Thoughts on the Omega Speedmaster "Dark Side of the Moon"
When the Omega Speedmaster in black ceramic, or the Speedy “Dark Side of the Moon” (DSotM), was released at BaselWorld 2014 it caused quite a stir. It was easily the most talked about watch of the show and subsequently in watch blogs and forums. It was easily the most discussed, instagrammed, and anticipated watch post-Baselworld that year.
Pre-orders for the watch reach fever pitch, with tons of authorized dealers selling out before even receiving their first inventory. And at just around $12,000 retail it was Omega finally releasing a version of their flagship chronograph watch priced to compete squarely with the Rolex Daytona. It was a damn cool watch, everyone agreed on that point.
However, did the excitement remain like it seems to permanently do with the Daytona? Omega had finally reached Rolex Daytona-level of pricing and buzz. Could Omega sustain the innovation, styling, and technology that was first introduced with the original black DSotM? And could Omega finally surpass its main competitor?
As a relatively new collector at the time of the release, I had often seen in the forums, blogs, and other social networks that the “moon watch” was a must own in any collection. The arguments typically made are, briefly: it has a real iconic history, it has a timeless design, it has amazing performance, and it was kept at an entry-level price point that made the moon watch difficult to not consider.
A new original re-issued moon watch often comes at around $5,000 and there are many models to chose from. Omega practically releases a “limited” model or two every year for all types of real and fabricated anniversaries and for increasingly varied partnerships. For me, however, the original moon watch never stirred any emotion.
Don’t get me wrong, sending a man to the moon was perhaps humankind’s greatest single achievement to date. And to own a watch that was part of these missions, and even took some part in saving lives during one of the missions is not just iconic, it’s a romantic dream for any watch geek or any engineer.
Omega Speedmaster “Dark Side of the Moon”
So why am I not attracted to the moon watch? The Dark Side of the Moon, for me was the answer. The moon watch, however iconic, was released in a constant flow of re-issue that forever celebrated esoteric aspects of the missions with occasional new real anniversary releases going well above entry pricing.
In other words, for me, I was turned off by Omega’s seemingly incessant attempts at cashing in on their “lucky break”. Something about that stopped resonating with me as a new collector. Instead I wanted a moon watch that carried the pedigree but was done for the modern collector. A reinvented moon watch... And the DSotM was exactly that.
Maintaining the same case design and overall proportion of the moon watch, Omega created the DSotM in a space age material: ceramic. While certainly not new in watchmaking, the moon watch had never been seen this way. The watch includes a brushed and polished ceramic case made from one block of zirconium oxide that takes its deep black color during the long technical baking process.
Omega did not stop there but also made the dial out of the super hard (but brittle) material. They added red accents (“Speedmaster” marking) to keep it interesting and give more contrast. Even the tang buckle got the same treatment while also having a laser engraved Omega logo. Newer version of this same watch now have a ceramic deployant clasp as an option.
The strap is also special, using a kevlar sail cloth material that Swatch Group sister brand Blancpain uses in their flagship Fifty Fathoms model. But even there, Omega manages to impress by finishing the strap with a leather inlay and red stitching. The overall result is quite discreet and contributes to the watch’s unique, cohesive, design language.
Like many others, I was smitten immediately. It was my dream next watch and the Speedmaster worth owning in the 21st century. When I first saw it, I remember being impressed by the sharp look of the case with every corners polished or brushed to perfection.
It is overall a bit of a shiny watch. However, for me the black treatment was just perfect. Not only due to the trendy look on the wrist, but because Omega had delivered a watch in the moon watch tradition that was unique and modern. It was my “black beauty.” Fitting perfectly with the color I most often wear and select for all occasions. What can I say, like Johnny Cash, I am part of the “man in black” crew.
Even the movement was a thing of beauty. By opting to use their new in-house caliber 9300, which is nicely decorated and includes George Daniel’s legendary co-axial escapement, it was a watch that satisfied my newfound passion for chronograph movements. The beautiful integrated sapphire case back allowed me to admire this new movement in full view. I wasted no time and as soon as my local authorized dealer had one in stock, I strapped it to my wrist and never let go.
