There are many fine timepieces that have a sublime sense of history. There are many horologists who belong to companies with long and storied traditions, but there is only one watch that was the first to land on the moon. Every time Omega puts out a limited edition watch to commemorate that epic achievement in human history, and their own, the brand loyalists and chronograph fans everywhere look forward to the release of these beautiful watches. However, like the original, there is only one 50th anniversary, and this year’s timeless classic is celebrating the unique date in style.
Then and Now
When it comes to unique accomplishments, something a little extra special is often warranted. Plenty of watches have inclusions that are unusual and particular to the edition. When you flip this exquisite watch over to look at its inner workings, which you can actually see through the clear backplate, there are two such elements that are part of the genuine charm of the whole.
A small cutaway of the Earth in gold and blue located on one side shows the American continents. The poignant and well-considered inclusion pays homage to the birthplace of lunar expeditions. The second, more subtle and brilliant inclusion is a relief of the moon. This particular moon is genuine, created from a thin sliver of actual lunar meteorite. Altogether the balance and beauty of these deliberate and purposeful design choices add to the rare and extraordinary appeal of this watch.
The original case back on the commemorative edition, given to the astronauts on the occasion of the celebratory dinner after they returned, had a similarly sentimental touch. It featured an etched quote from President Nixon that read “to mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time.” It is this watch, and not the one that actually went to the moon that serves as the inspiration for this years’ special edition.
Like the first Omega commemorative moon-watch, this model features a rare and beautiful burgundy-red bezel. The astronauts weren’t quite the only owners, both President Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew wore one. Of the 1,014 original issued watches, the rest went mostly to Swiss watchmakers, politicians, and other astronauts who came later.
History and Mythology
It is impossible to discuss this watch without looking more deeply at one of the most visionary and incredible accomplishments in human history, the moon landing. In so doing we can learn how the Omega Speedmasters came to make the voyage and do the seemingly impossible. The museum and archives team of Omega did extensive research on the topic and their work uncovered some intriguing facts.
It may surprise you to learn that the famous Moonwatches were not the first in space. They were not even the first Omega watches in space. Years before the 1969 moon landing, on the Mercury-Atlas 8 mission, astronaut Walter Schirra was wearing a Speedmaster CK2998. Though Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin get most of the glory, it was Walter Schirra who flew all three original manned missions.
Though there is a rumor that NASA actually purchased the watches from a jeweler, this was never the case. Another interesting myth, though unconfirmed, is that while Buzz Aldrin wore his watch out onto the lunar surface (true) Neil Armstrong was forced to leave his inside due to the failure of the craft’s own timekeeping apparatus (unconfirmed).
It was no coincidence that an Omega was on that mission, far from it. Jim H. Ragan was responsible for procuring the first chronographs to be teated in space. He is said to have sent out several requests, but only four companies responded. Hamilton sent a pocket watch, and thus disqualified themselves from a place among the stars. This left Longines-Wittnauer, Rolex and Omega as the only competitors.
In order to qualify for the ‘job,’ of being the first watch on the moon, eleven tests were administered and Omega fared the best. The tests included things like shock resistance, pressure, vibration, and acoustic noise resistance and various types of pressure and temperature resistance.
Of the many beautiful and historic watches available, the “Moonwatch,” has literally gone the furthest to gain its well-deserved notoriety. The Beauty and timelessness of Omegas fine offerings are truly peerless in this way. The lengths to which a company goes to produce a great product is the measure of that company’s “Soul,” and Omega is not found wanting. Though you won’t have to travel off-world to get your own Omega Speedmaster, if you want the Limited Edition 50th Aniversary Apollo Speedmaster, you will have to voyage to a registered dealer before they sell out.
- Caliber: Omega Master Chronometer 3861
- Functions: Hours, minutes, second, 12-hour chronograph
- Power Reserve: 48 hours
- Winding: Hand-wound
- Frequency: 26,100
- Unique Materials: Plated in “Moonshine” gold, lunar meteorite inclusion
- Price: CHF 32,000
- Availability: 1,014 pieces offered, beginning July 2019