The very first Omega Speedmaster, reference CK2915, also known as the “Broad Arrow,” debuted in 1957 — approximately six years before the Rolex Daytona.
After the original Speedmaster came the CK2998 (1959 – 1964), which retained the 38 mm straight lug case of the CK2915 and marked the switch from Broad Arrow to Alpha hands. In 1962 the CK2998 became the first Speedmaster in space. Then in 1964 came the 105.012, the first Speedmaster with a 42 mm diameter asymmetrical case with “twisted” or “lyre” lugs.
Most famously, the 1969 Speedmaster Professional, a later version of the 105.012 reference — also with a 42 mm diameter asymmetrical twisted lug case — was the first watch worn on the moon during Apollo 11 and became forever known as the “Moonwatch.” Fast forward to 2021, and Omega introduced the all-new Speedmaster Chronoscope Co-Axial Master Chronometer (Ref. 3126.96.36.199.03.001), which is not a Moonwatch but is inspired by both the 1964 asymmetrical twisted lugs Speedmaster and 1940s triple timing scale Omega chronographs such as the Scalemaster or CK 2393. The three distinctive scales allow the Chronoscope to be used as a tachymeter, pulsometer, and telemeter — and they give the dial a cool retro look.
Compared to a standard matte black lacquer Moonwatch dial, the luxurious metallic navy blue sunburst dial is richer and provides some color pop. The indices on a Moonwatch are printed, whereas the Chronoscope hour markers are applied Arabic numerals (except at 3 and 9 because Arabic numerals would otherwise overlap dual counters). The Arabic numerals and the process of applying them by hand, naturally, costs more to produce — they also elevate the dial aesthetic. Using steel leaf-shaped hour and minute hands, with no coating such as the white lacquered baton-shaped (luminous stick) hands offered on all Moonwatches represent yet another upscale element of the Chronoscope dial.
Inspired by a design dating back to the 1940s, Omega has created a two counter layout, with a printed “snail” style telemeter (outermost ring), pulsometer (inside the telemeter), tachymeter (the two innermost rings) in the center, the latter of which works in unison with the tachymeter ring printed on the blue anodized aluminum bezel.
The most common scale found on chronograph wristwatches is a tachymeter, which is used to measure the speed that the wearer travels over a specific period of time. Less common is a telemeter which can measure exactly how far you are from something that is visible and audible, such as your distance from a lightning storm. And even rarer is a pulsometer, used with the chronograph’s second hand to determine the heartbeat per minute or “pulse rate” of someone (graduated to 30 for the Chronoscope), which means you start the chronograph and count 30 heartbeats with your hand and then stop the chronograph — the actual pulse rate is then shown by the center chronograph seconds hand on the scale.
One of my favorite features of this dial — available thanks to Omega’s 9900 series movement — is that the chronograph hours and minutes (12-hours 60-minutes) are in the same subdial, located at 3 o’clock.
While there are three other dial variations — silvery-white with blue accents, silvery-white Panda-style with black and red accents, and brown with silver counters — this particular combination is the most stunning and my personal favorite. The silvery azurage surface of the sunken dual counters set against the gorgeous blue dial makes this reverse-Panda-style dial a knockout in person.
While the dial borrows its design from 1940s Omega chronographs, the case design dates back to 1964 when Omega first introduced the 105.012, which was the first Speedmaster with a 42 mm diameter asymmetrical case with “twisted” or “lyre” lugs.
That asymmetrical design, with the extra case material on the right side acting as crown guards, has remained a signature of the Speedmaster since 1964. All Moonwatches, from 1969 until the present have this type of case. With the Chronoscope, however, the designers were able to both retain the crown guards on the right and make the left and right sides of the case about as close to symmetrical as you can get. We spoke to Omega and they were clear that internally they refer to the Chronoscope as an asymmetrical case, even though it’s clearly far more symmetrical than the Moonwatch, which we’ve made a comparison shot of below.
Interestingly, the 316L stainless steel case, which is referred to as 43 mm by Omega, is actually 42.5 mm, or only half of a millimeter larger in diameter than the Moonwatch. Why does the Chronoscope appear to be more than half a millimeter larger in the image above then? The difference lies in the case shape and because the material thickness was removed from the right side, and evened out with the left side, so to speak, the result is a new balance that makes the watch appear larger than the half-millimeter increase actually suggests. The Chronoscope lug-to-lug is also slightly longer at 48.5 mm, versus the 48 mm on the Moonwatch shown above.
Even more interesting to me, is how Omega was able to add a more complicated movement and new features to the Chronoscope, while effectively maintaining the same thickness as the Moonwatch. They both measure approximately 13 mm in height including the crystals and caseback (although if you include the Seahorse medallion on the Moonwatch the thickness of the older watch actually gets bumped to 14 mm).
