Introducing a new model into an established and well-loved line can be a difficult proposition. On one hand, just tweaking the colors on the dial will not be enough to draw the eyes of the collector. On the other hand, coming up with a radical new design and putting the existing name on it will have people up in arms (here, we’re thinking of the New Coke fiasco of the 1980s). To call it a delicate balancing act is to undersell the issue. For all that, the Omega Speedmaster Chronoscope Co-Axial Master Chronometer managed to hit all the right notes, appealing to those who appreciate the Speedmaster roots, as well as those who want something that does not look like “just another Moonwatch”.
While you may be familiar with the Speedmaster name — and its history — Chronoscope is one that not many would recognize. If you really dive into the roots of the brand, you’ll find a Chronoscope appearing in 1885, made by Louis Brandt (which eventually became Omega). Going much more recently, you’d find the Chronoscope name appearing in the De Ville collection. For this specific model, we need to look at a period of time that’s not too recent, and not too ancient. That turns out to be somewhere in the 1940s. Not so much the name, but for the dial design.
In that era, chronograph watches were made to be as versatile as they could be, allowing you to time and measure a number of different things. In some ways, they were the smartphones of their era. The first scale they included then was the tachymeter, allowing you to figure out how fast you’re going. For the Speedmaster line (inclusive of this watch), that primary scale is on the bezel, as it has been since 1957. A secondary one (measuring 60 to 20, for 3 minutes of travel) is found at the innermost circle on the dial.
What, then, of those two other rings? Those are again that nod to 1940s versatility, with a telemeter scale on the outside. This is for measuring how far you are from something that’s visible and noisy – such as a thunderstorm. For the second ring in, you have a pulsometer scale. Get ready to measure a pulse, start the chronograph, and stop it once you hit 30 beats. Read the scale, and that’s the beats-per-minute. Suffice to say, seeing all three of these scales on a watch is not something common these days, and definitely calls back to earlier designs.
For the Omega Speedmaster Chronoscope, a lot of the design is focused on the dial. While it is a familiar bi-compax layout, all of the scales printed on the dial – and carried onto the subdials – makes for a dial that can look busy. That said, unless you need a particular scale for what you are doing, they can be safely ignored. With all of that information there on the dial, it does put one in a vintage mindset. This is quickly reinforced by the applied Arabic numerals on the dial, as opposed to the stick indices that we’re more accustomed to on a Speedmaster. Paired with the leaf handset, it really makes for a watch that, while sporty, feels like it really wants to be dressed up.
Even if you could not see the Speedmaster name on the dial, the Omega Speedmaster Chronoscope is recognizable as being part of the line. Yes, the dial is new, but the case shape with its twisted lugs, the tachymeter bezel set below the domed sapphire crystal, and even the pushers and crown all tell us that this is very much part of the Speedmaster family.
One portion of the watch that may not be as recognizable as a Speedmaster is the bracelet. Or, more specifically, the clasp. This one starts at 21mm at the lugs, and narrows to 16mm at the clasp. Hiding inside of that decorated clasp is a new micro-adjustment. Rather than relying on something that extends out from the clasp itself – which would break the lines of the clasp – there’s a micro-adjustment inside, that can give you a few more millimeters of space. In other words, you can adjust the comfort of the watch as your wrist expands or contracts throughout the day. This is a clever touch that owners will undoubtedly appreciate.
For all that the Omega Speedmaster Chronoscope looks like a vintage watch, the movement inside is anything but. Inside we have the METAS-certified 9908 movement, which is a hand-wound version of the calibre 9900. While there’s a new plate visible, it still is a column-wheel chronograph with a vertical clutch. Additionally, it retains the double-barrel layout that smooths out the torque provided to the gear train, while still offering a 4Hz beat rate and 60-hour power reserve.
Through the exhibition caseback, you’ll be able to see the decoration spreading out across the ¾ plate, calling to mind a fan or seashell, with how it radiates out from the balance wheel. Along with the balance wheel (finished in black, in this case) you’ll also be able to see the column-wheel. You’re reminded that this is a manually-wound movement with this view, as you would be by what the movement enables. By that, we mean the 43mm case is actually a bit thinner than prior Speedmasters, coming in at 12.8mm (versus 13.58 for the Moonwatch).
Versus The Competition
If you’re thinking about a dressier chronograph – particularly one with applied Roman numerals – after seeing this Omega, an obvious alternative would be the IWC Portugieser Chronograph. This one also features a dual sub-dial layout, albeit one that runs north to south. That aside, with the applied numerals and polished leaf hands, as well as pushers that hug the case, this is very much a chronograph for those who want something a bit dressier.
On the other hand, if the thought of a health-focused chronograph has grabbed your attention, then that means a pulsometer scale such as the one found on the Montblanc Heritage Spirit Pulsograph. While this particular limited edition doesn’t reference anything specific from the past, it definitely has that vintage vibe, particularly with the pulsometer scale printed at the edge of the dial. We also find ourselves particularly enamored of it being a mono-pusher, giving us a different look on the side of the case, as well as simplifying operation if you’re actually attempting to measure someone’s pulse.
The Speedmaster name evokes the idea of adventure, either off into space or at high speeds around the racecourse. On the other hand, the Omega Speedmaster Chronoscope feels like the younger brother who spent time in quiet study rather than searching out the next adrenaline boost. With the three different scales, no small amount of math went into getting those all aligned so they would work together. The inclusion of that pulsometer scale makes one think of a doctor, meaning that younger brother made good on all those studies.
To put it another way, this is the Speedy for those who may be drawn to the name and its history, but want to stay focused on calmly measuring smaller increments of time, and how it interacts with the world around them. While the steel case is sporty, the polished links in the bracelet and applied numerals mean that this is a watch that will work whatever your needs, be it a black tie affair or just relaxing in a chair by the water.
The Omega Speedmaster Chronoscope is rather interesting on a few different levels. First and foremost, it brings forward vintage references into the modern age, creating a watch that is both a Speedmaster and one that looks not much like any other Speedy. Secondly, it gives the owner the capability to time a lot more than how long they’ve been parked at the meter. With the three different scales, this is a watch that begs to be used for what it’s intended purpose is. So, go ahead and figure out how far away that thunderstorm is, and then check your pulse the closer it gets. However you use it, this is a Speedmaster that will set you apart without needing to delve into the minutiae of differences between references, all while looking clean and classic.