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Omega Speedmaster X-33 Solar Impulse Long-Term Review

My Speedy brings all the nerds to the yard

My Speedy brings all the nerds to the yard,
And they’re like, it’s better than ours,
Damn right, it’s better than yours,
Loan From a Bro?
I think I’ll have to charge.

The Omega Speedmaster Professional X-33 Skywalker holds an extraordinary place in the hearts of nerds. Over the last year, this has proven true for space nerds, horology nerds, gear nerds, engineering nerds, and even smartwatch nerds. They all have flocked over when seeing it on my wrist and have had to start a conversation. I had never worn a watch that garnered so much positive attention from others. The only other timepiece that came close to attracting the same levels of elation from strangers is my Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein collaboration piece named La Semaine.

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Why does this watch create so much joy for many who see it? There is an innate joy in seeing things that combine the old and new in a utilitarian manner. This is further accentuated when it is done in a playful manner. By combining a purposeful analog and digital dial, this X-33 elicits conversations from fellow nerds from all walks of life. This Solar Impulse numbered edition adds to the enthusiasm levels due to its playful and unique color scheme. The unusual combination of dark blue and lime green draws in not only the attention of others but also their sense of humor and playfulness.

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Made to celebrate the historical flight by the Solar Impulse Foundation on March 9th, 2015, this was the first worldwide flight by a solar-powered plane that flew through the darkness of night. The pilot of this historic flight (in reality, it was a series of lights chained together), André Borscheberg, wore the Speedmaster Solar Impulse HB-SIA for the flight. That watch is a titanium-cased mechanical piece with a date and a GMT complication. This impressive plane used 17,248 solar cells to complete its 117-hour and 52-minute flight. To achieve this, the aircraft had to be extremely light, efficient in its power distribution, and purposely built for the single-minded task of flying across the planet and nothing else.

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The X-33 shares these traits with the Si2 (Solar Impulse 2) plane. Unlike normal Speedmaster Professionals that beat out the competition to be worn in space by NASA, the X-33 line of Speedmasters were designed from the outset for duty in orbit and has been flight qualified by the European Space Agency. As a result, this watch may have some features that are useless for civilians without a pilot’s license, and it may be missing some features that soft and squishy civilians such as us have grown attached to having in our luxury timepieces.

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Though there are many articles online about this third-generation X-33, its history, and its reason for being, in this review, we will focus on how it wears on the wrist of a regular consumer. We will also look at how it functions under the demands of a working professional that does not call a cockpit their office, and most importantly whether you should spend your hard-earned money on such a timepiece.

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On the Wrist

My X-33 brings all the nerds to the yard,
And they’re like, is it a chonk?
Not with the 48 lug-to-lug,
Great for small wrists,
So it’s not that large.

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Placing a watch into size categories is a nuanced task. Simply designating this specific Speedmaster as a large watch without wearing it is a mistake. Being accustomed to larger watches, I never viewed this watch as a sizeable timepiece and was taken aback when people asked me if it was too large.

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“Should I get this as my next Speedmaster,” asked my good friend Isaac aka @ikemadethis, regarding a mechanical Speedmaster. This only being a few hours after receiving his new Snoopy Speedmaster.

“I really think that you should get an X-33 as your next Speedy,” I suggested.

“Yeah, I do not think I could pull off an X-33,” replied Isaac.

“Why is that,” I asked, thinking it was due to its digital screen and non-traditional design.

“It’s too big,” he replied to my surprise.

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After many months of wearing this 45mm watch, I never considered it to be a large watch. I mainly put this down to the multi-stepped inner dial playing with one’s perception about the timepiece’s overall size, like that of many dive watches. Another friend who is far more intelligent than I am, a few weeks later, put me in my place by pointing out the obvious.

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“It wears smaller because of its lug-to-lug measurement, you dummy,” said Matt, aka @fotto_moto. Well, he didn’t say dummy; it was implied.

