The rumor has been circulating for months, but now it’s official: Omega is ceasing production of the classic Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch (most recent ref. 3126.96.36.199.01.005) after more than 50 years in the Swiss brand’s catalog. The version with a sapphire crystal (ref. 3188.8.131.52.01.006) is also heading into retirement and being replaced by a successor. What may well be the world’s most famous chronograph is stepping down to make room for the so-called New Moon. The differences are evident at first glance, but if you take a closer look, key characteristics from former Moonwatches are also present. The biggest update probably lies at the heart of the New Moon: We’re talking about the new Co-Axial Master Chronometer caliber 3861.
Omega Professional Moonwatch: A Brief History
“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” Astronaut Neil Armstrong spoke those famous words as he became the first person to step on the Moon on July 21, 1969. While Armstrong’s Omega Speedmaster remained on Apollo 11’s lunar module, fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin set foot on the lunar surface wearing his Omega Speedmaster only 19 minutes later.
The Speedmaster Professional has been inextricably linked to the famous moonwalk ever since, earning it the name the “Moonwatch.” Omega originally designed the iconic chronograph for racing; however, after withstanding rigorous tests by NASA, it was deemed a suitable timepiece for space missions as well.
Omega has successfully marketed the history of this timepiece for decades now. Fans and friends of the Moonwatch appreciate that the model has barely changed at all over the past 50 years. Any major modifications were frowned upon, so the watch has remained more or less untouched for many years. Omega continued to use manual Lemania 2310 and 1873 base movements for their calibers 321, 861, and 1861. Other features that have remained consistent with the original Speedmaster are the use of Hesalite crystal and a screw-down stainless steel case back. The case size and material also remained unchanged over the years, with every Moonwatch boasting a 42-mm stainless steel case.
2021 and the Caliber 3861: The New Moon Has Landed
The year 2021 marks the start of a new era for the Speedmaster. The New Moon is available with both Hesalite (ref. 310.30.42.50.01.001) and sapphire crystal (ref. 310.30.42.50.01.002). Omega offers a black textile strap with the former reference and a black leather strap with the latter, meaning there are a total of four different New Moon versions to choose from. So, what else is new in these models?
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The Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer caliber 3861 mentioned above is based on the caliber 861, but the modifications are extensive. Omega spent several years developing the hand-wound movement with the goal of having it certified as a Master Chronometer by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS). The manufacturer paid particularly close attention to achieving a high level of accuracy and protection against magnetic fields. The movement is, therefore, outfitted with Omega’s Co-Axial escapement and a silicon balance spring, which offers both a high level of precision and protection against magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss. The power reserve has risen by two hours to 50 hours, though the frequency of the movement remains unchanged at 21,600 vph
Case, Dial, and Omega Logo
The case of the New Moon remains consistent with that of the Moonwatch – with a few minor exceptions. It still comes with a 42-mm stainless steel case; however, one notable change can be found on the tachymeter scale. As an homage to Speedmaster Professionals built prior to 1970, Omega opted for a so-called “dot over 90” or “DON” bezel insert. As its name suggests, this scale features a dot above the 90. Watches produced after 1970 typically feature this marking slightly to the right of the 90. This is sure to delight diehard Speedmaster fans. As usual, the screw-down case back on the Hesalite version is made of stainless steel, while the sister model features a sapphire crystal case back, offering a view of the caliber 3861 at work.
Omega outfits the New Moon with a so-called “step dial.” In contrast to the flat dial of its predecessor, this dial features offset subdials, which gives the dial more depth and presence overall. The step dial first appeared on the ref. 145.022, which dates back to 1968.
That being said, there is one small detail on the dial that is rather significant for many potential buyers: Omega chose an applied logo on the sapphire version and a printed logo on the Hesalite version. It’s safe to assume that the manufacturer sought to emphasize the dressy nature of the former version and the practical nature of the latter. The same could be said for the selection of stainless steel bracelets on offer with each reference.
The stainless steel bracelets underwent some major changes on the newest models. Omega again opted for two different versions: one for the Hesalite and another for the sapphire watch. In the first variant, the bracelet is completely satin-brushed, while the latter combines brushed and polished finishes, similar to the watch’s predecessor. The sides of the links are polished on both versions.
A new feature on both versions is that the bracelet tapers from 20 mm at the lugs to just 15 mm at the clasp. The textile strap on the Hesalite version likewise tapers to 15 mm, while the leather strap on the sapphire version measures 16 mm at the clasp.
Prices for the New Moon have increased significantly from former models and are as follows:
Hesalite, stainless steel bracelet 6,100 EUR (approx. 7,500 USD)
Hesalite, textile strap 5,800 EUR (approx. 7,100 USD)
Sapphire, stainless steel bracelet 7,000 EUR (approx. 8,600 USD)
Sapphire, leather strap 6,700 EUR (approx. 8,200 USD)
Omega is saying goodbye to the classic Moonwatch and introducing a completely new model in its place: the New Moon. While there are some significant changes, the new Speedmaster still feels familiar. Any change to such an icon will seem revolutionary, but each is made with careful consideration and attention to detail. Small adjustments like the DON bezel and step dial are real treats for Speedmaster purists. On the other hand, the new caliber 3861 offers a modern Co-Axial movement that, despite (or perhaps because of) its contemporary features, does not quite fit the bill for some Moonwatch fans. Omega’s goal of blending past and present seems successful overall, but it remains to be seen how the market will react to the changes and what the update will do to prices for the original Moonwatch.