Among the most storied watches, the Omega Speedmaster holds a special position as the watch that’s been to the Moon and back – and a bunch of other places, as we shall soon see. While there is plenty of printed and online literature available to study for those who want to know all about the “Moonwatch,” it is exceedingly rare to be given a chance to go hands-on with some of the actual watches that have been through the historical events which have helped to create the remarkable popularity the Speedmaster enjoys today.
A few days ago, at Omega’s London event celebrating the notable 60th anniversary of the Speedmaster, we went hands-on with not one or two, but six incredible steel case Omega Speedmaster replica watches that have truly been “out there.” Here’s every one of them telling their story.
First Generation Omega Speedmaster CK 2915 (1957)
It all started rather inconspicuously in 1957, the year Omega introduced its “Professional” line of watches that included the first Speedmaster, the Seamaster 300, and the Railmaster. To see the trio together, check out our hands-on with the Omega 60th anniversary series here.
Omega says – and it makes sense – that they originally had not conceived the Speedmaster for extra-terrestrial use. Although it was in the very same year that the Russians successfully launched the first-ever satellite into space on October 4, 1957, it was not until much later, in 1965, that the first spacewalk happened – once again, achieved by the Russians, as Alexei Leonov spent 12 minutes and 9 seconds in the big vast unknown nothingness (cool story on that from Gizmodo here).
In the meantime, the Speedmaster had been set on its own course, as Omega heavily marketed it to car enthusiasts, motorists, and racing drivers. How? Well, did you know that the black dial Omega Speedmaster CK2915 fake watches, the first Speedmaster of them all (add Lord of the Rings narrator voice to that bit for added drama), was the first-ever watch to place its tachymeter bezel outside the dial and crystal? An almost laughably negligible “achievement” compared to what the Speedmaster would soon have to gloat about.
Still, the importance of the CK2915 is undeniable, as it was a strong enough beginning – thanks to its almost uncannily well-balanced, sporty, yet elegant looks and a heavy-duty 321 hand-wound chronograph caliber – to merit future updates to it. With its now-famed and highly legible “Broad Arrow” hands, plus excellent overall proportions and wearability, the Speedmaster collection was certainly off to a strong beginning.
The First Omega In Space: 2nd Generation Omega Speedmaster CK 2998 (1959)
1959 saw the introduction of a revised, second generation version, the Omega Speedmaster CK 2998. It retained the symmetrical case and the hand-wound Caliber 321 from Lemania, but introduced a new “Alpha” design handset that replaced the “Broad Arrow” ones seen on the first model. The tachymeter bezel was also standardized in the famous black aluminum version still in use today.
More importantly, the CK 2998 was also the first Omega in space, as Omega explains: “The CK 2998 was the very model purchased by Mercury astronauts Walter “Wally” M. Schirra and Leroy G. “Gordo” Cooper in 1962 as their private watch. It was worn by Schirra during his Mercury-Atlas 8 (Sigma 7) mission, becoming the first Omega Speedmaster worn in space in October 1962, a full two years before NASA’s now-famous tests that led to the official selection of the Speedmaster for use in all of NASA’s manned missions.” It is here where we should note – since I presume some of you are asking yourselves the question – that the first watch ever worn in space was the one on the wrist of Yuri Gagarin who ventured into the unknown on April 12, 1961, after taking off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in modern-day Kazakhstan. There is no official information on this, but he had most likely been wearing a Sturmanskie, a Soviet watch “brand” not sold to the public but reserved for soldiers at the time.
“First Omega In Space”, a modern, very elegant tribute in Sedna gold from 2015.
Today, the CK 2998 is one of the most collectible Speedmasters out there. Produced between 1959 and 1962, there aren’t many original ones around today in collectible condition with original parts, which sends resale value north of the $20k mark. Just look at the one Omega had on display: it had a lot of wear and tear – which arguably is part of the charm and patina of a vintage watch, if that’s your thing… And if it isn’t, you’ll have to hunt down a discontinued/sold-out steel or gold “FOIS” First Omega In Space produced more recently.
Qualified By Nasa: 3rd Generation Omega Speedmaster ST 105.003 (1963-1964)
The next development within the Speedmaster family, in Omega’s words, “was a decisive one.” Introduced in 1963 and still powered by the manual-wound Caliber 321, the 3rd generation Omega Speedmaster ST 105.003 is the exact model delivered to and tested by NASA. Responding to a request for “wrist chronographs” in October 1964, Omega’s North American agent supplied NASA with the required number of ST 105.003 Speedmasters, without knowing exactly what they would be used for – and, better still, without even informing Omega headquarters in Biel, Switzerland.
These watches, as well as models from other competing brands (Omega doesn’t specify, but they were from Rolex, Longines, and later from Bulova, even), were evaluated almost to destruction in a series of tests that can justly be described as the toughest trials a watch had ever endured.
To give you an idea, it included: high and low temperature tests (two full days at 70 °C (158 °F), 30 minutes at 93 °C (199 °F), then 4 hours at -18 °C (-0.4 °F); ten 24-hour cycles at >95% humidity with temperatures ranging from 25 to 70 °C; corrosion tests; six 40 G shock tests in six directions, low and high pressure tests, vibration tests and even a sound test where the watches were “shouted at” at a deafening 130 decibels at frequencies from as low as 40 up to 10,000 Hertz for 30 minutes. Key signs of deterioration included the lume falling apart on the hands, as well as, you guessed it, the rate being affected… and yet, the watches had at last been officially certified by NASA.