All of the reasons above contribute to this watch wearing incredibly well. Its 45mm case on paper may sound daunting, but the 48mm lug-to-lug and the Grade 2 Titanium construction make this Speedmaster an afterthought while on the wrist. This particular Solar Impulse edition comes with a Nato strap, so it wears a little higher than the standard edition, which comes with a bracelet.

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When paired with the higher-end leather Nato straps from Omega, the X-33 surprisingly looks well suited to a suit and some more formal attire. More importantly, these higher-priced NATO straps hold their shape better than those of lesser quality. This allows the wearer to have the strap fastened to one slot looser than they typically wear their watch. This is where the X-33 truly excels. Because of its titanium case, the watch is essentially never sensed by the wearer. The watch is weightless and not top-heavy when worn with the supplied NATO strap. This results in the watch being the perfect daily companion and results in absolutely no wrist fatigue.

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Surprisingly the added visual interest of the atypical color scheme does not detract from the watch’s ability to blend in more formal environments. As enthusiasts who live within isolated silos of echo chambers, we tend to overthink things. To make matters worse, most watch enthusiasts flock toward boring watches, but we do not do this due to a lack of imagination. We typically do this to get the most bang for our dollar from our timepieces, and most releases from brands these days are on the rather boring side.

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“When you think about it,” said my good friend Ben aka @canadianwatchguy, as he sat back in his favorite living room chair, gently holding a ceramic mug filled with his excellent homemade coffee. “We like boring watches. We wear boring watches. We get all hyped about whatever boring basic watch gets released, and we just forget about it by the time the next boring release comes around.”

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My friend Ben is probably the nerdiest watch nerd that I know. His enthusiasm and love for watches burns so hot that it resembles that of a one-night stand which flourishes into a summer fling – except in his case, it never ends. This may sound exhausting, but it is endearing and a joy to observe, albeit from a comfortable distance. He has a point, and I am guilty of this as well. Many of us leave room for colorful, artful and playful watches within our collections for inexpensive Swatches or G-Shocks. I had initially set out to get the standard monochrome version of this watch (which only has a splash of red for its seconds hand) but fell in love with this watch when I stumbled upon it. Since then, it has never looked out of place on my wrist save for the most formal occasions where a thin dress watch was called into duty.

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Furthermore, in the era of high-end smartwatches from the likes of Garmin, Suunto, Apple, TAG Heuer, and others, this watch did attract the attention of a couple of runners at a Starbucks while I was waiting in line to make my order. One enquired if Omega was now making smartwatches with fitness metrics and was visibly disappointed when I replied with a no.

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So if you are on the fence about getting the X-33 and are worried about it dressing your entire wardrobe down, you do not need to worry about that.

Omega Speedmaster X-33 Specs

Case Width

45mm

Lug-to-Lug

48mm

Case Thickness

15.1mm

Lug Width

20mm

Water Resistance

30m

Strap

NATO

Crystal

Sapphire

Lume

Yes

Movement

Omega Quartz Calibre 5619

Price

$5,900

LCD Details

The negative LCD screen is the most significant factor behind the X-33’s versatility. The anti-reflective treatment on both sides of the sapphire crystal allows for ultimate legibility when needed and to fade into the background when it is not called upon. Most of the functions allocated to the display require the user’s full attention. Thus, having the watch at an extreme angle where the display fades is not a concern, for one typically does not look at the watch at these angles when referencing what is displayed.

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The only time I needed to know something which required me to turn the dial slightly towards me was the date. As general consumer advice regarding watches with negative digital displays, look for how reflective the crystal is. Beyond the basic contrast levels of the screens themselves, this is the crucial factor in making the watch wearable and something more than just a fashion accessory. Pictured here are two negative display G-Shocks. The solar-powered GW-M5610U-BJF has a far more reflective plastic “crystal” than the less expensive battery-powered DW-5600HR. The battery-powered model is far more legible, resulting in more wrist time. By the way, if I start having children, I will adopt Casio’s naming scheme for all of my offspring.

