This is a review of what may have been the hottest watch of 2013. It certainly was based on internet buzz, and when we first laid hands on the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon (ref. 3220.127.116.11.01.003) earlier in that year we knew it was going to be big. Finally, aBlogtoWatch offers a full, hands-on review of the famous all-black ceramic version of the new Speedmaster Co-Axial Chronograph which we are proud to offer as our first watch review of 2014.
The Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon feels so much more than a ceramic version of the modern Speedmaster. Omega has cleverly been able to produce yet another model which really feels like more than the sum of its parts, and if you look at the minor details you’ll realize that this isn’t just another black ceramic-cased timepiece. It combines the history and mystique of the Speedmaster collection, with a useful material, and very satisfying design that is both masculine, and just plain cool. What do you get when you upgrade one of the world’s most iconic sport watches into a cult item? You get the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon.
When we first went hands-on with the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon watch we were instantly thrilled by it. Usually it takes me a few seconds to really take in something I am going to like, but when I saw the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon for the first time I think I spontaneously uttered “cool.” Omega knew it was going to be appreciated, but they didn’t know how much. Omega’s CEO even confided in me that they were sitting on the concept for a few years because he wasn’t sure when the right time to release it was. One of the issues he said was production. Getting the case just right was the real issue, and that is one of the major challenges of ceramic. Further, if you are new to all this and wonder why watches should be made out of ceramic in the first place, then it is because of ceramic’s very high scratch and wear resistance.
In theory ceramic is anything but a luxury material, but in practice it can be very complicated to produce correctly. This, and most other luxury watches that use ceramic are actually using Zirconium Oxide (ZrO2). The ceramic base powder is mixed with pigment and then formed into a shape. That shape is then baked, which shrinks it and yields its final form. Because the material shrinks, getting it into precise colors and sizes is anything but easy. So the tricky part of working with ceramic is conceiving the process to produce and finish each part. Once that process is down, it is relatively straightforward in terms of production.
The Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon case is fully made in ceramic, and that includes the case pieces, pushers, buckle, and also dial. The “ZrO2″ label can be found on the back of the case as well as on the dial just over where the main hands connect in the center of the face. This isn’t the first watch made in ceramic, but as far as we know it is the first production Omega watch with a full ceramic case. Though Omega has been using ceramic for several years, being used as a bezel material (mostly in the Planet Ocean and other Seamaster pieces) as well as for parts of the case on their Ladymatic models. Ceramic is an important part of modern Omega watch production, and the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon is an accumulation of that dedication to the material.
What makes this particular ceramic case special is the finishing and this is a really important point with regards to understanding the larger appeal of the watch. Most ceramic watches have a single finish over the entire case. Most ceramic watches are polished, and some are matte finished. I don’t think I’ve seen a ceramic watch that is fully brushed, but I have seen ceramic parts such as bezels which are brushed. What Omega did with the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon is mimic the finishing of their metal Speedmaster watches for the ceramic case. This means that the upper part of the lugs as well as the sides (flanks) of the case is brushed versus polished, which helps frame the personality of the watch and is a major element of the design.
Omega fully understood that a black ceramic version of the Speedmaster, to be successful, would need to stay true to the Speedmaster in all other respects. What the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon offers is an unadulterated Speedmaster experience in a new material – and in my opinion that is the key to this model’s popularity.
“Dark Side Of The Moon” is engraved into the rear of the case, which forever tells the owner that this is a special model. Rarely do you see the names big brands give to their more exotic timepieces right on the cases. I find it really cool that Omega decided to put the name on edge of the case back – where there isn’t really that much room given the expansive sapphire crystal window offering a view into the movement. Another unique element of the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon piece is the strap. Unlike other Speedmaster models that come on a bracelet or alligator strap (for the high-end 18k red gold models), this one comes on a black Cordura strap. Cordura is a coated fabric, and is offered here with a leather liner. On the inside of the strap is some red contrast stitching – just a hint to go with the touch of red on the dial. That the buckle is ceramic is also a rarity.
