Review of the Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow Ref : 3551.20.00
In praise of the Broad Arrow : why it is my favorite modern Chronograph ?
Despite lots of different post against the 33xx Omega movements on different internet forums and after reading a lot of articles on this watch I have decided to buy the Broad Arrow .
I must say that since Omega introduce this model on the market I was really hooked by it, but rumors keep me away from it for a certain time , and I was also expecting Omega introducing the Broad Arrow with the co-axial escapment (3313) but after nearly 2 years waiting and seeing no chance to get it with the co-axial , I go for it.
Mechanical automatic chronograph with date
Movement : Omega 3303 : 28.800 bph , column wheel and free sprung escapment *, COSC certified
Case : Stainless steel 316L , screw-in caseback , waterproof to 10 atm (100 meters) , double O-ring on pushers and crown
Anti magnetism : insured by a soft iron inner case
Crystal : Domed sapphire crystal with inner AR coating
Bracelet / Strap : Stainless steel 316 L bracelet or Aligator strap on deployant buckle
the movement is not based on Piguet 1185 as oftenly published but is the Piguet 1285 specially built for Omega exist in 3 different versions : 3303 (highly finished) , 3313 (with co-axial) and 3301 (with a strandard finish). Some might concider it as an "In House" movement which is true in a certain extent but I will not open this eventual fight ! : Facts are : the Omega 33xx is manufactured by Piguet (which is owned by Swatch Group like Omega) exclusivly for Omega.
The Broad Arrow is delivered in a very nice wood box with papers in the credit card format a a complete instruction book.
The box is one of the nicest I never had (at the exception of Panerai) , the finish is excellent and the watch holder inside the box can be removed in order to convert the box for any other uses. (my wife immediatly spot this ! and now use the box for her own use ...)
The instruction book is quiet big (364 pages) but cover all the Omega models in 10 different languages, as the Broad Arrow is a easy watch to use (mechanical chronograph) it do not require very long instructions.
First feelings :
as any Omega product the finish of the watch is excellent , the cream dial and the blued hands makes it a very distinctive piece compared to the more classic black dialed chronographs.
The case keep the very particular finish of speedmaster line : polished lugs , satin side of the case. The bracelet match this satin/polish finish. The watch is sold either on strap with deployant bucke or bracelet , I have personally choose the bracelet which is VERY comfortable and having the excellent Omega clasp : 2 side pushers to open the clasp.
The tachymeter scale is laser engraved , as the serial number of the watch (under one lug) and the bracelet clasp
The back is engraved with the famous Speedmaster seahorseand a simple "Broad Arrow" engraving
The size of the watch is kept in the Speedmaster classic size , absolutely no difference with a Speedmaster pro : the back is even interchangeable with a sppedy pro, this gives me the idea to convert in the future my Broad Arrow with a display back
Daylight readability is excellent with a very high contrast between the cream dial and the blued hands , subregisters with the same color as dial do not affect readability of time as often on other chronographs, the hour hand with its "Broad Arrow" help of course this excellent readability
Night readability is not excellent , the use of superluminova unfortunatly limit the night time reading to few hours ... but Tritium is now forbidden. Despite a quiet big superluminova surface on hands do not expect reading time at 4' in the morning : the luminosity is nearly totally gone.
Dial / Subdials :
The dial and subdials are "cream white" colored (but the Broad Arrow is also available with a more classic black dial under reference 3551.50.00)
Indexes and hands are blued steel as the applied logo, the blue steel might appear black under certain lighting but this never affect the excellent readability
The Broad Arrow hour hand might hide the subdials affecting a little bit the readability of subdials : Omega probably change this on the original speedmaster in 1958 swithching to smaller hour/minute hands.
The identity of the Broad Arrow is at this price : excellent readability of time and tribute to the original speedmaster but hands hide partially subdials at 3, 6 and 9.
