  • Finally, although the watch dial looks awesome, the sub-dials were actually really hard to read, especially if the hands used for telling the time are in the way (and they usually are). And I discovered that I actually never used a chronograph in my day-to-day life. I would push start on the chrono and forget that I had it running. I only realized later that a timing bezel (e.g. on a dive watch) would suit my needs much better, as it is WAY more legible, and it is more rugged and can be used in the water, etc.

All these reasons do not mean it is a bad watch, only that for a person of my financial means and having a relatively small collection, I wanted more functionality out my most expensive watch. But it was only because I spent a few months with the Speedy that I discovered that I wanted a more premium-feeling, more accurate automatic watch with sapphire glass and more water resistance.  And it was only after wearing the Speedy that I began to understand the appeal of luxury diver-type watches.

It was a difficult decision to sell my Speedmaster, but I just couldn’t justify having the majority of my watch funds invested in a timepiece I have so many reservations about, especially when there were so many other good options out there. I don’t regret my purchase, though. The Speedy is a fantastic watch and would be an amazing part of any collection, but for me I wanted something different to be the foundation of mine. I still like the Speedy a lot and may buy it back one day as my collection grows, and I will always be grateful for the many lessons it taught me about watch collecting at the beginning of my journey.

Does anyone else have a similar story of getting an over-hyped watch only to find out later that it wasn’t for them?

(PS. I ended up buying a Rolex Explorer instead: Automatic/Hacking: Check. Superlative Chronometer: Check. WR100: Check. White gold applied indices: Check. Impeccable fit and finishing: Check.)

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I think precisely this happened to me with my first 20 watch purchases.  😜

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I bought a "grail" pretty early in my collecting, the Black Bay 58. It made me realize that the things I mostly appreciate in watches can be had for far less. I still appreciate luxury brands that offer great craftsmanship and technological innovation, but I have no strong desire to own anything beyond the BB58, which I still enjoy having very much. But it's all the luxury watch I need. I'm just as happy to wear a Seiko 5 honestly (I'm wearing one today).

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Welcome to the crew!!! 🤝

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Welcome on Jon! Great story and I think a lot of us do not keep "the first" for a variety of reasons. Yours are certainly ones that would bother me. Love my Explorer ... sounds like you do too! 🤝

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I had no idea that watch doesn't hack, wow! I've yet to sell any watches I don't click with, I just give them to people i know, but my budget is pretty low! I totally get it though. I recently got a Fossil that was pretty cool initially, but it had a bunch of things that I took issues with.

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First one for me was the original PO.  I still think it's one of the best designs of the last 20 years, but even at 2012 prices (~$2k, I think), it wasn't enough to stick.

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Great post, the Hesalite Speedy is a grail watch for many, but it really is a preserved decades old design. I had a miss or two when I first started with higher end watches. I think the lack of hacking and low accuracy are a big deal. My only watch with those problems is an inexpensive Seiko Recraft I got as a present, but despite the interesting styling, I wear it rarely. This is not twenty years ago and even though mechanical watches really are very optional in these digital days, I’m very used to watches being on time, or close to it. I check my watches each morning when I put them on. My best (Grand Seikos) are accurate or a most a second or two fast. My, more modern Omegas are next, also usually just a few seconds fast. My worst are a Ball Trainmaster, an Alexander Shorokoff and the Seiko. They all run ‘within spec’ at +/- 15 sec/day, but they seem off to me. I have a few older quartz with Hesalite, best avoided IMHO. Good luck with the Rolex, nice choice I think you should like. Glad you moved on. 

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Welcome, thanks for sharing your tale. 

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Do you guys wonder how many otherwise watch inclined folks bought a watch, found that it was the perfect one, and never bought another watch?  Like, is it the majority of people?

Clearly all the people who failed that particular test are here.

(Welcome btw.  You'll fit in great with the rest of us crazies)

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Rolex is the benchmark in luxury watches. There are more expensive watches but Rolex can compete with any of them. Omega has been riding the moon thing for decades and not changing much. Sapphire is the standard for years now and they give you Hexascratch.

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I love my Speedy, it’s Hesalite crystal and the non-hacking, handwinding movement. Everything about it feels like a piece of history I’m holding in my hand. But good for you realising it’s not for you. There’s no point keeping a watch like that in your collection if you’re not sure it’s for you. 

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I’ll join in the speedy love. I have the 2020 model, which has the wonders of hacking and keeps incredible time if you remember to wind it. Hesalite crystal, though there is a sapphire model too. Legibility is superb and the chronograph dials disappear into the back ground when you don’t need them. Lume is great. Fit is amazing, it wears so comfortable. Case design makes it seem a slim watch. Looks great on any strap too.

However, I don’t think I could live with it as a one and only daily watch. Definitely more part of a collection. Before the internet corrupted me and let me know it is alright to have more than one watch, my one watch was a Seamaster 300m (2531.80) for 7 years.  That was a daily do it all watch. I think the explorer would be a great daily do it all watch too. Enjoy!

ps  I love my speedy!

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gbelleh

I bought a "grail" pretty early in my collecting, the Black Bay 58. It made me realize that the things I mostly appreciate in watches can be had for far less. I still appreciate luxury brands that offer great craftsmanship and technological innovation, but I have no strong desire to own anything beyond the BB58, which I still enjoy having very much. But it's all the luxury watch I need. I'm just as happy to wear a Seiko 5 honestly (I'm wearing one today).

I can relate bought only luxury watches (still love and wear them) but now.. i wear a seiko chronograph and my Nomos most the time. They give me the same if not even more joy. Mostly because you never see them anywhere else (in Zurich at least) 

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I totally understand falling out of love with a watch. Having said that, your issues with the hardiness of the speedy are more rationalizations to sell it off than truth. We have to remember that this was the watch selected to go to the moon over Rolex and others after a myriad of very rigorous tests that put other great watches on the “no” list. There is a misguided belief mostly fueled by the watch forums that the Speedmaster is frail. That is simply not true. 

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I fully understand your decision, and agree that the Speedmaster (or any watch for that matter) is not for everyone. The Rolex Explorer is a great watch, and for most people is probably a better choice than the Speedmaster.

I have to agree with what @doolittle and @Watchme1 have mentioned in terms of the Speedmaster Professional itself.  While I don't have any personal experience with vintage versions, the new 3861 based model is certainly not what you've described. It hacks, offers chronometer grade precision (mine runs within 1-2 SPD), is basically anti-magnetic,  is available with a sapphire crystal, and other than a paltry water resistance of 5ATM, is extremely robust. Unless you apply way too much pressure on the reset button while the chrono is running, nothing will happen. When winding the watch, there is enough feedback when the watch is fully wound to prevent any possible accidental damage (you may be able to f*ck something up if you were trying to).  I find that the power reserve is actually quite a bit greater than the stated 50 hours, although obviously if you forget to wind any manual watch, it will end up stopping. I will agree that the hands don't exactly look like they are befitting a watch of this price point, but overall the watch feels every bit as premium as any of my Rolexes. The new bracelet is one of the most comfortable I've worn.

I'd also have to agree that while it's an awesome watch to have as part of a collection, I don't think it's an ideal watch for someone looking for an only watch, especially for someone who spends much time in the water.  Also, with the current MSRP it may no longer reflect the value that it once did, however that has to be considered in context with the improvements that the new METAS certified coaxial movement offers. 

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Welcome to WatchCrunch! Wow, what a story/journey! Thanks for sharing 👍