Affordable Classic: Omega Speedmaster Automatic “Reduced” Ref. 3510.50

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Talk about the Omega Speedmaster Automatic (also known as the “Reduced”) and you’ll naturally hear some kind of comparison with the more renowned Speedmaster Professional. Is it fair to only think of a watch in relation to its big brother that went to the moon? That’s such a tough act to follow, and that’s why I think it makes more sense to eradicate all notions of the Professional when taking a proper look at this watch. After all, in isolation, the Speedmaster Automatic has a lot going for it: a small diameter, a clean and striking dial, an automatic chronograph movement — all from one of the industry’s most respected names.

Now out of production for 10 years, is the Omega Speedmaster Automatic ready to come out of the shadows and stand on its own? I’ve owned this particular model for five years, so I have some long-term experience with what it’s like to have the Reduced in the rotation.

The Omega Speedmaster Automatic Ref. 3510.50 is commonly known as the “Reduced” because of its dimensions. A 38.5mm diameter is slightly on the smaller side of average for a modern watch, and a chronograph at that, though it’s nothing extreme. The lug-to-lug distance comes in at only 45mm, and this is the most significant figure in how the watch wears on the wrist. Additionally, the measurement from the case back to the top of the domed hesalite crystal is just under 12mm, which is impressive for an automatic chronograph. The snap-on case back features Omega’s hippocampus engraving. Water resistance is rated to 30m, which is firmly in the “washing hands” territory.

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In profile, there’s a lot going on with the case. The lightly brushed sides of the case remain thin throughout and tail off sharply towards the twisted lugs. Above that plane rises the central portion of the case, which very quickly splays out to form the lip of the tachymeter bezel. From the crown side, you’ll note that the chronograph pushers sit slightly higher than the signed crown.

Good legibility is pretty much a given for any watch using white hands above a black dial, and the Speedmaster Automatic is no exception. The hesalite crystal creates some light distortion and cloudiness around its perimeter, but otherwise ensures that the rest of the dial is easy to read. The matte black dial can appear slate-grey under very bright light, but all six of the white hands remain legible and distinguishable regardless of lighting. Hours are marked out in lumed batons, with a minute and sub-seconds track running between each one.

The sub-dial layout is relatively straightforward. The running seconds are shown at the 3:00 register, with a 30-minute chronograph totalizer on the opposite side, and an hour counter at the 6:00 section of the dial. The 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 markers are stunted by the slightly recessed sub-registers extending towards the edges of the dial.

One small aspect of the dial that interrupts its otherwise clean look is the presence of Arabic numerals just inside each hour marker, counting up the minutes in intervals of five. These appear to be in the same typeface as the “Automatic” text sitting just below the Speedmaster name at the center of the dial, and while I’m okay with it overall, I’d also be okay to lose the numerals entirely.

As I wrote above, the Speedmaster Automatic doesn’t run a dedicated chronograph movement. Instead, the Omega Cal. 1140 is an ETA 2890-A2 base with a Dubois Depraz chronograph module sitting on top. This setup gives a combined thickness of just 6.5mm. For comparison, a Valjoux/ETA 7750 — a modern workhorse — comes in close to 8mm. If you want a thin automatic chronograph, then this looks like a pretty good choice, but it’s not without its drawbacks.

The main downside to this caliber that people are quick to point out, and one that needs to be considered, is servicing. These modular chronographs can be tricky to service, and not all watchmakers want to deal with them. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but it’s something to keep in mind before purchasing.

One other slight quirk is that because the chronograph seconds, minutes, and hours are all driven from the base movement, there is no “jump” in the minute register. Instead, the minute totalizer shows a continuous record of the minutes elapsed.

In keeping with the other dimensions, the width between the lugs is 18mm. The bracelet tapers down slightly to 16mm at the clasp, and, coupled with the short lug-to-lug length, it leaves the Speedmaster Automatic feeling a little smaller on the wrist in this setup than a 38.5mm watch often does. The bracelet itself is nothing to write home about, with a cheap feeling stamped clasp and more than a hint of rattle likely to be present if the watch has been worn regularly over the last decade or two. The bracelet looks the part, and it’s not bad per se, but it’s no surprise to often see the watch off the bracelet and paired with something else.

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Thankfully, this one is a bit of a strap monster. A non-tapering strap can give the watch a little more presence and, as we’re not dealing with an especially thick watch to begin with, pass through straps work particularly well. My preference is to mount the watch on one of a variety of waxed cotton straps from Suigeneric, as you can see in the gallery below.

The Speedmaster Automatic exhibits plenty of traits to conclude that it is worthy of consideration if you’re in the market for an automatic chronograph, especially if you want something that isn’t too beefy and you love the look of the Speedmaster. Even when we do bring its bigger, more accomplished brother into the conversation, there are still some positives to note. The size, used market pricing, and the convenience of an automatic caliber are all good things. Now, prices have been increasing steadily over the past couple of years, but I still regularly see these for around $2,200 – $2,500 in fairly good condition. And even with creeping prices, this watch still offers an excellent value. All that said, if you’re specifically lusting after a Speedy Pro, then the Reduced probably won’t fill that role, but if you want a good, smaller chronograph that still shares some of that style, the Reduced packs quite the punch.

Images from this post:
Brad stumbled into the watch world in 2011 and has been falling down the rabbit hole ever since. Based in London, Brad's interests lie in anything that ticks, sweeps or hums and is slightly off the beaten track.
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