Thursday, 27 January 2011

Omega Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI 40th Anniv. Review

Time for a new review! The Omega Speedmaster Professional is one of the most iconic chronographs in the world, with a pedigree few can match. It is also one of the few watches that stay close to it's original design: the fact that a basic design can be essentially kept the same, bar the odd change here and there, is testament to the quality of the original idea. Unfortunately, Omega know just how important the Speedmaster is to their range, and have found an excuse every year for a new special edition, often at highly inflated prices.

Given the importance of the Speedmaster to the Apollo space programme, the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo XI landing is somewhat special, and I would argue more relevant than the most recent Limited Edition commemorating the Apollo-Soyuz linkup. In terms of price, Omega are charging close to a 50% premium over the standard model, and has limited the run to 7969 pieces.

Technical Specifications

*Model Ref: 311.
*Stainless Steel case (also available in a Platinum model, limited to 69 pieces worldwide)
*Tachymetre scale bezel
*Case Diameter: 42mm
*Black chronograph dial, with silver Eagle patch on 9 o'clock seconds subdial, 2:56 GMT marked underneath standard text at 12 o'clock, Superluminova luminous index marks
*Non screw-down crown and pushers
*Hesalite crystal
*Chronograph function, non-date
*Speedmaster bracelet with polished highlights

The Movement

*Cal. 1861 (based on the Lemania 1873)
*21.6k BPH
*48 hour power reserve
*Manual wind
*Non-chronometer rated

The Aesthetics

You can't get much more of a classic chronograph than the Speedmaster Pro - clear, simple dial, matte finish, and completely lacking any delusions of grandeur. It's a humble watch, designed to be used, and that's always something that attracts me to the Speedmaster. The silver patch at 9 o'clock helps to distinguish it from the regular model, and the red writing is always a nice touch. The caseback is also changed from the usual Speedmaster, again featuring the Eagle motif. At 42mm, it has a good wrist presence, and the manual movement allows it to sit low on the wrist, always a plus. There's nothing radical in the design here, only the details show it is something different from the standard watch. The crystal stands quite proud, more so than a lot of sapphire crystal models, but that's to be expected - the 'warmth' of an acrylic crystal is often vaunted, and I can see that too. Gives it a very vintage feel to it. The bracelet is the standard Speedmaster bracelet: mainly brushed with polished highlights either side of the centre links. It's a handsome bracelet, looks unique, but the wide clasp is a well-known scratch magnet, as is the crystal. Saying that, though, crystal scratches are easily remedied with a bit of Polywatch and elbow grease

The Feel

The Speedmaster Pro is typical of modern Omega watches - a nice weight, beautifully enigneered, oozing quality and refinement from every nook and cranny. On the wrist, it is comfortable and unassuming, benefitting from its low stance. The one thing that has probably changed the most over the years is the bracelet, and the one on the Speedmaster is a thoroughly modern affair - solid links throughout, double push button deployant clasp, and satisfyingly rattle free. By comparison, 40mm chronographs seem a little small and clunky by comparison - there's a real purity of design in the Speedmaster Pro, it harks back to the simplicity of older watches. It might lack the complete refinement of the Daytona, but at half the price, it certainly isn't half the watch


With the vintage look and feel also come the vintage drawbacks: the lack of a screwdown crown limits the water resistance to 50m, and the acrylic crystal can mark easily. Some might complain about the lack of an automatic movement too, although for me, it gives the watch a little bit more soul. Can this be worn everyday? Yes, but expect it to pick up dings here and there - it's nothing that can't be sorted with a little home maintenance, but it won't be a case of wear and forget like most modern automatic watches. Saying that, let's not forget why it built its reputation in the first place - if it can survive the hostile environment of outer space, it can handle anything Earth throws at it.

Value for money?

My review so far has been mainly focusing on the virtues of the Speedmaster Professional in general: I think it is apt to mention the aspects that make the Limited Edition stand out a bit more. What, exactly, do you get for your extra investment? Not a lot really: Omega are keen to push the idea that the watch is limited, but 7969 watches is a hell of a lot - I can't imagine them selling much more than that of the regular model. You get a few extra visual cues on the watch itself, which makes it stand out a little more, but for £1000 more, it seems like a lot for a different caseback, subdial and dial text. You also get a different presentation box, nothing spectacular, a silver medallion with the eagle motif again, and a commemorative certificate as well. The only differences are very superficial, and I think only serious collectors wanting to have the full set of Speedmaster L.Es would buy this one.


No one can deny that this is a good looking watch, but the price is seriously offputting for me. I don't think the added value for money over the standard model is there, and it's not really limited enough - perhaps a numbered edition would be a more accurate description. My advice? Get the standard model, you'll still get the full Speedmaster experience, and you'll have plenty more change in your pocket

All the best

The GMT Master


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