How do you improve something that’s already a classic? This is the dilemma Omega has seen through ever since the Speedmaster became one of the worlds most recognizable watches. Their formula, similar to Rolex’s, or Porsche’s is to make small, almost unnoticeable improvements over time. Don’t change it too much. Any big changes you have to make, make them to components that aren’t too noticeable. In the case of the new Speedmaster 3861, Omega has followed this template, introducing only minor changes to the case and dial, and focusing instead on what’s inside, namely a new Master Chronometer Certified Movement, Calibre 3861, alongside a redesigned bracelet (which is sublime, more on that later).
The Moonwatch hasn’t gotten a major movement overhaul in a while. The Moonwatch got its last movement update in 1996, with the caliber 1861, but that movement was pretty much identical to the 861, which came out in 1968/69. The co-axial caliber 3861, a Master Chronometer certified, is the first major overhaul since the 321 was replaced by the 861. More on the movement below.
The changes to the dial, bezel, and case are relatively minor. The biggest change is probably to the bracelet, which was much needed, as the older bracelet was looking quite dated. Rest assured, the new bracelet is an absolute darling, and alongside the movement, really makes the new 3861 worth the 20% premium over the older model. There is one huge thing that annoys me about the bracelet, which we will get to later.
Minor Changes: Case/Dial/Bezel
As mentioned, changes outside of the movement and bracelet were minor. The famous speedy tachymeter bezel was changed to a DON (Dot over Ninety) bezel, and shows the small dot over the "90" mark, above, rather than next to it — a nod to earlier Speedmasters. The dial, has also undergone some subtle changes. The black is much more matte and grained than the previous generation of Speedmaster watches. The minute hashes on the outer track have been reduced from five to three divisions in order to accommodate the 3Hz frequency of the co-axial 3861. The chronograph and running seconds registers are now stepped, enhancing legibility. The case was slimmed down very slightly.
Major Movement Overhaul
Omega made a major overhaul to the movement with the Omega Co-Axial caliber 3861. The movement is a “Master Chronometer”, a certification that the watch is both COSC, and METAS certified. COSC, is responsible for certifying all Swiss-made chronometer movements as running within chronometer specs. The METAS certification requires a battery of tests including resistance to magnetic fields, and testing for rate deviation during different states of power reserve. Apparently, the new movement can resist magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss, which is about the magnetic power produced by an MRI machine.Suffice to say this movement has been put through the wringer, and will provide a lifetime of reliable timekeeping. Anecdotally, I’ve had this watch for a month, and it’s usually off by only a few seconds a week.
Major Change to the Bracelet
We all know the bracelet on the prior version of the Speedmaster was, well lacking. It wasn’t a bad bracelet, it just fell short of rising to the greatness of the Speedy. Omega heard our cries, and updated the bracelet with one that I’m happy to report, is a joy to behold and wear, and is in my opinion a true gamechanger. Omega uses a 5 link design, with a very aggressive taper from 20mm at the lugs to 15mm at the clasp. I’ve always ordered my watch straps this way, and I’m glad to see watch companies take on aggressive tapering.
If I had to describe the bracelet in one word it would vintage fluidity (Ok I used two words). The bracelet drapes so elegantly on the wrist. The taper at the end gives it increases comfort and throwback style. The smaller thinner clasp at the end has banded finishing and an applied logo. Something to note: the bracelet for the sapphire version has polished interlinks, while the Hesalite version's are brushed. Anyway, the new bracelet is really a gamechanger and makes this watch perfect for daily wear year round.
I do have one gripe around the bracelet, which is the fact that there are only two micro-adjustment holes on the clasp. Depending on the weather, I sometimes find my wrist expanding or contracting to a point that makes my wrist too big or small for the current arrangement. Adding one link makes it too big, and removing one makes it too small. Two holes are not enough on some days for me to avoid the dreaded wrist size between two links situation, which is really frustrating, especially since it appears there was a ton of room to make two or three more holes. Oh Omega, why do you do us so! On most days it’s not an issue, so I’ll stop whining.
My dear readers, outside of the early 321 speedmasters, and perhaps the new Ed White reissue, this Speedy is the one. You’re getting everything you already love about the Speedmaster, with a very accurate movement, and an extremely comfortable bracelet. You can make this watch your go-to. It’s got everything you’d want in a sports watch. The Hesalite version goes for $6,300 which is 20% more than the prior version. Rest assured the new version is more than a 20% improvement on the prior reference.
If you choose to pull the trigger on this watch, you’ll have to make the tough decision between the Hesalite and Sapphire verions. The Hesalite version comes with a solid case back, while the sapphire version shows off the new 3861 via a sapphire crystal. If you’re die-hard, like myself, you’ll choose the Hesalite version and wont mind polishing out the wear and tear periodically.
If you are hesitant, I encourage you to make a trip to your local AD and at least try one on. You may be surprised how the tweaks to this watch make it a real world-beater.