Edward White and the Omega Speedmaster ST 105.003 on America’s first EVA on June 3rd 1965, during the Gemini 4 mission.
As the Omega Speedmaster became “officially certified” equipment for NASA’s manned space program, NASA procured further examples of the ST 105.003 and officially equipped its astronauts with it. This model reached further fame when it was worn for the first time outside the space capsule: on the wrist of astronaut Edward White, this model became part of America’s first EVA (extra-vehicular activity, or, more plainly, “spacewalk”) on June 3, 1965, during the Gemini 4 mission.
First Moonwatch: 4th Generation Omega Speedmaster ST 105.012 & ST 145.012 (1964-1965)
While Omega had no knowledge of what was going on over in Houston since NASA’s selection process was carried out without involving the respective companies’ headquarters, Omega was nevertheless evolving the Speedmaster. In order to offer additional protection to the chronograph’s pushers and its crown, the Speedmaster case was slightly modified: its right side was slightly enlarged, thus offering more protection and, as an unavoidable side-effect, a newfound, asymmetrical look.
It was introduced to some select markets in 1964 with the model ST 105.012 that now also featured “Professional” on the dial, as it was at this point a prominent part of Omega’s professional line of charming copy watches that, as we mentioned above, they launched in 1957. Still powered by the same trusty movement, the Caliber 321, the model further evolved in 1967 into the reference ST 145.012, with the addition of a slightly improved method of attaching the pushers to the case. This model proved to be the last one to use the Caliber 321, the very movement that guaranteed perfect timing during all six lunar landings up to and including the last mission to land on the moon: Apollo 17.
Even in the exceedingly turbulent times that the watch industry has been enduring for nearly two years, it is rare news to see major brands exchange hands – and that is why today is a notable day, as it has just been announced that Breitling has been sold to CVC Capital Partners for more than 800 million euros – that is about 873 million US dollars or 866 million Swiss francs.
Until this moment, Breitling had been one of only a handful of properly independent major brands out there – Chopard and Patek Philippe remain two other family-owned big players in the industry, with every other mammoth brand either owned by one of the big four groups (Swatch Group, LVMH, Richemont, and Kering) or some other major entity, like Rolex and Tudor with the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation. The last big news of this nature was when family-owned Frederique Constant, Alpina, and Atelier de Monaco were purchased by Citizen Watch Co. last year.
Nevertheless, previous majority owner Theodore Schneider will remain with Breitling because, as part of the CVC Capital Partners deal, he agreed to re-invest for a 20% stake in Breitling. Ironically, it was as recently as May last year that Breitling vice-president Jean-Paul Girardin told Reuters he was confident in Breitling retaining its independence despite speculation about its future following the 2015 passing of Ernest Schneider who bought the brand in 1979.
Still, soon after that interview, Bloomberg (the breaker of today’s news) had reported in late November last year that Breitling was “on the block” for sale, after having been in the hands of the Schneider family since 1979. Breitling has very much been a family-run company in the sense that Ernest Schneider had been running it from the late ’70s until the early ’90s when his son, Théodore Schneider took over. While Théodore is the (exceedingly rarer) type of the quiet watch CEO who stays out of the limelight, he’s said to be very much taking part in running the business.
Late last year, when the speculation regarding Breitling’s sale sprung, analysts expected the manufacture that employs some 900 people and produces around 150,000 watches annually to fetch between 600 and 900 million Swiss francs (CHF). As of today, we know that Breitling has been acquired for over CHF866 million – with Breitling’s annual sales of about CHF420 million, this might give the company the financial stability it needed to make it through these troubling times and, hopefully, come out stronger once it’s over.
As for CVC’s official plans with Breitling, Daniel Pindur, Senior Managing Director at CVC says: “Using our network and expertise, CVC will work to make this global, iconic brand even more renowned and help shape the future of one of Switzerland’s last independent watch manufacturers. Specifically, we see significant growth potential for Breitling in both existing and new geographies by driving the digitization of the marketing and distribution channels in the company, helping to enrich the product and customer experience.”
Breitling, who produces some of the quality movements, dials, cases, and bracelets for its watches has tremendous potential and, on a personal note, I am a bit worried to see them become part of a large financial group. Times do change from better to worse and back in the watch industry, there’s nothing new about that, but I do hope that Breitling will stay away from cheapening its brand and its products in chasing higher temporary profits. If you’ve handled a Chronomat or Navitimer lately, you’ll know that Breitling has a long way down the quality food chain, as its movements, cases, bracelets, and dials remain some of the truly solidly built ones at a time when we already see a lot of high-end brands go for cheaper designs and quality of execution.
Challenges ahead of Breitling include fixing the strong discounting and vast grey market as well as gaining more traction in established and new markets through streamlined and more powerful branding and marketing. They produce a huge variety of timepieces from the $2,000 Colt Skyracer with a COSC-certified quartz movement and carbon composite case (hands-on here) through the Bluetooth-connected black rubber straps Bentley Supersports B55 copy watches (explained here) and true Breitling classics like the Navitimer 01 (reviewed here), to the bonkers-expensive, $40,000 Superocean Heritage Chronoworks (hands-on here). All this is to say that Breitling stands on a solid foundation of versatile collections, but their awareness and global presence has to be improved – something both parties expect “the network and expertise of CVC” to assist with.
