The Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 Solar Impulse
Sometimes the time that elapses between a watch preview and its actual availability on the market is a lot shorter than one might expect. This is what happened with the Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 Solar Impulse Limited Edition that I personally previewed a week ago, and which I was expecting to see in more than two weeks at Baselworld 2015. If Omega tips you off that the first example of this watch has just hit the Italian market and is available for a hands-on review, you immediately rush off to see it.
The Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 Solar Impulse Limited Edition is a timepiece with an analog-digital hour visualization, certified by the ESA (European Space Agency), which is about to celebrate its next great feat on…earth. The Solar Impulse’s pilots will be wearing this timepiece when, in a few days, they will take off from Abu Dhabi to circumnavigate the globe on board of an aircraft with an exclusively solar propulsion, which provides power both by day and night. The Solar Impulse makes lightness one of its fundamental requirements, especially if you consider that the whole lighting system for nocturnal flying (please see picture below) is exceptionally efficient, even if it weighs just…one kg.
The Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 Solar Impulse Limited Edition embraces the project's design philosophy, as it features a Grade 2 Titanium case and, although it might appeal aesthetically even to those who are not fond of so-called "tool watches", it has its strongest point in the functions guaranteed by Omega's 5619 caliber. Omega has, first and foremost, realised an astronaut watch with quite a thin case, especially if you compare it with that of a Z-33, the modern re-interpretation of a Flightmaster (the two watches are not, however, "like for like" when it comes to comparing their features, although they share the same design philosophy).
The Solar Impulse’s older brother, the Skywalker X-33, was unveiled last year at Baselworld 2014 as the natural successor to the 1998’s Speedmaster X-33. Its 45mm wide Grade 2 Titanium case is paired with a Grade 5 Titanium bracelet. The dial is, all in all, a thin digital display where it is possible to read hour, minutes and seconds up to three different timezones; the movement has three alarms, it is a chrono, it features a countdown function and it is also a perpetual calendar. What makes this timepiece so special and different from a Z-33 (essentially a Pilot’s Watch) is that it displays the PET (Phase Elapsed Time) and the MET (Mission Elapsed Time), two functions according to which all the events during a space mission are measured, since the actual launch.
The Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 Solar Impulse Limited Edition is just an esthetical variation of the X-33, yet it once more proves Omega’s undeniable ability to often give its timepieces a makeover, and convert them into some of the most appealing limited edition timepieces on the market.
They are both essentially the same watch, yet they are perceived as two different ones: especially nice is the blue ceramic inlay (that replaces the matte black one) with a chrome nitride scaling and a green luminescence; the thin ring on the inner rehaut and on the stitching on the nylon strap is also green. It is sportier than the stock X-33, definitely not as sober and therefore not such an everyday watch as the classic version is but, to make a consistent comparison, it would be interesting to replace the NATO strap with a bracelet and place them side to side, something I could not do during the photo-shooting.
Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 Solar Impulse pricing and final thoughts
On the wrist it is light, but not excessively as it is often the case with a titanium alloy watch; caliber 5619 is not a lightweight which is good in this case, as the X-33 has a solidity that allows you not to regret that of a steel chronograph, which is one of the main reasons why for many people it is not always easy to choose a titanium alloy watch. Thumb down for the notching feel: it’s not so bad and the X-33 is not really a certified diver, but from this model as well as from others in the range, I do expect Omega to always stand out, which would mean for example a 120 notch bezel feel and sound while rotating the bezel, that you may easily find on some ISO certified Japanese timepieces. The Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 Solar Impulse Limited Edition is already available and will be made in 1924 pieces, each for the retail price of 4700€.
Definitely not a cheap price, you might easily think about turning you head elsewhere and opt for a mechanical timepiece, but the comparison does not work in this case: in timepieces of this kind, a quartz architecture is needed, as it manages an endless series of functions (this is definitely a complicated watch) via an advanced thermocompensated quartz caliber, just to anticipate those who are about to claim: “It is just a quartz…”. There are quartz watches, and then there are quartz watches. It is after all an ESA certified timepiece, without an actual benchmark as far as I recall apart from a similar timepiece made by the young Swedish brand Halda Watch Co. that we introduced some time ago, that probably represents its sole competitor.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Omega Watches; Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter®