The evolution of the Omega Speedmaster

Click here to watch a video about the history of the Omega Speedmaster.

The most iconic model from Omega is undoubtedly the Speedmaster.

Since its first release in 1957, it has been an extremely long-selling model that continues to this day and is an iconic OMEGA item.

While many people know that the Speedmaster was the first watch to be sent into space, not many people know how the Speedmaster has evolved to get to where it is today.

So, today I will classify the Speedmaster by model and explain the features of each one.

By reading this article to the end, you will understand the characteristics of each series and will come to love the Speedmaster even more, so please read to the end.

So let's get started right away.

The history of the Speedmaster as a racing watch

Although the Speedmaster is recognized as the first watch to fly to the moon, it was not originally designed as a "moonwatch."

The Master Series, introduced in 1957, includes the Seamaster, Railmaster, and Speedmaster, as you know.

The Seamaster is equipped with excellent water resistance, while the Railmaster is equipped with excellent airtightness as well as magnetic and shock resistance, making them professional watches suited to each situation.

Equipped with the compact-sized movement Cal321, the Speedmaster was released to the world as the strongest chronograph, combining the waterproof, airtight and shock-resistant properties cultivated in the Seamaster and Railmaster.

Let's take a look at the Speedmaster and what kind of situations it was originally designed to be used in.

Omega Speedmaster Racing Catalog

This is an advertisement for the Speedmaster from the 1950s, where it was promoted as a watch to be used in racing scenes.

In short, the "Speed" in the model name means that this chronograph was developed to assist drivers in racing cars and was intended for use in motorsports.

The watches on the left and center of the catalog show a bezel made of stainless steel, which is the reference CK2915, a characteristic of the first-generation Speedmaster.

As explained in the video with Rolex, at this time, the motor racing boom came soon after the space movement, so each watch company needed to highlight the position of their respective brands.

And so, after losing its presence in space, Rolex turned to motorsports and Daytona.

Check out this video to learn more about the history of the Rolex Daytona:

There is a reason why so many companies have focused their efforts on chronographs for motorsports.

The engines of sports cars at the time were quite loud and vibrated, and the movements of old chronographs could not withstand the vibrations, so they frequently broke down and became unusable.

In motorsports, where such problems occur frequently, OMEGA decided to develop a chronograph that could absorb them and measure time accurately.

Therefore, the Speedmaster used a compact-sized movement and used the remaining space to house an inner case to protect the movement, thereby increasing its shock resistance; this highly shock-resistant structure was highly praised by drivers of the time.

Omega Speedmaster The red part is the inner ring

At the same time, its functional and highly visible design, with a tachymeter scale on the bezel, is said to have had a major impact on the design of sports chronographs thereafter.

In this way, Omega's Speedmaster was promoted to be used in the motor racing scene, and it was actually used there.

So let's take a look at when it became the watch adopted by NASA.

Omega's Speedmaster Used by NASA

According to Omega, the Speedmaster was officially adopted by NASA in 1965.

In 1964, NASA launched the Apollo program, the first manned space flight to the moon, and James H. Ragan, the Apollo program equipment officer at the time, asked many watch brands to deliver sample chronographs for use in space.

It is said that four watch manufacturers, including Omega, responded to this demand.

Now let's look at the criteria given by NASA.

NASA's statement of specifications given to watchmakers

Omega Speedmaster 11-item official equipment performance test

Read the specification statement in its entirety.

For the 11 official equipment selection performance tests, just read the title.

The test had very strict criteria, but as history has shown, only one company was able to meet the standards of NASA's equipment selection program, and that was, of course, Omega's Speedmaster.

At this point, you can see how Omega's chronographs were technologically advanced.

Having successfully passed the rigorous tests, the Speedmaster was certified as "suitable for all manned space missions" and became NASA's official equipment the following year, in 1965.

As many people know, the Speedmaster's subsequent success has left it in the history of watches as the "Moonwatch," the world's first wristwatch to fly on the moon.

Even now, more than half a century later, the Speedmaster, with its long history, is approved for use in manned space missions and on the International Space Station, and has earned immense trust.

Looking into the story behind the creation of the Speedmaster, it might be more accurate to say that it was not a watch that was designed with measures in mind for use in space, but rather a watch that was simply built to withstand harsh environments, and as a result, it ended up being a watch that could be used in space.

Let's compare the Speedmasters of the past

The Speedmaster is still around today, so let's take a look at the features of each model and how they have evolved.

The original reference 2915-1

Omega's first Speedmaster Ref. 2915-1 and its Cal. 321 movement

This Speedmaster was born in 1957 and was the first Speedmaster model released the following year in 1958.

Its most notable features are the use of an all-stainless steel bezel and the luminous arrow hand reminiscent of the Seamaster.

We generally think of bezels as rotating bezels, but in fact this bezel is engraved directly onto the bezel and is not an independent bezel.

So it might be more accurate to say that the case has a bezel-like appearance.

The size is surprisingly small for a Speedmaster, with a bezel diameter of 39mm.

The first model is an extremely rare Speedmaster model, produced only for the first two years.

The movement used is the famous Cal. 321, a smooth column wheel movement that has been passed down to the fourth generation.

I'll explain the movement in more detail later.

SPEED MATER engraved on the back of the first model

The model name "SPEEDMASTER" is engraved on the outer edge of the case back.

Omega Master Series Trilogy

The first models were all given the reference numbers CK 2913 (Seamaster 300), CK 2914 (Railmaster), and CK 2915 (Speedmaster), which indicates that they were born as part of the Master Series.

2nd generation Ref.2998

Omega 2nd generation Speedmaster Ref.2998 with Cal.321 movement

The second model began production in 1959, two years after the first model.

The biggest change is that it has been changed from an Arrow Hand to an Alpha Hand.