More recent news from Arabic numerials Breitling copy watches included their producing of chronograph movements for the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono (hands-on here) and them sourcing a base three-hand movement from Tudor in return. This, though not confirmed, implied unused manufacturing capacities at Breitling and a break from industry-wide principle in that they chose not to invest in developing their own base manufacture caliber but rather source one with similar credentials.
The transaction between Breitling and CVC Capital Partners is expected to complete by around June 2017, subject to approval by competition authorities. How long and in what role Théodore Schneider will stay around at Breitling, we are yet to learn. The charming replica watches are worthy to try.
The Patek Philippe 5711 Nautilus in steel is one of the hottest luxury sports watches around. It is hard to get and typically goes for over retail price unless you want to spend several years (depending on where you are in the world) on a waiting list. Part of this is because Patek Philippe claims that only about 20% of their total watch production overall is in steel, and among the steel models the 5711 Nautilus is just one of those which Patek Philippe produces. It also happens to dole them out in small, balanced amounts to keep the market from being saturated. The watch pictured here, however, is not a steel Nautilus but rather the all-platinum reference 5711/1P that was produced as a limited edition at the end of 2016 for the 40th anniversary of the Nautilus watch collection overall.
While the steel Nautilus has a retail price around $25,000, this 5711/1P costs more than four times that price. In addition to it being a limited edition (which of course ups the desirability level a bit), the case and bracelet are in full 950 platinum, and the watch also features diamonds. Using baguette-cut diamonds as the hour markers is a technique I think is both classy and masculine for when you clearly want to convey wealth, but also remain a bit more under-the-radar. As I said, if you saw this watch on someone’s wrist at a glance, given the look of the metal and the blue dial, it would easily be confused for the normal steel model.
I want to address something very important that marred the launch of the limited-edition 5711/1P steel case Patek Philippe Nautilus replica wacthes. Images that Patek Philippe shared of the watch made it look as though the “40 1976-2016” text on the dial was large and obtrusive. In fact, it looks downright ugly in those images. In reality, however, this text is very subtle and much more difficult to see in most lighting conditions.
For the most part, while wearing the Patek Philippe Nautilus Platinum 40th Anniversary watch, you can’t really see the 40th-anniversary text. This was really important to mention since I think a lot of people felt that this was a really big design mistake – as it appeared in Patek Philippe’s own marketing images. The lesson – once again – is that we should always hold final reservations about a watch until after we get to see it in person. (The watch hands cover some of the text in our images – apologies for this, but you get the idea.)
The Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1P is also larger than most Nautilus watches at 44.05mm wide. It doesn’t wear too large given that a good amount of that size is thanks to large side flanks – which are a hallmark of the original Gerald Genta design. The tapering platinum bracelet is both thin against the wrist and very comfortable. With this size and overall lovely aesthetic, this is probably my favorite Nautilus that I’ve ever worn – but of course, you need to stomach the price of platinum. Water resistance remains unchanged from other Nautilus models at 120 meters.
The addition of baguette diamonds as hour markers seems appropriate for this type of watch. Purists will claim that they needlessly add bling and take away from the mostly simple dial that Genta intended for the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Perhaps that is true on the steel models, but for this limited edition $100,000-plus platinum model, you might as well add diamond hour markers into the mix. It just makes the wearer feel better overall with the emotional delivery the watch appears to be aiming for. One more diamond is placed on the lower part of the case side under 6 o’clock facing the user.
Inside the blue dial 5711 Patek Philippe Nautilus copy watches is the attractive, in-house-made caliber 324 S C automatic movement. With a lot of Patek’s in-house technology, it’s a very capable and reliable daily wear. The movement is comprised of 213 parts, operating at 4Hz (28,800bph) with Patek’s Spiromax balance wheel and about 40 hours of power reserve. It also happens to be a rather svelte movement at just 3.3mm thick. Functions include the time with seconds and, of course, the date.
With its larger size, limited-edition exclusivity, and very straightforward sense of precious-material luxury, the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1P is a winner in my book – though it is clearly not designed for the masses. You can see that an owner of the watch (who so nicely let me once again take a Patek Philippe off his wrist to ogle at – a regular ritual of ours) has been wearing and enjoying this platinum Nautilus, wear and tear included. That is a good thing, because I really dislike the idea of people buying watches and just storing them away, which is particularly common with rare Patek Philippe models. These are items meant to be worn and appreciated on the wrist.
Patek Philippe built 700 pieces of the limited-edition platinum fake watches 40th Anniversary Nautilus 5711/1P. At the same time, they also released a limited-edition Nautilus Chronograph 5976/1G, but in my opinion, the real winner is the (more expensive) 5711/1P.