After a month of extensive use including the chronograph function at least two times a day I have not faced any problems with my BA … and it is the most accurate chronograph I never had before : precision is kept under a second per day since I got it
The accuracy have been tested on long periods and compared to the atomic time, but also checked on a timing machine : both measurements gives about the same results : + 0,85 s/day measured on a 16 days period and +0,6 s/day measured on the timing machine.
The first thing you will notice playing with the chronograph functions is the smoothness of the start/stop and reset pushers , if you are used to the speedy pro that is a REAL improvement , playing with chrono function is a real pleasure : the crown wheel mechanism is the reason of this incomparable feeling
One useful function as been added to the original speedmaster : the date : the window is located at 6’ and the date wheel match the cream color of the dial on recent models
The "engine" :
But if you have bought a Broad Arrow or if you intend to do so , it is not only for the design but also probably for the engine !
If you have the curiosity to look inside (what a pity Omega is hiding this fabulous movement without display back !) you will discover a very modern design chronograph movement :
The first thing to be noticed is the incredible care to details, this level of finish is really high end and not common in this watch price range
Then you will discover the column wheel mechanism , very small compared to older movements , nearly hide inside the movement. I am this kind of collector in favor of the column wheel , not because of the functionality I must admit that level/cam design perfectly work but just because it is indeed beautiful and gives an incomparable feeling playing with chronograph functions. Many collectors will favor a Speedmaster 321 over a 861 … and many will do so because of the column wheel
If you are looking to today’s market of modern chronographs you’ll not find so many using column wheel : Zenith El Primero , Rolex Daytona , Piguet 1185 … and our Omega 33XX that’s it ! (I exclude from this list very high end movements with extremely high prices)
Column wheel IS a distinctive feature to my eyes because it is rare and beautifull
Now if we look to the escapement we discover the free sprung balance system :
Let us start with a definition :
“FREE - SPRUNG. A balance spring unfettered by curb pins. Used in marine chronometers, pocket chronometers and very high grade watches. The rate of a watch so sprung can be adjusted by the timing screws on the balance.”
Another extract form a watch glossary : “A free-sprung balance have no regulator attached. As any kind of regulator effectively changes the shape of the spring and therefore injures its isochronous quality, it has long been the practice in instruments of the highest precision to do without the regulator.
Such a watch or chronometer relies on the timing-screws for any adjustment that may be necessary; and of course it is assumed that the instrument will have been built and adjusted to a very high standard of accuracy from the start, so that such adjustment is only occasionally needed. Free-sprung watches are therefore treasured by collectors.”
Should I add anything to those explanations ? like the crown wheel mechanism the free-sprung balance is a distinctive feature few watches have , years ago all watches and clocks fitted with such a system where considered as top-end time devices … Today Omega fit the 33XX with such a system : a highly distinctive feature
I have read often that the 861 was also a very nice movement and was not inferior to the 33xx : understand me , far away from my mind to deny the quality of the current Omega speedmaster pro movement (I indeed love it and also own a Speedmaster 861) I am simply saying the the 33XX movement is a higher end movement , like comparing the virtues of a turbo engine and a V12 … the turbo might have the same power , the same performance … a V12 will always be a “nicer” engine technically speaking and that is the case of the 33xx movement over many modern chronograph movements.
Yes there where reliability issues on the 33xx in the first batches , but yes Omega react and have made modifications in order to solve those problems : the aim of the review is NOT to open again this story (see 33xx part of the website for user's point of views), the only thing I can tell is that Omega is taking care of their customers and that apparently new models do not have any problems.
So the final conclusion :
- if I would do this buy again ?
for sure !
- If I am a happy owner :
more than happy I think I am in love with the BA , it exceed all my expectations
- Do I consider this watch as a good buy :
totally ! if I am looking to the specs of the movement and if I compare its price to direct competition (Rolex Daytona or Zenith El Primero) it is an excellent buy …even if some might argue that Omega have cheaper watches powered by the 33xx in their product range
A final word :
The Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow is definitly my favourite modern chronograph, taking best of both worlds : the vintage design inspiration and the modern specifications you can expect from a high end brand.