“The First Watch Worn on the Moon”
Originally released in 1957, the Omega Speedmaster has earned its unique moniker with four generations of the “Moon Watch” and a storied place in the history of space exploration. From a traditional chronograph wristwatch to being tested and qualified by NASA and the iconic Apollo moon landing, the Moonwatch has had an enduring bond with astronauts and horologists alike.
The Birth of the Omega Speedmaster – 1957: The story begins when Omega introduced the Speedmaster as part of its Professional collection. Known as the “Broad Arrow,” it was originally designed for race car drivers, featuring a tachymeter scale on the bezel (an industry first) and a chronograph function for measuring time intervals. The model was powered by the Caliber 321 movement, which would later become iconic in the context of space exploration.
NASA Astronaut Selection – 1962: The 1959 Omega Speedmaster was the first watch in space when astronaut Walter Schirra chose the 2nd generation Speedmaster as his personal watch on the Sigma 7 mission of Project Mercury. The model is known for its black aluminum bezel, lollipop seconds stick, and Alpha-style hands.
NASA Tested – 1963: In the early 1960s, multiple brands submitted watches to NASA as they were actively searching for an official timepiece to accompany its astronauts into space. After a series of rigorous tests, including thermal, shock, vibration, and vacuum trials, the Omega Speedmaster stood as one of the few watches to meet NASA’s stringent requirements. In 1963, the 3rd generation Speedmaster received official NASA certification.
Ed White’s Spacewalk – 1965: The Omega Speedmaster’s association with spaceflight took another significant step when astronaut Ed White wore his personal Speedmaster during the first American spacewalk on June 3, 1965, during the Gemini 4 mission. Although not officially supplied by NASA, this event marked a significant moment for the watch and the space program.
NASA’s Official Moonwatch – 1966: In 1966, NASA decided to procure wristwatches for the Apollo program, including the upcoming moon missions. The watch was put through additional testing with extreme temperature variations, shock, and vacuum conditions and passed these trials with flying colors and becoming, “Flight-Qualified by NASA for All Manned Space Missions.”
The Apollo 11 Moon Landing – 1969: The Omega Speedmaster’s most iconic moment came during the Apollo 11 mission. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the lunar surface, while Michael Collins orbited above. Neil Armstrong famously wore his Omega Speedmaster Professional as he descended from the lunar module’s ladder and set foot on the moon.
Subsequent Apollo and Gemini Missions: From 1970 onwards, each Speedmaster read, “The First Watch Worn on the Moon” and “Flight-Qualified by NASA for All Manned Space Missions.” The Speedy continued to be an integral part of subsequent NASA missions, including Apollo 13, where it played a vital role in timing the engine burn necessary for the astronauts’ safe return to Earth.
The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch’s connection to the Apollo moon missions cemented its status as an icon of space exploration and adventure. The watch’s legacy as the “Moonwatch” continues long after the moon landing. It has been used by astronauts in various space missions, including space shuttle missions, the International Space Station, and even today’s missions to space. It remains a symbol of precision, durability, and the enduring spirit of human achievement. Its timeless design has made it a sought-after timepiece for collectors and space enthusiasts alike.
The Modern Moonwatch – 2023: Today, the Speedmaster follows the classic 4th generation style worn by the Apollo 11 astronauts during the moon landing, numbers 310.30.42.50.01.001 with Hesalite glass and 310.30.42.50.01.002 with sapphire crystal. The iconic timepiece now boasts the Caliber 3861 movement and has earned Master Chronometer certification. The latest version also has improved power reserve, increased magnetic resistance, and refined bracelet clasp.
Bailey’s Fine Jewelry is now an Official OMEGA Retailer. Shop OMEGA Watches online or at the Village District in Raleigh.