Watch buyers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and discerning. They no longer just want a well-made, handsome watch. They want exclusivity and the ability to customize a watch to their tastes, and that is why the Jaeger-LeCoultre Atelier Reverso program was born. Unveiled last year as part of the Reverso’s 85th anniversary, the Atelier Reverso program allows watch lovers to customize their steel cases Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso fake watches with dozens of dial and strap options. According to Jaeger-LeCoultre, a staggering 5277 combinations are possible. Well, there are going to be a couple more because the brand has just announced three new dial options for the men’s Reverso Classic Duo Small Second watch.As you can see, the three new dial options are Electric Blue, Military Marble, and Tiger’s Eye. But before we talk more about the new dial options let’s recap the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Large Duo Small Second watch. It comes in a stainless steel case and measures 47mm by 28.3mm and is 10.3mm thick, which means it is quite modestly sized. It has two faces – hence the Duo name – driven by a single movement, allowing it to display time in two time zones. Water-resistance is 30 meters.The movement within is the hand-wound JLC Calibre 854A/2, which is a fairly simple movement that beats at 3Hz and is made out of 160 parts with 19 jewels. Power reserve is a standard-range 40 hours.The alligator straps Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Large Duo Small Second fake watches comes with two dials that the wearer can flip between with the watch still on the wrist (in case you are unfamiliar with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso concept). The main watch dial is in silver and features a vertical brushed finish and a hand guilloche center with a small seconds indicator at 6 o’clock. The hands are blued for an added touch of elegance. All in all, like most other Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watches, the main dial of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Large Duo Small Second oozes lots of Art Deco cool and elegance.If you flip the case around, you will be greeted by the second Travel Time dial. On the regular Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Large Duo Small Second watch, this dial features Clous de Paris engraving and a handy day/night indicator. But now, there are three new dial options featuring exotic stones. Let’s get into these three new dial options right now.The three new dial options are, again, Electric Blue, Military Marble, and Tiger’s Eye. Electric Blue features a striking matte blue register atop blue Clous de Paris markings on the dial. Military Marble consists of a matte green register surrounded by a unique-looking green marble. And finally, Tiger’s Eye features a reddish brown register in the center of the dial surrounded by Tiger’s Eye stone, which has distinctive alternating bands of various shades of brown and gold. And if you want, Jaeger-LeCoultre also offers matching straps to go with these three new dials.I have always liked Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watches with two faces, and I think these three new dial options will be popular amongst Reverso fans who want something a little out of the ordinary. Personally, I’m quite fond of dials made out of exotic stones as I find them to look much more interesting and dynamic. Of the trio, the Electric Blue dial doesn’t really do much for me, and I’m more intrigued by the Military Marble and Tiger’s Eye dial options. Military Marble is definitely something unusual and could be interesting in the flesh. On the other hand, Tiger’s Eye is a wonderfully striking stone and I think it would make for a visually arresting watch dial.Prices of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Atelier Reverso Classic Large Duo Small Second elegant replica watches begin at a lower price and will vary depending on your dial and strap choice.
Like many other seasoned watch lovers, my affection for German watch maker Glashütte Original runs deep. It’s not just the classic yet spirited designs that tend to define the brand which are appealing, but it is also the enduring dedication to functionality and mechanical excellence that the region is known for. Yes, like many people who know watches well, I’m a big fan of what Glashütte in Saxony lends to the world of contemporary watches. So let’s look at one of the brand’s more avant-garde watches, yet one that is totally wearable on a daily basis, the steel cases Glashütte Original Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date fake watches reference 1-37-02-03-02-70 with the blue dial on matching steel bracelet.
I recall first putting a Glashütte Original Seventies watch on my wrist back when the brand released the collection in 2011. I had seen the watch in pictures prior to trying it out and was pleasantly surprised how much more I liked it when wearing it than the images would have suggested. Like many timepieces, this is one of those pieces that just happens to come alive when on the wrist as opposed to being viewed in the vacuum of marketing images. I think that is because the cushioned square case with its finely made tapering bracelet is particularly flattering to the organic curves of one’s hand and arm – which allows the design to sell itself through aesthetics and wearability. If you’re curious about another take, we previously reviewed the non-chronograph version of the Seventies Panorama Date watch here. In 2014, Glashütte Original followed up by expanding the Seventies collection with the Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date that I review here today.
Speaking of square-cased watches, the Seventies case is 40mm wide by 40mm wide, and in the Glashütte Original Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date version it is 13.5mm thick (water-resistant to 100m). That makes it a true square, and the case itself feels a lot more like a retro television screen, which is intentional. Square or non-round watches are difficult to get right. Getting the proportions and overall design of a non-round watch correct such that it is both legible and looks good on the wrist is quite hard to do. Though when it is done correctly it has the makings of a classic.
As a mental exercise, think of all the watches you can that are not round but are also timeless. There are a few of them, and they stand out amazingly well. Then, think of all the watches which have non-round cases which just didn’t work despite best efforts. If you know your watches, you’ll realize that the unsuccessful ones clearly outnumber the successful ones. So when it comes to non-round watches, there is great risk, but also great reward if the brand gets its right. In my opinion, the Glashütte Original Seventies, while not totally mainstream in its appeal, has the makings of a classic.
In a sense, it is already a contemporary classic. Even though the modern version came out just a few years ago, Glashütte Original didn’t just name it “Seventies” because it loosely reminded them of the era. Rather, this collection, which includes models on various straps and three different dial colors, is directly based on watches that the brand released in the 1970s. From the 1960s to the 1970s, Glashütte Original came out with a large selection of really interesting and very “out-there” stuff. That meant a lot of experimentation with colors and case shapes. Recall that this was during a time when the brand was actually state-controlled, as Saxony was in what was then East Germany, run as a communist state. Nevertheless, the state was quite liberal with its designs, and it was a golden age of design that the Glashütte Original brand of today regularly draws inspiration from. Another square-cased model the brand produces which is inspired by the 1960s is the Glashütte Original Sixties Square (hands-on here).
The blue dial Glashütte Original Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date copy watches are no cheap wacthes, but people get it for the case design, detailing, and of course, the in-house-made movement. As I said before, it does take a relatively seasoned watch lover to really appreciate all the details and unique style here. It’s all about the case, movement, dial, and bracelet – all of which are produced in Germany.
