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Barely 12 hours after landing back in Scotland after a wonderful first Scottish Watches trip to Geneva and SIHH I got the call … well kinda.
As a point of privacy I never answer the phone to numbers I don’t recognise if they aren’t from a mobile. So when an 0141 (that’s Glasgow to anyone outside of the area) number appears on my screen I either frantically Google it on my PC or wait for it to stop calling then Google hoping it’s not another PPI or accident claim mob trying to waste my life. This time it turned out to be the Omega boutique in Glasgow’s Argyle Arcade. Shit, what have they read on the site?
Well it turns out my lottery ticket had come in. At last year’s Baselworld, Omega impressed with one of their Speedmasters. This is a new experience for me as I really have not had much love for the range, shoot me now if you wish. I’m not sure if its a case of analysis paralysis where with so many versions, variants, sizes, colours, materials, bands, bracelets, special editions and limited editions that my brain just checked out, or if it was the fervor of Speedy owners and how staunch they are online fighting to the death to defend the brand and marque.
Either way when I set eyes on the black and yellow Apollo 8 edition in their display at Basel it was love at first sight.
I’ve not been a stranger in the boutique though, a year ago I visited and tried on a Speedmaster MK II re-edition which I loved the aesthetics of, but as soon as I put it on my heart sank as the bulbous caseback pushed the watch so far off my wrist it just looked wrong. I did love that 70’s era orange detailing, race track chapter ring and pillow case though. Other editions I’ve liked the look of but not enough to pull the trigger have been the Alaska project, White Side of The Moon and a few Dark Side of The Moon variants, but let’s get back to the story in hand.
So with barely any recovery sleep after our day trip to Switzerland, I had a ten-minute countdown running to decide if I wanted the watch or if Omega were going to move to the next name on the waiting list to offer it up elsewhere. A call to my partner in crime from this very website was no help either way and I was left to fend for myself, running on fumes and unable to make grown up decisions on my own I called back and said I’d be there in half an hour – #yolo.
Running the gauntlet of Friday afternoon traffic into Glasgow city centre is never fun, and trying to beat the clock and arrive at Omega before closing was a challenge I wasn’t sure if I was up for. But I gave it my best shot and driving at the correct speed and within the limits of the law at all times I got to Buchanan Street with minutes to spare.
The Buying Experience
Once inside I met with Lorna, the boutique manager who had called me and between herself and Hannah they sorted out my slow synapses with a strong coffee and then brought out the “box”. If it had been any other day, not following an almost 24 hour across Europe and back trip I’d have taken in the splendour of a luxury watch purchase, but being honest I just wanted to see the piece in person, try it on, make a decision and go home to bed.
With the watch out, I eyed it up and inspected it closely. You can only get so much from YouTube videos and photos of production samples. Even seeing it encased at Baselworld last year didn’t give the same experience as holding it in your hand, feeling the alternating ceramic finishes and feeling how it wears on your skin. I was sold.
Within minutes my wrist fodder of the day was safe and sound in my pocket thanks to its new custom leather pouch and my first Speedmaster, my first Omega, was adorning my wrist. It looked outstanding. My usual meta-goth attire of dark clothing and black leather jacket just clicked with the colours of the case, strap and dial.
The entire buying experience was everything I could have hoped for with all staff and management being courteous and attentive, something that is sadly lacking at some watch retailers within a stone’s throw of Buchanan Street at times. Hannah even remembered the two previous times I’d popped in just to see how things were going, what watches I had in my collection and stories of other watch enthusiasts I had passed on during prior visits. While filling out the paperwork she even let me have a closer look at her own personal Omega which glistened under the showroom lights.
With my presentation box, manuals and other accessories I was set to leave but Hannah wasn’t done yet. She nipped away downstairs and returned with a few freebies including a stunning Omega Dark Side of The Moon pen and lapel badge. It’s the extra touches that make the buying experience something to remember fondly, and at Omega Glasgow they went that extra mile.
