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Embedded in the essence of time, Cleopatra meets Carolijn Brouwer: Introducing the new Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Alinghi
I love watches and reviewing them is like having my cake and eating it too. But once in a while it’s good to contemplate, and I guess today is one of those days. One of the side-effects of being married to a free-willed modern woman is that issues like feminism and days like International Women’s Day don’t go unnoticed. Later this month, on Wednesday, 26 August, is Women’s Equality Day 2020. And as distanced this day may seem to the watch I am reviewing, there is a strong connection. So unlike my usual write-ups, I am going to make this review a bit serious, given it tackles a bit with the issue of gender-equality. To give context, the watch we are reviewing today is the new Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Alinghi. It is a beautiful men’s watch, released in men’s sizing of 42>mm diameter, and is released to mark the collaboration between Omega and Alinghi, the latter being a highly accoladed team/syndicate that takes part in sail races. Absolutely nothing wrong with any of this, both these Swiss brands are at the top in what that do, and the Omega DSOTM Alinghi watch in itself has nothing to do with gender-equality. But the context it’s released in, does.
As you might be aware, both the watch and the sailing industry are male dominated, and in the balance of things, we figured this would be a good opportunity to comment on the lack of female influence both in the horology and sailing worlds. I won’t name other watch review websites and blogs but one can always check out their coverage and see how many female oriented watches they have reviewed in the last couple of months. But as far as Watch Ya Gonna Do About It is concerned, since April end, we have had the opportunity of reviewing 28 men’s watches, 3 unisex watches, but only 3 that were solely for women. That’s a poor percentage.
The dedicated International Women’s Day website poses a simple question: “Equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. Gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive. A gender equal world can be healthier, wealthier and more harmonious – so what’s not great about that?” In my opinion, it is a very important question.
I have always been aware of the disparity but when you actually begin to write and work in the industry, only then you realise the intense imbalance. For instance, we have all chanted the name of Gerald Genta like a mantra but did you know that the Omega Constellation Manhattan watches from 1982 were designed by a woman, Carol Didisheim? Do you also know that if you do a Google search of watch designers it is very hard to find names of women designers?
Some of the Omega Constellation variants including the latest 41mm version
There has of-course been a shift in thinking and the way the industry is progressing with more gender diversity, and how the world of horology is finally acknowledging women.
Fortune had an aptly titled feature a while back called “Why Watch Brands Are Finally Taking Women Seriously”. There’s more to where that came from, I agree. I know women are more at the helm of things in the industry than ever before, thankfully due to the likes of Catherine Renier, “The First Female CEO of Luxury Watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre”, or Patek’s Sandrine Stern or Swatch Group’s Nayla Hayek.
But as Chronext succinctly puts it, “there is little doubt that the watch industry is predominantly a man’s world”.
Next up, let’s look at the sailing world. My research into it again gave me shocking results. According to The New York Times, “it took nearly a century for sailing to hold an Olympic event for women” and that voting has led to “full gender equity — in the number of athletes and the number of medals — for the 2024 Olympics in Paris”. True, there are some female legends such as Kay Cottee AO (an Aussie connection), Pippa Wilson MBE, and Shirley Robertson MBE & OBE among few others, but compared to men, their numbers are not even a digit that can be used as a useful statistical study. And then if I focus my research on a specific leading sailing event, the America’s Cup, the numbers are shocking. In America’s Cup’s over 150 years long history, not one, that’s right, not a single lady has ever competed in it. That’s hopefully going to change due to Carolijn Brouwer — the first woman to win the Volvo Ocean Race as The Daily Mail says— who was born in the Netherlands but now lives in NSW Central Coast (another local Aussie connection), but given the Cup is next year and she still has to compete in qualifying rounds, that’s still to be seen.
Being a critic, I felt it is only right to comment on the lack of gender-diversity issue, and also give a bit of background to the world of sailing.
At this stage you might be asking yourself, what’s all this got to do with Cleopatra and Carolijn Brouwer? Not much, but since the watch had to do with the world of sailing, I could see certain similarities: like Cleopatra is known for her beauty, I think the new watch could be known for it too. As masculine as it may be, both in dimensions and aesthetics, it’s a charmer nonetheless. Aesthetically, the new Omega DSOTM Alinghi is a pleaser, especially the case-back framing its nicely decorated movement. And like Carolijn Brouwer is an icon of inspiration to aspiring female sailors everywhere, the new Omega watch could definitely be an inspiration to other brands when it comes to releasing a near perfect nautical themed watch.