As all watches are sold or passed over because of their dial, let’s discuss the one on this Seventies Chronograph for a moment. This version is in a sunburst metallic blue, which is produced by Glashütte Original by their own dial-maker which is located elsewhere in the country, in Pforzheim, Germany. The blue is not just chemically applied, but done using a carefully designed technique using layers of varnish. Blue is a popular choice for watch dials today, and that’s a good thing since it offers a more inviting color than gray, and is a bit more friendly than, say, black, white, or silver. With that said, the challenge in making a good blue dial is in getting both the exact right shade and finishing. Too light or dark and it can easily ruin the appeal; too matte and it can look cheap; too glossy and it can affect legibility. So when you see a blue-colored dial that is done right, it’s easy to appreciate it.
A lot of the Glashütte Original Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date dial is about referencing the past. You see that in the applied arrowhead-style hour markers, with small lume points applied manually around the periphery of the dial. The hands are perfectly sized in length, and painted with Super-LumiNova in the middle. They offer excellent contrast against the blue dial – which makes for a very welcome sense of readability in most lighting conditions. Both the hands and hour markers are produced from 18ct white gold – which allows for a nice polish and protects against tarnishing in the future.
Even though the Glashütte Original Seventies charming replica watches is more a sporty/casual watch, the hands and hour markers are a bit more formal in their design, albeit still easy to read. This was odd to me at first, but I came to appreciate it. The effect is a soothing, more traditional look that still has a bit of “polished pizazz” to it, which melds nicely with the otherwise sporty case. It makes for a sexy composition, which is a rare thing to say for a timepiece with a cushion-style square case. If there is one big compliment that I’d like to give the Glashütte Original Seventies case is that it manages to look sexy while also not looking typical.
rom a strictly military perspective, wearing a white dial dive watch on a mission would possibly cause your fellow commando soldiers to smack you in the back of the head. But what the Panerai Luminor Base 8 Days Acciaio PAM561 lacks in historical accuracy and stealth capabilities it makes up for by being one of the more affordable, in-house-movement-equipped and refreshing-looking alternatives in a sea of boring black and blue dial watches.
Panerai may be a brand of only a handful of – admittedly very similar – collections, yet it still is one among few that have an almost unearthly power in bringing their first-time customer back for another model… and then another, and another, and so on. As such, I don’t think that the Panerai Luminor Base 8 Days Acciaio PAM561 is a typical “first Panerai” – for that, check out our Cost of Entry article on the most affordable Panerai you can buy.
I picked the PAM561 specifically because I wanted to review a Panerai that isn’t an obvious choice but something one might actually end up considering after looking at the current production line-up of the brand. Clad in a 44mm-wide Luminor case, it is a simple, legible, and among the white dials Panerai Luminor Base 8 Days Acciaio PAM561 copy watches, competitively priced offering that also packs a more unusual hand-wound, in-house-made movement with an 8-day power reserve.
Aesthetics & Wearability
Being the simple watch that it is, there isn’t much pizzazz to get distracted by. But that just means that the fewer number of consequently more prominent elements have to work together all the better – and, with one notable gripe notwithstanding, they do.
To this day, I remain positively baffled by how ingenious this Luminor case design is, especially in 44mm where proportions with the dial elements I find more spot on than the 47mm. The larger case is proportionate but often too large to work well with the dial, in my opinion.
The perfectly round bezel looks both elegant and masculine, while the cushion-shaped case with its tall profile (unlike the sloped 1950 variant) and straight lugs operates in brilliant harmony with it. The PAM561 has a fully polished case which is not as impressive as exteriors with alternating finishings can be: it really is a polished mass of steel without any sharp angles, complex corners and edges, or particularly fascinating details anywhere. It is your bog-standard Luminor case that is attractive as a whole and at a glance, but not for its selfishly complicated intricacies.
Of the two minor details I would still point out that go beyond mere proportions, first is how the four corners of the middle case are curved downwards, which takes the edges of the corners away and makes them better complement the round dial and bezel. The second is the profile of the crown guard – not something many would look at. Its bottom side is completely flat to keep it as high above the wrist as possible (though at times, it does dig into the skin), while its top part is angled upwards, towards the wearer. This, you don’t necessarily realize even when looking at the watch at a slight angle, but it does add more sophistication to this over-60-year-old military design.
Speaking of this component, oddly enough, Panerai decided to add a fully satin-finished crown guard on the completely polished case. This isn’t something that would stand out immediately at first look, but once spotted wasn’t something that I could quite get used to over the few weeks with the Panerai Luminor Base 8 Days Acciaio PAM561. This aesthetic element is sort of like an exaggerated take on alternating finishing. I will say that, from afar, I found it possibly adds a more quality look than what the PAM561 would have had with a polished crown guard to go with the reflective case. It isn’t a maker or breaker of the aesthetics but rather something that I think is a bit odd at first, but ultimately, justified.
Typical Panerai treats include the reassuringly snappy crown guard lever – that I liked to fiddle with whenever I had a brief moment to spare in a queue or on public transport. It is something I find myself reaching for and disappointedly not finding after strapping on other watches. Also appreciated was the 24mm lug width that opens up a virtually infinite supply of strap options.
Panerai will sell you calf and buffalo leather straps from CHF 220 going up to CHF 360 for alligator ones. But frankly, at this point, there is such a vast selection of aftermarket straps that you’d be highly encouraged to shop around there (and support those guys, as well).
