If you look for watches that hold a legacy, the Omega Speedmaster is easily one of the most decorated watches in history. As you might expect from the title, a big reason for this comes from the Speedmaster Professional being the first watch on the moon in July of 1969.
The Omega Speedmaster Professional is still a prominent watch known for its unique design choice. As one of the few remaining accurate chronographs in existence, we will explore the history of the Speedmaster in this article.
The Early Days - The Creation of the Speedmaster
Before the Apollo 13 mission, The Speedmaster Professional was primarily for sport and racing events. Before the term "moonwatch" ever existed, Omega created the official Chronograph of the Olympic Games in 1957.
The Speedmaster was unique due to the stainless steel tachymeter scale bezel with broad alpha hands compared to other models. However, it kept the triple-chronograph layout made famous by Omega's Railmaster and Seamaster models.
The Speedmaster Professional's heritage models still show this design preference today. The Calibre 321 is a collector's model that displays this inspiration prominently on the face of this wrist chronograph.
Fast forward to 1962.
NASA's First Look at Commercial Watches
In 1962, NASA purchased a series of commercially available watches for evaluation. NASA found the Speedmaster Professional due to the three interior dials that measured the following:
- A second-and
- A "minute elapsed" hand
- An "hour elapsed" hand
The outside dial's tachymeter also measured miles per hour, given its everyday use as a racing and sports watch. Chronograph functions in this model had to be versatile given their uses.
The Speedmaster Professional also had a high level of performance. Its accuracy in determining time made it suitable for uses that had to be correct.
How Did NASA Use the Speedmaster Professional?
These chronographs were for use during extravehicular activity (EVA). Astronauts wore them with velcro straps outside their pressure suits to determine the time they could spend outside their vehicle space exploration. Astronauts also used them during engine burn timing to ensure that they could safely land back on earth.
Nothing says confidence quite like a life or death scenario.
Their use during space missions lasted until 1975, where a famous photo shows an American Apollo rocket docked with the Soviet Union's Soyuz. All astronauts in this photo were wearing Speedmasters, making for a pretty unique ad campaign.
The Omega Speedmaster Professional is also associated with both George Clooney and Buzz Aldrin. The moonwatch, one of the most popular brands, is an inspiration for a short documentary (Starmen) featuring these famous people.
There's also that thing about Snoopy.
What is the Silver Snoopy Award, and Why is it on a Speedmaster?
In the 1960s, NASA chose Snoopy as their official mascot. It was to be their safety watchdog for use during space missions. As an extension of this, the Silver Snoopy Award is for entities "contributing to flight safety and mission success."
To commemorate this award, Omega took its 50th anniversary to create an anniversary series which you can find here. It features a beautiful blue nylon strap. But its most significant feature is a picture of the famous cartoon dog inside a spacesuit on one of the inner timepieces.
The bezel ring and broad arrow hands are also blue, making for an incredibly unique and stylish watch. Even if your style preference is different, this watch is a limited edition piece of history.
Speedmaster thrives today as we have only recently passed 60 years. With the 60th anniversary out of the way, Speedmaster's legacy lives on.
Does NASA Still Use the Speedmaster?
Technology has changed a great deal since the 1960s. As a result, while the Speedmaster Professional remains one of the most accurate watches available, many built-in systems match or exceed that accuracy.
If members of NASA still use the Speedmaster, it's mainly out of good taste or an appreciation for history. People are permitted to take whatever watches they want, and some have still been on board the international space station.
Still, many astronauts who want a piece of history might wear theirs. There have been a few unfortunate accidents with these watches in recorded history.
Other Interesting History Bits on The Omega Speedmaster Professional
While many of the watches from Apollo 8 to 17 remain on display in numerous locations, there have been more than few unfortunate accidents with these watches that will disappoint most watch enthusiasts.
The most famous example comes from Neil Armstrong's biography, where he lost his watch on a shipment to the Smithsonian Institution. He liked to wear his watch outside his bulky suit, which was only possible with the velcro strap.
Another famous example came from EVA-2, where Dave Scott lost the plexiglass crystal. Rolex GMTs were part of a "personal backup plan" should something occur to any Speedmasters.
Someone sold another watch s sold at auction for $23 thousand in 2009. Astronauts used this watch in heat flow experiments. Additional offers were above $30 thousand, but the new owner never accepted them.
A Short Evolution of the Omega Speedmaster
Besides a Calibre 321 reissue and a subtle design refresh in 2021, the Omega Speedmaster has been untouched since 2017. The iconic design has been through a couple of different models, which include the following:
- The Speedmaster Reduced was an automatic chronograph released as an affordable version of the same model. Omega discontinued it in 2009.
- Automatic Racing models (similar to the reduced model) were popular around the early 2000s.
- The moonwatch professional comes in both heritage models, anniversary series models, and the Clibre 321.
Omega creates a wide variety of different watches available for many tastes. However, none of these watches quite has the same history as the Speedmaster.
What started as an advanced watch for racing and sporting events were transformed into a legacy. This legacy has benefited Omega heavily, allowing them to create an entire line of watches known as moonwatches, inspired from the original design.
Omega is likely to continue to create these watches. As one of the few remaining original Chronograph makers, we hope their legacy lives on for many generations to come.