I say near perfect because as far as aesthetics and collaboration inspirations are concerned, Omega has done a perfect job. On the other hand, I am not a watchmaker so I can’t say for sure, but a 50m water-resistance on a regatta watch seems inadequate. Omega is more in the business of making watches than I am, obviously, so I reckon they would have given this a thought, and 50m is then fine. Anyway, aesthetically I genuinely believe this is a handsome watch that would caress any millionaire’s wrist with gusto.
The Cleopatra meets Carolijn Brouwer Part
The world of sailing is as old as time itself. When I think of sailing, one of the first images that come to my mind is Cleopatra on the Niles (coincidentally it’s also her death anniversary this month). I am not a sailor myself, so the only reference I have is through literature and movies. Not only have I seen numerous images of Cleopatra on the river Niles, when it comes to my above theme of feminism, she is a pretty big figure from the past. Back then as I have been led to believe, the ways of sailing were primitive, but at the core of the activity, not that much different in essence to sailing in modern times.
This 1883 painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema shows Mark Antony impatiently waiting for a glimpse of the alluring Cleopatra when they meet in Tarsus on her luxurious barge. PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRISTIE’S IMAGES/CORBIS/CORDON PRESS
Then somewhere along the course of time there was introduced speed, and sailing went from just as a way of living to also including the crazed high-octane world of boat racing. Now what would happen if I combined the two, if I took the essence of timeless sailing that’s been brought down through ages and added speed to the mix? The answer in a way is America’s Cup, the oldest international sports competition that’s still carrying along in the modern world. I know it’s not been around since Cleopatra’s days, but as far as international competitive sports go, it’s got it’s place in history. It has gone through various changes from what type of boats could sail to how fast they could sail. I could then interpret America’s Cup as an analogy: it’s as if the worlds of Cleopatra intertwined with that of Carolijn Brouwer, both female icons, both linked to sailing, both from very differing eras, and both representing success. The journey from one to another is of slow leisurely paced boat rides to high speed chases.
Why am I talking about sailing and boat racing in a watch review? Because in my opinion the new Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Alinghi is an ode to the twilight zone where Cleopatra meets Carolijn Brouwer, where timekeeping meets high stakes sail boat racing.
Long-winded Abstract Intro Aside, What Is It?
As Will Smith from Fresh Prince of Bell-Air would say, “peep this”: the intensity of the heat of the moment just as the race begins, the battering of water all around you soaking you under its uncontrollable tide, the need for speed, the use of correct timing, the urgency of split second decisions, all these and much, much more define the high stakes world of sail boat racing. And where timing is of the essence, trust Omega to be at the centre of it.
In partnership with Alinghi, the “first European syndicate to win the America’s Cup” and other sailing trophies, Omega is introducing a watch dedicated to this world of speed, accuracy and water sports, the new Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Alinghi.
As Raynald Aeschlimann, President and CEO of Omega says: “The new watch is about two great Swiss brands combining their passion for innovation and sailing. To match ALINGHI’s state-of-the-art boat creation, we’ve harnessed some truly impressive technology, along with the best materials and a very original design concept.”
It’s a collaboration where cutting edge aeronautic technology inspires cutting edge horology. And it’s not just the beautifully decorated movement we are raving about; the new Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Alinghi is also a masterclass in the execution of carbon fibre. See carbon fibre is an integral part of the design of the kind of boats Alinghi makes. Being light weight, it helps these boats fly with the help of a technique called foiling. That’s right, fly.
The Flying Part
But before we go into more detail about the watch, I think it’s wise to look at the context of sailing the watch is released into, as lots of design features on the new watch are inspired by the world of sailing.
According to my research, the sailing technique of foiling was first patented in 1869. A foil is a solid object with a specific shape that when you put in water at suitable angles, it generates more force perpendicular to the water flow than the drag. A drag is the force generated parallel to the water flow. Boats use these foils or hydrofoils as they are commonly referred to as, that kick into effect as and when the boat or craft gains speed, lifting the boats’s hull out of the out of the water, decreasing drag, and increasing speed.
In short, the foil minimises the drag, or air resistance or counter friction, and increases the speed. The new Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Alinghi may not have a foil per say — though from a side view the lugs of the Omega watch look similar to the foils of the Alinghi TF35 boat — but it does feature the manual-winding Calibre 1865 that boasts of a lighter and thinner design that will help the wearer live their life in the fast lane. Also, it’s highly decorated detailing is reminiscent of Alinghi’s sleek catamaran craftsmanship. This detailing is also present on the skeletonised dial face, that could be translated into horology terms as being akin to the hull of a boat.
The hull is the watertight body or platform of the boat — that like I said can be equated to the main dial face of a watch — that’s attached to a submerged counterweight called keel — a traditional wind powered boat’s keel that can be equated to the movement — that helps in balancing the force of the wind. So just how the movement helps the watch face and its hands tick, the keel helps a traditional hull stay afloat.
