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Whether you’re an Omega fan, a space geek, or a history buff in general, 2019 was bound to be a big year as we Humans commemorate the 50th anniversary of the world’s first moon landing mission, the Apollo 11. 

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon during Apollo 11, with the Omega Speedmaster on his wrist.

Fifty years ago this week, 600 million people around the world watched on live television as Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took those historic first footsteps on the moon. Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The lunar module containing Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon’s surface on July 20 and the astronauts soon left back for Earth on July 22.

During the Apollo program of the 1960s and ’70s, NASA sent nine missions to the Moon. Six of them landed astronauts safely on the surface, the only times humans have visited another world. 

What watch were they wearing as they made history you ask? No other than the Omega Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch”, a title that will live forever as the first and only watch worn on the moon, as Omega puts it. This watch has a unique place in the history of space exploration as the only piece of equipment used in all of NASA’s piloted space missions from Gemini to the current International Space Station program. 

Commander Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar surface, followed by Buzz Aldrin. They spent about two and a quarter hours together outside the spacecraft, and collected 21.5 kgs of lunar material to bring back to Earth. Command module pilot Michael Collins, the often forgotten astronaut, piloted the command module Columbia alone in lunar orbit while they were on the Moon’s surface. Armstrong and Aldrin spent total of 21.5 hours on the lunar surface before rejoining Columbia in lunar orbit.

Since then, a total of twelve men have landed on the Moon. Manned lunar missions ended on 14 December 1972 with Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt of Apollo 17. Cernan was the last to step off the lunar surface.

The History of Omega and the Speedmaster

Louis Brandt founded the company in 1848 under his own name. A pocket watch series from 1894 was the first to carry the word ‘Omega’. The name is taken from the last letter of the Greek alphabet, which symbolizes completion. At the turn of the century, Brandt’s successors decided to adopt Omega as the company’s name. Omega introduced their first chronograph in 1942, which is considered the predecessor to the later Speedmaster.

Every watch enthusiast knows the Omega Speedmaster. Most fans associate this Omega watch with the first Moon landing in July 1969. However, today the Speedmaster is so much more than just the so-called “Moonwatch.” The collection is composed of numerous models: from manual chronographs to especially precise quartz watches with analog and digital displays, to automatic timepieces with state-of-the-art Co-Axial calibers.

The Speedmaster was not originally designed for space exploration. It was introduced in 1957 as a sport and racing chronograph following on from the early chronographs of the 1920s and 1930s. Complementing Omega’s position as the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games. In 1963, Omega released a new version, which would become famous around the globe: the Professional.

NASA and the Professional 

NASA wanted a watch for the astronauts, but didn’t want to allocate money to develop their own.

So they asked 10 companies for watches without telling them why they wanted them. Only four of the 10 companies answered: Omega, Rolex, Longines and Hamilton.

Hamilton’s watch was a pocket watch so it was dismissed immediately as NASA wanted a watch to be worn on the wrist. The Rolex and Longines failed on the first test; NASA did 11 environmental tests, and only Omega made it through. Some of the tests were high and low temperatures, vibration, shock, humidity and Linear acceleration. 

On June 1st, 1965 the Omega Speedmaster Professional (Ref. 105.003) received the official NASA certifical for use during manned space missions.

Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition 

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of that moment, OMEGA has crafted a new Limited Edition of 6,969 pieces inspired by Apollo 11.

This Limited Edition has a lot of small features that make it extra special. There are two Apollo 11 tributes on the dial. A number “11” features in 18K Moonshine Gold at 11 o’clock. More notably, the 9 o’clock subdial shows Buzz Aldrin climbing down onto the lunar surface. This 18K Moonshine Gold subdial is blackened and laser-engraved.

On the caseback, a footprint on the lunar surface is laser-engraved with Armstrong’s legendary quote written in 18K Moonshine Gold-plated lettering.

As for the movement, Omega went against all wishful-thinking of hardcore Omega fans and did not include the iconic caliber 321, the movement that went to the moon, instead they opted for the new Omega Master Co-Axial Calibre 3861, which makes the next evolutionary step for the famous Moonwatch movement.

Fifty years later this weekend, the world will be remembering the historic mission and its impact on society and science. It’s a huge reminder to what humankind is capable of achieving. 

With that, I will leave you Commander Armstrong’s famous words:

“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Over and out.

References:

  • Omega
  • TwentyTwoTen
  • Gentelmen’s Gazette
  • Wikipedia
  • Nasa
  • Omega Vintage Ads

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