The Chronoscope comes with a box-type domed sapphire crystal on the dial side and a flat sapphire crystal on the transparent screw-in caseback, whereas Moonwatches typically have an option for a round domed Hesalite crystal or sapphire crystal on the front, and a sapphire crystal on the back for newer versions as the Moonwatch has typically had a solid caseback until recently.
Shown with Omega’s 21 mm/16 mm tapered, polished and brushed finish, integrated stainless steel bracelet, it’s the same as offered on the newly redesigned 2021 Moonwatch, except it has a new patented comfort feature that allows you to extend the bracelet 2.3 mm at the touch of a button on the underside of the clasp. The 2021 Moonwatch has fine adjustments as well, but they require a tool to adjust.
Omega chose an old-school anodized aluminum bezel insert, instead of a ceramic, which means the bezel is not scratch-proof. I tend to prefer the most advanced technologies available with most products, and the anodized bezel versus a ceramic bezel is presumably cheaper, however, this choice seems to be more in line with the vintage aesthetic of the dial. E
With a depth rating of 50-meters and no locking crown, this is not the best watch to go swimming at the pool or beach with. It’s definitely capable but I personally would not wear a Speedmaster in the watch, to each their own, though. A locking crown and a 100-meters of water resistance would be nice. Overall, the way Omega has subtly massaged the case dimensions of the Chronoscope successfully takes the watch upscale without losing the rich DNA of the Speedmaster.
For the Chronoscope, Omega made a new hand-wound version of their automatic caliber 9900. While the automatic 9900 series is 32.5 mm x 7.6 mm with 54 jewels, the caliber is 32.5 mm x 6.4 mm with 44 jewels — which equates to 1.2 mm less thickness and 10 fewer jewels thanks to the removal of the automatic winding system.
Carrying the full Metas Master Chronometer certification, the Co-Axial Master Chronometer Caliber 9908 movement has a superior rating of 0/+5, compared to a standard COSC certified chronometer which must be -4/+6. With the impressive and required anti-magnetic resistance of 15,000 gausses, you won’t have to worry much about the rating being negatively affected by your phone, laptop, or even direct contact with a magnet.
The original Moonwatch was powered by the highly coveted column-wheel-equipped original caliber 321 (Omega re-issued the 321, but only for specific upscale models such as the re-issued Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 “Ed White” that was released in 2020).
Following the original caliber 321 production run (1957 to 1969), which powered the original Speedmaster, the first Speedmaster in space, and the original Moonwatch, Omega subsequently released the caliber 861 (1968-1998), then the caliber 1861 (1989 until 2021), and most recently, the caliber 3861 (starting in 2021). None of the movements, except the caliber 321 come with a premium column wheel and vertical clutch. Although, the latest caliber 3861, was enhanced compared to its 861 and 1861 predecessors, with a Co-Axial escapement, and the upgraded components needed to attain the Master Chronometer certification. So by all means, the 3861 is an improvement on the 861 and 1861. With Master Chronometer certification, the 3861 actually outdoes the legendary caliber 321, although again, the 3861 does not have the premium vertical clutch and column wheel.
Enter the Speedmaster Chronoscope, which like the aforementioned Moonwatch calibers, is powered by a manual wind movement, something I personally love as not everyone needs an automatic. The new 9908 keeps the manual wind of the latest 3681 Moonwatch movement and adds to it a premium column-wheel and vertical clutch configuration, as well as the Master Chronometer certification.
So it’s a modern chronograph, with the latest features, such as the “time zone function” that lets you independently adjust the hour hand in one-hour increments, without stopping the movement, using the first crown position. At the second crown position, you adjust the hours and minutes the more traditional way with the balance stopped and both hands moving in sync.
The finishing and aesthetics are also totally different than the caliber 3861 that powers the Moonwatch. The 9908 is a more contemporary caliber that features blackened screws and Omega’s Geneva waves arabesque decorating the rhodium-plated surfaces of the three-quarter plate bridges which are finished with diamond polished edges. Omega clearly wants to differentiate the Moonwatch from the Chronoscope. Plus, the price premium over a brand new Moonwatch is more justifiable with the 9908 underneath the dial.
With two mainspring power barrels mounted in series, the watch offers a 60-hour maximum power reserve thanks to twin barrels which are coated with diamond-like carbon (DLC) on the inside to minimize the friction created by the mainsprings’ motion against the barrel walls.