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Dial and Bezel Details

The dial of this X-33 leans on the long lineage of Speedmaster and Flightmaster dials that come before it. All the familiar notes are played, such as the twelve o’clock marker being differentiated from the rest with two dots. The stick hands are in a contrasting white and are lumed generously. This Solar Impulse edition of the X-33 has all its numerals lumed on the bezel, whereas the standard and Regatta variants only have the marker at 12 lumed. In this instance, the LCD screen’s light color matches the lume on the hands and that of the bezel. This is a design decision that is appreciated by many.

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“I love how the digital screen’s light matches the lume,” said Adam, aka @ahartfie.

“Can I paraphrase that as you like the fact that the carpet matches the drapes on this watch and quote you,” I asked.

“No, you may not!”

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Both the LCD’s light and the lume used throughout the watch are not overpowering. The lume is noticeably a step down in terms of brightness over time when compared to a modern Omega Planet Ocean. The lume will burn gently throughout the night and is very legible to eyes when adjusted for either the darkness of their bedroom or the International Space Station.

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Details such as the indices cutting into the chapter rings and having the outermost chapter ring in a brilliant lime green color give this watch the beautiful depth it instantly becomes known for when seen in person. The seconds hand does not have lume applied, but it is not missed in this case. The seconds hand does stop when the light button is pressed, and it continues on its way once the light turns off. Interestingly, due to its LCD screen, it is not qualified for extravehicular activities such as spacewalks. Still, it faired extremely well on entire day hikes in the frigid winters here in Canada.

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Case and Strap

We have already spoken at length about the NATO strap that comes with this timepiece. The only detail not mentioned was that the hardware used is made of Grade Two Titanium. The beautifully brushed case is also made from Grade 2 Titanium and is flawlessly finished. The 30-metre water resistance is most likely a result of the resonance chamber of the caseback of this watch. This resonance chamber allows for an alarm that is rated at 80 decibels.

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Though the alarm is a fair degree louder than that of normal Casio G-Shocks, it is not deafening. It does pierce through a noisy environment exceedingly well, however. At a busy bar, I set the countdown timer to time my friend, who promised to be back in five minutes after her smoke break. She heard the alarm through the window while standing on the sidewalk of Toronto’s busiest street. Whether I got a smack across the back of my head or not is a topic of concern, but the alarm is practical and very useful.

The buttons have a satisfying mechanical “click” that requires more force than initially thought. Omega went to great lengths towards the button engagement feeling as it does, and it is appreciated. Opposite the crown at 9 o’clock is a solid counter-bump to rest your thumb as your index finger operates the buttons on the other side. The crown is a button that cycles through the modes, and when pulled out it… well, we’re almost getting ahead of ourselves now, aren’t we?

The Movement and its Modes

My X-33 brings all the nerds to the yard,
And they’re like, is that quartz?
Damn right, best believe it’s quartz,
Only a two-year battery?
Due to no solar charge.

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The Omega Calibre 5619 is fully thermo-compensated and has been accurate to within a second a month. It was worn on multiple hikes in temperatures far below minus twenty degrees Celsius. The watch’s functions are operated by that crown which we mentioned. Instead of acting like a traditional twisting crown, here it behaves like a button. The crown can be pulled out to put the watch into its power-saving mode, which sets all of the hands to 12 and turns off the LCD screen. In this mode, the watch continues to keep track of time.

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The X-33 is surprisingly easy to operate. Its button and menu layout is straightforward and should be a breeze to get acquainted with for anyone familiar with square G-Shocks. The only button placement issue that you may encounter is the placement of the Light/Adjust button on the bottom left and the favorites button on the top right. After almost forty years, Casio has conditioned us to have the adjust button on the top left of the case. Since the “mode” button is the crown on the X-33, at first, I frequently pressed the Light/Adjust button by accident when wanting to use the favorites function.

