July 1969 – July 2019. In a week, the world will celebrate one of mankind’s greatest achievements: walking on the Moon. On July 20th 1969 (or July 21st depending on where you are on Earth), 3 men, onboard a not-so-safe rocket named Saturn V, landed on the surface of our nearest satellite and step foot on the Moon. Strapped on their wrist was a legendary chronograph watch, the Speedmaster, soon to be named the “Moonwatch”. In order to be fully prepared for the Moon Landing 50th Anniversary celebrations, and to understand how this humble sports chronograph became the official astronaut’s watch, here is a throwback to our 3-part in-depth history of the Omega Speedmaster.
The origins – the Pre-Moon models
In this first part of the Omega Speedmaster history, we look at two major topics. First is an overview of the Pre-Moon watches (pre-1969 and Moon Landing), with the iconic references CK 2915, CK 2998, 105.002, 105.003 and ST105.012. The second (and important for today’s matters) topic is how exactly the Speedmaster became the Moonwatch, or how it has been selected, tested and certified as the watch to be worn by Astronauts to go in Space – and to finally step foot on the Moon. You’ll see, the story of the selection by NASA of the Speedmaster is a bit more complex than the legend you’ve probably heard.
But there was something else in this story… Indeed, we broke the news on something extremely important for historical records, a question that was somehow unanswered until then: the references and models of the watches worn by Aldrin and Amstrong onboard Apollo 11.
You can read the first part of our Speedmaster history here.
Main evolutions – the 1970s and the Alaska project
The second part of our Speedmaster history was moving to a different era, and to a topic that collectors tend to overlook – as the focus is mainly on the Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch”. Another important step in the life of the Speedmaster was the Alaska Project, which is, as you’ll see, also the result of a collaboration with NASA (and it has nothing to do with polar exploration). “Alaska Project” was a code name for a project undertaken in strict secrecy. NASA wanted to create the perfect Space Watch. The goal was to create a watch able to function in both extremely hot and extremely cold environments, and also to have great resistance to all the possible aggression of a space mission. Thus, within Omega, the Alaska Project was born. This is a sometimes slightly forgotten part of the history of this watch, which deserves to be known.
In this second part of the Omega Speedmaster history, we also looked at 1970s watches – the Mark series – which is, in fact, the result of the Alaska Project, made available to a larger audience. Funky pilot’s style, the Flightmaster, automatic movements but still a deep link with Space and NASA.
You can read the second part of our Speedmaster history here.
Rare and collectable editions
Last but not least, the third part of our Speedmaster history takes a look at rare editions, including a real astronaut’s watch, a unique appointment of two of the rarest limited editions ever made and a list of all the Apollo 11 editions (at least when the story was published in 2014).
In this story, we have a look at Ken Mattingly’s own full gold Speedmaster BA 145.022 – Ken is a former American astronaut who flew on the Apollo 16, STS-4 and STS-51-C missions. This very watch is one of the 30 models offered to President Nixon, to Vice-President and to 28 astronauts at a gala dinner November 25, 1969 at Hotel Warwick in Houston – something you can see on the caseback of this watch. In this article, we also have a rather unique encounter of two Omega Speedmaster Apollo XI 25th anniversary, on in 18K White Gold, one in classic stainless steel.
You can read the third and last part of our Speedmaster history here.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.