The Coolest (and Strangest) Omega Speedmasters From Japan

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Hipsters in Japan are a special breed. You’re not a real Tokyo hipster, we’re lead to believe, unless you live in Tokyo, prowling the streets in a Lotus Elite, right after you bought the book on old-school denim while wearing something old and Swiss on your wrist. Between cultural mass-luxury leanings and obsession with imported style, there may be no more fertile ground for watch collecting than Japan. And there may be no more collectible a watch brand than Omega. Japan is the brand’s second-largest market. It was one of the first Swiss brands sold in Japan, according to longtime importer DKSH; by the 1950s, Omega had commanded a sizeable 30% of the market. In a video for the Tokyo Olympics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wears a vintage Omega Constellation, just before he transforms into Mario. “They like Rolex Submariners, The Explorer, the IWC Mark series and the Speedmaster,” explains our own Hung Doan. “I think because those are ‘adventurer’ watches with backstories. Especially NASA romanticism/history.”

Japanese watch otaku are particularly enamored with the Omega Speedmaster—so much so that they wound up writing the book on it. Long-lived and mission-tested, the Speedmaster is an archetype: a standard of the world, an ideal design distilled into simplicity. And yet, it is a watch that lends itself so readily to permutation—with ever-multiplying designs and movements, to say nothing of 60 years worth of variants. Omega gets to stoke the Japanese market with the newest limited-edition releases, which then trickle down to avant-garde Westerners.

So, the Japanese love Omega. And judging by the following special Japanese-market editions it’s unleashed to the fawning hipsters, Omega loves Japan, too. Below are some of the coolest–and yes, strangest–Speedmasters to come out of the land of the rising sun.

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Omega Speedmaster Professional “Mitsukoshi” 3570.31

Japan’s grandest department store chain, Mitsukoshi, can date its roots all the way back to the 17th century; its flagship store in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district covers two city blocks and seven stories, and itself dates back to 1914. In 2003, Omega released a collaboration with Mitsukoshi of just 300 Speedmaster Professionals, sold exclusively through its stores. It is a stunning watch: the contrast not only accentuates the dial’s three-dimensional depth, but it also provides some welcome contrast. The black, as they say, truly pops. Think of a more accessible Paul Newman Daytona. Many Speedy fanatics, so enamored with the majestic panda, cobble together their own. With something so beautiful as the result, there’s no shame in their game.

A “Mitsukoshi” mod with a 3570.50.00 base; Image source: speedywatches.com

Omega Speedmaster Professional Racing Japan 3750.40.00

A year later, Omega released this into the Japanese market–a Speedmaster that reached back to its racing roots. It may surprise absolutely no one to find out that the Speedmaster originated as a racing watch—similar to Heuer’s Autavia, the Speedmaster timed race cars before there ever was a moon mission. With a grey dial, a red/orange checkered pattern, and contrasting chronograph hands, this Japan-only reissue harkens back to a model produced in the ’60s—just before Apollo made the Speedmaster famous. And this time, rather appropriately, there were 2,004 models introduced: compared to the Mitsukoshi, it’s a veritable bonanza.

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Image source: Fratello Watches

Omega Speedmaster Reduced 3513.53.00 “Japan Racing”

The 39mm-wide Reduced models are a whole new world–the Moonwatch’s little brother that looks like a Moonwatch, but isn’t. What happens if you add bold Arabic numerals and a healthy dose of red? You get a Japanese-market racing model that’s as polarizing as it is rare. But here’s the thing. Most of these reduced Speedmasters feature Omega’s caliber 3220 movement, an ETA-based piggyback system with a chronograph addition from Dubois-Dépraz. Underneath this bizarro-world dial, however, is a caliber 1152, a rebadged Valjoux 7750. So, it’s the Speedmaster that least looks like a Speedmaster with a workhorse movement to boot.

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Omega Speedmaster Reduced 3510.82.00 “Japan 2003”

Not all Speedmasters look the same. Sometimes, they even come in colors. Omega released just 1,500 examples of this bold blue Reduced in 2003, this time powered by the aforementioned caliber 3220. The friendly sunburst blue and contrasting registers both prove just how versatile the Speedmaster design is and how simple it can get. It looks especially good in a reverse panda, too. Not bold enough? How about a red Schumacher (which was featured as one of Sean’s picks for his three-watch collection under $5,000 article) or another Japan-only one—this time in garish yellow?

Image Source: clockmaker.com.au

Speedmaster Date “Marui Limited” 3513.51

And we’re right back to where we started. This might be the one Speedmaster in the known universe that least resembles a Speedmaster: oversized registers, bold numbers, and a high-contrast look. Marui, for what it’s worth, is another Japanese department store chain, albeit one with an unusual logo, and just like Mitsukoshi it collaborated with Omega in the ’90s. The result was a very cool white panda version—not unlike Mitsukoshi’s—and the strange offshoot featured here, showing just how outré the Speedy can ever get.

Image source: Reddit

Featured image source: Speedywatches.com

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Hailing from the middle coast of Austin, Texas, Blake Z. Rong is a freelance writer, researcher, one-time podcast host, and occasional automotive journalist. When he was 13, he took apart a quartz watch and forgot how to put it back together again. His love for watches has lingered ever since. He can usually be found on his motorcycle speeding across Texas Hill Country.
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