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The Omega Speedmaster Moonphase Master Chronometer Chronograph

One of the most generally reliable rules of thumb of clone rolex watch journalism is this one: everyone loves the Speedmaster. The rule, like a lot of generalizations, benefits from clarification ?everyone (or almost everyone) seems to love the basic Speedmaster Professional, but there is room for argument over the huge number of variations on the Speedmaster that Omega has made over the years, and that's before even getting into the Mark series. This year at Baselworld, we got a pretty major update to the Speedmaster family in the form of the Speedmaster Moonphase Master Chronometer Chronograph, which is the first Master Chronometer Speedmaster ?that is to say, the first to carry the METAS certification, as well as chronometer certification from the COSC.

This isn't the first Speedmaster with a co-axial self-winding movement ?that honor goes to the Speedmaster Co-Axial Chronograph, which we reviewed when it came out in 2012. As with many updates to classic designs, there are undoubtedly ways in which the Co-Axial Chronograph and Moonphase Master Chronometer Chronograph versions of the Speedmaster are simply better, technically, than the original Moonwatch. That doesn't necessarily mean they're more desirable, but it's hard to argue with the impressive rate stability of the co-axial escapement (zero detectable change in rate, worn over a three-day period) and the equally impressive resistance to magnetism (15,000 gauss) of the Master Chronometer Moonphase Chronograph. The fact that Omega's managed to industrialize an alternative to the lever escapement and that they use it so widely continues to be something that sets them pretty dramatically apart from their competition.

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The problem with the co-axial, of course, is that it's not such an easy thing to understand from a consumer standpoint ?basically, it was created by George Daniels to combine the advantages of the chronometer detent escapement (no need for lubrication) with those of the lever escapement (good resistance to physical shock). The only major disadvantage to the co-axial relative to the lever is that it's more complex. It's extremely intellectually appealing, and I've always felt that anyone who considers themselves serious about horology ought to have at least one fake watch with a co-axial escapement; and, at the very least, god knows an Omega is a much less expensive alternative to bespeaking a wristwatch from Roger Smith. Whether or not it offers a really noticeable advantage to consumers is an open question, though. A well adjusted lever fake watch can keep an awfully close rate and especially if you get a little lucky with positions and regulation, may perform at least as well in daily use as a co-axial watch. Still, more power to Omega for offering the only widely produced alternative to the lever out there right now (all other current alternatives to the lever, such as the various versions of the Breguet ├ęchappement naturel, or the AP escapement, are made in very small numbers).

The aesthetics of the new Moonphase Master Chronometer Chronograph are impressive in both the steel and the gold versions. The steel version has a Liquidmetal tachymeter bezel insert. (Briefly, Liquidmetal is a metal that doesn't have the regular internal crystal structure of conventional metals, which offers certain advantages in fabrication and also in the final material. Liquidmetal is a general trade name for a group of zirconium-based alloys that offer very high strength ?about twice the strength and hardness of comparable titanium and aluminum alloys; Swatch Group has been using it since 2009, when it was introduced in the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean, and in 2010 the Group used it for the Breguet "Reveil Musical.")

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The red Sedna Gold version has a Ceragold (ceramic and gold composite) bezel insert. Both replica watches use ceramic for their bezel rings. Finish is different in the movements of each fake watch as well, with the Sedna Gold version offering a gold balance bridge and rotor. Both replica watches are self-winding, with a 60-hour power reserve, with a column-wheel-controlled, vertical-clutch chronograph; both have a center seconds hand for the chrono, with date and running seconds at 9 o'clock, and combined hour and 60 minute register at 3 o'clock. And, of course, there's the moonphase.

First impressions in terms of handling: these are big watches, and thick ones too. The standard Moonwatch is 42 mm x 13.5 mm and these are noticeably bigger, at 44.25 mm x 16.85 mm. Whether or not a fake watch feels too big on the wrist, however, is more complicated than just numbers; a lot has to do with how well the fake watch is matched to its strap, and whether it stays properly centered on the wrist, and while both the Sedna gold and steel versions feel as large as they look, once they're strapped on they don't feel awkward or uncomfortable. Despite the fact that these are both cosmetically significantly more formal than the Moonwatch, I think a lot of gents might find them challenging to wear with a dress shirt; at 16.85 mm, unless you like your cuffs so loose that they're cuffs in name only, these won't slide easily out of sight. I think at least partly the extra thickness is an unavoidable consequence of the movement construction. The Speedmaster Co-Axial is already a 16 mm thick fake watch (and the Moonwatch, at 13.5 mm is not anyone's idea of extra flat either, for that matter) and an extra .85 mm for the addition of a date hand to the sub-dial at 9 o'clock, and a moonphase disk, seems reasonable. Try before you buy though.

