Could the Omega Speedmaster Tintin be the next Paul Newman Daytona?By Wei Koh
“What’s that? Just who is this idiot? This miscreant blathering horological gibberish born out of his clearly irreparably alcohol damaged medulla oblongata? Wait, no it’s clear that’s he’s trying to hype up a pedestrian Omega chronograph (ref. 322.214.171.124.01.004) as his website is obviously selling these watches. Never have I witnessed such a profane act nefarious shilling. I stab my finger at you, author, and decry to heavens the word ‘mendacity!”’
I can almost imagine the jowl-quivering apoplection the title of this article may have upon Instagram’s most prolific pundits. But I stand by the validity of the question. For three main reasons:
First, like the Paul Newman Daytona – favorite baller timepiece of Ellen DeGeneres or any hedge funder turned burgeoning vintage watch expert – you can recognize it from across the room. And just as the three-color stepped “Exotic” dial is unmistakably unique in the visual lexicon of the Rolex Daytona, the distinct red and white racing motif that radiates explosively around the minute track of the Tintin makes it totally unique in Omega Speedmaster iconography. And it’s true. Even a recent recipient of cataract surgery wearing G-12 Raybans inside a photographic dark room would be able to spot a Tintin, so unique, distinct and to my mind attractive is the configuration of its dial. There simply is nothing else with the same contemporary horological visual identity.
Omega Speedmaster Tintin Ref 3126.96.36.199.01.004
Second, the name Tintin – like Paul Newman – is instantly recognizable and means something in every literate culture on the planet. And like Paul Newman, Tintin evokes a certain reverence and nostalgia amongst all of us. The character’s creator Georges Remi was deeply affected when his native Belgium was invaded by the Nazis at the onset of WWII. In many ways, Tintin was both an act of resistance against what he perceived to be absolute evil. Like Newman, he is associated with ethics and the spirit of adventure. Tintin is cool.
Tintin stands up against injustice, he always has his friends’ backs who frequently rescue needing and he is immensely courageous. Sure, there’s a conspicuous absence of any female characters in his life, and his best friends are a fluffy white dog named Snowy (Milou in the original French) and a curmudgeonly, alcoholic sailor named after an oily species of fish, one Archibald Haddock. But nonetheless the diminutive Tintin has always reminded me of a Belgian Audie Murphy, WWII’s most decorated American solider, a 5 foot 5 Marine who at 19 won the Medal of Valor for singlehandedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers at the Colmar pocket in France. Cause as we all know, it ain’t the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
Third, the Omega Speedmaster Tintin is rare enough to be hard to get, but not so rare that you can’t find one. So, just how many Tintin Speedies were made? It was launched in 2013, as a “racing” dial Speedmaster in the normal collection and endured for approximately 2 years. But as racing dial watches had always been rarities, after a bit of snooping the excellent journalist Robert-Jan Broer of Fratello Watches uncovered from Omega’s head of product Jean-Claude Monachon that the distinct red and white minute track was part of a design (which originally included a rocketship at 11 0’ clock) for a watch inspired by Tintin’s Destination Moon, where he travels there in a distinct red-and-white spacecraft.
I should pause here to praise Tintin creator Herge’s (Remi’s nomme de plumme) incredible prescience and fanatical scientific research when creating this specific comic. Imagine that this comic was initially serialized in 1950 before being collated into a single comic in 1953, more than a decade and a half before the first successful flight to the moon. During early stages he amassed a huge amount of scientific documents on space travel and the V-2 German rocket from the 1940s which would eventually serve as a major inspiration for Tintin’s spacecraft.
As demonstration of the visual alignment between the watch dial and cartoon character’s spacecraft we will place an image of Destination Moon here. However if you’re reading this and there is nothing but an empty space here that’s because the famously litigious estate of the vidsionary cartoonist has asked us to take it down.
Cut to 2012. After negotiations with Tintin’s publisher Herge flamed out, Omega was left with dials that already had this red-and-white motif printed on them. Ever the pragmatists, they renamed them “racing dials” and released them to market to 2013. Just like the Paul Newman Daytonas, the watches were initially not successful and after a relatively short period, were discontinued. As Michael Stockton, also of Fratello watches, explains here, quite a lot of sleuthing has gone into figuring out how many Omega Speedmaster Tintins were made with a thread on omegaforums.net requesting for serial numbers so some quants at MIT armed with supercomputers and a Cosco size jar of Adderall could create an algorithm to figure out the exact number of watches. Ok, that last part isn’t true but the general consensus is that somewhere between 1,000-2,000 watches were made.
Now let’s look at that in comparison with the number of Paul Newman Daytonas made which auction experts will hem and haw around but the general belief is that the quantity of “exotic” dial Rolex Daytonas in all pump and screw pushers configurations numbers in the low thousands. This of course increases each year based on the little old man in a shed cranking them out along with tropical Explorer dial Submariners and left-handed 6542s at his slow methodical pace. Dude, come on that last part is just a joke of course. Je blague. Je blague.
Anyway, the point is that as I mentioned, the number of Tintins out there makes them rare but not so rare that you can’t find one. And the best part is that you can always check the serial number of your watch with Omega (by applying for an extract from the archives) to ensure its originality. The other quick visual cue is that the Moonwatch writing normally printed in black on the back of the watch case is, in the case of all Tintins, printed in red.
The point is the Tintin dial is an extremely cool visual anomaly in a sports watch every bit as – and some might argue more – iconic than the Daytona. Remember the Omega Speedmaster, the original watch with the tachymeter on its bezel, was the only timepiece to pass the rigorous tests to be certified for use by NASA.
Like the standard Speedy Pro, the Tintin features a hesalite acrylic crystal, which instantly gives it a soupcon of vintage appeal. And beating inside it is the manual wind Caliber 1861, the modern interpretation of the legendary caliber 861 from 1968 that was present in the watches that went to space and which keeps the profile of the Omega Speedmaster in this configuration appealingly slender.
The best part is though the Omega Speedmaster Tintin has been trending up, prices are still not inaccessible. Prices seem to hover around 6K USD for unworn NOS watches replete with factory seals on case and bracelet, which in today’s market is about 1/100th the price of a screw pusher Mark 1 Paul Newman Daytona. The last parting caveat I would impart here is that while the watch looks unique with its steel bracelet, it truly comes alive when combined with a NATO strap, especially one with red and black stripes as is my preference.