Omega fans know that the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon is built on the Speedmaster Co-Axial Chronograph that was debuted just a few years ago as the most modern Speedmaster watch ever. We offered a full aBlogtoWatch review on the Speedmaster Co-Axial Chronograph here so that you can better understand it. Though we will go over it again briefly right now. The famed Speedmaster collection gained world fame in the late 1960s for being on the wrists of the Apollo 11 astronauts when they traveled to the moon. Since then Omega has left the collection relatively classic looking, but has updated it over the years. Nevertheless, the classic “Moonwatch” has always continued to be in production.
Eventually Omega wanted to produce a Speedmaster with a fully in-house made movement. That happened when Omega finally introduced its rather fantastic Caliber 9300 family of automatic chronographs with Co-Axial escapements. The 9300 is a great movement, and it also happens to look beautiful. We love that it fills up the back of the watch, and turning it over to view the movement through the case back is a treat. Unlike previous Speedmaster models, the 9300 offers just two subsidiary dials on the face, versus the traditional three sub dial layout. Nevertheless, functionality is not sacrificed because the right sub dial has two hands – which measure both the chronograph minutes and hours. Thus, the 9300 movement offers a cleaner bi-compax dial layout with a fully functioning 12 hour chronograph.
Omega designed the 9300 movement to contain a lot of modern technology. A big part of that is the movement’s use of their Co-Axial escapement technology. Acquired by them from the late, great British watchmaker George Daniels, Co-Axial escapements offer more timing consistency over time and are generally thought of as a modern innovation over more traditional escapement technology. The 9300 movement also features a silicon balance spring which means the movement is more resistant to temperature fluctuations, magnetism, and helps the 9300 be among the most accurate mechanical movements Omega has ever produced (it is also COSC Chronometer certified).
Functionally the Caliber 9300 offers the time, date, and 12 hour chronograph, all in a way that is still fresh but true to the spirit of the Speedmaster. I’ve always loved the legibility of Speedmaster dials and that remains true in the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon. What few people know is that the hands and hour markers are actually in 18k white gold. That is mainly because white gold will look better much longer than other metals. The hour markers are applied and filled with SuperLumiNova. Note that the luminant shot in this review is the same as from our previous Speedmaster review as the results will be rather similar. It is worth pointing out that despite what looks like a small amount of lume on the dial, it does perform quite admirably in terms of brightness. Unfortunately the sub dial hands do not have lume, but the chronograph seconds hand does.
One of the most controversial features of the new Speedmaster Co-Axial Chronograph collection is the size of the case at 44.25mm wide. These watches aren’t huge, but are larger than most of the previous generation Speedmasters which are 40mm wide. I have to say that on a strap and in black, the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon wears smaller than its size would imply – though it is still a well-dimensioned timepiece. I guess black is a bit slimming. One downside of the ceramic versus steel-cased version of the Speedmaster is water resistance. The Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon is only water resistant to 50 meters versus the standard Speedmaster’s water resistance of 100 meters.
Comfort is very much a part of the wearing experience, both in legibility and in wearability. I should also point out that while most of the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon is black, Omega did not intend it as a “stealth” black on black watch. Nothing is difficult to read, and even the numerals on the tachymeter scale on the bezel have been filled in with a silver color so that you can read them. In fact, silver is the main color used on the dial versus white. This little detail is another of the watch’s secrets of success.
Wearing the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon is a pleasant experience. It is a cool watch but certainly not flashy. Most Speedmasters aren’t flashy, but with a mostly polished case you might think that the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon would attract more visual attention. It offers the look many people enjoy from an all black timepiece, but is perfectly legible. I’ve never worn anything like it and to my knowledge the is the first all-black Speedmaster watch made by Omega.
Many collector’s are drawn to black colored watches, especially with popular timepieces from brands such as Rolex or Omega with classic sport watch. Many even go so far as to have aftermarket work done on their timepieces in order to get them coated in black. Brands are more and more responding and the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon is part of that larger push to offer more options that consumers seem to be demanding. So whether you enjoy the benefits of a ceramic watch or just like the look of a black watch, there is a lot to enjoy about the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon. While I am thoroughly enthusiastic about it, one drawback is the price. It packs a noticeable premium over the comparable steel models. You get some special parts for sure, but the price difference is apparent. For instance, the Omega Speedmaster Co-Axial Chronograph in steel on a steel bracelet retails for $8,700, while the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon version retails for $12,000. That is quite a bit more but Omega doesn’t seem to have much trouble with demand. If anything they have trouble keeping up with it.