Story of The Moonwatch is one of the most famous story in the history of timepiece. The Omega Speedmaster was given ‘The Moonwatch’ as it was the first watch worn on the Moon walk mission in the Apollo 11 mission. Later in the same year, the Omega Speedmaster Mark II was born. This is the watch that has been to places where no man has been – Speedmaster the dark side of the moon. The word Professional was later added to Omega Speedmaster to commemorate these achievement. Today, the watch is still in production with numerous modern versions of the original Moonwatch and is known as Omega Speedmaster Professional.
The Story of The Moonwatch – Omega SpeedMaster History
Talk about watches with a ‘story’, talk about The Omega Moonwatch, so here is the ‘back-story’ of the iconic watch. It was the Russians that have triggered the space race called the Amercian Sputnik crisis. The launch of the Soviet Sputnik 1 sent radio pulses of the rocket can be felt on Earth. This brought scientific developments and new technology to our World. On a more peaceful side of our world, comes a game-changing innovation in 1957 – The Omega Speedmaster was born. It was initially designed as a sport chronograph with a tachymeter bezel for measuring of speed. At the at time Omega has already some fame for being the official timekeeper for Olympic Games. But nobody could have imagined what extreme tests are coming at the Omega Speedmaster’s way.
Omega Speedmaster & NASA paths crossed
Trailing Kennedy’s debut to make an American the first man to land on the moon, NASA’s research for dependable timepiece for the space commences. Invitations were sent out for established watch making companies to be part of this history. Extreme testes were carried out for extreme space conditions, and are set to push the watches limit. A selection of 13 watches including Longines Wittnauer, Rolex Daytona, Houston Jeweler and Omega Speedmaster.
The watch making companies had 3 years to prepare for the “Qualification Test Procedures”. The streak of watch tests were extensive and intrusive one. The extreme tests are meant for the extreme space conditions. Some examples are the high variation in temperature from -160 Degree Celsius to as high as +120 Degree Celsius, extreme high pressure (near vacuum) test, humidity, shock, PH value, and acceleration tests.
The race for the Moonwatch was truly on
The same year these were being carried out on 18 March, news from Soviet Russia astonished the Americans. The first world’s first moonwalk was completed by a Russian Alexey Leonoy. Although Voskhod 2 spacecraft landed successfully, the moonwalk was not a smooth one. It was later found that Leonoy had risked his life, as his suit had expanded due to overheating in space vacuum. Re-entering the capsule and movement around 0 gravity was a challenge due to the effect of his expanded suit.
As far as NASA was concerned, the race was truly on. The Moonwatch has to be selected with much urgency. Fortunately, the test results were ready. The three finalist were Longines’ Wittnauer, Rolex’s Daytona, and The Omega Speedmaster Professional. Longine Wittnauer had a crystal blowout in the humidity and high pressure tests, Rolex Daytona fluctuated during both tests, while the Speedmaster only suffered a timing error during the acceleration and decompression test. We have a winner – The Omega Speedmaster Professional was chosen as The Moonwatch.
The Adventure for The Speedmaster begins
The Story of The Moonwatch begins. The missions didn’t well with Apollo 1, all three crew were killed in a cabin fire. At Kennedy Space Centre, 113 incomplete adjustment was found on the CM-012 spacecraft.
In an interview with Grissom on the incident: “You sort of have to put that out of your mind. There’s always a possibility that you can have a catastrophic failure, of course; this can happen on any flight. It can happen on the last one as well as the first one. So you just plan as best you can to take care of all these eventualities. You get a well-trained crew and you go fly.”
Despite the tragedy, this comment was echoed and has influenced the continued efforts for the Americans to get to the moon. Since then, the next manned mission launched was Apollo 7, in October 1968.It has a full orbital test of the command and service modules, and with just 2 months after, Apollo 8 took Frank Borman, James Jim Lovell and William Anders back to the moon again. This mission which was supposed to be a low Earth orbit test wasn’t ready in time. The mission was brought forward by 3 months instead of abolishing it. Thus cutting the astronaut’s training and bringing the launch forward. Despite the risk involved, it was mankind’s first visit to the ‘dark-side of the moon’.
Speedmaster dark side of the moon
Speedmaster Dark-side of the moon begins. In 1969, the Russians has again beaten NASA to the first Lunar module test. The Russians has landed their second docking of manned spacecraft, while the Apollo 9 was only launched 2 months later. Apollo 10 followed, finalizing the testing with a lunar module flight within 10 miles of the moon’s surface.
With these, Apollo 11 was ready to land on the moon, together with The Moonwatch. This seems to be the most epic race of the century NASA have to win.
At 18 minutes past 8 on 20th July 1969, the Apollo 11 has landed on the moon’s gray surface. However, it was not a smooth one. One important equipment had failed and Neil Armstrong had to place his Moonwatch as a backup time instrument. This is why the Omega Speedmaster Professional was not worn by the World’s first step on the moon. Instead the The Speedmaster was worn by Edwin Aldrin, second to set foot on the surface of the moon.
Story of the Moonwatch – Mission Accpmplished
In the mission technical debrief, Neil Armstrong shared his experience: Our mission timer was out, and we decided we had better leave one wristwatch inside in case it got damaged. We would have at least one working watch to back up the mission timer or to use in place of the mission timer, in case we could not get it going again.
It was mission accomplished and an achievement to be proud of for both NASA and Omega Speedmaster. The time was short for Omega to develop an iconic watch like The Omega Speedmaster Professional, which utlimately earned its’ rightful title as ‘The Moonwatch’.
Read the Story of the Moon Watch.
Find out the more about The Moonwatch through The Ultimate Omega Speedmaster Guide.