The Omega Speedmaster Professional, otherwise known as the Moonwatch, is a manual winding chronograph introduced in 1957 and made famous by its selection by NASA for the Apollo Program. The Omega Speedmaster was the first watch worn on the moon (Apollo 11), as astronaut Buzz Aldrin wore his Speedmaster 145.012 fitted with the Omega 321 caliber on 20 July 1969. (Neil Armstrong left his Speedmaster inside the landing module “Eagle” during his famous first walk). It is the only watch flight-qualified for EVA use by NASA. It is also the watch chosen for use in outer space by the Russian space agency NPO Energia. (Wikipedia).
How Omega Speedmaster Professional was chosen to be worn on the moon
When the step-by-step procedures of the Project Gemini space-walks were first mapped out, NASA realized that they did not have an approved wristwatch for space travel. The normal procedure of soliciting bids for the design, manufacture and testing of special Space Proof wristwatches was a time consuming process. To save time, NASA sent two systems engineers into downtown Houston “incognito” to purchase several reputable “off-the-shelf” chronographs to be tested for possible use in space. Contrary to popular belief, the choice of a manual-winding watch was unrelated to the assumption that zero-gravity conditions would have rendered a self-winding mechanism ineffective. The reason was much simpler: there were no automatic chronographs available at that time, the first ones being introduced in 1969.
Five different brands of chronographs were purchased and returned to NASA for testing. The Speedmaster passed NASA’s numerous tests, which included exposure to extreme temperatures, vacuum, intense humidity, corrosion, shock, acceleration, pressure, vibration and noise, whereas the Rolex, Breitling, Bulova, Longines and Heuer all failed.
The tests were completed on March 1, 1965. At the completion of the tests, three of the chronographs from different manufactures were still running, but only the Speedmaster had passed without any of the serious discrepancies encountered with the others. The Omega Speedmaster was adopted by NASA as:
Officially Certified Wristwatch For All Manned Space Missions.
At this point, Omega was completely unaware of these activities.
The Backside shows it is certified by NASA
The Omega Speedmaster was re-certified in 1972 and in September 1978, for the Space Shuttle missions.
Today, all NASA-issued wristwatches are government property and must be turned in once the astronauts return to Earth. Astronauts are permitted to check out the watches before launch and take them home to familiarize themselves with the watch’s operation.
Video Review of the Omega Speedmaster Professional 861
The backside was re-designed to be transparent and show its mechanism. The text in the circular frame says:
Omega, The First Watch Worn on the Moon.
Omega Speedmaster Professional (Moon Watch) with a black Louisiana Alligator. And also with a sapphire crystal caseback and an hesalyte crystal.
The Omega Speedmaster is the only part of the NASA astronauts equipment available for purchase by the general public.
Price of the Omega Speedmaster Professional
New: $3200 in an authorized dealer, $2400 in a gray market, used $1500USD.
Type: Private (subsidiary of the Swatch Group)
Founder: Louis Brandt
James Bond has worn an Omega watch in films since 1995; other famous Omega wearers are John F. Kennedy, George Clooney, Nicole Kidman and Cindy Crawford. Omega estimates that 7 out of every 10 people have heard of Omega watches. Omega is owned by the Swatch Group.
Post author: Daniel Semper