Omega Co-Axial caliber 9908 runs at 4Hz and features hours, minutes, small seconds, central chronograph seconds, and a two-hand chronograph counter that can measure elapsed times of up to 12-hours and 60-minutes in a single subdial (a feature of the 9900 series chronographs that I love). The oscillating system moves to and fro 28,8000 times per hour and requires no lubrication thanks to the high-tech black silicon (Si14) balance spring which operates in unison with the black titanium free-sprung balance wheel that can be adjusted using its eccentric screws. A Nivachoc shock absorption system, and well as a robust traversing balance bridge reduce the chance that shock will degrade timekeeping accuracy.
The movement, although somewhat industrial-looking — which is common until you reach much higher price points — should be ultra-reliable. And with the Master Chronometer certification, it will of course be highly accurate as well. Whether it’s beautiful or not is something you can argue about, although in order to do more hand finishing, the retail price would surely have to be higher.
On The Wrist
Just like the Speedmaster Moonwatch, the Chronoscrope has some heft weighing in at just over 134 grams on a bracelet which is a good weight that feels comfortable on the wrist but not too heavy that it becomes cumbersome. At 13 mm thick including the box-type crystal the case height is just perfect, and the Chronoscope sits perfectly on my 7″ wrist, with no overhanging at the case ends and no digging from the crown. As for the bracelet, it feels very well made and is quite attractive, not to mention it offers Omega’s new patented push-button “comfort release” (a 2.3 mm extension), which is the icing on the cake. Definitely pay the extra $200 for the stainless steel bracelet over a strap.
If Omega made this watch with the 9900 series automatic movement, instead of the new hand-wound caliber 9908, the height and ergonomics would be nowhere near as good. With the exception of micro-rotors and peripheral rotors that can offer the convenience of automatic without all the thickness — one reason why I almost always prefer manual-wind timepieces is that the case can be thinner because the movement is thinner. This is especially pertinent with chronographs, which tend to be thicker in general, making a certain level of thinness even more important to those looking for a refined timepiece versus something clunky.
The Chronoscope is not a Moonwatch but it’s every bit a Speedmaster — and just as awesome, if not better.
From the excellent Co-Axial Master Chronometer chronograph movement with premium column-wheel and vertical clutch to the upscale dial and sapphire crystal front and back, and the newly upgraded premium comfort release bracelet, the Chronoscope is an elevated Speedmaster with an elevated price to match. Still with Daytonas retailing for about double, not to mention many times that on the secondary market, it squarely places the Chronoscope as a great alternative, even at half the price, and crucially you can actually walk into a store and get one.
You cannot buy a Daytona right now at retail, but even if you could, astronomical resale values aside, the Chronoscope, with its rich Speedmaster DNA, is a formidable competitor. And for someone with a 7″ wrist like me, I actually prefer the dimensions and look of Moonwatch or Chronoscope, because they have slightly more wrist presence than a modern Daytona.
Should Omega have embellished the movement further, added a scratchproof ceramic bezel insert, or given the watch lume? Maybe, but none of that matters when you see how nice it looks on your wrist. For me, the dial and movement finishing of the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph which we reviewed last year is exemplary, and cannot be beaten by watches many costing tens of thousands less. Still, for four times the price, the Overseas Chronograph is not four times the watch. Apart from the hand-finished movement, higher-end case finishing, and more sophisticated dial construction, the new Speedmaster Chronoscope for $8,650 is right up there with an Overseas Chronograph.
The triple scales in the center offer an unmistakenly vintage aesthetic, on an otherwise modern watch, which is somewhat contradictory. Having all those printed scales overlapping the hands and counters creates a cluttered look yet it also offers expanded functionality. And with no lume, nighttime legibility was sacrificed for beauty. Still, at the end of the day, this watch looks great on the wrist, and if you love using a chronograph, the 9900 series operates smoother than a caliber 1861/3861, not to mention, the hours and minutes are in a single counter at 3 o’clock, which enhances legibility greatly while using the chronograph function.
Omega surprised me with the Chronoscope because I did not expect to like it so much relative to the Moonwatch. Nor did I think the blue dial was the best option prior to seeing it up close. When I think about what’s out there at over eight thousand dollars the only actual competitors are all at much higher price points. This leads me to believe the Chronoscope will retain value just as well as the Moonwatch.
Learn more at Omega.
Chronoscope Co-Axial Master Chronometer Chronograph 43
Total Weight: 134.6 grams
Case Diameter: 42.5 mm
Case Thickness: 13 mm
Lug-to-lug: 48.5 mm
Lug Width: 21 mm/11 mm
Crown Diameter: 6.10 mm
Glass: Sapphire (domed, box-shaped)
Movement: caliber 9908
Depth Rating: 50 meters
Bracelet: 21 mm at the lugs/11 mm at the buckle