The black “Calf Monte Carlo” leather strap that the brown leather straps Panerai Luminor Base 8 Days Acciaio PAM561 fake watch is supplied with is of decent quality, but nothing notable that would really add or take away from its overall appearance and impression. If anything, this black-on-black option I think is a bit safe and boring, especially as this white dial version is all about more vivid colors and pushing regular, safe aesthetics to the side a bit. Apart from looks, wearability is as great as it always is with a Panerai, as the watch is held firm and secure thanks to the ample width, thickness, and rigidity of the strap and its massive, Panerai-marked pin buckle.
Dial & Legibility (& My Only Gripe)
The dial is more unusual not just in its color but also in its markings, with Arabic numerals all around (unlike your more typical Panerai dials that only have numerals for 12, 3, 6, and 9 with baton markers everywhere else) plus an additional and, again, rarer 60-minute track on the periphery. The numerals are not lumed, only the hands and the pips on the periphery of the dial are. All of these are painted on the dial’s surface as the Panerai Luminor Base 8 Days Acciaio PAM561 has a solid dial rather than the famed Panerai sandwich dial.
Sandwich dials are fun and all, but your first Panerai more than likely had that already, and the PAM561 is more like your second or third in the line, as I mentioned above, where you do want something new in the subtleties that render one Panerai different from another. The prominent “8 DAYS” marking above six o’clock refers to the P.5000 in-house caliber – but before we move on to that, just one more word (and my only gripe with the PAM561) on legibility.
The black numerals and the black painted hands with their off-white (but not faux vintage!) center contrast beautifully against the sharp white dial – the lume pips and the center of the hands turn noticeably green even when it’s bright outside, the famously excellent Panerai lume is so strong. Stay inside for longer, though, and as the lume discharges (and doesn’t receive much charge from ambient lights), these elements go back to being white.
Everlastingly good color contrast aside, however, the only two hands on the PAM561 are just way too short. I noticed this in official images but even during the excitement of unpacking a freshly received review unit, they soon stood out for me as too short – and, frankly, I don’t see why this was necessary. The minute hand falls way short of the track it’s by definition supposed to reach, and the hour hand sometimes just looks “lost” in the sea of white, coming in way too short to be even remotely close to the outer edge of the dial (it barely reaches halfway across).
These delicate copy wacthes perhaps longer and heavier hands would have put additional strain on the movement, but if anything, an 8-day power reserve movement should have enough torque to move these thin and light hands around. I personally will go so far as to say I would have traded a day or two of power reserve for longer hands.
This year, the iconic Omega Speedmaster celebrates its 60th anniversary after originally launching in 1957. It was not until over a decade later that it started to be known as the “moonwatch.” All timepiece enthusiasts know (after the fact has been endlessly drilled into their clearly eager minds) that the Speedmaster by Swiss Omega was chosen by American NASA to be the official timepiece worn by Apollo mission astronauts and eventually to the moon – a few times. 2019 will be the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, and I am sure hoping that Omega has something interesting brewing for that. But I’m getting ahead of myself, because right now I am about to share my review of the 2016-debuted Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Co-Axial Master Chronometer Moonphase Chronograph.
Since the moon missions, the once racing- and pilot-themed Speedmaster became the timepiece synonymous with the moon and all things related to astronauts. It is a persona that continues to endure today, even if Omega has yet to decide how it will truly be a part of contemporary spaceflight activities in order to secure future relevance in this theme. What has really helped the Speedmaster endure, though, isn’t just a connection to the historic moon missions or NASA, but rather its winning design. Moreover, the Speedmaster has been rendered in so many ways with so many variants that even highly trained specialists have trouble keeping track of all the models.
Speedmaster product naming conventions don’t help much, as they are often confusing and similar to one another, or abstract and difficult to remember. For example, the official name of this watch according to the Omega website is the “Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer Moonphase Chronograph 44.25 MM,” and that doesn’t even include the reference number. The name actually includes “Omega” in it twice. The only reason for this is that Omega has so many similarly themed watches (even though the timepieces themselves may be quite different) that it becomes very challenging to describe them. There have been other Omega Speedmaster models with moonphase indicators and chronographs in the past. In fact, one of them is still available for sale, with an almost identical case, but a different dial layout and movement.
Even when we wrote about the Omega Speedmaster Master Chronometer Moonphase (as I call it for short) after seeing it hands-on after Baselworld 2016, we weren’t quite sure what to call it. With a ten-word name and a complicated assortment of special features, this otherwise very lovely Omega watch is going to need a lot of special attention to stand out from the crowd. My overall take on the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Co-Axial Master Chronometer Moonphase Chronograph is that it is beautiful, distinctive in its own right, and comfortable. At the same time, you need to be a veritable Omegatologist to understand the depth of its technical appeal, as well as how it fits into the larger collection. Omega is a strong brand because it has a lot of good watches. Alternatively, you could see it as Omega’s weakness as a brand that it offers too many watches to allow relatively casual timepiece lovers an opportunity to choose easily.
Several years ago, in 2011, the Omega Speedmaster got modern when Omega released the first new generation models with the in-house-made caliber 9300 family movements. These did away with the chronograph’s three-subdial layout, opting for a two-subdial design, but with a right subdial with two hands (for measuring hours and minutes). The 9300 family of in-house automatic Co-Axial chronograph movements is now being replaced with the 9900 series family of movements which introduces some upgrades such as non-ferrous metal parts for key components, which makes the watch more or less totally resistant to magnetic fields. This is part of what “Master Chronometer” implies and is also part of the rather special METAS certification that each Master Chronometer gets.