Weighing just under 93 grams the Speedmaster DSotM should be an easy watch on wrist. However, the reality is not so true. The dimensions, specifically the close to 17 mm height make the watch rather large. Coupled with its 50 mm lug-to-lug it completely covers my 20 cm wrist.
As I mentioned the strap matches perfectly the design of the watch. It starts at 20 mm at the lug and tapers to 18 mm while also gradually becoming slimmer at 2 mm. The holes are finished with rubber which makes it easy to change if you need to give some relief to your wrist after wearing it for a long day.
But is it a watch I still wear? Am I still in love with it as I was back then? Does it have a permanent place in my collection? Well it’s complicated. I still very much love it and it definitely has a permanent place in my collection. I won’t be getting another Omega Speedmaster anytime soon.
The look fits me still and the rich black of the ceramic has not faded one bit. Looks as new as when I first removed it from its elaborated black box that it came in. Nothing unexpected here since it is made out of one of the hardest material known to man.
So why the lackluster excitement and why do I not look forward to wearing it as I once did when I first got it? As I said, it’s definitely not the design nor its popularity (it’s still not a watch you see a lot in public). At least not in the circles I frequent.
My best explanation unfortunately has to do with Omega itself. Since the release and success of the Dark Side of the Moon, Omega has gone on the release so many variations of the watch that it’s hard to enumerate all the models without researching the archives since that initial release. As of fall 2018, Omega lists 19 variations of the DSotM.
This includes at least seven black models! Not to mention the grays, the white, and the blue sides of the moon releases. It’s as if the marketing geniuses in Biel could not stop themselves from milking every drop of this new cash cow.
The limited production that the first watch enjoyed was no longer even attempted and Omega released all of the new models almost at once and flooded the market. Consequently, the market saw a deep drop in price with many models selling at half the MSRP price on the secondary market.
And again, because of the ceramic material used, most of the used watches, unless dropped or nicked, will look as new as the day they came out of the packaged box. For collectors such as myself, with the dilution of the model came also a dilution of excitement in knowing that I owned something special, that was rare and technical.
I argue that a similar result would also occur to any highly-technical or luxury object, if the manufacturer decided to create many variations and flooded the markets... Precious objects are so because of their rarity and uniqueness.
Once these traits disappear I believe in the eyes of collectors they stop being as precious, and the excitement of ownership dies a bit. Can Omega recover and the will the DSotM become again collectible? Perhaps.
The most important competitor to the Speedmaster “Dark Side of the Moon” is the Rolex Daytona stainless steel with ceramic bezel. While Omega opted for a completely new design of the Speedmaster with various shades of ceramic. Rolex only added ceramic to the bezel.
Both watches come with an MSRP of about $12,000. However, for collectors the Daytona is clearly the one to own. If only judging by the long waitlists at authorized dealers. The Daytona, due to Rolex’s restraints, and perhaps clever control of distribution channels, is a more collectible watch.
Another competitor to the DSotM is the Breitling Navitimer. Like the Speedmaster, the Navitimer is the flagship chronograph from Breitling. Coming now with in-house B01 movement, the Navitimer, in its many forms and incarnations, constitutes an overall bargain. The classic model, my preferred variation, comes in at less than $6,000.
Newer models, like the newly released Navitimer 8 are priced just above this. It’s also worth mentioning that the Navitimer is the oldest non-stop production chronograph in history. Breitling has always had a Navitimer in their product lines since the creation of the first one in 1942 and an automatic one since 1969.
Two other competing automatic chronograph watches worth mentioning are the Zenith El Primero and the TAG Heuer Carrera. Both also constitute flagship models from respective brands. A variety of models exist from both brands, but again, as with the Breitling, my preference is for the classic versions, though I also really like the Grand Carrera from TAG Heuer, which constitutes a modernized version of the Carrera.
So again, am I still satisfied with my Omega Speedmaster DSotM? Do I still wear it? The answer to both questions is yes and yes. As I mentioned, I personally will not be parting with mine and I still love the design and look, and maybe if Omega discontinued the model or did not release any new variations at the next Baselworld that could be the start of a revival.
However, I am not holding my breath, and as an overall fan of the brand I can only hope they learn, from their largest competitor, a little bit of restraint and foresight that the watch game is a long game. You win at it by being patient and letting your products accumulate notoriety, design equity and value, with the exact thing they are meant to measure: time. omegawatches.com