Space – the final frontier. From the Jetsons, to Star Wars, to the very real Virgin Galactic commercial space endeavor, we are obsessed with the cosmos. For the handful of people in history who have traveled out of our orbit, it is a defining experience. The same all-encompassing association with space has found its way to the horological world as well, with star chart and moon phase complications finding their way to luxury timepieces throughout the years. One watch, with the pedigree to match, can arguably be considered the “king” of space, the Omega Speedmaster Professional – the Moonwatch.
The story of the Omega Speedmaster is legendary. NASA operations director Deke Slayton put out a request for bid to find an official watch for NASA pilots. Four watches were returned. One watch was too large, and two more failed their first two tests conducted by NASA engineers. The remaining watch, which passed all the tests engineers could throw at it, was the Omega Speedmaster, a watch NASA engineer James Ragan called “a tough made watch”. After not only surviving, but excelling in tests measuring changes in temperature, gravity, humidity, pressure, and shock, we agree, the Speedmaster is one tough timepiece.
Since that initial design in the 1960s, the Speedmaster has not changed much. Once you earn the right of being flight-qualified by NASA, there is not much to improve on for a terrestrial timepiece. If wound daily and serviced regularly it is a timepiece that can run for eternity. Besides telling time though, the Speedmaster serves some very real functions for space travel and vacation getaways alike. With a chronograph complication and a tachymeter to measure speed, the purposeful design of the Omega Speedmaster was a huge reason that Omega survived the “quartz crisis” of the 1980s.
The 1980s brought cheap timepieces to the masses. Powered by quartz crystal movements, the cheaper, easier to maintain, and simpler quartz watches marked the end of many mechanical watchmakers. Omega survived, and thrived, due to their history, a large portion of which was the appeal of the “watch worn by astronauts”. The sense of permanence, history, and luxury, not to mention it is the closest most of us will ever get to space, made the Omega Speedmaster the most well-known production by Omega. This popularity not only survived the quartz crisis, but allowed for growth and prosperity for the watchmaker over the following four decades.
Today, the Omega Speedmaster Professional, which now officially carries the nickname “The Moonwatch” closely resembles the Omega worn by Buzz Aldrin on the Moon in 1969. With the words “The first watch worn on the moon” engraved on the caseback, it is the only watch to be flight-certified for all manned space missions. This history appeals to watch obsessives the world over, who painstakingly examine new Speedmaster editions for any subtle difference to the design since the 1950s. The Moonwatch is not only for obsessives though, with a versatility and timelessness that generates universal appeal, the Speedmaster is a great watch for anyone who wants to purchase their first timepiece and not have to ever look for another.
Omega recently created a 50th Anniversary edition of the Speedmaster which replicated the watch first worn to the moon. With subtle nods to the Apollo mission, including the numeral 11 instead of a dash marker for the hour, the nine o’clock subdial showing a gold etching of Aldrin climbing down the stairs onto the moon, and perhaps most impressively, a blackened inner caseback with shows Aldrin’s laser-engraved footprint of the lunar surface accompanied by Armstrong’s legendary quote. Only 1,014 of these special editions were made, but the Speedmaster continues to be a staple of the Omega lineup.
As a first watch or a fifth watch, the Omega Speedmaster is capable of performing for generations. With a timeless style and a quality build, the Moonwatch is truly an American classic, revered the world over. If it’s good enough for NASA to send to the moon, it’s good enough to be your watch.
Explore this one-of-a-kind timepiece here!