This change was made to prioritize visibility of the entire dial, as opposed to the arrow hand, which made it easier to see the time but also made it difficult to see because the area covering the subdials was larger.

The tachymeter scale has been changed from being engraved directly on the bezel to being printed on a black aluminum plate.

Case back of the second-generation Speedmaster

The back cover also now features the familiar sea horse engraving and Omega mark, making it a more modern design.

What's particularly noteworthy about this second-generation model is that it was the first watch to be taken into space.

In 1962, a man named Walter Schirra wore one in space, marking the first time the Speedmaster became associated with space.

3rd generation Ref.ST105.003 & 4th generation Ref.ST145.003

Omega Speedmaster 3rd generation Ref.ST105.003-&-4th generation Ref.ST145.003

Here we will take a look at the short-lived third generation and the fourth generation model that came after it.

The ST 105.003, classified as the third generation, first appeared in 1962.

There have been no major changes since the second generation, but the hands have been changed to baton hands, which provide better visibility and prevent the dial from being obscured by the hands.

In addition, the tips of the chronograph hands now feature luminous pointers, making it possible to read the chronograph measurements clearly even in dark places.

What's particularly noteworthy about the third model is that it is a model that passed equipment selection tests conducted by NASA.

Walter Schirr brought his own personal Speedmaster with him, but the watch worn by Neil Armstrong on the moon landing was this third-generation model, which met NASA's strict standards.

Now let's look at the fourth generation.

The reference for the fourth generation Speedmaster is Ref. ST145.003.

The major changes include the addition of a crown guard between the push button and the crown, making the watch less likely to break, and at the same time, the case diameter has been increased to 42mm.

Looking at the dial, you can see that what was previously just OMEGA SPEEDMASTER now has the word "PROFESSIONAL" written underneath, making it immediately recognizable that this is the model used during the Apollo program when humans first walked on the moon.

Cal.321 movement used up to the fourth generation

Now that we have explained the first four generations, we will move on to explaining the Cal. 321 movement that was used up to the fourth generation.

The person who designed this movement was Albert Piguet, an engineer at Lemania, which was part of the same SSIH group as Omega at the time.

Based on the Cal. 27CHRO that he created in 1942, it is small, thin, and designed with durability and productivity in mind.

This thinness and compactness were essential to the Speedmaster's image as a robust watch.

Therefore, as mentioned above, there was a need for a compact movement that could be placed inside an inner case.

Comparison of Lemania and Omega movements

On the left is the Lemania Cal. 27CHRO 12C, and on the right is the Omega Cal. 321.

This Cal. 321 movement is Omega's version of Lemania's Cal. 27CHRO 12C, with "27 CHRO" standing for a 27mm chronograph and C12 indicating the inclusion of a 12-hour counter.

At the time, 30mm was considered small, but the Cal.27 CHRO C12 (Cal.321) achieved an even smaller diameter of 27mm.

Although it is small, the parts are relatively thick and it is designed with durability in mind.

If you don't know about Lemania, please watch this video for a detailed explanation.

5th generation Ref.ST145.022

Omega 5th generation Speedmaster Ref. ST145.022 Movement Cal.861

In 1968, the fifth model, reference ST145.022, was born.

The appearance is almost the same as the fourth generation, but the movement has been significantly changed.

Due to rising labor costs, the production of column wheel movements became unprofitable in the 1960s, but the cam movement was developed to overcome this.

In fact, the cam type has reduced costs compared to the column wheel, and is often described as a cheaper version of the column wheel, but it is equipped with a brake lever and is structurally almost the same, with each part being made thicker and more sophisticated.

Incidentally, this movement was already complete by the time of the third generation, but when it was time for NASA testing, the proven and reliable Cal. 321 was released.

As is the case with military movements, in situations where mistakes cannot be made, past track record takes priority over the latest technology.

The engraving on the back of the Omega Speedmaster reads "THE FIRST WATCH WORN ON THE MOON" along with "FLIGHT-QUALIFIED BY NASA FOR ALL MANNED SPACE MISSIONS".

Also, by earning the title of Moonwatch, models from 1970 onwards have the words "THE FIRST WATCH WORN ON THE MOON" engraved on the case back, along with the words "FLIGHT-QUALIFIED BY NASA FOR ALL MANNED SPACE MISSIONS".

This model remained in production until 1996, when the sixth generation was born.

It was an extremely long-running model, with the same model being produced for about 30 years.

6th generation Ref.3750.50

6th generation Omega Speedmaster Ref.3750.50 Equipped with Cal.1861 movement

The sixth generation model, Ref. 3570.50, was released in 1996.

There are no major changes to the appearance from the fifth generation, but the movement has changed.

It looks almost the same as Cal. 861, but due to a change in the counting method, the number of jewels has increased by one, and the caliber number is now Cal. 1861.

That said, there have been no major structural changes; the only change is that the finish has been changed from red gold or yellow gold to rhodium plating.

These are each intended as treatments to improve the corrosion resistance, heat resistance, and wear resistance of the parts used in the movement, but in terms of cost, rhodium is cheaper than the conventional specifications, which has led to cost reductions while maintaining the same performance.

This sixth generation model was manufactured for just under 20 years, but production ceased in 2011 when the current model was released.


By learning about the history and origins of the Speedmaster watch, you may now understand that being the watch that was taken into space is not just a title.

Omega was selected from the four companies, and it has the technical capabilities to make every part sturdy, and this model was created through trial and error.

The design of this model has remained almost unchanged since its creation, but like other brands' super-long-selling models, it is a typical example of how it has been carefully crafted from the very beginning, meaning that only minor improvements are needed even afterwards.

And when we learn about the "romance" that this watch has, we are even more drawn to the Speedmaster.