Speedmaster and Seamaster: The Early History
The Seamaster and Speedmaster are undeniably two of the most memorable and significant watches in the OMEGA catalog. Both models have a colorful history and have carved their places in our culture. One landed on the moon and the other became a defining feature of a legendary film character, 007. In looking at the Speedmaster vs. Seamaster, they may seem to have a lot in common. They both have a commanding presence and some similarities in their general look and feel. However, if you get more technical, their unique qualities rise to the surface and shine through. The Speedmaster and Seamaster are two of OMEGA’s most iconic models. We take a look at them side-by-side and compare these two famous timepieces.
The Speedmaster vs Seamaster: The Early Days
The histories of the Speedmaster and Seamaster begin about a decade apart. Yet, both watches have celebrated a number of milestones alongside each other. Each of these models represents two of the most superior tool watches on the market. OMEGA designed one for sport racers and one for divers.
OMEGA first introduced the Seamaster in 1948 in conjunction with the brand’s 100th anniversary. Its design drew inspiration from other dive watches, like the Marine, OMEGA’s first water-resistant timepiece. Two of the most notable features allow the Seamaster to be a true diver’s tool. First, the helium release valve helps divers reaching great depths for prolonged periods of time. This feature expels gases that become trapped inside the watch. Second, the specific design of the bidirectional rotating black aluminum bezel helps divers keep track of elapsed time. The original Seamaster and other vintage-inspired versions like the Seamaster 300 60th Anniversary Limited Edition also have other distinct features. These include triangular hour markers, a Naiad sign on the crown, and an iconic seahorse engraving on the caseback.
However, OMEGA also wanted the Seamaster to be more versatile than the average dive watch. It wouldn’t just appeal to those who appreciated the functionality of a diver’s tool. It would also serve as the ideal watch for everyday wear. The Seamaster has built a reputation for its clean and straightforward aesthetic. Models feature a brushed and polished stainless steel case, black tropical dial with luminous hour markers, and sapphire crystal. These characteristics have remained true to the Seamaster through numerous iterations. The original model was a modest 38mm. However, more modern versions of the Seamaster are available in larger sizes.
In 1957, OMEGA released its newest addition to the Professional collection: the Speedmaster. This line also includes the Seamaster. The Speedmaster’s original design and the intent were as a racing chronograph. It was the first model to showcase the brand’s now-iconic triple register dial. This gives the watch a racing look and feel. Also true to the model’s racing-inspired design is the tachymeter scale on the bezel. This feature helps to calculate speed based on travel time or measure distance based on speed. The Speedmaster was the first chronograph wristwatch to feature this scale on the bezel instead of the dial. The broad arrow hands are another distinguishing element of the model. Finally, the original Speedmaster housed a Caliber 321 manual-wind movement. Newer models, like the 60th Anniversary Limited Edition, feature the Caliber 1861 manual-wind movement.
Similar to the Seamaster, the Speedmaster boasts a simple and straightforward style. Models feature a brushed and polished stainless steel case, black tropical dial with luminous hour markers, and sapphire crystal. Much like the Seamaster, these features have remained largely unchanged throughout the countless variations of the model. Once again, just like the Seamaster, the original Speedmaster measured 38mm, but more modern iterations offer larger sizes as well.
Seamaster vs Speedmaster in the 1960s
The 1960s were a significant decade for both the Seamaster and the Speedmaster. Sport watches were increasing in popularity, and OMEGA wanted to compete with models like the Rolex Submariner. So, the brand focused on developing the Seamaster, specifically its water resistance. The result of their efforts divided the Seamaster line into two subcategories. These included the sportier Seamaster Professional and later, the dressier Seamaster Aqua Terra. In 1962, the Speedmaster made history when it became the first timepiece in space. Soon after, the Speedmaster became the official watch of the space program, garnering a new name: the Speedmaster Professional. In 1969, the model made history yet again by landing on the moon. This historic feat gave it the nickname the Moonwatch.
1990’s and Pop Culture
The 1990s were a time of key change for each of the models. In 1998, OMEGA debuted one of the most polarizing variations of the Speedmaster, a multifunction quartz watch called the X-33. The X-33 showcases the brand’s efforts to launch the Speedmaster into a more modern era. However, diehard fans of the Speedmaster found the X-33 to be too much of a departure from the previous versions. On the other hand, the Seamaster had lost some of its momentum among consumers by the 1990s. The decade saw the release of new variations within the Seamaster Professional series, like a unique titanium version. Still, it wouldn’t be until OMEGA Seamaster made a major pop-culture move that it would regain its former glory.