So the watch itself, how is it? Well I will be honest I love it and I don’t love it. That’s not to say I hate it or dislike it, just that I know its limitations and I fully accept them as I knew them before purchase and made the conscious decision to live with them. So let’s run through the ownership experience.
The main thing with this watch is the looks, no doubt about it. You can prattle on about heritage, history, the moon, the movement or the technology – but unless you like the look of a piece and it “sings to you”, it will either stay in the dealers vault or live in your watch box. This is a watch that commands attention. Hazard warning tape is yellow and black for a reason and like the appearance of a hornet, the Apollo 8 draws your gaze in and holds you transfixed and mesmerised. As noted I’m not up on Omega, and less so on Speedmasters in general but I don’t think there has been another example that looks as raw, rugged and dangerous as this.
The dial is partially skeletonised allowing you to see through the multiple layers from the yellow chronograph hand down to the hour markers to the sub-registers and then to the Omega logo and the laser ablated dial itself which has been manufactured to simulate the jagged surface of the moon. Turn the watch even slightly and the light rays cast through the allegedly AR coated but awesomely smudge happy domed sapphire crystal fall differently and illuminate alternating parts of the watch. On the front end they nailed it.
One thing I did notice though is that there has been a change between the first few models used for press images and this release edition as extra metal material is present around the centre wheel compared to those previous iterations along with some screws staying silver coloured and not black as shown above. The only negative point of the dial is the reflective silver colouring visible on movement components as seen around the 2 to 3 and 7 o’clock positions.
The bezel and case is all ceramic – save for a serious impact it should be all accounts remain the same shape, colour and finish for many decades to come. Much has been written and spoken about the positives and negatives of using this substance and if you are a klutz, regularly banging your watch off door frames, desks and walls, or have a habit of dropping your watches then maybe this one isn’t for you. Ceramic is super hard wearing, as tough as sapphire but it has the same issues of being brittle and cracking when impacted with enough force. Its the trade off between scuffing and scratching up or breaking completely. Only you will know if you’re careful enough for ownership of a completely ceramic watch. Another thing to note is the strap it comes with is of the tang buckle style meaning you don’t have the safety net of a bracelet or even a deployant clasp, so you will have to be careful when putting on or taking off the watch.
With a high gloss polish to the bezel with an embedded lume, it shines in light and glows in darkness matching the hour markers and lumed hands. The case begins atop with a brushed grain finish leading on to more high polish and a satin brushed case edge. The pushers are of a high gloss ceramic appearance with the non screw down crown also looking phenomenal in all gloss black with a lumed Omega logo.
With analysis of the front now complete you would think we’re in the home stretch but with this Speedmaster the fun has only just begun. Flip the watch to its reverse and things really come alive.
On show we have the calibre 1869, a reworking of the 1861 movement of the past. It has been beautifully recreated and as with the front, features plated areas with laser ablation and dark moon face colouring. The jewels aren’t ruby red but instead are a deep purple which contrasts well with the surrounding layers of silver and blackened steel. Being technology from a past era there are shortcomings and these are what I mentioned earlier about loving but not loving the watch.
First of all the calibre runs at 21,600 VPH instead of the more modern and smoother 28,800 VPH. With the watch being 44.25mm and with that having a longer reaching chrono hand it is very evident the watch runs at a slow beat rate when watching the chronograph function. That leads on to another issue, when the chronograph is engaged the yellow needle starts to move and sometimes stops for a brief moment before shooting forward and continuing on its way. This isn’t every time its operated but maybe 1 in 10 times. The movement isn’t METAS certified or even COSC for that matter, and although day one into two it ran at a “Speedy” +15 seconds per day, over the course of the past two weeks it has settled down to around +6 which is just about COSC levels, kinda.
There is no automatic self-winding function on the watch either and just as in days gone by, it requires manual winding to keep on ticking. If you are used to an automatic then this might catch you out and it’s something to bear in mind every morning or night as with only 42 hours of power reserve you won’t even get 2 days usage without crown interaction. Setting the time accurately is “almost” impossible as the 1869 doesn’t have a hacking or stop seconds function so you just approximate roughly what the time is to the nearest minute or so.
