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This is the latest high-end digital timer, and this Mars Watch is it

Omega’s cachet as A luxury watchmaker cannot be separated from its role as maker of the Moonwatch (the chronograph worn by NASA astronauts who are currently on the moon). Omega’s latest space-age release is the Speedmaster X-33 Marstimer, which gives the time and functions both for Earth-bound and Mars. 

While the prospect of anyone wearing a watch on the surface of the Red Planet is still over a decade away—NASA is currently aiming for the mid-2030s, while Elon wants to get there sooner, of course—the Marstimer, an update on Omega’s X-33 astronauts’ watch and created under a patented license from the European Space Agency, is being presented as a scientific tool, of professional interest to those engaged in researching our neighbor planet and sending rovers and satellites to investigate it.

However, what the new Marstimer really attests to is the enduring potency of space as a theme to inspire watch buyers, no matter how niche the purpose—and the continuing viability (and improbable fashionability) of high-end digital watches in a world that would seem to have left them behind.

In 1998 Omega released its first digital-analog X-33 Speedmaster. It was intended to be the perfect wrist-computer designed for astronauts. This handset, which was similar to the Marstimer’s successor, combined an analog clock with digital timekeeping (and a number of gloves-friendly push buttons) that allow for additional functions, such as chronographs, very loud alarms or countdown timers. It comes in a rugged titanium box. It was launched, on the back of several years’ R&D, at Houston Space Center and would be worn in space by NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts aboard the MIR space station. It has enjoyed a loyal following since then.

Photo by Omega

Photo by Omega

Although it was a classic style, Omega continued to improve and update the design over time. The new Marstimer, with its orange aluminum bezel inspired by Mars’ hematite surface, is an upgrade on the X-33 Skywalker first launched in 2014. Priced at $6,400 (£6,000), it’s powered by a new, high-grade movement, Calibre 5622, which is highly precise, thermo-compensated, and packed with esoteric functionality. For European Space Agency scientists, Omega reasons (the watch is “ESA tested”), tracking mean solar time at Mars’ prime meridian, or using “Mission Timer” functions calibrated to Mars’ calendar, have realistic applications. It is likely that civilians will find it amusing to be able know the exact time on Mars.

Nevertheless, as a digital watch (albeit an exceptionally high-functioning one), it’s part of a genre that has been long overhauled by the computational power and user-friendliness of touchscreen smartwatch apps. Yet it’s a genre that continues to power on, finding new appeal among the kinds of buyers and collectors more commonly interested in finely crafted mechanics.

Girard Perregaux, boutique haute-horlogerie expert, surprised everyone in 2021 by bringing back the Casquette. This watch features an antique LED screen and a cover that tilts to the side. Limited to 820 examples, it was an instant sell-out, with versions now being resold at well over twice its £3,600 ($3,992) sale price.

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