Omega’s Speedmaster Automatic “Reduced” – like this recently serviced all original example here from 1991 – has a lot going for it. It has an ever so slightly small diameter that the Professional, a clean and striking dial, an automatic chronograph movement, and – importantly – quite a price difference compared to the Professional.
But first a little on the legendary Speedmaster pedigree. Omega introduced its Speedmaster line of chronographs in 1957, when it was introduced as a sports and racing chronograph, complementing Omega's position as the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games. Many different chronograph movements marketed under the Speedmaster name. The manual winding Speedmaster Professional or "Moonwatch" is the best-known and longest-produced; it was worn during the first American spacewalk as part of NASA's Gemini 4 mission and the first watch worn by an astronaut walking on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. The Professional remains one of several watches qualified by NASA for spaceflight and is still the only one so qualified for EVA. The Speedmaster line included other models, including analog-digital and automatic mechanical watches.
Beginning in 1962, NASA – anticipating the need for astronauts on space missions to move about in space outside the ship, thus necessitating the need for a wristwatch to withstand the difficult conditions of space – anonymously purchased a series of chronographs from different watch brands in an effort to find the best watch available for astronauts to wear in space.
In 1964, the watches satisfying all pre-requirements were officially purchased by NASA and subjected to a series of tests and pre-selection processes called the “Qualification Test Procedures.” Only three watches of six chronographs successfully survived this arduous pre-selection phase. The three remaining were then subjected to 11 different tests – some of the most rigorous trials endured in the history of horology:
1. High Temperature: 48 hours at a temperature of 160°F (71°C) followed by 30 minutes at 200°F (93°C);
2. Low Temperature: Four hours at a temperature of 0°F (-18°C);
3. Temperature-Pressure: 15 cycles of heating to 71°C for 45 minutes, followed by cooling to -18°C for 45 minutes at 10−6 atm;
4. Relative Humidity: 240 hours at temperatures varying between 68°F and 160°F (20°C and 71°C) in a relative humidity of at least 95%;
5. Oxygen Atmosphere: 48 hours in an atmosphere of 100% oxygen at a pressure of 0.35 atm;
6. Shock: Six shocks of 40 G, each 11 milliseconds in duration, in six different directions;
7. Acceleration: From One G to 7.25 G within 333 seconds, along an axis parallel to the longitudinal spacecraft axis;
8. Decompression: 90 minutes in a vacuum of 10-6 atm at a temperature of 160°F (71°C) and 30 minutes at 200°F (93°C);
9. High Pressure: 1.6 atm for a minimum period of one hour;
10. Vibration: Three cycles of 30 minutes vibration varying from 5 to 2000 Hz;
11. Acoustic Noise: 130 db over a frequency range of 40 to 10,000 Hz, duration 30 minutes.
By early March 1965, testing was complete, leaving – you guessed it – only the Speedmaster. At the time, NASA’s testers wrote, "Operational and environmental tests of the three selected chronographs have been completed; and, as a result of the test, Omega chronographs have been calibrated and issued to three members of the Gemini Titan III crews." James Ragan, the NASA engineer responsible for the qualification tests, has spoken about the importance of the Speedmaster by saying, “The watch was a backup. If the astronauts lost the capability of talking to the ground, or the capability of their digital timers on the lunar surface, then the only thing they had to rely on was the Omega watch they had on their wrist. It needed to be there for them if they had a problem.”
On 20 July 1969, the first manned lunar landing resulted in NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong as the first to step onto the Moon’s surface. As the electronic timing system on the Lunar Module was malfunctioning, Armstrong left his watch aboard as a reliable backup. Nearly 20 minutes after his first step, he was joined by Buzz Aldrin wearing his Omega Speedmaster Professional – making the Speedmaster the first watch worn on the Moon. Alas, a few months after this mission, Buzz's watch was stolen and never returned.
Regardless, it is from here the Speedmaster steadily gained a reputation of a reliable and historic timepiece – since the epic first steps on the Moon, the Speedmaster Professional remains the only NASA-qualified watch for extravehicular activity (EVA). Of note, Omega is currently designing a Speedmaster capable of accompanying man in a mission, planned for 2030, to Mars where temperatures range from -133°C to 27°C.
Now, onto the Reduced. The Speedmaster Reduced was first introduced in 1988 as a smaller, more affordable version of the Omega Speedmaster; Omega subsequently halted manufacture in 2009. Starting with a base movement of the Omega calibre 1140, with a Dubois Depraz chronograph module mounted on it. This configuration provides a combined thickness of only 6.5mm, far slimmer than comparative chronographs of the same calibre. Omega has yet to introduce a direct replacement, despite the success of the first generation Reduced – it remains highly likely to make a comeback down the line.
This Speedmaster Reduced comes with its original bracelet, nylon NATO strap, and Pelican travel case.
1991 Omega Speedmaster Ref. 3510.50 "Reduced" Automatic Chronograph
DIAL: Original detailed Omega and Speedmaster Automatic-signed dial, with original hands. Dial has no imperfections, with uniform lume patina - which lights up following exposure to bright light - a nice touch revealing the vintage styling inherent in the Speedmaster design.
CASE: Original 39mm (w/o crown, 41mm with) x 44mm stainless-steel case, with sharp caselines. Speedmaster icon inscription on back of case is clear and detailed.
CRYSTAL: Domed crystal, no cracks or scratches.
BAND: Original Omega Speedmaster-signed stainless-steel bracelet, with tight links – no “desk diver” rash on buckle; this bracelet will fit an approx. eight inch wrist. This Speedmaster also comes with a blue, orange, and white premium "seatbelt" nylon NATO strap, with stainless-steel hardware.
MOVEMENT: Original Omega Cal. 1140, an ETA 2890-A2 base with a Dubois Depraz chronograph module mounted; this Speedmaster Reduced is fully serviced.
CROWN: Original Omega-signed stainless-steel crown.
CHRONOGRAPH PUSHERS: Pushers depress with satisfying click. Chronograph hands snap back and reset to zero with no issue.