Omega has used laser ablation on the dial face, the mainplate and barrel bridge to provide them with a honeycomb effect that is similar to the interior of the Alinghi TF35 catamaran hull. Not only that, the laser ablation also decorates all other bridges with a black carbon pattern, inspired by the material used for the boat’s hull.
America’s Cup, the Alinghi Colours and more Design Inspirations
Since 1869, the technology has come a long way that has not only revolutionised the sailing race industry but also definitely the America’s Cup.
America’s Cup match race is the oldest sports competition in the modern world, first awarded in 1851. America’s Cup is a trophy awarded to winner of the races. The final main event is between only two yachts or sail boats, one of which is the previous trophy holder called the ‘defender’ and the other is the competitor, called the ‘challenger’. This ‘challenger’ is the winner of the preliminary round of races. These races are sponsored under the name of Louis Vuitton Cup, the America’s Cup World Series, or the Prada Cup. To be honest I am not totally a 100% sure as to who sponsors what given I am not actively involved in the world of sail racing.
And one of the companies — or teams/clubs/syndicates, it’s a bit confusing really — that compete in theses races is a Swiss brand called Alinghi. Alinghi most notably is the ‘challenger’ and subsequent winner of the 2003 America’s Cup, and the ‘defender’ and winner of 2007 version. It lost the title and did not compete in the 2013 version. Many more accolades later, today it is associated with the TF35 Trophy and the GC32 Racing Tour.
These regatta and sail boat races like America’s Cup are a mesmerising thing to watch, just like the spinning logo of Alinghi at 6’o clock on the dial of the new Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Alinghi. On the watch, the 6’o clock sub-dial features a sandblasted and anodized aluminium disc that rotates when the chronograph function is used. Omega has gone to impressive lengths to match the Alinghi logo theme. If you look carefully on the dial, the alternate minute track reveals transferred red dots, while the hour markers and hour/minute hands are blackened and diamond polished. The chronograph hands are either varnished red or white, and they match the red Alinghi logo featured in red varnish on the ceramic start/stop pusher. Again in red is featured a 4-minute (or 5-minute) tactical time display at 3’o clock on the dial. This tactical time display is useful in regatta and sailing watches and is usefully prevalent in Yacht Timer watches such as the Frederique Constant Yacht Timer Regatta Countdown. We have explained more in detail what regatta timers do here, but as a summary, fleet yacht races feature countdown timers which sailors us to ensure they start with everyone else but from behind the starting line at the right time and at the right sailing speed. Coming back to the Alinghi inspired theme of the new watch, even the screws have been blackened to match the theme. The tachymeter lettering is again in red, while the scale as a whole has been created in Super-LumiNova, for superb visibility in dark conditions. Keeping with the theme, the perforated black rubber strap used is reminiscent of the one used in my Omega CK2998 and contains a section of red rubber through the middle. The watch even comes in a special presentation box which sports the red and black colours with its internal texture and pattern being crafted to match the movement decoration.
Anyway, the next 36th edition of the America’s Cup will see the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron defend the cup against the challenger team Luna Rossa Challenge (and winner of the last Prada Cup if I am not wrong). It is this race where maybe Carolijn Brouwer gets a chance to shine and while Alinghi is not participating, I am sure the Alinghi inspired watch would make for one hell of a wrist companion for those who are.
The mention of Luna Rossa brings us back to the world of watches, as Panerai is the Official Sponsor of Luna Rossa. The reference PAM01039 released for this occasion is supposed to be worn by Luna Rossa Sailing Team headed by Massimiliano “Max” Sirena. On the titanium back of the watch is an engraved Luna Rossa logo and the America’s Cup profile.
So, to cut the long story short, and combining these worlds of sailing and watches, we have the new Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Alinghi.
It’s an immersive offering from Omega that’s laden with numerous influences from Alinghi’s boats. As Ernesto Bertarelli, the Founder and President of Alinghi rightly says, “It’s been an immense pleasure to collaborate so closely with OMEGA on this wonderful new timepiece. Throughout our history, we’ve been very aware of the watchmaker’s incredible expertise in sports timekeeping and passion for sailing. So, it is a very special moment to have worked on a watch together and now see the exquisite results. It’s the perfect start to our relationship and a real sign of more to come in the future”.
Raynald Aeschlimann, President and CEO of Omega and Ernesto Bertarelli, Founder and President of Alinghi with Team
The collaboration took place last year and this special but thankfully non-limited edition watch pays tribute to this Swiss partnership and is inspired by the design of Alinghi’s TF35 boat. “The TF35 has been designed with the ambitious brief to offer top level foiling to a wider audience of sailors” and uses the latest in foiling technology along with extensive use of carbon and a honeycomb effect present on the interior of the boat’s carbon hull.
