Omega Speedmaster Reduced vs. Professional Moonwatch: Bargain or Bust?
By: Greg Bedrosian
Photo Credits: Jake Witkin (@jwit94)
The Omega Speedmaster Automatic, reference 3510.50.00, more commonly called the “Speedmaster Reduced” is a controversial timepiece. Horological social media has a love-hate relationship with the Speedmaster Reduced. They love to hate it. It’s easy to see why it has an unfavorable reputation, but not for the reasons that you’d think.
We’ve all been there. The horological seed gets planted somehow and the research begins. It’s usually a three-step process.
- Google search – check specs and read some reviews
- YouTube search – watch some hands-on reviews and comparisons
- Instagram – sanity check to make sure others share your enthusiasm
With the Speedmaster Reduced, this normal process breaks down and leads us in a strange direction. Using Google search directs us to Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch” comparisons. The titles of articles you will find imply its inferiority before you’ve had a chance to digest the information for yourself. The titles usually claim that the Speedmaster Reduced should be compared to the Professional with some type of “Vs”. The other common titles (such as this one) will contain some sort of negative suggestion.
The Speedmaster Reduced review videos are no different. They have the same inferences in the titles. The viewer doesn’t stand a chance. It’s like seeing a mugshot on the news. “Guilty!” as soon as you hear the crime in the headline.
The Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch has a 42mm diameter case. The Speedmaster Automatic has the moniker “Speedmaster Reduced” because it’s… well… reduced. The Reduced has a 38mm wide case. The real story isn’t in the case diameter. It’s the reduction down to 44mm lug to lug. This makes the Speedmaster Reduced more wearable for a variety of medium to small wrist sizes.
The shapes are very similar at a glance but with subtle changes. Speedmaster collectors obsess over the way that the lugs curve (or don’t). The shorter lugs on the Speedy Reduced are not as sharp and defined as the lugs on the Speedy Moonwatch.
One of the other more notable differences in the Reduced is the design of the flanks. The chronograph pushers sit high and the crown sits low. It’s a small detail, but purists find it sloppy. However, I’d call it necessary. The reason they sit offset is due to the stacked movement. More on that to follow.
The Speedmaster Reduced has case height/thickness of 12mm, which is similar to the wider Moonwatch. This can make the Reduced seem squat at times. It’s similar to the reduced proportions of the Seiko SKX013 compared the SKX007. The proportions of the diameter do not follow in height. This results in a subtle departure from the original design that can be difficult to capture with caliper measurements. This is another misinterpreted knock against the Reduced. The FOIS (First Omega in Space) and the CK2998 also share a chunky and tall case. I’ve never felt that they have been too tall or hang-up on a shirt sleeve.
The dial is one of the more striking differences between the Speedmaster Reduced and the Moonwatch. There are a few subtle changes and some drastic ones. The changes in the dial might not be that obvious. The 3,6,9 subdial layout is still there, but for the #speedytuesday faithful, the changes are apocalyptic.
The cries of “blasphemy!” often occur with dial variations in Submariners and Speedmasters. This is because the standard versions of these watches are so iconic and have had relatively few changes since their inceptions.
There are three changes to the Speedmaster Reduced’s dial that get people excited.
- The running seconds are on the opposite side
- The subdials are pushed into the indices
- The indices have minute markers below them
Many consider the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch the perfect chronograph dial. I agree. But this isn’t the Moonwatch. This is the Speedmaster Reduced. It’s a different watch. Rather than criticize the Reduced over the minutia that makes it different from the Moonwatch, we need to celebrate it.
The Moonwatch is so iconic that little room is left for any freedom in the design. Omega has resorted to pricy limited editions in order to make any design changes. The limited editions always sell out. Even so, the designers over at Omega are trapped. However, the Speedmaster Reduced is free to push boundaries.
In the mid-nineties, the Speedmaster Automatic (Reduced) pushed the Speedmaster into uncharted waters with the brightly-colored yellow, blue and red “racing” dials. There are some other dial variations that and can be found as well. Dial variations such as “panda” and racing checkers are becoming much more scarce.
The modern iteration of the Reduced / Automatic is called the “Speedmaster 38 Co-Axial Chronograph”. This model pushes the envelope further with a Speedmaster designed (and marketed) with women in mind. Unfortunately, this is typically a demographic that many luxury watch companies have ignored. If you are a fan (or not) of the designs, Omega deserves credit for making more options available for women.
I think there are some really interesting designs and colors with these modernized 38mm versions. If you don’t like the bold colorways, there is always the monochromatic classic colorway. The modern version of the Speedmaster Automatic (Reduced) can easily be identified by a date window at 6-o’clock.
The movement in the Speedmaster Reduced is another hot topic. There have been many articles written about the modular Omega Cal. 3220 movement in the Reduced. It’s based on the ETA 2890 movement with a DD2020 chronograph module stacked on top. While completely functional, the stacking causes a few changes that separate the Reduced from the Moonwatch.
