A watch with precision on Earth and in outer space – how many brands can say they’ve tested their timepieces outside our atmosphere? The answer – just one. Since its launch more than half a century ago, the Omega Speedmaster Chronograph has been known for its robust reliability, timeless design and oh yeah, it’s exploration in space.
A Little Background
Since its introduction in 1957, the Omega Speedmaster Chronograph has been characterized by its precision timing. However, at the time of it’s creation, chronographs made up a very, very small percentage of watch sales for all brands, not just Omega.
Chronographs were originally built and advertised as tools for engineers, technicians, doctors and athletes – a way of keeping seconds, much like a stop watch – which made them less appealing as men’s casual wear. However, these qualities made the Speedmaster the perfect watch for marking some of America’s greatest achievements – including the first successful trip to the Moon.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy challenged the American public to support his mission to send a man to the moon (and return him home safely). His “We Choose to Go to the Moon” speech was particularly audacious considering that, at the time, only one American man had launched in to space and spent a mere 15 minutes in orbit.
At the time of JFK’s speech, the first Omega watch made its debut in space, when astronaut Walter Schirra wore his personal Speedmaster during the Sigma 7 mission of the Mercury Program. Inspired by Schirra’s exploration, Omega adjusted the design of the Speedmaster’s case to accommodate larger pushers for easier stops and starts and easily readable white hour and minute hand markers (that still exist today).
Two and a half years after Schirra’s original mission, NASA requested quotes for wrist chronographs that could withstand the elements of space. Omega submitted the Speedmaster for NASA’s performance testing and was pitted against three other brands. NASA’s tests on the chronographs were designed to destroy the watches. From high pressure to high humidity, the tests challenged every aspect of the watches’ performance and in the end, only one watch survived – the Speedmaster.