On your mark, get set... go!
January 10th 2017 was a very special "Speedy Tuesday". As was customary on every Tuesday, I received an email from Fratello Watches introducing the Speedy Tuesday Limited-Edition Speedmaster. So naturally I was very intrigued and immediately began to read the article. But before I could get very far, I had to stop to take care of some business and only manged to finish reading it many hours later. Paraphrasing the last paragraph of the article: "order here... soonest". I was pretty confused given that I'd never heard of such an online reservation-process before and at the onset of the article* I assumed it was going to be something for Basel in March (*err, I obviously skipped the "preface"...).
So "hours later" I clicked on the provided Omega Online Reservation link. Then the real "fun" began... "No free number available, please try later..." I must have refreshed my browser-window over a hundred times. And then it happened ...the automated reply changed to "Number nnnn is available - reserve or enter a different number...". I wasn't even sure if it was really going to let me have that number again so I didn't even dare to change the number. I accepted the reservation offer and then the system informed me I had ~30mins to make a final decision to reserve that specific number.
So I figured what the heck, I have time to try my luck out and started entering various numbers - the usual suspects, such as 1978, 1969, 1957 1861, my birth year and so on. No dice. Running low on time, I decided to accept the original number. Little did I know that by that time, there were little to no reservations left... . I think the final estimate was that all 2012 watches were reserved in about four hours!?!* A short time later I received a reservation-confirmation email from Omega and while I had 24hrs* to make up mind mind, it took all of 24secs for me to finalize the reservation!
*Given 24hrs to finalize the reservation, I suspect some had a change of heart and did not carry through with it, allowing some numbers to free up for the next wave of Speedmaster fans.
R A D I A L
For those (few) unaware of some of the design concepts behind the Speedy Tuesday, the main element is without a doubt the "radial" sub-dials. This is a tribute to the Alaska Project, namely the 1978 Alaska III prototype. According to Fratello Watches, ~56 were made exclusively for NASA to test and (in theory*) all are still property of NASA. Fratello Watches wrote an excellent article on the Alaska III.
*A few have popped up for sale at formal auctions, commanding ~ $100K sums).
click-the-pics for some hi-res goodness!
Apart from the radial sub-dials, the next obvious differences to a classic Speedmaster Professional is the "reverse-Panda" dial. I know there are quite a few Panda LEs, but the Speedy Tuesday might just be the first 1861-based reverse-Panda. Just as obvious is the beautifully-executed, fully-brushed case! This element is also a tribute to the Alaska III, as well as the matching brushed pushers and yes, even the (blasted) crown!
On to the even finer details! First off, it's important to note that the markers on the sub-dials and the fonts of the numerals match the Alaska III and are very different from the classic Speedmaster's. I was very pleased to see Omega/F.W. go to such lengths, kudos!
But wait... there's more! Check out that font... the "S" and "R" are a perfect match of the Alaska III's.
As for the caseback, they of course used the "Seahorse" as the central theme - same as the Alaska III. Whereas the original was devoid of text with the exception of NASA's own part number (sed12100312-301), the Speedy Tuesday proudly declares itself as both a tribute to the Alaska III as well as the anniversary of Fratello-Watches' "Speedy Tuesday" weekly blog and viral social-networking's "hashtag" #SpeedyTuesday. Each of the 2012 pieces of this Limited edition series carries the unique number (selected by the owner as noted above). The characters of the word "radial" are "radially" spread around the caseback (...hehe - good one, guys!) Theory had it that all casebacks would screw on so that the "R" would point exactly at the top, but this is of course not always possible in practice.
Apart from the reverse Panda, there are two other major changes to the Alaska III theme; the use of brushed-rhodium hands for the main dial (black for the sub-dials) and an abundant use of Super-LumiNova.
The brushed hands really go well with the brushed case and in terms of optics, it's a perfect match. They are also quite legible In any kind of well-lit environments (daylight, office lights, etc) but are very difficult to quickly make out in ambient lighting (your typical living-room conditions). Still, the hands look at home on the Speedy Tuesday and the "silvery" sub-dials certainly add to this central theme.
Then there's the very generous application of Super-LumiNova, at least in terms of "real estate." We're talking about the chapter ring, all dial text and finally, the sub-dials. I never did understand why the typical chronograph doesn't use lume on it's sub-dial hands (one reason I often activate the Chronograph complication in sync with actual time) so the Speedy Tuesday presents and alternate solution.