And before I go further with the review of this new offering, I should probably tell you that Omega just also recently released another watch — as the Official Timekeeper (of the 36th America’s Cup Presented By Prada) — the LE Planet Ocean 600M Co-Axial Master Chronometer 43.5mm, the reference 220.127.116.11.04.001. It is a steel cased watch with a rubber strap, retailing for 10’725 AUD, and available in only 2021 pieces. And it also happens to be one of my favourite Planet Oceans.
The Specifications of the new Omega Team Alinghi
Okay, so now that we have established some context and sailed through the complex waters that this watch is a homage to, let’s dive further specially into the watch details.
We have seen the Omega Dark Side of the Moon watches before, they go way back to 2013. They were at the time of the launch, and still are, the Speedy you get for a man that has everything. We have also seen the new watch in a different avatar, the reference 318.104.22.168.01.001, “Dark Side of the Moon” Apollo 8 released in November 2018.
Retailing for a cheaper 14’850 AUD compared to the 16’500 AUD of the new version, it is very similar to the new Team Alinghi version. They both feature:
- 44.25mm diameter
- Black ceramic case on a rubber strap
- Blackened skeletonised dial and movement, both laser-ablated, one to represent the moon’s surface and other the Alinghi T35
- Colouring — yellow in older and red in the newer version — in the same places, so ‘tachymetre’ text, central chronograph seconds hand, end of indices in the peripheral minute track, at 6’o clock counter, at 3’o clock, and on the strap
- Same water-resistance of 50m. This is one specification which I find a bit weak, especially when it comes to the Team Alinghi version as a sailing watch should have a higher water-resistance. If there is one thing I would improve about this release, it would be increasing the water-resistance.
- They both feature modified versions of the same base movement, the calibre 1861. It is the same movement as present in my CK2998, and you can find out more about the movement and its history here. The Team Alinghi calls is the calibre 1865 while the Apollo 8 calls it the calibre 1869.
- Both are manual-winding watches with the same power reserve of 48-hours.
But if I had to pick between the two, the latest version is perhaps more striking, especially the case-back. I think I am in love with it. In my review earlier this month about the new Carl F. Bucherer Manero Flyback, I had mentioned how I had gotten fed up with blue watches. Well, not only is the new Omega presented in a welcome combination of black and red, it’s movement like we have said is exquisitely finished too.
The Team Alinghi reference 322.214.171.124.01.002 features the calibre 1861 — based on Lemania 861 — which is a manual-winding chronograph movement featuring a Delrin (a plastic polymer material) chronograph brake. Calibre 1861 took over from calibre 861 in 1996 which in turn had taken over calibre 361 back in 1968. I am going into these details just to point out that given Omega has re-started the production of calibre 361, I wonder why they haven’t used it in the Team Alinghi version?
Anyway, the original 1861 has a diameter of 27.00mm and a height of 6.87mm, and comprises of 18 jewels beating at the frequency of 3Hz (21’600 A/h). The package is offered inside a black zirconium oxide ceramic case.
Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
It is no doubt more expensive than the standard Speedy Professional. It also has larger dimensions and a niche market appeal. I don’t sell watches but 15K plus for a Speedy is something that enthusiasts might pause before splurging. That said, for die-hard regatta and Speedmaster fans, who would like a different looking watch, one that takes the channels less transversed, this is a great option.
As for me personally, as much as I love that display case-back, and even though it will be comparing apples to oranges, I would go for the limited edition Seamaster announced in May. One, I already have a Speedy with pretty much the same movement, two the dimensions are not suitable for my tiny wrist size, and three, the LE has a 600m water-resistance and costs a fraction of the cost. Another thing, Speedmaster is now associated with space and moon, but it wasn’t originally designed for that. It was designed for speed and in that the new Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Alinghi delights. But what baffles me is that why would Omega call a sailing watch a moonwatch? What moon and what dark side? When did they discover water on the moon and start sailing there? Sarcasm aside, in my humble opinion, if Omega increased the water-resistance, removed the moon watch labelling, and maybe even slightly reduced the price, it is one hell of a watch that will look stunning on larger wrists no matter the occasion.
Bottom line, following in the footsteps of other Omega DSOTM releases, the watch not only lives up to the unique charm its predecessors bring to the Speedy family, it is also nearly perfect as a luxury regatta watch.
For more information on the new Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Alinghi and other Omega offerings, please head to their website here. All images unless stated otherwise are courtesy ©Omega. All Right Reserved.