About that moonphase:

There is a certain segment of the horological population that is genetically susceptible to the moonphase complication and if you're one such person, stay away from these watches, because you're going to find yourself working very hard to not lose all ability to be objective. The moonphase on both replica watches is unbelievably detailed. Omega hasn't offered a huge amount of information on the fabrication methods except the somewhat gnomic remark, in the spec sheet for the watches, that it's a "metallic crystal disc microstructured to obtain a high resolution image of the moon" ?whatever that may mean. Certainly, the results are impressive. It seems obvious that somewhat different methods must have been used for the steel vs. the Sedna gold versions; the latter looks like some sort of laser-etched relief map, though that's speculation. In any case, there's a charming little secret signature of sorts ?on the moon disk, there is a reproduction of Buzz Aldrin's footprint on the moon (as seen in the famous photograph) at the spot on the Sea of Tranquillity where the Eagle lander touched down:

This is one of the most compelling executions of a moonphase I've ever seen in terms of aesthetics ?admittedly, it's a product of some very high tech modern manufacturing methods, and it's about as far from the archaic charm of the traditional Man-In-The-Moon moonphase as you can get, but if that's not a deal-breaker for you, this is one hell of an attractive option in moonphase complications. There is something irresistible about that tiny footprint.

That's a lot of mostly good news, now for the less good news; there's an ergonomic gotcha in this fake watch that really surprised me given the amount of obvious care that went in to other aspects of its design.

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Here's the culprit: the crown, and particularly, the crown guards. The crown guards do their job well, but the issue is they do it too well by half; it's extremely difficult to pull out the crown, unless you've got very long, strong fingernails. Not only that, the underside of the crown guards are so sharp it's actively uncomfortable, and feels borderline dangerous, to wind the watch. The mitigating factor in all this is that you probably will not have to handle the crown very often if you keep it on a winder, or wear it with any regularity ?that 60-hour power reserve, and the inherent rate stability of the movement, plus the simple fact that it's a self-winding watch, should keep your need to use the crown to adjust the fake watch pretty minimal (the moonphase is accurate to one day every decade or so, according to Omega, and the simple calendar means you have to adjust the date five times a year). Still, though, I think this should have been caught before the fake watch went live and as there are often minor changes made between Baselworld and release, I hope Omega makes the minor alterations in the case configuration necessary to address the issue. I still don't think it's a deal-breaker if the rest of the fake watch appeals to you, but it'd be great to see Omega get rid of this perplexing source of annoyance in what's otherwise, in many respects, a very likable watch.

The movement, Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer Caliber 9904, is a technically advanced, well-engineered movement that's very much a product of modern industrial mechanical horology. It's a good looking, tastefully decorated, well-engineered machine ?like the moonphase, there isn't much going on here in the way of archaic appeal, but there is an awful lot going on in terms of value in performance, and ability to resist forces that might tend to disturb its accuracy (like physical shocks and magnetic fields).

One of the nicest things about this fake watch in steel is the price: $11,300. That puts it in direct competition, at least from a pricing standpoint, with replica watches like the new Replica Rolex Daytona or the Breitling Transocean, which are both also steel chronographs with in-house movements (and thinking of these three replica watches in comparison with each other is one hell of an instructive thought experiment in the relative nature of value propositions in modern, mid-entry level luxury watchmaking). In Sedna gold, it's more than twice as expensive at $29,400. I have to say, the gold version does manage to avoid the "same watch, just in gold" pitfall to which gold vs. steel versions of replica watches often fall victim; with touches like the gold surrounds on the sub-dials, different execution of the movement, and relief engraving vs. who-knows-what micro-imaging technique for the moonphase, the gold version has quite a few fairly subtle features that set it apart.

They're both good looking replica watches with wrist presence to spare, and the fact they work as well as they do aesthetically says a lot about the versatility of the basic Speedmaster design, which is one of the great classics of mid-20th-century watchmaking. Especially in steel, I think this fake watch makes all kinds of sense (with the usual caveats about size, variations in personal taste ?rules of thumb notwithstanding, not everybody loves a Speedmaster ?and so on). You get one of the most technically forward-looking chronograph movements out there (METAS and COSC certified) with a drop-dead gorgeous moonphase, in a classic-if-slightly-massive case; a fake watch worth looking at if you're in the market at all for this sort of thing. I still think that the Moonwatch is more or less the steel chronograph to beat if you're considering options in modern steel chronographs at all, but there are worse things in the world than a little variety.

An earlier version of this story referred to the footprint shown on the moonphase, as Neil Armstrong's. The footprint in the photograph that inspired the moonphase decoration in this watch, is in fact that of Buzz Aldrin. HODINKEE regrets the error.

The Omega Speedmaster Master Chronometer Co-Axial Chronograph, in steel or Sedna gold. Case, 44.25 mm x 16.85 mm, water resistance 10 bar/100 meters; ceramic bezels in both models, with Liquidmetal insert on the steel version and Ceragold (sintered gold-ceramic composite) for the Sedna gold version.

Sapphire front and back, with double antireflective coating on the front, single inner AR coating on the back. Movement, Omega co-axial caliber 9904, column wheel with vertical clutch, co-axially mounted hands for the hour and minutes sub-register; moonphase display, with date hand. 60-hour power reserve, antimagnetic to 15,000 gauss; Nivachoc shock resistance with balance bridge for improved stability; calendar and moonphase set from the crown. Silicon balance spring, with free-sprung adjustable mass balance. In the Sedna gold version, gold rotor and balance bridge.

Black, blue, brown, or gery sun-brushed dials will be available; hands and indexes treated with Super-LumiNova. Black, blue, or brown leather staps available, with folding clasp (the clasp features a rack and pusher adjusting system).

Omega offers a four year warranty; METAS and COSC certified. Visit Omega here.

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Omega Omega speedmaster