Omega is often the target of (mostly) good natured jabs from the watch enthusiast community for their tendency to reintroduce the Speedmaster in limited edition guises that may stretch the definition of the word “limited” in the first place. But you can’t blame them: the Moonwatch is one of only a small handful of truly iconic watches that transcend the hobby – it would be kind of weird if they didn’t try to capitalize on the Speedmaster’s reputation. The goal, after all, is to sell watches, and Omega has sold a lot of Speedmasters over the decades in various configurations and sizes, with a whole array of movements and conceits.
Recently we learned of a new Speedmaster – not a limited edition, but a model in regular production – that is simultaneously perhaps one of the strangest Speedys to be released, while also feeling right at home within the smaller Speedmaster collection that it finds itself in. The new “Alinghi” is part of the Dark Side of the Moon sub-collection of Speedmasters, which consists mostly of ultra modern takes on the classic moonwatch in high tech ceramic cases. Alinghi, for those that don’t follow the somewhat niche sport of competitive yachting, is a sailing team based in Switzerland that competes in races all over the world, including the America’s Cup, which they won (to the surprise of many observers) in 2003.
So what’s the tie between Omega and Alinghi? Well, they’re both Swiss, for one. And yacht racing teams frequently partner with watch brands for sponsorship. And chronograph fans, of course, know all about the importance of the regatta timer in competitive yacht racing, which could explain why the Speedmaster, with all of its 50 meters of water resistance, is the subject of this collaboration and not, for example, the Seamaster, sitting in the next section of the catalog and with the capability to go significantly deeper. (Naturally, if everyone on Alinghi is doing their job, they shouldn’t have to worry about submersion.)
There’s also a fairly obvious connection here between modern yacht racing and the tech forward design aspects of the DSOTM collection in general. Yacht racing at the level of the America’s Cup is extremely technical, and the scientific research and modeling that goes into building these boats is every bit as important as the athletic and strategic abilities of the crew when it comes to actually racing them. These yachts, which skim across the surface of a body of water at speeds of up to 50 knots, are every bit the precision instruments of a fine mechanical watch, but at a much different scale.
The Alinghi DSOTM is appropriately sporty, with a dial that recalls carbon fiber, and red accents. And the black ceramic case is itself inherently sportier and more contemporary than the old fashioned polished stainless steel that most associate with the Moonwatch. The dial is openworked near 6:00 as well, which forces the craft connection between the watch and the boat in a somewhat subtle way, at least as openworked dials go (there’s just a hint of it here – this is hardly the full skeleton treatment).
The new Alinghi model is very much the sibling of the Apollo 8 DSOTM, which debuted at Baselworld in 2018. That watch was a break of sorts with what the DSOTM series was and always had been, as it was powered by a manually wound movement that was identical to the venerable caliber 1861, used in Moonwatches for decades, save for some decorative finishing. That’s precisely what we find in the Alinghi – a hand wound caliber dubbed the 1865, which appears to be simply an 1861 that has been largely blacked out, and with some carbon fiber-esque decorative flourishes.
The Dark Side of the Moon collection and its ceramic cased offshoots are genuinely interesting interpretations of the Moonwatch aesthetic that have served to do a number of things for Omega. First, it’s a showcase for their wonderful coaxial chronograph movement, Caliber 9300. This is a first rate, modern chronograph movement with a column wheel and vertical clutch, with two barrels providing a total of 60 hours of power reserve. It’s also fitted with a silicon balance spring, giving it additional anti-magnetic qualities and extended life between services, a benefit that’s inherent with the coaxial escapement design to begin with.
Along with being an opportunity for Omega to flex their muscles as a great maker of modern movements, the DSOTM watches allow the brand to expand the Moonwatch to things that are definitely not the Moonwatch in a way that doesn’t feel like they’re completely stepping on tradition. The ceramic cases are fundamentally different, the product of a great deal of research and development, and give these watches a distinct look.
There are several versions of the Dark Side of the Moon available. The original DSOTM, now something of a modern classic among Omega enthusiasts, spawned a handful of even more niche products that were something of a riff on the idea of a watch with a black case. For example, you could choose to go completely dark with the “Black Black” DSOTM, which features a frankly quite difficult to read dial with black hands and hour markers against a matte black dial. If the Speedmaster was originally conceived as a watch that prized precision and tool-like functionality, this watch was on the other end of the spectrum, and very much a statement piece.
More practical in their execution are the White Side of the Moon and Grey Side of the Moon, which are exactly what they sound like. The White Side is literally the polar opposite of the “Black Black,” with a white ceramic case that seems like it belongs on a beach. This watch doesn’t suffer from the legibility issues of the darker version, as the minutes track has been rendered in an easy to read contrasting black, and the hands have been finished in such a way that they pop against the pure white dial.
For me, the most interesting of Omega’s ceramic Speedmasters is the Grey Side of the Moon. It shares the same 44.25mm case as the other Speedy’s we’ve discussed here, but the ceramic case has been created in a tone that mimics the look of steel, which I find quite compelling. The main benefit of a ceramic cased watch as opposed to steel is in durability against the kinds of minor scratches a watch is bound to take on as we wear it day to day. The grey ceramic will not scratch like this, and it could easily be mistaken for steel or titanium from a distance. Omega’s ability to finish the case with the same brushing and polishing effects as the steel version is really incredible, and feels like their way of saying that they’ve mastered the material in a meaningful way.
And that brings us back to the Alinghi. Prior to this release, the ceramic Speedmasters under the DSOTM umbrella felt like experiments with materials and endeavours in using these watches for storytelling purposes. The Alinghi is overtly sporty in a way that the other DSOTM watches aren’t, and actually might have more in common with the Racing lineup in that regard.
While the watch is technically under the Dark Side of the Moon banner and has those words inscribed on the caseback, this watch is perhaps the least “moon” oriented Speedmaster with a classic manually wound movement that I can easily recall. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing – in a world where the Moonwatch is always going to have a presence (there’s no reason at all to think that as long as Omega exists that they will ever stop making it) there’s plenty of room for them to experiment with style, materials, and even associating the watch with elements that simply have nothing to do with space travel. And, if you happen to be deeply interested in yacht racing, this could be the Speedmaster that you’ve been waiting for all along. Omega