The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Co-Axial Master Chronometer Moonpahse Chronograph makes use of the caliber 9904 (also 9905 with gold parts for precious metal versions) movement which is the first to offer a Co-Axial Master Chronometer to the Speedmaster family. For 2017, Omega will roll out the 9900 movement without the moonphase complication for the rest of the Omega Speedmaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer Chronograph collection. The reason you buy this particular watch is because of the moonphase indicator as well as the fact that it has a Co-Axial Master Chronometer automatic movement.
Oddly enough, the other currently available Omega Speedmaster Moonphase Chronograph watch has the same size case (44.25mm wide) and is about the same price (actually a bit more). It is the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Moonphase Chronograph. This builds on the “classic” Moonwatch Professional style watch based on a more traditional manually wound movement (which, compared to the 9900 series, is rather primitive for daily wear, in my opinion – unless you really like “old school charm”). This latter watch uses the caliber 1886 which builds on the 1861 by adding an upper subdial under 12 o’clock that has a moonphase indicator surrounded by a pointer date indicator dial.
Both of these latter elements exist in the blue alligator straps Omega Speedmaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer Moonphase replica wacthes but with a different layout. Here, the relatively empty space over 6 o’clock (where the date would normally go) is used for a traditional moonphase indicator disc with a life-like representation of the moon. The left sudial has hands for both the date as well as the running seconds. The right subdial is still used to measure the chronograph minutes and hours (the central hand on the main dial still handles the chronograph seconds).
The steel versions of the watch have a printed life-like representation of the moon in the discs, while the gold and platinum versions have textured moonphase discs which offer a different look. The platinum version of the watch even goes so far as to have a small magnifier disc where the date pointer hand is. This is pretty cool, but I recall Omega saying that the part was such a pain to make that they would not have been able to make it for a non-limited edition. For more information on the precious metal-cased versions of the steel case Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Co-Axial Master Chronometer Moonphase Chronograph copy wacthes (the name is so long it almost tires my fingers to type it out each time) see our previous hands-on article of the fuller collection linked to above.
This particular reference 304.33.44.52.03.001 version of the watch is in steel, on a blue leather strap. You can also get this same watch in a more classic black dial also on a strap, or on a more “traditionally Speedmaster” steel metal bracelet. The case is 44.25mm wide and certainly on the thicker side at about 16mm. This new generation Speedmaster case is easily among the most interesting “classic-style” watch cases I know. The reason I say this is not only because of how it is constructed but because looking at it from different angles can vastly change what it looks like in a way I’ve never experienced from any watch before.
A lot of this has to do with the sandwich-style construction of the case, as well as the fact that the various parts (bezel, middle case, caseback) are of different widths. Despite the size, the case is overall very comfortable (if worn snugly) and attractive on the wrist, and its details do merit close inspection. The case is water-resistant to 100 meters and has a sapphire crystal on both ends, with a display caseback offering a view of the handsome in-house-made movement. It is so obviously that the charming replica watches are the best gifts for male friend, father and husband. These unique models will all add your life with glorious feelings and noble taste.
Even as purveyors of arguably one of the world’s first truly purpose-built dive watches, there’s no denying it’s been a long time since Blancpain has even been remotely close to the tool watch realm it once pioneered. That being said, it’s still neat to see the brand revisit those days with a marked degree of panache in the recently announced Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec – a watch that might cost $14,000, but it’s still every bit the capable tool once relied upon by combat divers in the late fifties. Small calendar Blancpain Fifty Fathoms copy watches are the most charming and elegant designation for men to wear on. Price notwithstanding, there’s a lot to love about this new limited-edition entry to the Fifty Fathoms line – which is likely why the watch is enjoying dive watch lover “sleeper hit” status post-Baselworld. Largely released without major fanfare, part of the Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec watch’s appeal are its conservative dimensions and faithful adherence to the design codes of the original Mil-Spec. But a key dimension of its appeal is likely Blancpain’s inclusion of a critical feature of the original: a working replica of the “watertightness” moisture indicator at 6:00.Back in the early days “when sex was safe and diving was dangerous,” dive watches weren’t the rugged, reliable tools we’re familiar with today. Though paramount to a diver’s safety, the earliest examples were still susceptible to damage by shock, plagued by poor visibility in low light, and built with cases ill-equipped to handle great ocean depths. Unsatisfied with issued watches that couldn’t (quite literally) perform under pressure, French combat swimmer corps commanders Captain Robert Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud sought out the grandfather of the Fifty Fathoms, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, who was already hard at work on a design that would address these very symptoms.But the watch that became standard-issue to the UDT teams commanded by Maloubier and Riffaud wasn’t Fiechter’s original Fifty Fathoms design, but one that contained an added safeguard: a quirky watertightness indicator that would alert the wearer if their watch was compromised. Now, it’s worth clarifying that such an indicator is a little bit like a smoke detector – it only points out the obvious, and does little to prevent the fire. But back in 1957 when the design was pioneered and soon adopted on all dive watches issued to combat swimmers, a diver only needed to know if his watch could be trusted or not.If the watch was compromised (as many watches were prone to back then), he needed to rely on alternate means for timekeeping, or abort