The effectiveness of the additional lume is however debatable. These additional illuminated areas are only visible in near-absolute darkness. The best example is in a completely dark room (bedroom at night, etc.) You will not be able to take advantage of the additional lume in other typical, real-world uses such as walking down a normally-lit street at night or the bad habit of peering down at your watch in the cinema (ahem, when it's your partner's turn to choose the movie...). Is this really a bad thing...? Have a look at the photo Fratello Watches included in their article (or my pure lume shot further down below); my personal opinion is that having all that lume glowing with an equal brightness all the time would be over-kill, at least from an aesthetics POV. So I was actually relieved when after a short time, the SpeedyTuesday's lume was more reminiscent of the classic Speedmaster.
One other minor but delightful variation to the original Alaska III is the applied logo (yaaay). It's a classic, polished logo and looks great. I wonder if they contemplated a brushed logo; perhaps they even did a test run and decided against it... in any event, I'm thrilled about it!
350 days in the making
"Day one" was covered above but to be sure, it was the first of many days towards the ultimate goal of taking delivery of one's very own Speedy Tuesday! For those that avidly followed the progress in the various forums and on our very own #SpeedyTuesday FB Group, you will know that there were a few roadblocks along the way. Some minor and some rather major hurdles, to be sure. In summary though, I personally believe Omega did a very fine job of it, keeping very much in mind it's also their first "online sales" project.
The first point of contention was the initial launch concept. Basically a first come, first serve approach. As I believe this Speedmaster is a tribute to (dedicated) Speedy-Tuesday fans, I believe they indeed deserved priority, even over, let's say, Omega's select Boutique/ AD customers. Having said that, the launch was far from optimal. Omega and Fratello Watches chose to launch the sale at "high noon", Central European Time. I assume it was based on their own physical location and/ or the fact that they are close enough to GMT. Good news for us European Speedy-Tuesday fans, ok news for Asian/ Australian fans still online and maybe even for the East Cost of the U.S. sipping their on their first cup-o'joe... . Rather unfortunate news for RestofWorld given that Asia / Australia were getting ready for bed and the Pacific Coast was still sound asleep. Many fans that didn't "make the cut" (and even some who did) proposed alternative solutions but in all honesty, there was no one, perfect solution and Omega's approach was just as good (or bad) as any I've read about.
Moving on to us lucky few - and while 2012 sounds like a reasonable amount, I understand that a week on in, Omega amassed a waiting list of about 7000 or more very interested Speedmaster fans! Anyway, I'm pretty sure most of us were wondering what would happen next after confirming our reservation. Soon after, we received a "personalized" reservation-confirmation email. Off to a good start! A few days later, another mail from Omega, this time from what would now be Omega's Speedy-Tuesday coordinator; let's call him "Sir Arthur." The one other topic connected to each reservation was a user-chosen delivery point (Omega Boutique). In the event there was no local Boutique to select from, Omega contacted each person to arrange for a local AD etc.
Omega knew that this wouldn't be a quick turnover and accordingly, set up a series of emails titled "Speedy-Tuesday Story." There were three in total and were put in place to let us know that things were steadily progressing. As the original estimate had all 2012 deliveries planned over the Summer months, one final planned action from Fratello Watches (with support from Omega) was to send out a "Speedy Tuesday" magazine to all. Roughly 100 pages, packed with some of Robert-Jan's best articles of Speedmasters past and present, highlighting Speedmaster's 60th anniversary and naturally, the Speedy-Tuesday reference as well as the Alaska Projects for NASA. I couldn't imagine a more professional approach to such a launch. Kudos to Fratello Watches and Omega! As if this wasn't more than enough, Omega was able to connect a planned 60th-Anniversary "toast" at our local OB to the list of (local) Speedy-Tuesday reservations and sent us all an invite! Color me impressed. We even had the great pleasure of meeting Petros Protopapas, the curator of the Omega museum in Bienne. Speaking of Bienne, they contacted the Regional Swatch-Group office who in turn contacted the local OB to inform them of all persons planning to pick up their watches at said OB. In turn, both Swatch Group and the OB contacted me. First class all the way!
"No rose without a thorn..." meaning even Omega couldn't avoid some issues. When the roll-out began (early September, me thinks) reports of individual issues started to trickle in. Remember that 1. this is, after all, an online-community / social-Networking-based endeavor and in that sense, the walls indeed have ears... ...and powerful search engines! 2. Everyone waiting on their own watch was of course intent on tracking any and every tidbit of news from the community. Some of the issues were typical of any reference from any company. Case in point; one owner was dismayed to see that one of the sub-dial(s) wouldn't reset perfectly. A frustrating problem for sure, but generic in nature. There were other issues which were much more alarming as they were directly related to the Speedy Tuesday reference - namely dial issues. The first report (that caught my attention) was missing lume... but only the 11 o'clock marker... . The next report was of a numeral on one of the sub-dials ... that was reversed. Others reported faulty sub-dial lume. Needless to say, the community got a little nervous and rightfully so. Consequently, September came and went leaving many, if not most of the 2012 members wondering when their watch would arrive... . Eventually, Omega's Speedy-Tuesday Coordinator forwarded a mail indicating that there would be delays due to "stepped-up Quality Assurance". Panic ensued... .
