Omega Speedmaster 50th Anniversary in Steel

New Watch! • 15 Jul 2019

Omega Speedmaster 50th Anniversary in Steel

by Alvin Chong


The long-anticipated Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition (6969 pieces) in Stainless Steel was recently announced to much fanfare. This watch joins the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary in Gold (1014 pieces) that was announced in March earlier in the year to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing which took place on July 20th 1969. The Moon Landing, in addition to being a globally-triumphant historical event, embedded the Speedmaster within the ranks of horological legends.

Last month Speedy Tuesday came to Singapore

Prior to the Moon Landing, the Speedmaster was not a stranger to the cosmos. On October 3rd 1962, Wally Schirra wore a Speedmaster CK2998 for the Mercury-Atlas 8 Space mission. This CK2998 would go on to be the first Speedmaster in space. However, this Speedmaster belonged to Schirra’s personal collection as NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) did not hitherto designate an official watch for use during space missions. Omega also had not intended for the Speedmaster for use in space, as they oriented the very first Speedmaster that was first released in 1957 around sports and racing. Sometime around 1964, NASA determined that private equipment that was not developed with their specifications in mind, such as Schirra’s CK2998, could potentially compromise the safety of their missions. Hence, NASA started to commission and procure watches from different brands in order to certify an official watch for space exploration.

As a young NASA engineer James “Jim” Ragan was responsible for finding a watch suitable for space

Various brands were considered but eventually, only Rolex, Hamilton, Longines and Omega were in the final running. Each brand submitted a few of their watches, including the Speedmaster, to be subjected to a vigorous test known as the “Qualification Test Procedures”. This test aimed to see how the watches will perform under certain stresses such as shocks, temperature-pressure, temperature, vibration, humidity and oxygen atmosphere among others.

In the following decades the Speedmaster went on to become a cult favourite amongst watch collectors

Once the series of arduous tests concluded in 1965, only the Speedmaster survived which certified it as an operational watch for flight and space exploration. In 1969, the Apollo 11 Lunar Module finally touched down on the surface of the moon. The Speedmaster ST105.012, given to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, would become the famed Speedmaster to become the first watch worn on the moon. Specifically, the very first one was was adorned on Aldrin’s wrist as Armstrong left his Speedmaster onboard the lunar module. Henceforth, the Speedmaster eventually became colloquially referred to as “The Moonwatch” by fans.

To celebrate this significant and momentous occasion 50 years on, Omega pulled out some major stops for this watch. Evident throughout the watch are details which feature Omega’s 18K Moonshine Gold. According to Omega, Moonshine Gold is a “new patent-pending alloy that is a paler hue than traditional yellow gold and offers high resistance to fading.” The applied indexes, vintage Omega logo, bezel and hands all utilise Moonshine Gold. The seconds subdial at 9 o’clock also features a Moonshine Gold engraving of Aldrin leaving the Apollo 11 Lunar Module onto the surface of the moon.

Speaking of the Lunar Module, Omega also included a very nice tribute to it, with an applied “11” Moonshine Gold index at 11 o’clock. As for the bezel, it is a ceramic bezel unlike the standard Speedmaster Professional, and has a Ceragold tachymeter scale. A little detail on the bezel that is sure to be a crowdpleaser for Speedmaster collectors and buffs will be the dot over 90 – a detail that pays homage to Speedmaster bezels that were fitted until around 1969. The dial of the watch is also a deep-matte grey, which contrasts very nicely against the black minute track. The juxtaposition helps to command greater attention to the black stepped subdials which create depth to the watch. Enveloping the dial is a domed sapphire crystal.

Turn the watch around and you will be greeted with a beautifully-engraved caseback of a footprint on the lunar surface. The iconic phrase, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, which contains the first words spoken by Armstrong on the Moon, is also visible again in Moonshine Gold.

The caseback is also Naiad-locked, a patented process designed by Omega so that the caseback will always be correctly oriented when screwed in. The watch comes strapped on a brand new flat-link bracelet which is meant to be reminiscent and period-correct of the ref.1039 bracelet of the ST105.012 Speedmasters, featuring polished outer links with the centers being brushed. Although it bears a resemblance to the bracelet of the 60th Anniversary Speedmaster, this new bracelet is slightly thinner, which means it should wrap around the wrist with greater comfort and articulation.

The movement is the beating heart of every wristwatch and the one used here is the Calibre 3861 movement which debuted in the Gold Apollo 11 Variant. This movement bears a Master Chronometer certification and brings with it the famed Co-Axial escapement. It is also magnetic resistant up to 15,000 Gauss. The movement also features a “hacking” ability of the seconds hand that is missing in the standard Speedmaster Professional. This means that the seconds hand is able to stop when the crown is pulled out to time-setting mode, allowing the user to synchronise and entrain his timing better with an external clock such as an atomic clock. This will be the first time the movement will be utilised in a stainless steel Speedmaster, and I am hopeful that we will see this incredible movement being used on a greater scale in the future.

Omega has not been a brand to shy away from presentation, and the packaging of this watch is further evidence of that. The watch comes in an “Astronaut Kit” shaped like a suitcase and includes a velcro strap in blackened cork with golden marks scattered about. These golden marks are meant to serve as a nod and to symbolise the “boost protective cover” – a fiberglass structure covered with cork to protect the space crew from the heat during launch. The markings on each strap are different which ensures that each individual’s straps are unique. The watch itself sits atop a very cool detachable lunar module amidst a surface resembling that of the moon’s. The watch case can thus pass off as a very impressive and respectable display case in its own right. Additionally, it also contains both the Apollo 11 and the 50th Anniversary patches.

With the watch being limited to 6969 pieces, a sizeable number for a limited edition, I can imagine that it will be fairly manageable to get your hands on one. Though with the burgeoning popularity and hype surrounding this piece as the days go by, I would not be surprised if they have all been spoken for within the next few weeks. By itself, the Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary is a very advanced and impressively-finished timepiece, with thoughtful details and design elements all around. The use of Moonshine Gold is paradoxically restraint and yet shows itself off with pride at the same time. Coupled with the significance of it being the 50th Anniversary of the Moonwatch, this watch tells the indelible story of the historic Moon Landing as well as the Speedmaster’s profound ascent to horological stardom.

More photos below on Speedy Tuesday in Singapore

 

Tags: moon watch omega omega speedmaster speedmaster

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