I just took delivery of my new Speedmaster Racing watch (model 322.214.171.124.01.001). This watch is in “traditional garb” reminiscent of the traditional Speedmaster Professional… stainless w black dial and white hands, on stainless steel bracelet; but carrying the new co-axial 9900 movement. This is my first ever watch review. I hope you enjoy it.
First some background on the purchase: I had been wearing a Seiko Divers watch for the last 20 years, ever since receiving one as a gift from my wife on our first anniversary. As a 26 year old just out of grad school, that Seiko was a special “real watch” to me, and I loved it. I wore it almost every day for 20 years. But over time it became less and less right for daily wear, and in recent years I got the itch for something more. So recently I purchased a couple Swiss watches that I liked, including a Bell & Ross BR-03 and a Ball Aviator GMT. I enjoy both of these; but after a few months I see these them as secondary watches. They are good alternates; but neither one is “the watch” to be worn daily for a decade or more. Plus, these two work best on leather and rubber straps respectively; leaving me without a steel bracelet watch. After 20 years of that Seiko, a steel bracelet is my habit. So in summary: I was seeking something special, something classic, something for daily wear, stainless with stainless bracelet, meant to last for decades. That was my spec as I went out shopping.
I considered going for a Rolex and especially the GMT Master II, which I really like. (And I value the GMT function, as I travel often). But somehow Rolex is not the brand for me. I am an engineer and entrepreneur. The guys I know wearing a Rolex are bankers, golf pros, country-club guys. All fine for them; but this is not my crowd. I looked at the Oris ProPilot with their in-house Calibre 114; seemed a very nice watch but I didn’t fall in love with it. I also looked closely at the Seamaster Planet Ocean. This is a truly impressive piece with that great co-axial movement. But I’m wearing a coat and tie more often now, which suddenly makes a dive watch (even a great one) a bit wrong. For that reason I gravitated toward something less dive-forward: the Seamaster Aqua Terra GMT. Like the Oris, the AT seemed very nice. But somehow I wasn’t inspired to pull the trigger.
So while mulling over the AT, I revisited the Speedmaster. I’ve always loved the look of the Speedmaster Professional, which I consider a true classic. But I had written it off because it didn’t have a GMT complication; and because I’m always wary of a black bezel that fades over time (as my beloved Seiko did). Then I saw the new Speedmaster racing. The METAS Calibre 9900 was intriguing. 44mm footprint was appealing to me as I prefer a larger watch. And ceramic bezel! All the reviews I saw were on the orange-handed version on black strap… but if you dig you can find the new “Racing” version in a traditional Speedy-Pro-esque look, with black-face, white-hands and steel bracelet. That modern-take on a legend suddenly came into focus as the right choice. And so here it is (GMT function be damned!)
The first thing I noticed when I put it on: this watch is shiny! Yes that liquidmetal bezel is black, but with a serious high-gloss finish. Combined with the polished crown, pushers, hands and applied indices, this watch shows a shade more “bling” than what showed up in the internet photos. The 44mm case has the classic Speedmaster look with the curved lugs, asymmetric sides with crown dug-in to the case flank, and combination of brushed sides and polished top. The bezel as noted is quite shiny; and the cross section of it protrudes at an angle, with a kind of saucer-shaped profile when viewed from the side. At 44.25mm I know some purists find it too big; but for me it is just right. My wrist is about 7 1/4” and my arm is on the long side; a watch this size is in the “sweet spot” for me. It does stand up a bit high off my wrist, given the domed crystal that mimics the old Hesalite crystal, plus a domed sapphire caseback to boot. So no, it’s not exactly thin. But I don’t feel it is out of place or protruding either. It feels natural.
Another purist’s complaint is the downshift to two registers from three, making this modern Speedmaster basically a bi-compax layout. But as with the larger case, two is just a better look in my opinion. The date window is excellent at 6:00 location; it’s a very-slightly tapered side profile and a large date that’s easier to read than my other watches, by far. Hands and indices are, yes just a bit blingy but it’s still a reserved look overall. I also find the color of the “black” to come off as somewhat charcoal grey; maybe just due to the shine or maybe the eggshell finish of the dial. It’s not jet-black for sure but it works.
I love the “racing dial” markers around the outer edge. These give you a sub-second marker at 250ms intervals, which is kinda cool with the chronograph. That outer portion of the dial is angled ever-so-slightly away, like a racetrack bank but in the negative direction; and the indices are banked at mid-index to match. Just a really subtle touch that works. Overall it has a great high-end yet traditional look, setting itself apart just enough from prior-edition Speedmasters I think. Overall I love the dial with one exception: the register hands are all shine and no white, which makes them very tough to read. I would have preferred white hands in the sub-dials.
The view from the back is gorgeous and shows off the METAS certified 9900 movement. I will not attempt to describe this; but it’s the coolest view I’ve ever seen in person through a transparent caseback. And that movement seemingly contains every possible technology Omega has…. Si14 hairspring, co-axial escapement, twin-barrel mainsprings and column wheel w vertical clutch for the chrono. Being an engineer I can understand about 50% of all that; though I am not qualified to explain it all here. The net result (aside from good looking innards) is a great feel to the chrono pushers, a 60-hour power reserve, and (for my particular watch) a gain of somewhere between 0.5s to +1.0s per day. Mechanical engineering wise, I give it a 10 of 10. They also provide a reference for the METAS procedure where you can look up the test data for your individual watch. Just cool.
Finally the bracelet: not much to say other than it’s excellent quality and a perfect match to the look of this watch. The clasp is already a bit scuffed from rubbing my desk and keyboard; but over time that scuffing will become the natural order… “brushed by life” so to speak. As you’ll see in the photos I wear it loose. I like the micro-adjustment available in the clasp… a convenient touch.
Compared to my old Seiko, this watch is way more expensive and maybe not entirely as tough (That is arguable, but no screw-down crown and only 50m water resistance remind me the Speedmaster is no dive watch.) Then again, I am 46 years old now and not 26; so I won’t beat on this watch nearly as hard as I did that one. Times change; our habits and tastes must also change.
The impression of this watch on my wrist is just perfect. It looks classy without screaming “look at me!” It has a classic layout and dimension, reminiscent of the original Speedy Pro while being just different enough. It’s not a formal watch to wear with a tuxedo; but can be dressed up (for example with a blazer which is standard for me these days), or dressed down as needed. Having owned this watch for about 4 days, I’m confident it’ll be my daily wearer for the next 10-20 years.
I see so much writing and arguing on these forums over the eternal question: what makes a great watch? A great movement, uniqueness, history, technology… these all play a part (and are all hyped by marketing machines of Omega and their competitors). But in the end, when we buy an expensive bauble to wear everyday, a huge part of the equation is simply how it looks. This Racing Speedmaster looks perfect. It keeps the time to high precision, and contains a great history and high-end technology to boot. So obviously I’m very happy with it. In fact I believe I’m done watch shopping for a long, long time.