Omega celebrated the forthcoming 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing with summer cocktails at Somlo Antiques, in the Burlington Arcade of London. To celebrate this historic event, Omega brought part of its museum’s collection, including the first watch in space, the first watch on the moon, and 22 other historical Speedmaster Professionals.
Launched in 1959, the Speedmaster Reference 2998 gained fame amongst NASA astronauts when Walter «Wally» M. Schirra wore his during the Mercury-Atlas 8 flight mission in 1962, becoming the first Omega Speedmaster worn in space.
Two years, and a name change later, NASA approved the “Speedmaster Professional,” for all of its manned space flights, after rigorously testing caliber 321 against extreme temperatures and shocks. In 1969, Buzz and Neil took the watch on their flight to the Moon, and it was Omega twho timed the first step on the moon at 02:56.20 GMT precisely.
Fast forward to 2014, and Omega is still the only brand that can claim such a feat, and it has been celebrating that difference with several tributes to the “Moon Watch.” This year was no exception, with the Speedmaster Professional Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Limited Edition.
The Speedmaster has gone through relatively few changes over the years. The new Speedmaster houses the caliber 1861, a manual-winding chronograph movement that descends directly from the original 321 and 861 calibers used in the very first Speedmasters. Otherwise, the design integrates modern materials. The 42 mm case is crafted in titanium and features an 18-carat Sedna Gold bezel, hands and indexes.
The dial is laser-engraved, to remove the material surrounding the name, sub-dial numerals and hour markers, and it is then coated in PVD. The biggest surprise however, is the inclusion of a Nato inspired nylon strap instead of the familiar steel bracelets found in Speedmasters. The Omega Speedmaster Professional Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Limited Edition timepiece is part of a limited series of 1,969 timepieces.
The 35th anniversary Speedmaster was also present that evening, and it should be pointed out this ten-year-old watch has aged beautifully. It has a silver dial with applied hour markers with luminous dots and contrasting black counters for the continuous small seconds, 30-minute and 12-hour chronograph counters. It’s a little truer to the original design, with the typical Speedmaster stainless-steel bezel with black aluminium ring bearing the tachymeter scale, rhodium-plated hands with SuperLuminova and stainless-steel bracelet with safety clasp. The movement is the classic Omega hand-winding chronograph calibre 1861, which has a 45-hour power reserve. The 35th anniversary Speedmaster is available in a very limited series of 3500 individually numbered Speedmasters bearing the Apollo 11 insignia.
Finally, Omega brought out its “OMEGA Speedmaster Missions” case, comprising 22 Omega Speedmaster Professionals. Each one bears a different official NASA mission patch on its dial at 9 o’clock, from Gemini V to Skylab SL-4.
The case, number 33 of 40, also includes a re-edition of the first Speedmaster model of 1957 as well as a single Cal. 1861 movement. The entire collection in the case is priced around £200,000, and for a miniature museum of one of horology’s most important adventures, that’s not bad. For more information, please visit Omega.