I’ll admit it. It took me a while to appreciate quartz watches, especially ones that take batteries. I have a few Citizen Eco-Drives, a few Seiko Solars, a Seiko Kinetic, some Casio Solars and the Breitling B-50. But this is the only quartz in my collection that takes a battery (the Breitling B-50 is rechargeable).
So, it had to be a pretty impressive watch to get me past that collection hurdle. And the X-33 Skywalker fits that bill. The latest evolution of the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, the X-33 Gen3 is tested and qualified for duty by the ESA (European Space Agency).
Now this version of the Skywalker (the name of the third-generation X-33) is a bit of a mouthful – The Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 Solar Impulse Limited Edition. It was introduced in 2015 (after the Gen 3’s introduction at BaselWorld in 2014) to commemorate the first solar-powered around-the-world flight of the Solar Impulse aircraft.
What’s the Same
Just like the regular X-33 Gen3 Skywalker, this watch’s case is made of super-lightweight Grade 2 titanium and weighs in at under 60 grams. It’s 45mm size is deceptive – it definitely doesn’t wear that large on the wrist. It features a ceramic bezel, four pushers and a push/pull crown that works its myriad of features, mostly appearing on the LCD panel behind the screen. Even though it has large apertures on the back case to allow the crazy-loud alarms (90-100 decibels) to be heard in the next county, it’s water resistant to 30m/100ft.
The Solar Impulse version of the Skywalker X-33 is limited to 1924 pieces (to commemorate the First Flight Around the World that took place in that year).
This Skywalker comes on a blue with green border NATO strap. The buckle and keepers on this strap are titanium to match the case. Second, the border of the dial face and ceramic bezel are blue with green highlights. Another special treat with the Si2 version of the watch is that all of the bezel numbers and markings are coated in green lume so that they glow at night (the regular X-33 Gen3 has only the indicator at 12 o’clock lumed).
Other differences have the green seconds hand, the Solar Impulse mission match engraving on the caseback, a certificate of authenticity, special packaging and presentation case.
The dial is where it’s at with this watch. Whereas the previous X-33 versions used LCD characters laid out in a circle, the Gen3 uses a more standard array of three lines.
Depressing the pusher at 8 o’clock turns on the backlighting, which color is matched to the green lume on the hands and hour markers (and bezel on the Si2 LE). While the pictures don’t do it justice, the LCD – without the backlighting – is very readable in the sunlight.
The face of the X-33 has a lot of depth and dimension to it, and this is accentuated by the the fact that the markings on the Si2 are on a blue background instead of a black one. The Omega logo, and Seamaster wording are silkscreened onto the LCD screen.
The previously-mentioned blue bezel is unidirectional and has a nice brushed finish.
Finally, the 20mm lugs on the X-33 taper inwards, which helps the look when the watch is on a NATO strap.
Omega makes really good NATO straps. They’re rediculusly expensive, but they are good. The one that comes on the Si2 X-33 is very nice.
And because it’s a pretty standard 20mm leg width, you can go a little crazy with the straps. While it’s a little more difficult to find straps that “work” with the blue and green watch (as compared to the standard X-33), you can still have a little fun.
I was at the Omega boutique in Chicago this week and saw the blue pinstripe NATO strap there. I have no idea what it was or where it came from (the SKU on the packaging doesn’t line up with any Omega product) and it has the number 12345678 engraved on one of the keepers (what does THAT mean), but it looks pretty neat on the X-33 (although not “space-professional.”
This movement is fancy. Not in a handcrafted, decorated and engraved kind of way. Fancy that it will time just about anything you throw at it. In fact, the movement and features are so elaborate that the watch includes a thick manual and a, wait for it, iPad training application.
Now don’t get nervous here – there is absolutely no link between the app and the watch. This is NOT a smartwatch in that sense of the word. But you can learn how to do any of the virtually 427 features on the X-33 using the iPad app.
Technically, the movement is the Omega 5619, which is pretty similar to the Caliber 1666 that power the Gen 1 and Gen 2, but just remapped for the different LCD. Just like the 1666, this thermocompensated quartz movement is accurate to a very few seconds a month at temperatures -45 to +70 degrees Celsius.
So, even though it takes a battery (guess Omega doesn’t want to rely on sun power or a charging dongle deep on space), I like this watch. The battery life is 24 months, so I guess I will be addressing that in a couple of years. It’s crazy light and durable, and I do like the green and blue design cues.
Is it worth the US$5200 Omega wants for it? No, but that’s nowhere near what I paid for it pre-owned. Even though the freakin box the watch comes in weighs in about over 6 pounds.
See you all in space. I’ll be ready.
WHAT I LIKE:
- Any watch that comes on a nice NATO strap from the factory
- Tested and approved by the European Space Agency for flight (you know, just in case)
- The evolution of the moonwatch, and the ties to the Solar Impulse flight.
NOT SO MUCH:
- It takes a battery.
- You should be able to turn OFF the LCD panel if you want (WHY OMEGA WHY?)
- It’s about a complex as a spacecraft (thanks, iPad app)
MODEL NAME: Omega X-33 Skywalker (Gen3) Solar Impulse Limited Edition
REFERENCE NUMBER: 3188.8.131.52.03.001
MOVEMENT: Omega 5619 (24 month battery life)
CASE SIZE: 45mm
WATER RESISTANCE: 30m/100ft