Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Omega Speedmaster 2998-6

When Paul Altieri of Bob’s Watches asked for my thoughts on this vintage Omega Speedmaster, I was happy to oblige. After all, everyone loves the Speedy and I am by no means immune to its charm. That got me thinking, why? What makes this fairly staid, white-on-black chronograph an object of watch nerd desire?

1962 Omega Speedmaster 2998-6
I can’t speak for all Speedmaster fans, but for me, the appeal is rooted in history. You can’t talk about this watch without also mentioning the early days of the American space program. These were astronauts’ watches, and there will always be something magical about that. Everyone knows the Speedmaster Professional as the moon watch, as it was the timepiece NASA deemed suitable for the rigors of space travel, but even though it made it to the moon, it has never been my favorite. That 42mm case is a little bigger than I would like. No, my choice would be one of the 38mm models produced from 1959 through 1963.

The 2998-6 pictured here fits the bill perfectly. The heart of the 2998 is the desirable, Lemania-based 321 hand wound, column wheel movement; the same used in Apollo-era Speedmasters. It is true that a 2998 never made it to the moon, but one did get into space in 1962 when Wally Schirra’s wore his personal watch while orbiting the earth in Sigma 7. That’s more than enough to give it legitimate space-tool credentials in my book.

1962 Omega Speedmaster 2998-6 case back

Almost all of the cherished moon watch cues are present here, like the dished subdials, domed Hesalite (acrylic) crystal, seahorse case back, and the black-on-white, “dot over 90,” base 500 tachymetre bezel insert that I find to be more attractive than the earlier bare steel bezels. On the other hand, the crown guards and twisted bombĂ© lugs of the moon-era models had not yet appeared when this model was produced. Instead, it has the original straight lug case.

Speedys went through a few handset changes along the way. The first used broad arrows and later ones had white batons. While both of those choices are arguably more legible than the 2998’s polished dauphine hands, neither is quite as pretty. Of course, a chronograph must have a clear sweep hand and the white spear-tip on this one certainly does the trick. The subdial needles are white batons just as they are on later models.

1962 Omega Speedmaster 2998-6

This particular watch is a survivor that was originally delivered to Japan on October 8, 1962. It is all original save for the crown, which is a correct replacement part. Like anything that has lasted 56 years, it shows some honest wear: the case has nicks and scratches, the bezel is faded and worn, and the lume has taken a creamy gold color. It will come on a new, but appropriately vintage style leather strap and Omega buckle. 

I do love this watch. I‘d buy it myself if it not for the one tiny detail of the price. Bob’s Watches will sell you this gem for $27,495, which is about $26,000 beyond The Time Bum’s watch budget. I’m still holding out hope for a barn find. I’ll wander into an estate sale and they’ll say, “Dad was an engineer at the Goodard Flight Center back in the day. These are his old watches. Nobody wants them because they are all banged up and cost too much to fix.” And there, in a cigar box next to a new Casio, a 1980’s Seiko with most of its gold coating worn off, and a Skagen with a dead battery, will be a 2298 Speedmaster gummed up with decades-old gear oil, just waiting to be brought back to life. Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

If you are in the market for a well-loved and properly serviced vintage Speedmaster, check it out at BobsWatches.com

Photos courtesy of Bob's Watches.

1962 Omega Speedmaster 2998-6

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