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Hesalite vs. sapphire - Source Swisswatches Magazines

Hesalite vs. Sapphire: Comparing Crystal of Omega Moonwatch

Hesalite vs. sapphire crystal performs different capabilities for the Omega Moonwatch. Find out how they differ and their benefits here!
Apr 24, 2024

Omega Speedmaster is one of the renowned collections by a reputable watch brand. Besides its outstanding heritage and impressive collection, Omega offers various materials to choose from. One of the most intriguing choices is the use of hesalite vs sapphire crystal. While both of them possess some pros and cons, it’s always exciting case to look closer at both. Besides, as you find this article, you might be wondering which one is more suitable for you.

Hesalite vs sapphire crystal often presents a dilemma for many people, especially if it is their first time buying Speedmaster. In fact, Omega presents the two configurations as no other than to make it suitable for the occasion. The story goes back to the time when Speedmaster was selected as the official watch of the Apollo program. It is said that hesalite is more qualified than sapphire crystal for space missions. 

As the mission managed to bring success, the story of Speedmaster which features a hesalite crystal becomes a talk among the watch community. However, we can’t deny that sapphire has become a common choice for today’s wristwatches. So, the question might be “is hesalite crystal better than sapphire?” and “what is hesalite made of?”. Worry not! We will explore deeper about hesalite vs sapphire crystal.

A Brief about Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch

The story of Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch will always look back at the NASA mission for its manned space flights. Omega with the other three watch brands was on the watch’s qualification in 1965. The timepiece for each watch brand was tested in ten intensive and extreme environments.

However, only Omega could make it until the end. That, without a doubt, made Omega Speedmaster the official timepiece approved by NASA and remains until the present day. The journey of Omega Speedmaster with NASA continued until the next missions, such as the Moon mission in 1969, Apollo 13 in 1970, and Apollo 17 in 1972.

Throughout those missions, Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch gains great attention and rises in the watch community. That makes without a doubt the watch a legend. Among these successful missions also exist the hesalite crystal that protects the watch from the very first model to the last one. 

The interesting point on this phenomenon is NASA that insisted to use hesalite instead of sapphire crystal. Despite sapphire’s hardness, it is more prone to shatter. NASA didn’t want to take the risk of shattered glass in space. Therefore, hesalite was chosen as it will crack instead of shatter.

What is Hesalite Crystal?

Hesalite is basically a word coined by Omega in the 1940s to refer to plexiglass or acrylic. It is an advanced form of acrylic with transparent plastic. In daily life, hesalite can be found in many things, such as contact lenses. As hesalite is made of plastic, it has a lower price range compared to other dial protection. Yet, as you can expect from Omega, hesalite is chosen not without benefits. 

In fact, hesalite provides a range of good qualities. Constructed out of entirely plastics, it makes hesalite easier to shape in any form needed. In addition to that, instead of shattering under extreme pressure, hesalite tends to crack. For this reason, hesalite is chosen as the primary material to build Omega Moonwatch for the NASA mission.

Hesalite becomes an ideal material for the space mission. Sapphire watch crystal might be harder but it will shatter like glass which might cause risks in space. Therefore, although sapphire already existed, NASA decided on hesalite to be part of the mission. That’s when Omega began making its Moonwatch collection in Hesalite. 

However, hesalite crystal also comes with disadvantages. The material can easily get scratched compared to the sapphire crystal. Light marks might not be many problems as they can be polished out. Yet, consistent damage can affect the dial’s legibility as it blurs out the crystal.

Read also: Watch Crystal Types: Take A Look at The Different Varieties

What is Sapphire Crystal?

Sapphire crystal has been around since 1930 yet it started getting in trend when Rolex used it on their watches in the 1970s. That leads other watch brands to use a sapphire crystal as the material for luxury and even affordable watches. Sapphire itself is made of a mineral called corundum the second hardest mineral on the planet – right after diamond.

Despite its name sapphire, it doesn’t come from natural sapphire. They might have the same characteristics, such as hardness but sapphire is made in laboratories. In fact, sapphire is three to four times tougher than acrylic. Additionally, sapphire offers scratch resistance to the finest.

However, the hardness of sapphire also becomes a downside. If hesalite can be shaped easily, sapphire can only be cut and polished from a solid block until it gets the wanted finishing. Therefore, if you compare hesalite vs sapphire as used in Omega, the one with sapphire will look thicker with a more artificial dome appearance. 

Sapphire crystal is also a reflective material that would be a problem if used in a watch. Therefore, watchmakers give special treatment with anti-reflective coatings. The result is an extremely legible dial from any angle of view. In the end, these overall processes of making a sapphire cost this crystal more expensive. 

Hesalite vs. Sapphire Crystal

So, which one is better hesalite vs. sapphire crystal? The answer is most likely not about one being good while the other is bad. Rather it depends on the preferences that you are looking for as both crystals possess different types of capabilities. 

If you want to keep the authenticity and history of the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, then a hesalite crystal would be an ideal option. On the other hand, Moonwatch with sapphire crystal will offer quite a more decorative appearance to the watch. The watch features an open caseback and, thus, becomes more appealing to see the intricate movements in the back. 

When it comes to durability, sapphire is more scratch resistant compared to hesalite. Yet, it will shatter under extreme conditions or get into bumps. In contrast, hesalite will never shatter and is less likely to break. Yet, again, sapphire is considered more legible compared to hesalite. 

As for the price, sapphire can be found in almost all luxury watches. The process of making sapphire makes this crystal more expensive. Meanwhile, hesalite is easier to shape, work with, and replace. Therefore, it is more affordable to use hesalite crystal, especially for entry-level watches. 

In addition to that, the way different crystal gives a different look might also be your consideration. Hesalite crystal tends to give a vintage look. On the other hand, sapphire crystal gives a more luxurious appearance due to its material and reputation.

Wrapping Up

In the end, it’s about the matter of what you are looking for to choose hesalite vs. sapphire watch crystals. In fact, every Omega Moonwatch timepieces exude a different charm and persona despite using hesalite or sapphire. Personally, I prefer hesalite as it is Omega Moonwatch that we’re talking about.

It is the hesalite that joined the NASA manned space missions and that makes the reason why Moonwatch is very loved by many. Having a sapphire Moonwatch might feel luxurious but it is less successful in emerging the history of the watch. Yet, this goes back to your preferences and how you perceive the story behind the watch. 

You might also like: A Nifty Guide: How to Remove Scratches From Watch Crystal

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