I say “almost” as by pure chance while researching my new toy I stumbled across information on a technique known as backhacking. The jury is out on whether this is a god send or a great way to find out how good Omega’s warranty department is, with the basic idea being you can stop or hack the movement for accurate time setting by pulling the crown then giving a slight amount of back pressure – not enough to move the hands, but enough to stop the movement. A little too much pressure and your heart will skip a beat as you watch the small seconds sub dial hand begin to run … backwards!
So, yeah, some online resources say this was actually recommended by Omega literature back in the days of old and other data says this is not a cool thing to do. You have been warned! The new 5 year warranty and 10 year service interval might be shortened test driving this “feature”.
When it comes to setting the date function you don’t have to worry, it doesn’t have one. If any of these points will get under your skin and give you cause for concern then look elsewhere. For me, they aren’t deal breakers. It would be nice to have the creature comforts of a faster beat rate, a smoother sweeping chrono hand, a date window (as it turns out I seem to use it, having glanced at my wrist a good few times over the past couple of weeks then realised I need to dig my phone out for a date check), automatic winding BUT this is a call back to the past to commemorate a time when those ancillaries were not common place.
The strap that Omega supplies looks nice but I do feel it could be more substantial. For a 44.25mm watch, the lug width is a measly 21mm. A strange in between size that will make hunting aftermarket alternatives difficult but also being dwarfed by the rest of the case too. It is a great looking black leather piece with yellow stitching and rubber insert along the centre to take care of fastening duties. On the other end a ceramic tang buckle is supplied which does a great job of locking things into place and although one of the benefits of ceramic is it will not scratch or scuff while working at a desk or on a computer, it does have some sharp edges that can dig into your wrist.
One of the first comments on Instagram from a buddy was I should immediately retire the factory supplied strap and immediately purchase a different, deployant DSOM strap from Omega. This is something I am looking into, along with other options. A saving grace of the thinner strap is that with the watch being ceramic and not having the automatic winding mass in the rear, the weight itself is a lot less than you’d expect. It’s also a lot thinner than you would expect too, coming in at around 14mm thick.
As part of my my two week on the wrist review I’m happy to say that you can quite easily buy aftermarket 22mm straps and either apply some brute force in the case of rubber and silicone straps, or use a blade or flame for leather straps. Getting inexpensive replacements allows you to safely store the expensive Omega item out of harms way. I’ve already got a black and yellow bund cuff and silicone set sitting here that have been test fitted without issue. Just don’t try and force 22mm spring bars in as that is just asking for trouble.
So with picking up the watch late on a Friday afternoon it didn’t have too long to wait for its first public outing. This was to be a Christopher Ward enthusiasts meetup in Edinburgh the very next day. I was originally planning on wearing my Accutron as it’s been getting a lot of wrist time the past few weeks, but you can’t not wear your new purchase to a watch event can you!
The reaction from everyone was unanimously positive. In a sea of CWs and Tudors the little Speedy held its own and was passed around to be examined by other watch enthusiasts around the tables. I generally don’t mix my hobby with my personal Instagram page as some people can think you are showing off. Unfortunate but true nonetheless. It seems ok to post photos of fancy cars and lavish holidays, but a luxury timepiece that will generally hold value and allow you to recoup in the event of sale … frowned upon, you show off.
That said I couldn’t help myself and it’s been at least a year since I last posted something of a horological nature, so up it went and I battened down the hatches expecting an onslaught. But it never came. In fact it got admiration from the normies who wouldn’t know the difference between an ICE Watch and a Richard Mille.
So it passed the people test too with an enthusiast set, what surprised me more than anything was the reaction from non watch friends who have never commented on anything I’ve had on my wrist before. It was immediately spotted, asked about then praised. From my nephew to female friends who could not care less about what a guy wears on his wrist. Without fail everyone raved about it … then I’d say “you ain’t seen nothing yet!” take it off, turn it over and show off the movement for even more admiration.
