Breakout Speedy: does the Apollo 8 have the chops to convert a non Speedmaster enthusiast?
By Justin Mastine-Frost
I keep saying this, and my stance is particularly more relevant now with the return of the Omega Calibre 321, the Omega Speedmaster has never sung to me the way it has countless watch collectors around the globe. Whether we’re talking vintage Omega collectors, or fans of the modern Co-Axial variants, Speedy Tuesday releases, or others in the 112 watch Speedmaster collection (118 if you count the quartz X-33 and Z-33 models), there’s a level of lust in the Speedy community that’s occasionally hard to comprehend from the outside. Much in the same way I’ll never own a black dial Submariner or any form of Rolex Daytona for the simple fact that they’re too much of an icon piece that I feel like I see far too often, you really can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Speedmaster these days (not a bad thing if you work for Omega!) and I prefer my watches to skew a little outside the mainstream norms.
This brings us to the “Dark Side of The Moon” Apollo 8. Sure, it rides in a deviation of the 44.25mm co-axial Speedmaster case, but key design details give it some serious attitude compared to even its darkest of Dark Side siblings. Firstly there’s the matter of its dial–more precisely what little dial it actually has. Its outer minute track and hour indices support its otherwise free-floating subdials that seem to hover above what many will mistake for more textured dial. Those textured grey details are actually movement plates and bridges, which have been blackened and then etched/engraved with a pattern to replicate the moon using a process known as “laser ablation”, per official Omega documentation. I can’t help but be reminded of the texture seen on the dial of the meteorite-dialed Speedmaster from a couple of years back, though the amplified thickness caused by its co-axial caliber and the more conservative/dressy color combination of grey ceramic and rose gold accents give it a much different aesthetic overall. Oddly enough that was another Speedy that I loved in concept but sadly couldn’t bond with once strapped on my wrist.
Back to the watch in question, the fit of the Apollo 8 alone proved a significant step in the right direction in my books, as it should be for any other enthusiast out there with more slender wrists. I keep referencing the case thickness of the Co-Axial 44.25mm Speedies, but here’s the key detail you need to know. Given the shape of the crystals on either end of the case, and the extra room needed for its self-winding caliber, a Co-Axial caliber Speedmaster is 16.3mm thick. Even with shorter lugs, this makes for a whole lot of watch to strap on any wrist that’s under 7” in diameter. Trimming this down by what may sound like an inconsequential 2.5mm, but the biggest chop comes from the caseback, which significantly changes how the watch sits on your wrist. Rather than having the caseband free-floating above your wrist, its profile is back where it belongs, and the curve of its lugs actually hug the wrist as originally intended. Not to mention, you can actually get away with sneaking this bad boy under a dress shirt cuff – a definite no-go with its potbellied siblings.
One of the other considerations/surprises that struck me is more about maths than anything else. You see, the Apollo 8 is a part of the Dark Side of The Moon family, and from a design and execution standpoint the piece takes a decent amount more tooling and detail work when compared to an off-the-shelf Dark Side sibling. That said, because it’s powered by the hand-wound caliber 1869 (a decorated version of the 1861), its pricing undercuts any other Dark Side Co-Axial model by nearly a grand (£7,200 compared with £8,000 for a DSOTM or £8,400 for GSOTM). You get all the goodness of a ceramic case, you win on proportions, you get a more “period correct” 3-register hand-wound chronograph, a unique dial design, AND you get to save money in the process? If that’s not a win all around I don’t know what is.
At the end of the day, I definitely found myself wearing the Apollo 8 around a fair bit more than expected. When testing watches hands-on I’ll often force myself to wear a piece more consistently rather than how I would typically alternate from once piece to the next in my personal collection, but unlike countless others I seldom found myself thinking “I really wish I was wearing watch X instead”. There are still a good number of different watches out there calling my name for the same price point that I’d be more prone to chase first, mind you, but beyond a doubt I finally have a legitimate honest answer now when a Speedy enthusiast asks me what my favourite reference is – this one, hands down, zero contest.