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This favorites button can be set to any function and is a wonderful and thoughtful addition. Since I have to time multiple events throughout the day, this function allows me to jump straight to the chronograph on demand. By pressing this button on the top right again, you return to the screen you were on before arriving at your set favorite function.

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The watch’s functions are set apart into two menus. You can switch between the two menus by pressing down and holding the crown. By depressing the crown briefly, you move between the functions within each menu set.

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The first menu has the Universal Time Zone, followed by the first time zone (typically your home time zone), followed by a second time zone. The first menu is then rounded out by the Mission Elapsed Timer, the chronograph, and the countdown timer. The second menu has three Phased Elapsed Timers and three separate alarms. The timers have a helpful plus and minus at the top of the display to tell you how long has elapsed since the alarm initially went off. The Phase Elapsed Timers essentially are milestones of the events that occur within the Mission Elapsed Timer, and they can all be set to either of the three time zones set within the first menu. I went out of my way to use all of these timers, but I have not since organically come to use them. Using these alarms throughout your day will cause a small disruption where ever you are, for people will think that you are walking around with a small carbon monoxide detector on your wrist. Unlike other digital watches which may alert you, this alarm does what it advertises to do, and it alarms you accordingly.

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Lastly, the two-year battery life is on the conservative side, and the battery change was handled smoothly by Swatch Group Headquarters here in Toronto. They also adjusted the hands to perfectly line up with the indices, which they did not do from the factory. You can adjust the hands if they are knocked out of place, but any fine adjustments more than a fifth of a second require a visit to the service center for alignment. I will address two points about what was mentioned above. Like my previous reviews of Omegas on this site, the quality assurance done on the watches before they leave the factory has room for improvement. This is remedied by Swatch Group Canada’s fantastic service department. Second, I have read that enthusiasts complain that this watch is not solar-powered. Most of their complaints come from the stance that naming this watch “Solar Impulse” is dishonest and that the watch should have a solar movement.

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Given that this is a limited edition made off an existing chassis and model, such expectations are unrealistic. To have made such a economically viable solar-powered watch, Omega would have to sell exponentially more watches with this movement and create new skews and model lines. This complaint has no merit in reality. Furthermore, the first Solar Impulse edition Omega Speedmaster had a mechanical Omega Calibre 3603. Thus, there is no precedent of a watch commemorating such a flight having to be solar.

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Final Thoughts

The X-33 has been an absolute joy ever since I started wearing it. It has also brought joy to everyone, which has been an unexpected delight. The alarms and timers have also contributed to it becoming my daily worn watch. Some people have called this an expensive G-Shock, and they are wrong. First, some G-Shocks are nearly as expensive now. Second, this watch and its mechanical parts for the pushers and every other part will not withstand the shock forces for which a G-Shock is rated. So, please do not buy an X-33 as a luxury replacement for your G-Shock.

The Omega Speedmaster (at times also called a Flightmaster) Professional Skywalker X-33 Solar Impulse Edition is a wonderful tool designed for those who are either flying an airplane, space shuttle, or conducting tests in a laboratory in orbit. This is why this X-33 is so special in the eyes of many. Like the GT series of cars from Porsche, which are designed for the extremes of the racetrack in the hands of professionals, this watch is designed for the extremes of space travel while on the wrists of the very best that our species has to offer. Humans are wired to admire and aspire to the heights that these products represent. We are also hardwired to admire and daydream about being the few humans with the right stuff to be astronauts, test pilots, or professional divers. We are not kidding ourselves into thinking that we can set a new lap time at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps or that we are timing critical junctures within a spaceflight. However, I have come to rely on the X-33 to measure and conduct several medical stress tests for those in my care, and I have come to rely on its alarm every morning. Most importantly, I have come to rely on this watch for all the quiet smiles on my face during the many times it is relied upon on the most hectic days.

From experience, this watch is worth every penny and comes highly recommended. Furthermore, I would like to thank Omega for making such a timepiece available to us civilians.

Check out more Omega reviews at The Watch Clicker here

Check out the Omega website here

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