The Omega Speedmaster… need I say more? You know it, and chances are, you love it – it’s been to the Moon after all! This watch, originally designed to appeal to racing fans, has reached the ultimate icon status in the watch world. It’s often the first and sometimes the only “nice” mechanical watch that people own.
What are the downsides of buying a Speedmaster?
The Omega Speedmaster still represents some of the best value for money in the watch market today. With over six decades of production and countless limited editions released over the years, it’s easy to find a Speedmaster that speaks to you.
But perhaps the Speedy’s ubiquity is also its greatest disadvantage. After seeing the watch again and again, especially on #SpeedyTuesday when it’s posted to Instagram en masse, potential buyers may yearn for something a little more unique. So, we’ve rounded up a sample of five alternatives that are worth considering if you’re on the hunt for a chronograph.
A quick note: If you’re just getting into the watch collecting hobby, this top-5 list is a good go-to for historic and respectable models. If you’re deeper into the watch game and want something a little more out there, we’ve thrown in three quick honorable mentions at the end.
Speedmaster Alternative #1: Zenith El Primero
Our first alternative is the Zenith El Primero. This watch was released in 1969 and features what is arguably the world’s first automatic chronograph movement. The El Primero movement was also used in the Rolex Daytona for years, which is quite the impressive endorsement. So, even if the El Primero has never been to the Moon like the Omega Speedmaster, you’re getting a great chronograph with a lot of history.
Today, there’s a huge variety of El Primeros on the market, including smaller 37/38-mm options and larger 45/46-mm options. There are dressy versions, sporty versions, aviation-themed versions, and even solid gold options that are much more affordable than you’d expect. You can also find examples with moon phases, calendar functions, and open heart windows allowing you to see the movement through the dial. All this is to say that the Zenith El Primero has all the history, variety, and reputability you could want from a chronograph.
Speedmaster Alternative #2: Tudor Black Bay Chrono
Can’t decide between the Omega Speedmaster and the Rolex Daytona? Why don’t you give Tudor a try? When it comes to Rolex’s sister brand, there are three main chronograph models that spring to mind. First, there’s the Tudor Big Block Chronograph, which is the most collectable but also the most expensive. Second, there’s the Tudor Heritage Chrono, which is my personal favorite, but the design may be too loud for everyday wear. Finally, there’s the Tudor Black Bay Chrono, which feels like the best go anywhere, do anything option of the three, so we’ll focus on that today.
With the Tudor Black Bay Chrono, you’re getting a design inspired by early Rolex Daytonas blended with several of Tudor’s signature elements, such as the snowflake hour hand. And as you’d expect with Tudor, the build quality is immediately obvious with a sturdy bracelet and clasp and screw-down crown and push-pieces, affording the watch 200 m (656 ft) of water resistance. Size-wise, this is a large watch at over 14 mm thick and around 50 mm lug to lug. So, the Black Bay Chrono is best for someone who wants the mid-century chronograph feel with modern amenities, modern durability, and a lot of wrist presence.
Speedmaster Alternative #3: IWC Portugieser
Want something a bit more elegant than the Omega Speedmaster, but still appreciate watches with an interesting history? Let me introduce you to the IWC Portugieser! The Portugieser’s story began with a request for larger watches from IWC’s dealers in Portugal. The very first models featured pocket watch movements, and the brand has continued to make sizable watches across a range of models with great success. Today, the IWC Portugieser comes in time-only variants, as well as with an annual calendar, a perpetual calendar, a tourbillon, and a moon phase/tidal complication (the Portuguese love sailing, after all!) But of course, today, we’ll talk about the chronograph.
Here, you’ll find a visually clean chronograph with an expansive dial punctuated by slim and elegant hands and hour markers. This is certainly the most office-friendly chronograph on our list, so it’s suitable for someone who could really use a dress watch but doesn’t want to sacrifice on size or functionality.
Speedmaster Alternative #4: Breitling Navitimer
Want to go sporty instead of elegant? What about the Breitling Navitimer as an iconic alternative to the Omega Speedmaster? This one is for the aviators in the audience. The Navitimer debuted in 1952 and has been worn by pilots around the world ever since. Much like the Speedmaster and other watches on this list, the Navitimer is the core model in its brand lineup. It has decades of variations, offshoots, and special editions to look back on. The 806 is the classic Navitimer reference. This watch features a dial that is busy yet subtle, as well as the signature slide rule bezel for performing numerous calculations ranging from distance traveled to fuel consumption.
You’ll find Navitimers measuring anywhere from 35 to 46 mm, and if you still want an intergalactic connection, be sure to check out the Breitling Cosmonaute which was worn in space by American astronaut Scott Carpenter.
Speedmaster Alternative #5: TAG Heuer Carrera
Race fans, are you ready? As you might have guessed, we’re rounding out this list of classic, historic, and significant Omega Speedmaster alternatives with none other than the TAG Heuer Carrera. The Carrera has gone through a few changes over the years, most notably in its size and movement. Early examples with manual-winding movements and smaller cases (like the ref. 2447) are becoming increasingly sought-after at auction.
The TAG Heuer Carreras of today are primarily powered by automatic movements and are larger, with most cases measuring over 40 mm. Type the word “Carrera” into the search bar on Chrono24, and you’ll see a whole buffet of styles, colors, and sizes to choose from. The brand has long embraced pops of color and skeletonized dials, but if you’re looking for a vintage-inspired piece, consider the late-1990s reissue. The version with a black dial can be found under reference number CS3111, and the silver dial under CS3110. The watch has tritium lume, a 36-mm case with elegant long lugs, and a manual-winding Lemania 1873 caliber – all to be had for a few thousand bucks. This is a personal favorite of mine, so please don’t buy all of them.
Some Extra Speedmaster Alternatives
Want to go for something more rare and special? Let us show you three extra alternatives to the Omega Speedmaster that you probably don’t already know about! It’s time for a lighting round of our three honorable mentions for those looking for something more niche.
- Omega Flightmaster
- Pro: It’s a funky Omega with a chronograph, GMT, and a lot of color.
- Con: The UFO-style case looks quite retro; plus, it’s thick and heavy.
- This is a good watch for those who perhaps already have a Speedmaster or who enjoy designs from this era.
- Porsche Design Chronograph 1 by Orfina
- Pro: It was worn in the movie Top Gun, was designed by the guy who revived the Porsche 911, and it features the Lemania caliber 5100.
- Con: The black PVD coating chips over time.
- This is a good watch for those who like the stealthy, blacked-out look and who appreciate that 1980s automobile aesthetic.
- Kurono Tokyo Chronograph 2
- Pro: It’s beautifully designed by the highly-respected Hajime Asaoka and features an easy-to-repair Seiko movement.
- Con: At 14 mm with no mid-case, it’s a thicker watch that can look a little bloated from the side.
- This is a good watch for those who like independent brands or who want something a little dressier with a vintage vibe.
So, there we go: five classic alternatives to the Omega Speedmaster and a few oddballs thrown in at the end. Of course, you can always buy a Speedmaster if you want a Speedmaster… but for me, these are all interesting alternatives to that you don’t see as often. Of course, if you really love the Speedmaster for its history and looks, you shouldn’t go for something else. If not, perhaps one of our alternatives will speak to you!