First, the crown on the time-keeping model is low and the pumpers for the chronograph sit high on the flank. Second, the spread-out subdials can’t be repositioned to be balanced within the dial. Instead, they are pushed towards the bezel. This also explains why the running seconds are on the opposite side as seen on the Moonwatch.
However, I feel that the biggest change is that the Reduced is automatic as opposed to the manually wound Moonwatch. That difference is bigger than the aesthetics because it affects how you interact with the watch. Would this be your daily watch? If so, you wouldn’t be hand cranking it every morning before you put it on. You lose an interaction but gain the convenience.
There are other considerations, like servicing. The service costs for this watch have been egregiously exaggerated. It is true that if you did a full service on the watch it would be more than a Moonwatch. Just to put it in perspective, having Omega fully service your mechanical chronograph (Moonwatch) is $750. Most people use an independent watchmaker who will simply replace the chronograph module, rather than service it.
Using stacked modules instead of in-house movements isn’t a new concept. Rolex has used Zenith movements in Daytonas until recently. Audemars Piguet stacked sourced complications in modules on top of base movements for years as well. Nobody seems to care. So why should we care about the Speedmaster Reduced?
The bracelet looks very similar to other Speedmasters complete with a pressure locking clasp (no safety). The lug width on the Reduced is only 18mm. While that’s only 2mm smaller than the Moonwatch, it should be considered. There isn’t much taper from 18mm making it wear a little larger.
One way to make the bracelets seem larger is to remove it. Try a brown or tan vintage-style leather strap instead. Speedmasters are strap monsters. Try out a couple of different options to find the perfect pairing. I’d recommend a thicker leather strap to make it look a little more robust. You can also use a NATO style strap. The folded tail will also make the 18mm seem larger.
Good condition a la carte OEM Ref 1469 bracelets are becoming harder to find and more expensive. I wouldn’t try and save on the initial purchase by finding a Speedmaster Reduced that didn’t come with an OEM bracelet.
Does it easily tell time? Yes
Would I #watchfast it? No
5 Things that I love
- The 44mm lug to lug
- The price
- White hands over the black dial
- Availability and selection
- Speedmaster DNA
5 Things that I hate
- The 18mm bracelet
- The dial can seem unbalanced
- Replacement dials difficult to source
- Questionable service history
- It will always be in the Moonwatch’s shadow
If you must have the Professional Moonwatch, buy it. There are always plenty of them for sale at a variety of conditions and price points. For many with wrists under 7”, the Professional may feel awkward. A slight reduction in size can still give you all the satisfaction of a Speedmaster and allow you to hold onto more of your hard-earned money.
The Speedmaster Reduced checks too many boxes to be written-off to horological snobbery. If you can find another vintage Swiss mechanical chronograph, from a company that is still reputable and operating, at a better price point than the Speedmaster Reduced, I’d like to hear about it.
If you have any questions about the Speedmaster Reduced or would like to discuss other smaller alternatives in the Speedmaster line, please contact me through one of the links in my bio box or leave a message in the comments below.
Photo Credits: Jake Witkin (@jwit94)
Post Follow Up: Mike’s Thoughts on the Speedmaster Professional / Reduced Dilemma
Like most watch lovers interested in making a Speedmaster purchase, I have to admit that I also followed the same shopping process Greg outlined in this article. It can be confusing but really, most of Omega’s product line-up just isn’t easy to follow. Sadly, I think it’s safe to say that many people learn about the Speedmaster Reduced, do some web research, and quickly dismiss it after stumbling upon a discussion proclaiming that “it’s not the real thing.” What does that even mean? It’s unfortunate since the Reduced family of Speedmaster watches offers so much variety and value. No matter what you choose (Professional or Reduced), you’re getting a sporty, attractive chronograph from one of the most significant brands in watchmaking history.
The Speedmaster Professional works for me, simply because I really, really wanted the manually wound movement and the 42mm case size. I’m not an astronaut and I don’t feel like one whenever I’m wearing the watch. Still, I’ll always happily recommend a Speedmaster Reduced to anyone looking to earn their Omega wings or collectors that prefer something smaller and different. It’s just a no-brainer for so many potential buyers and I’ve personally met many collectors that have simply never looked back after purchasing the Speedmaster Reduced. Oh, and like Greg mentioned, keep an eye on those “Panda” variants. I have a feeling several of the snobbiest anti-reduced collectors might find themselves waiting in line to pick them up after realizing the emerging scarcity and price increases.
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Greg is a long-time watch lover based in upstate New York. Greg is a supply chain professional by day and private watch consultant by night. Greg brings his own style to the TBWS website as a contributor by blending bits of humor into technical assessments. You can follow his cycling and snowboarding adventures on Instagram as he pursues the perfect 3-watch collection.