So results ranged from on-time delivery of a flawless unit to "returned for caseback replacement" and everything in between. In my case, everything was going to plan - including a mid-September email from Bienne informing me my unit would soon be ready for shipment. I decided to to sit back and relax, confident that the OB would contact me upon arrival. Sure enough, OB did contact me, however with the unfortunate news that the wrong unit (different #) had been shipped. C'est la vie. My response was quite simple and clear; "take all the time you need, just make sure it has passed QA with flying colors." Then came the email from the man himself (no, not Robert-Jan, but rather Mr. Äschlimann) assuming the role of Santa and suggesting I have a good look under the tree come Xmas morning... . *Contacts OB: "Please be sure to leave a glass of milk and some cookies out!!!"* The OB indeed got confirmation that Bienne would be expediting my watch so that it would arrive on the 24th... which was a Sunday. *Sigh* No matter; if I could be wearing my Speedy Tuesday on New Year's Eve, I'd be one happy camper! I got the good news on the 27th and there you have it, 350 days in the making!
What's in the Box!?!
Fratello watches' write-up and excellent photographs made it very clear from day-one what we could expect. It's not the first time I've received a watch in a leather roll and must admit it's a refreshing departure from the classic box. Some may find it somewhat underwhelming when they set the roll down next to their Panerai LE lockable premium wooden box but hang on a minute, we all know that box will almost certainly end up in the cellar or upper closet-shelf at best. More important than the "container" and even the provided strap-changing tool is certainly the straps supplied with the Speedy Tuesday.
Again, no surprise there, given the original introduction, with the caveat that you can't always get the full picture from a 2D photo... . Early on, there were some concerns about the robustness of the provided leather strap. The other debate was in regards to the NATO's stark contrasting pattern. Enough of a debate in any event to promote suggestions for additional options, such as the popular "Snoopy" black ballistic-nylon strap as well as a specific group of all-brushed vintage bracelets representative of the Alaska Project III period (circa 1978).
Some members (myself included) questioned the selection of provided straps for the Speedy Tuesday and would have preferred to see some metal included. I'm sure that somewhere on the 'Net, Robert-Jan et al. provided some clarification for their final selections but I will venture to say that it's loosely connected to the fact that the 56 Alaska Project III units were delivered to NASA without straps of any kind. Hence this gave the Speedy Tuesday "design team" a lot of latitude when selecting the straps. Coming from the world of Panerai and the amazing subculture of custom-made heavy-duty vintage straps, I couldn't come to terms with the included leather strap and immediately opted for the NATO instead. A beautiful strap with impressive hardware and a definite keeper, yet not really for daily-wear, given the high-contract color scheme.
Like all other members, I had ample time to plan some alternatives to the provided straps and the 1171/633 "production NOS" was high on my list. I had pre-ordered one through my personal watchmaker and while waiting for his return, I made due with a $15 black NATO. This actually turned out to be a very nice combo! The fact is that I'd rather draw attention to the details of the watch, rather than risk the distraction of a "bright" strap. But it was only when the 1171/633* was finally mounted on my Speedy Tuesday that I knew I had found the perfect match ...!
*Make that the ST & 1171. The 633 end-links leave much to be desired - more on that "point of contention", below.
Hut ab! (Hats off!)
The OB was "on point" from day-one to day-350. When I went to select my OB as place of delivery (part of the reservation process), I was surprised that they weren't listed in the provided database. So I sent my first email to Bienne, OB in CC, asking Bienne to include my local OB etc. The Director of the OB personally wrote back to assure me that his team was on it and I shouldn't worry. I'm sure that in reality, they were the ones in need of assurance given that no OB was actually alerted in advance to the Speedy Tuesday Online sales process. Furthermore, many "preferred" OB customers stormed into their respective OBs asking about the reference, only to be met with a distinct lack of info on the subject... . I can't imagine the OBs were all too pleased with such a surprise introduction to the project... .
