The Omega Speedmaster Professional is one of the most legendary watches ever. Not only is its design timeless and its movement rock solid, but it’s also famously the only watch to be worn on the Moon, and while many watches have been called iconic over the years, there’s an argument to be made that the “Moonwatch” is the timepiece that is most deserving of the term. If you were to scour the internet for every list of the most famous, iconic, or important watches of all time, I would bet all of them have the Speedmaster Professional ranked above five. It’s a Mount Rushmore watch. Because of this legendary status, it is also one of the least changed watches on the market, staying remarkably true to its Moonwatch roots for over 50 years. But change is inevitable, and on the first Speedy Tuesday of the new year in 2021, Omega introduced perhaps the biggest update in the history of the Moonwatch. This is the brand new 2021 Omega Speedmaster Professional ref. 310.30.42.50.01.001.
At first glance—or even second or third if your not a Speedmaster fan—it might not seem like much has changed with this watch, but remember the Speedmaster Professional is the closest thing the watch world has to a sacred object. Especially with this specific variant which is equipped with a hesalite crystal and closed caseback. This is the purist’s choice and is the closest one can get to the actual watch that went to the Moon. Other variants like the one with sapphire crystal and display caseback have more wiggle room to experiment, but this watch needs to check certain boxes that keep it suitable for space flight.
Thankfully Omega has been very thoughtful with the changes they’ve implemented and made sure not to fix what wasn’t broken, and that means this watch is just as ready for spaceflight as its predecessor. So while the important traits are still intact, this model has a handful of visual tweaks with some vintage nods as well as an entirely new caliber with some major technical improvements over the previous movement.
The technical upgrades are by far the most significant change with this watch as the movement has been upgraded from the revered caliber 1861 to the new manual-winding Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 3861. The two movements are architecturally and visually similar but, the 3861 is a cutting-edge movement that is simply tougher and more accurate than the 1861. Among a myriad of improvements, the 3861 has a co-axial escapement, a silicon balance spring, and is METAS certified. This means in addition to the NASA tests that all Moonwatch’s must go through, the 3861 also gets COSC certified and then METAS tested, having its cased up movement put through a gauntlet of shock-resistance, water-resistance, magnetic resistance, and accuracy tests to ensure that the movement and watch are not only durable but can maintain a maximum deviation rate of just 0/+5 seconds per day. This is bar none the most advanced, rugged, and accurate Speedmaster ever built.
Moving to the exterior of the watch, the visual updates are more subtle but just as thoughtful. The most significant design update is to the bracelet and clasp. The bracelet is now a five link bracelet and on this hesalite model is fully brushed. Additionally, the bracelet now has a pronounced taper going from 20mm at the lugs to 15mm at the clasp. This, along with the added articulation of the smaller bracelet links, will make for a much more comfortable wearing experience. The twin trigger clasp has also been upgraded and has a vintage-inspired look with an engraved logo and banded finish. Besides the new movement, this new clasp is my favorite update, it reminds me of the 60s, and I think it matches the watch perfectly.
Other visual updates are mostly small nods to vintage Speedmasters. With vintage watches being at peak desirability and the Speedmaster having such a rich history with collectors, it would have been a missed opportunity not to pull inspiration from older models. The most collector-focused update is that the bezel now includes the infamous dot over 90 on the tachymèter scale. This small but beloved trait was present on pre-1970 Speedmaster Professionals and is one of the reasons those vintage examples are so collectible. The accent mark of the “è” in Tachèmeter is another trait this new model has that’s found on these early Speedy’s as well as mid-1990’s Speedmasters. Additionally, the dial now has a more pronounced step to the outer perimeter, and the minute track has been updated to match the new movement’s frequency. Most of these updates are invisible to those who aren’t up to their ears in Speedmaster fandom, but it’s a nice tip of the hat from Omega to their most ardent supporters.
With this 2021 Omega Speedmaster Professional, the brand has achieved a near-perfect balance in modernizing the timepiece while acknowledging its past. They avoided fauxtina and instead focused on classic beloved design traits that let enthusiasts know they’re listening. They also brought the movement inside the watch into the present, which is frankly necessary if the watch is going to appeal to new fans. At the end of the day, this 2021 Speedmaster Professional is still every bit the Speedmaster we all know and love, just better.