With the dawn of a new year and the first Speedy Tuesday of 2021, the celestial backdrop over Bienne, Switzerland has opened forth and offered unto us, the unwashed terrestrial masses, a brand new caliber 3861 Co-Axial-equipped Speedmaster Pro.
And while Omega offers what can feel like countless SKUs within the lineage of its famed chronograph, the launch of a true meat-n-potatoes Moonwatch is a massive release. For those collectors with a taste for that classic Speedmaster aesthetic, the caliber 1861 Speedy Pro is out and the new caliber 3861 is in.
If you’re behind on this news, Jack wrote a lovely summary of the new next-gen Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Master Chronometer (in all of its variations) here. In short, after five decades of toolish lunar-themed iconography, there is a new Speedy in town. The good news is that it’s a lot like the old Speedy – but it’s not identical.
To help the legions of Speedmaster collectors decide which one’s worth the investment, we figured it might be useful to highlight what separates old from new, and even the new from new – as Omega has announced that the new 3861 generation Speedmasters will continue in both sapphire crystal and Hesalite glass versions.
So, What’s Changed For The Hesalite Speedmaster?
Omega has offered Hesalite glass, aka Plexiglas, on the Speedy since it was released back in 1957. While sapphire has since become the de facto option for watches at all levels, continuing to offer the more historically accurate crystal is akin to being able to buy a modern car that has carburetor vs. fuel injection. It’s a charm play – and a welcome one, at that – which has been extensively covered by Cole here.
The new dial layout is similar to the outgoing 1861, but the new version gets a vintage-inspired stepped dial – see the “ridge” where the inner dial gives way to the minute track? That’s a stepped dial, and for Speedy nerds, it’s a knowing throwback to a vintage version of the dial.
For all of the new 3861-based Speedmasters, the font on the bezel appears lighter, and there’s a dot over 90 (rather than next to it), which is a nod to pre-1970s Speedmasters.
In a move almost entirely unheard of in the watch world, Omega has actually managed to make the new 3861 Hesalite Speedmaster thinner than its predecessor, with the new generation sitting at 13.58mm vs. the 1861’s 14.3mm. Pretty cool.
The Omega globe has moved from the edge of the solid caseback to the backside of the two o’clock lug, and the four o’clock lug now lists the case material (stainless steel, Au750, etc). We also don’t see a serial number on the eight o’clock lug, though it’s possible that it’s been digitally removed for the retail images.
Hesalite Speedmaster Pros come fitted with a solid caseback, and the new 310.30.42.50.01.001 has a handful of changes visible on the backside of the watch. Text has been updated with additional model information, “Co-Axial Master Chronometer Professional Moonwatch” and, while the 1861 version reads, “Flight-Qualified By NASA For All Manned Space Missions,” the 3861 reads “Flight-Qualified By NASA In 1965 For All Manned Space Missions,” yet another nod to the history that made the Speedmaster the Moonwatch.
With the bracelet, we see what might be the most obvious change, as the design and finishing have been updated for all of this new generation. Gone are the 1861’s Bond-esque wide center link and pair of center polished elements. The new Hesalite 3861 model’s bracelet is fully brushed with a strong taper (from the 20mm lugs to 15mm at the clasp) and a new five-link screwed construction, plus a new folding clasp with an engraved logo, banded finish, and two-position micro-adjust. Finally, we also see an updated design that no longer uses tabs on the endlink to align it with the lug edge.
All told, the new updates (not to mention the Co-Axial movement) make this one handsome and well-equipped Moonwatch, with the new and fully brushed bracelet treatment affording a vintage-effect look without any of the gimmicks often attributed to the wider trend of vintage-themed designs.
And What’s Changed On The Sapphire Version?
While it’s safe to assume most Speedmaster fans are interested in the new steel sapphire 3861 (reference 310.30.42.50.01.002), it’s worth noting that the sapphire crystal (and its matching display caseback) are also found on the other two new versions of the 3861 Speedy, the Sedna Gold ref. 310.60.42.50.01.001 and the Canopus Gold (with a matching white-silver tone dial) ref. 310.60.42.50.02.001.
Here we also see a stepped dial that is otherwise largely unchanged save for the noteworthy inclusion of an applied white metal Omega logo. This is a nice touch and, especially in photos, will set the sapphire apart from its Pro siblings, be they 1861 or 3861-based.