The Seamaster: Official Watch of James Bond
The Seamaster solidified its place as more than a dive watch when it became a pop-culture phenomenon thanks to the James Bond franchise. Actor Pierce Brosnan sported a Seamaster Quartz Professional in the 1995 film GoldenEye. This made the Seamaster the official watch of 007. It has appeared in every Bond film since. However, throughout the series, James Bond sports a number of different variations of the model. In more recent films, 007 is typically wearing the Seamaster 300. In addition, OMEGA has released a number of commemorative Bond Seamaster models over the years. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the James Bond franchise in 2002, they issued a special edition Seamaster with the 007 logo. Just a few years later in 2006, OMEGA launched another special edition Bond Seamaster, the Planet Ocean. More recently, OMEGA reached its 20th anniversary of partnering with the Bond films in 2015. That year, in conjunction with the release of Spectre, they launched the special edition Seamaster 300 Spectre.
The Speedmaster Skylab
The 1990s also marked the 40th anniversary of the Speedmaster. To celebrate this historic occasion, OMEGA created a special limited edition set of commemorative models called the Mission Series. The Mission Series contained a whopping twenty-three unique variations of the legendary Speedmaster. As the name suggests, twenty-two of these models honors some of NASA’s most significant space missions, like the Skylab 3. The Speedmaster Professional Missions Skylab 3 is one variation within the collection. OMEGA only produced this iteration in a limited run of 200 units. The OMEGA Skylab features a modern, oversized 42mm case with maximum legibility of its subdials at the three, six, and nine-o’clock positions. Additionally, the bezel showcases a tachymeter scale. Paired with the model’s chronograph function, this has become a signature characteristic of the Speedmaster. Inside, the OMEGA Skylab 3 is equipped with the brand’s Caliber 1861 hand-wound mechanical movement, which boasts a 48-hour power reserve. The Missions Skylab 3 is just one special example of the model’s important role in the space program. This commemorative edition celebrates one of many notable moments in our country’s heritage.
The 2000s and Beyond
OMEGA has also released several other special edition variations of the Speedmaster in the new millennium. A number of these models continue to commemorate the brand’s work with NASA and other significant anniversaries. One of the most noteworthy models is the Speedmaster Apollo 11 40th Anniversary edition. This iteration debuted in 2009 in memory of the first manned lunar landing. Another highly coveted variation is the Speedmaster 125, honoring OMEGA’s 125th anniversary. Still, some of the most highly prized and popular special edition Speedys are the Snoopy Award watches. These unique models celebrate the Silver Snoopy award OMEGA received from NASA in 1970. They introduced the first version in 2003 and the second several years later in 2015. The Seamaster line has also continued to expand beyond the Bond franchise in the new millennium. For instance, OMEGA released an all-new variation of the model in 2019 at the British Museum in London. The Seamaster Ultra Deep Professional is the ultimate tool and dive watch. It boasts an impressive depth rating of up to 15,000 meters.
The OMEGA Speedmaster 50th Anniversary Patch Edition
In 2007, OMEGA decided to build on their Mission Series with the “Patch Campaign.” This time, they designed six of their own “mission patches.” Each celebrates a unique aspect of the iconic Speedmaster and the important role it has played throughout history. From Ralph Plaisted’s North Pole conquest in 1968 to the historic lunar landing in 1969, the Speedmaster has been there. And, it will continue to be. One of the six patches honors NASA’s planned mission to Mars in 2030. Another model from the “Patch Campaign” is the Speedmaster Moonwatch “Patch” 50th Anniversary Limited Edition watch. OMEGA produced the model in a limited run of 5,957 pieces. This might seem like a relatively large number for a special edition piece. However, remember that the brand manufactures around 600,000 to 700,000 watches each year. The OMEGA Speedmaster 50th Anniversary boasts a modern, oversized 42mm case. It features a special Seahorse “1957” logo reading “50th Anniversary” at the twelve-o’clock position. Below there are three sub-dials at the three, six, and nine-o’clock positions. Each is for 30 minutes, twelve hours, and 60 seconds respectively. Additionally, the model comes equipped with a tachymeter bezel. Inside, it houses OMEGA’s Caliber 1861 hand-wound mechanical movement. This Speedy also comes equipped with a 48-hour power reserve and 50 meters of water resistance. The OMEGA Speedmaster 50th Anniversary is complete with a stainless steel bracelet and deployment clasp.
Choosing the Speedmaster vs Seamaster for You
If you’re an amateur diver or racer, there’s no question when choosing between the Speedmaster vs. Seamaster. When it comes to their technical capabilities, the Seamaster is undeniably a dive watch, and the Speedmaster most certainly a sport and racing watch. Of course, these iconic models are equally well suited for everyday wear. Many people simply gravitate toward them for their look and feel or rich history.