Omega Speedmaster: From the Race Track to the Moon

When Omega Speedmaster was launched 60 years ago, no one imagined that it would accompany space pioneers to their missions, much less make history as the first watch on the moon.

Originally launched as a sports and racing chronograph, the Speedy was made to measure different speeds with its tachymetric bezel. But it turned out to be capable of more than that and became the only watch to pass NASA’s quest for a watch that can handle the rigors of space.
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Since the historic moon landing, Omega Speedmaster has not lost an inch of its gravitational pull and remains an icon until today. Here are key dates in its journey:
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1957 The Omega Speedmaster is launched as a racing chronograph, to complement Omega’s position as the official timekeeper of the Olympics.

The first model, ref CK2915, featured some of its hallmarks: high-contrast markers, domed Plexiglas crystal, and the triple register chronograph layout. It had “Broad Arrow” hands and the Calibre 321 that would change later on.


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1962 Omega introduces the straight baton hands for ref 105.002 and 105.003. In the same year, NASA purchases a series of chronographs from Omega, Breitling, Rolex, and others, to find the best watch for their astronauts to wear in space. The final watches were subjected to 11 tests – the most rigorous ones in the history of horology.
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pictured: Vintage Omega Premoon 321 Speedmaster Straight Lugs Watch 105.003-65

 


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Vintage Omega Speedmaster Steel Watch 321 145.012

1965 NASA completes the tests and only Omega Speedmaster passes. Omega decides to add the word “Professional” to their product name and the watch dial. The new reference number was 145.012.

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1968 Omega replaces Calibre 321 with a more accurate movement, the Calibre 861.

pictured: Vintage Omega Speedmaster Steel Watch 321 145.012

 


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1969 Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing, takes place on July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong becomes the first to step on the moon’s surface, but left his watch aboard the spacecraft as a back-up. Buzz Aldrin follows him, wearing his Omega Speedmaster. The Speedy would then become the first watch on the moon. Unfortunately, Buzz’s watch was stolen a few months after the mission and was never returned.

 


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To commemorate this achievement, Omega changed the casebacks of the Speedy.

They removed the Hippocampus engraved on it and replaced it with the slogans “The first watch worn on the moon” and “Flight qualified by NASA for all manned space missions”. They would later add the Hippocampus back in 1971.


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1970 An electrical failure would cause an explosion in the Apollo 13 mission. Pilot Jack Swigert would rely on his Speedy to precisely calculate the crucial 14 seconds of engine boost that the shuttle needed for its re-entry into the earth.

The Speedy would be awarded the Snoopy Award for this milestone.


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1971 – 1994 Space exploration would continue to flourish, and the Omega Speedmaster will be subjected to a new series of tests, which it would pass successfully. It would become the most tested watch in the world.
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Omega Speedmaster Limited Edition From Moon to Mars Watch 3577.50.00

1997 – Present Omega introduces Caliber 1861 as replacement for the 861. It features a rhodium finish, an upgrade from the copper and yellow finish found on its predecessor.

Through the coming decades, Omega would release a number of variations on the Speedy – such as automatic models, smaller models, sapphire crystal version to replace the Plexiglas, and different dial colors and case metals.

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pictured: Omega Speedmaster Limited Edition From Moon to Mars Watch 3577.50.00
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Since 1994, Omega has released a limited edition Apollo 11 anniversary Speedmaster every 5 years – a fitting tribute to one of the greatest moments in science and to the wristwatch that was a part of the adventure.
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PHOTO CREDITS:  OMEGA Speedmaster CK2915 by GFDL licensed by CC BY 3.0, Buzz Aldrin by By Project Apollo Archive (AS11-36-5390) [Public domain], Jack Swigert on Apollo 13 By Ed Hengeveld  [Public domain], Certificate Signing of First American & Russian Docking, By NASA (Great Images in NASA Description) [Public domain / all via Wikimedia Commons.
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