50 years ago, the impossible happened: we landed on the moon. In 1969 Neil Armstrong uttered the immortal words “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” as he trod the surface of the moon, with Buzz Aldrin hard on his heels out the airlock. As all watch lovers know, on Aldrin’s wrist was an Omega Speedmaster. Needless to say, it’s a big year for the Moonwatch.
That said, the watch hasn’t changed all that much in the past five decades; it’s still instantly-recognisable, sometimes right down to the plastic crystal. Don’t worry though, if you’re coming down with Speedy fatigue you don’t need to shoot yourself into space to find watches of a similar style. Here are our favourite alternatives to the Omega Speedmaster.
1. Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Black Steel, £3,600
They may be best known for their square, cockpit instrument-inspired flagship shape, but Bell & Ross have plenty else to admire; case in point, the BR V2-94. And yes, with its black and white dial, complete with matching tachymeter, it does look immensely similar to the Speedmaster. In fact, the main departure from Omega’s version is the crown, which has been given a much more rugged, tool feel with a crown protector and screw-down pushers for the chronograph. It might make it a little more awkward to use in a space suit, but it definitely looks the part; www.bellross.com
2. Seiko Astron 5X, £1,930
Seiko’s ground-breaking Astron is a watch never meant to leave terra firma. There is a link to the stars in there somewhere, but only because it uses satellites to tell where it is on the planet so it can set itself to your local time zone. In style though there are similarities with the Speedmaster, even if the tachymeter has been swapped out for a full worldtimer bezel. All that said, it’s solar charging system should work better in the unfiltered sunlight beyond the atmosphere; www.seikowatches.com
3. Bulova 96B251 Special Edition Lunar Pilot Chronograph, £449
On the surface this looks like a cheaper homage to the Speedmaster, albeit with a (in my opinion) slightly cooler case. You’d almost be right; it is an homage, but actually to the original Bulova that went up alongside Omega’s moonwatch. Let’s call it the moonwatch lite. Apparently, it was even used as a backup when the primary timekeeper, the Speedmaster, failed. That’s not a bad factoid for what is otherwise an impulse buy and almost makes up for the quartz movement; intl.bulova.com
4. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Chronograph, £12,490
Now for a bit of a curveball if you need a seriously high-end alternative. Hear us out here. Yes, this is a diving watch, but if you like the sporty style of the Speedmaster you can’t help but love this. The chronograph layout is much the same, as is the black and white contrast; the tachymeter has just been swapped for a diving bezel. The case is darker too, black ceramic rather than steel and more like the Dark Side of the Moon Speedy. Plus, you get the props of wearing a Blancpain – one of the most iconic diving watches ever built, no less; www.blancpain.com
5. TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16, £2,300
When you can’t quite stretch to the Speedmaster, this is likely to be your default. More racing-inspired than lunar, it’s a little chunkier and sportier than the Omega, especially with a few flashes of performance red. It’s a damn sight cheaper too yet still comes from a pretty significant watchmaker. The dark grey replacing the black is a nice touch too, all on a chunky steel bracelet. It’s not a Speedmaster but it’s not far off; tagheuer.com