Once I had received the email from Bienne in September that my unit would soon be shipped, I wanted to be certain that I would receive it "as is." I figured that an OB would be inclined to "present" the watch at its best, which would imply removing it from its transport shell, perhaps putting it into the provided leather roll (packaged separately) and so on. All that with a bottle of bubbly. As much as I can appreciate that scenario, what I really wanted was the opportunity to unpackage it myself, at a snail's pace, in order to check everything carefully and so on. Hold the Champagne, but an espresso might be in order... .
So I wrote to them with my request, figuring they would find both me and my request a bit eccentric, but to my delight, the director once again took the time to personally write to me to say that he perfectly understood where I was coming from and that it would be handed over to me exactly as received from Bienne! How cool is that! As noted above, the OB contacted me several times during the course of the project and I always felt very confident that I was in good hands.
"Day 350" rolled in and I scurried over to the OB. As the director had once again contacted me personally, I decided to ask for him; After a short introduction, he came back out with the packages, "direct from Bienne". The watch itself, packaged in a plastic transport container and a "triple box" containing everything else. We had a great conversation while unpacking everything. After I was completely satisfied with the watch, I decided to swap it over to the NATO strap and the change was done in front of me. I was offered the 60th-Anniversary poster, a bottle of "Omega" Bollinger, a carry pouch (my personal preference) as well as an OB cleaning cloth. I was absolutely thrilled by the entire experience and couldn't ask for more than that! Hut ab!
Last but certainly not least...
Actually, that should read "saving the best for last". Naturally I'm referring to our Ringmaster, fearless leader, Commander in chief, the one-and-only Robert-Jan and the Fratello-Watches crew! There are no less than ~2000 Speedy-Tuesday blog followers and community members that owe them a debt of our sincere gratitude for bringing their concept to life and onto our wrists! Their ST-Blog alone is already a great asset to the Speedmaster community and this watch is the proverbial icing on the cake. It must also be said that without creative management such as Omega's Äschlimann & Co., such projects wouldn't be possible, so my gratitude is naturally extended to Omega as well.
So... I think it's high-time to crack open the Bollinger and enjoy a few glasses while reviewing the Speedmaster's 60 years of heritage with this amazing book, Moonwatch Only (2nd Ed.)
Hesalite was the only way to go with this beauty...
side by side with my 3572.50...
...head to head...
...and now stacked. What a difference the all-brushed finish makes!
Let's take a look at the profile...
...rockin' Omega's NATO....
All lumed up and ready to go out on the town...
...look closer... you are getting sleepy... yes, you want to sell me your Snoopy...
...yes! That Snoopy! sell it to me nooooow!!!
Just kidding. We loves the lume.
Annex - The great end-link debate
As noted in the main body, there were a few choice vintage bracelets suggested by the community for pairing with the ST. A few that come to mind include the 1447/805, 1450/808, 1479/812 and the "production NOS" 1171/633. None of these were actually designed for the contemporary Speedmaster Professionals, however I am going with the assumption that the case has been a constant ever since the 42mm "Professional" was released... . In any event, fitting the 633 end-links to the ST (or any other production Speedmaster) appears to be quite the challenge. A few of the recipients that first received their STs and that opted for this combo reported back with some horror stories. Apparently the 633s sometimes come just a bit wider than the actual lug width. Some OBs asked to make the swap were either unaware of this possibility (or didn't think it a big issue...) and used the proverbial hammer to get the end-link to fit. Needless to say, the resulting scarring of the lugs was not appreciated by the end-customer... .
So "armed" with this knowledge, I had my personal watchmaker "tailor" the end-links to fit - prior to actually attempting to mate them with the lugs. Despite his valiant attempts, these vintage "hollow" end-links, designed to literally clamp onto the caseback, still managed to leave a (slight) trail... . Nothing more than superficial cosmetics, but still... *sigh* The "User" school of thought will certainly diagnose me with OCD and claim that as long as it's not a safe queen, it's meant to be used. Although that does make for a good argument, how many of you are really ok with the idea of scuffing up a watch before you even get to wear it...even once? "Not I", said he... !
As if getting over that "mental hurdle" wasn't enough, the end results are far from optimal. Don't get me wrong; I'm talking only about the end-links here; the 1171 bracelet is great and is a perfect match for the ST. Before this "pairing", I never really gave much thought as how an end-link should look once mated to the case. Now I was quite interested and took a look at a few other of my watches with bracelets; a ~2000 Speedmaster Professional with OEM bracelet (thin polished links) as well as my "classic" Grand Seiko. No professional, sophisticated diving watches with their complex bracelets, just simple two-fold clasps, etc. Here are my "observations." I will leave it up to you (and your €400~€700...) to decide what's acceptable, if not optimal...