How does it wear? Like its not there. It is one of the lightest watches I have but also one of the largest. Coming in at 90grams (yes, I weighed it) that’s very light compared to my other ceramic black watch, the Tudor Fastrider Blackshield coming in at 116grams, the Rolex GMT Master II BLNR at 145grams and Full Metal G-SHOCK at a heavy weight 153grams.
How does it look glancing down at my wrist? Fierce. It does take some getting used to if you actually want to tell time on the thing with the most basic of flat polished hands (possibly one of the cheapest looking parts to the watch) and such a busy dial, reflections left right and centre (even with the claimed anti reflective coatings on both sides) and a massive glowing yellow chrono hand, but that’s all part of the fun of the watch.
Comparison To That Other Black Ceramic Watch
As briefly mentioned above, and if you’ve seen any of my Instagram posts going back the past few months or have listened to our podcasts you might already be aware that I have in my collection a large, black, ceramic chronograph. What is this madness? Well it turned out to be a cracking bargain when I picked it up nearly two years ago for the princely sum of only £1,750 – brand new, stickered, warrantied, sitting in a dealers shop window. So buying another black ceramic chrono was always going to be something I had to think long and hard about, especially at over 4 times the price of the perfectly good one sitting in my watch box.
The Tudor Fastrider Blackshield is a great watch that gets limited love from the public. It’s got some amazing stand out features that punch above their weight even at the full retail price of £3,540. Things such as 150m of water resistance, a chronometer grade (though not COSC certified) ETA 7753 (7750 rotated 90 degrees anti clockwise basically), Rolex / Tudor workmanship and a modern ceramic case design. But taking the 3 sub dials and case material out of the equation they are very different watches in look and function.
The Tudor has all the modern conveniences I’m accustomed to. Automatic winding, stop seconds, screw down crown, date function and almost Submariner level water resistance. But the Apollo 8 just looks better and wears better.
Will I sell my Tudor on? Nope. I love it and will continue to wear it. The colours match a different style and along with the Omega it offers a ton of alternatives when it comes to straps, bands, buckles and bracelets.
So am I going to make it a permanent fixture in my watch box or will this be a short lived affair. The jury was out for a good number of days. It started on high then my enthusiasm crashed almost the day after purchase as the lack of features I’m accustomed to started to become apparent and the post holiday blues came a knocking.
But it is a great watch, two weeks in and things have come full circle and it does have that flair that I look for. I suppose, like that stunning but sometimes hard work and high maintenance girlfriend, some sacrifices have to be made if you want a thing of beauty on your arm – or wrist.
|Version||Dark Side of The Moon Apollo 8 Chronograph Watch (2019)|
|Case||44.25mm - 13.80mm Height|
|Weight||89.5grams (on Supplied Strap)|
|Material||Black Ceramic, Brushed and Polished, Lumed Tachymeter & Crown|
|Crystal||Scratch Resistant Sapphire with Anti?Reflective Coating on Both Sides|
|Rear||Sapphire Exhibition Caseback, Engraved APOLLO 8, DEC 1968, DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, and WELL SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE. - Jim Lovell|
|Water||5 bar (50 Metres / 167 Feet) Resistant|
|Movement||Calibre 1869 (Special Version of 1861)|
|Winding||Hand Wound Only|
|Frequency||21,600 VPH (Vibrations per hour)|
|Power||48 Hours Reserve|
|Strap||Black Calf Leather, Yellow Stitching, Yellow Interior Rubber|
|Lug Size||21mm (22mm Straps Can Be Adapted)|
|Buckle||Black Scratch Resistent Ceramic Tang Style|
|Dealer||Omega Boutique Glasgow|
|Address||32 Buchanan St, Glasgow, Scotland, G1 3LB|
|Phone||0141 221 6799|
Omega SpeedMaster Apollo 8 Dark Side of The Moon
Got into the horological hobby only a couple of short years ago; but got, as us Scots like to say, “baw deep” pretty quickly. Thanks to buying a lemon of a Rolex he spent hours researching why his watch wasn’t working and along the way gained an interest in what makes them tick. He now runs the Scottish Watches website and keeps cohort Rick in check on the twice weekly Scottish Watches podcast.