the dive to avoid decompression sickness (or worse). It’s also probably worth pointing out that such a safeguard is admittedly somewhat silly on an ultra-modern dive watch that’s already water-resistant to a crushing 300 meters (and costs $14k), but the charm of the Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec isn’t its utility, but its admirable commitment to the source material.Speaking of source material, though the case size on the Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec has been increased from 37mm to 40mm, it’s still a merciful reduction from the last time we saw a Tribute to Fifty Fathoms, which managed to actually wear bigger than its sacrilegious 45mm case width. This 40mm case is really the sweet spot for Blancpain divers like the Mil-Spec, which finally strikes that fine balance between carrying the highly polished visual weight of being a modern “luxury diver” while still staying true to Fiechter’s original vision. If this is a harbinger of what’s to come for the next generation of Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms collection, consider us fans.But back to the moisture indicator for a moment – an indicator one would pray one never sees change color, especially on a watch at this price range. On the original, the idea was that in the event of a moisture ingress, the contrasting white region of the half-circle on the dial would change to a dark pink color. And the less contrast you see between the two, the greater your service bill is going to be. white hour markers Blancpain replica wacthes wasn’t entirely clear about what materials actually comprise the indicator, but it’s raised and subtly textured like the surrounding luminous plots. Functionality-wise, it’s not unlike a water contact indicating tape you might find from manufacturers like 3M.Since the moisture indicator has no connection with the inner workings of the watch (unlike Sinn’s Ar-capsule technology which functions as an active dehumidifier for the movement), Blancpain’s Caliber 1150 is allowed to perform as-is. Given the smaller profile of the case, Blancpain was wise to select a slimmer movement, rather than use the 1315 found on other Fifty Fathoms editions like the Bathyscaphe.Thus, the power reserve drops from 120 hours to 96 – which is still a generous number, thanks to its twin-barrel design. The watch is finished with an exhibition caseback, granting a view of the platinum alloy-coated gold rotor – an extravagant detail for a watch with such humble beginnings, but a nice one to look at, nonetheless.The Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec is available on one of three options: Blancpain’s now-familiar rubber-backed sailcloth, a stainless steel bracelet, or a black NATO strap – the latter of which seems to best disguise the price point and match the charming fake watches’ UDT trappings most efficiently between the three.
The Advanced Research Travel Time is an obvious departure from previous Advanced Research watches. It is, first of all, the first Advanced Research watch to not be an annual or perpetual calendar; it is the first not in a round case; and moreover it’s pretty resolutely non-traditional in styling. In addition, it’s the first Advanced Research watch to present an innovation in a material other than silicon. the Arabic numerals Patek Philippe Advanced Research Limited Edition replica watches are the best watches for men to wear.
The Crab (if I may coin a nickname) has a lot of advantages over the usual GMT switching mechanism used by Patek – lower parts count (12 parts for the whole assembly, as opposed to 37 in the standard mechanism) and, just as significantly, no gears or pivots. That means no need for conventional lubricants, no friction anywhere in the mechanism, and very probably, much better durability and general functionality. The only downside I can see to it, is that it doesn’t seem repairable; if there’s damage or wear, you’d have to swap out the entire mechanism for a new one – the shell would molt the Crab, instead of the other way ’round. It’s damned clever, anyway.
The other innovation is the addition of a new inner terminal curve, on the Spiromax balance spring. Let’s look at the old and new versions, side by side.
By the way, there is an analogous technique with traditional balance springs. Just as the outermost coil geometry of the Spiromax duplicates the effect of a Breguet/Phillips overcoil, so the inner geometry of the 2017 Spiromax duplicates the effect of a mathematically correct inner terminal curve in a steel or alloy balance spring. One such curve is known as a Lossier curve and it was widely used by the American watch company, Waltham, in its high grade railroad watches.
It’s also a watch that raises the question of how Patek Philippe sees itself evolving in the next decade. Style-wise, this is a polarizing watch; it doesn’t have the easy to like classic configurations of the earlier Advanced Research watches, which are a sort of Trojan horse for silicon. The open dial and the fact that it’s an Aquanaut have raised some hackles amongst the Patek faithful, which I understand (in general, I can’t stand open dials either). With the 5650G, though, I get the logic – this is something of a demonstration model, and it makes sense to make the mechanism visible.
Certainly, there’s quite a lot more fun in seeing it in action, than there would be in watching a silicon escapement do its thing. It’s worth bearing in mind as well that this is a limited edition specifically designed to showcase new tech, and as a limited run concept piece with that tech, the design makes sense even if it’s not to everyone’s taste.
It has to be said as well that these are both extremely interesting innovations and if nothing else, I think that in addition to being pretty cool on their own, they both offer real technical advantages (albeit there are tradeoffs in any engineering solution). Maybe most importantly, though, both add tremendously to the general conversation on modern mechanical horology, and where it’s going to go in years to come.
The Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650G “Patek Philippe Advanced Research” is a limited edition of 500 cheap copy watches. Price, $58,970. Movement, caliber 324 S C FUS, 31mm, self-winding, with 45 hour maximum power reserve, running at 28,800 vph in 29 jewels; Patek Philippe Seal, rated to -1/+2 seconds maximum daily rate deviation. Dual time zone, with compliant steel flexible mechanism for time zone setting. Case, 18k white gold; overall length lug to lug, 47.6mm; diameter from 9 to 3 o’clock including crown, 45.24mm; thickness, 11mm. Inter-lug distance, 21mm. Water resistance 12 bar/120 meters. Strap, water resistant composite with 18k gold foldover clasp