3,000 tonnes of Saturn 5 rocket, consuming fuel at 15 tonnes per second, travelling 240,000 miles away from Earth, at a cost equivalent today of £25 billion, is perhaps one of the most ludicrous ideas to ever dawn upon mankind. But as is well documented (and sometimes disputed) that is exactly what happened in 1969. And then it happened again, and several more times too. This Omega Men’s Watch is the quest for Earth’s nearest neighbour, it’s only natural satellite, the bleak but beautiful Luna.
The decision to pursue the Moon was announced in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, four years after the fourth Apollo 11 crewmember was born—the Omega Speedmaster Watch. Between then and its first official NASA mission into space on board Gemini 3 in 1965 (it had already flown unofficially during Project Mercury), the Speedmaster suffered a raft of gruelling tests at the hands of NASA’s cruellest product evaluators. The testing was extensive beyond belief – ridiculous even—but nevertheless the Speedmaster passed. Amongst the worst punishment it received was 48 hours at 71°C followed by half an hour at 93°C, and then four hours at -18°C; six shocks in different directions at 40 Gs each; vibration in three cycles of thirty minutes at 2,000 cycles per second with each cycle imparting at least 8.8 Gs; and 130 db (the volume of a jet take-off) over a frequency range of 40 to 10,000 Hz for thirty minutes.
At NASA’s request, the handset was changed for high-contrast baton hands so as not to obscure the chronograph and crown guards were added to prevent knocking the crown. The applied ‘O’ logo was replaced for a painted one, and the ‘Professional’ script was added to the dial. The Speedmaster was now the only watch flight qualified by NASA for all manned space missions.
The Speedmaster CK2998 is the model that Walter ‘Wally’ Schirra wore unofficially for the 1962 Mercury-Atlas 8 (Sigma 7) mission. There are several subtle differences that NASA changed for the Professional.
Case: Steel Dimensions: 39mm dia, 13mm thick Crystal: Acrylic Water Resistance: 50m Movement: Calibre 321, based on Lemania 2310, manual Frequency: 18,000 vph Power reserve: 44 hours Functions: Time, chronograph | Shop Now
Before project Apollo could begin, NASA had to determine whether or not certain aspects of the mission to the Moon were actually feasible, so Gemini acted as the dress rehearsal for the main event, trialling techniques that focussed mainly around vehicle rendezvous and docking. In less than two years ten Gemini missions were performed, including the first American extra-vehicular activity (spacewalk) undertaken by Ed White, accompanied by his Omega Speedmaster.
The Apollo program that followed was the first time humans had ever ventured beyond low Earth orbit, and the twelve astronauts that walked the Moon between Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 are the only men to have ever set foot on a celestial body. The Speedmaster accompanied many of these men on their journeys, although it didn’t quite make it onto the wrist of Neil Armstrong as he took his—and mankind’s—first steps on the Moon. The story goes that he left it on board the Lunar Module after its on-board electronic timer broke down, and so the job was left to Buzz Aldrin to give the Omega the title of ‘first watch worn on the Moon.’
Following Apollo and the quest for distance, NASA then experimented with duration. The United States’ first space station, Skylab, was sent into space in 1973 and was home for the astronauts of all three Skylab missions for a total of 171 days. The three missions were long, each longer than the last, with the final mission taking 84 days (although the current record far surpasses that at 437 days). The occupants wore their NASA issue Speedmasters during this highly experimental era.