Just as we saw with the Hesalite 3861, the sapphire version has an updated bezel with a slightly lighter font and a dot over 90.
Just as with the new Hesalite 3861, the sapphire versions are also a bit thinner than the previous generation. That’s right, despite packing a new chronometer movement, the sapphire Speedy Pro’s thickness has dropped from 13.7mm (with the caliber 1861) to 13.18mm (with the new 3861). This is not a small change, and the effects should be very noticeable on wrist.
Being a so-called sapphire sandwich, the 310.30.42.50.01.002 has a sapphire crystal up front and a sapphire display caseback in the rear. Compared with the outgoing generation of the same watch, the text and treatment surrounding that view of the movement have been updated. As with the Hesalite example, the Omega globe has been moved to an adjacent lug, and the opposing lug now lists the case metal.
Where the outgoing sapphire Speedy proclaimed “The First Watch Worn On The Moon” flanked by an Omega signature, the 3861 reads, “Co-Axial Master Chronometer The First Watch Worn On The Moon” with the Omega signature moved to the familiar bridge stemming from the center of the movement (alongside text for “3861” and “Master Co-Axial”).
The sapphire 3861 includes a bracelet very similar to the Hesalite, with a five-link screwed construction that tapers (from 20mm to 15mm) to the new clasp design. Unlike the new Hesalite, the new steel sapphire models retain the paired brushed inner links that run down the center of the bracelet.
The two gold models, Sedna and Canopus (red and white in tone, respectively) both have fully brushed bracelet treatments but otherwise follow suit with the steel 3861 sapphire Speedmaster, with applied logos, similar caseback treatments, and also clasp designs.
Hesalite Vs Sapphire, But New
Undoubtedly, many of you may already have one of the 1861 examples – or have made up your mind that you need a fresh 3861 on your wrist. In comparing the two new steel models (both of which can be had with a bracelet or a black fabric strap), aside from the obvious Hesalite vs. sapphire, the Hesalite gets a painted Omega logo, a fully brushed execution of the new bracelet, and a closed steel caseback (the design of which is covered above). In contrast, the sapphire 3861 has an applied white metal logo, a bracelet with a pair of polished center links, and a new design for the sapphire display caseback (again, details above).
To clarify these many subtle changes for all those visual learners out there, we’ve made a handy chart comparing elements from the core 1861 models and the new 3861 models.
As the chart indicates, opting for a steel 3861 Speedmaster comes with ~12.5% increase in price for the sapphire and a ~17.8% increase for the Hesalite example. Given the availability of the previous (and now discontinued 1861 Speedy Pros, there is a chance that the secondary market will close that gap, and if what you want is a Speedmaster, it’s hard to argue with either as a shining final outcome. That said, for the Master Co-Axial movement (which has hacking), the updated bracelet design, the thinner case profile, and the other tweaks covered above, a roughly $ 1,000 premium doesn’t feel at all out of line. Heck, there are likely a bunch of 1861 owners willing to spend a grand for the new bracelet – assuming it fits.
True to the established format, the Hesalite Speedy Pro continues to offer the more classic and flight-ready take on the Speedmaster while the sapphire is more modern and offers a view of a movement that is entirely worth your gaze. In this thoughtful and technical remastering of Omega’s best-known watch, the brand hasn’t messed with any part of the formula that informs the core of their beloved Moonwatch. And you have to give them credit for continuing to offer a Hesalite crystal and a solid caseback. Talk about a dying breed.
The outgoing gen is a classic derived from some 50 years of development and continued refinement. With a tech-forward but entirely Moonwatch-appropriate movement and enough subtle changes to keep things interesting, the new 3861 Speedy Pro re-establishes the Speedmaster as the core of Omega’s sporty offerings. All told, it’s a good day to be a Speedmaster fan.
As many of you are no doubt aware, the HODINKEE Shop is an Authorized Dealer for Omega, so if you’re looking to snag one of the outgoing 1861 Speedy Pros (Hesalite or Sapphire) or want to register your interest in one of the new Master Co-Axial Speedmaster Pros (Hesalite or Sapphire), don’t forget to check The Shop.