Live televised to 33 countries, including Portugal, and seen live by more than one million people, who joined, on July 16, 1969, at Kennedy Space Center, the launch of the Saturn V rocket, with its Apollo 11 spacecraft, was the beginning of the first manned trip to the Moon. On board, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin were officially equipped with Omega Speedmaster wristwatches, manual chronographs.
The trip was a success. Five days later, on July 21st (already on the 22nd in Lisbon), Neil Armstrong stepped on lunar soil and Humanity took a giant step. One of the editions of the Omega Speedmaster commemorating the half century of going to the Moon is the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition, of which only 6,969 watches will be produced.
Armstrong had forgotten about his Omega on board the lunar module. But his companion Buzz Aldrin wore one on his wrist when he descended the Eagle’s stairs, precisely at 03:15:16 UTC, also touching the lunar soil. And Omega was the first – and to this day, the only – watch to have been on the Moon. Having even returned there in all the classes that followed. This included the Apollo 12, Apollo 14, Apollo 15, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions. To date, only 12 men have stepped on lunar soil, all of them with a Speedmaster on their arm, outside the space suit.
The Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition has, at 9 o’clock, in the second sub-display, the image of Buzz engraved on a Moonshine ™ gold plate. Unlike the other indexes, the 11 o’clock sports these figures, in Moonshine ™, in a tribute to the Apollo 11 mission.
On the back of the case, the image of an astronaut footprint, laser engraved on a black coated plate and imitating the texture of the lunar soil. Still on the back, “THAT’S ONE SMALL STEP FOR A MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND”, the legendary phrase by Neil Armstrong, is remembered, in Moonshine ™ gold letters. Each watch will be numbered, from 1 to 6,969, following the phrase APOLLO 11, 50th ANNIVERSARY and LIMITED EDITION. Other references on the back of the case are NAIAD LOCK, Cal. 3861 and CO-AXIAL MASTER CHRONOMETER.
Inside, the Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary has a new manual caliber (OMEGA Co-Axial Master Chronometer Caliber 3861), chronograph, as faithful as possible to what Buzz had on his wrist, the 1861. But, with all the technological news Omega introduced in recent years: co-axial escapement, seconds stop for fine tuning, Master Chronometer certification (the most demanding in the industry, regarding accuracy, chronometric behavior and resistance to magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss).
The Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition is presented with a polished and brushed steel bracelet, with a vintage look, inspired by the 4th generation of the Speedmaster. The watch comes in a NASA-style box, with a supplementary Velcro® bracelet and two fabric patches (50th anniversary / Apollo 11), two engraved plaques (coordinates of the landing location / landing location and time). But the most spectacular will be the scale model of the lunar module, where the watch rests.
Speedmaster, a unique story
It is perhaps the most famous chronograph in the world. Right from the start, it is the only watch that can boast of being on the Moon. The first Omega Speedmaster was produced in 1957. The aesthetics of the dial was inspired by the dashboards of Italian cars at the time, with white and black working in contrast, for greater visibility. The first model was equipped with an Omega 321 movement, also known as Lémania. The name “Speedmaster” was derived from the tachometer, the speed measurement scale from a given distance, which appeared on the bezel, the first time this happened on a wristwatch.
The first Omega Speedmaster to reach space left the production line in 1961 and was used by the American astronaut Walter Schirra, of Swiss origin. He had purchased the watch for his personal use and took it, in October 1962, to the Mercury program “Sigma 7”. Schirra completed six Earth orbits.
The Omega Speedmaster was the only watch to survive NASA tests and, on March 1, 1965, was declared “qualified for NASA flight for all manned space missions”. Virgil “Gus” Grisson and John Young, the crew of the Gemini 3, the first manned Gemini mission, already wore Speedmasters on their wrist. That same year, on the Gemini 4 mission, an Omega Speedmaster Professional accompanied Edward White on the first North American space tour. The term “Professional” was added to the Speedmaster’s dial in 1965, as a reference to NASA professionals, for whom the model had become the chosen watch.
One of the most dramatic stories involving a Speedmaster and the American space mission occurred on April 13, 1970. During the Apollo 13 mission, an explosion damaged the main source of energy, forcing astronauts to turn off all the electrical instruments but the radio, to conserve energy for the maneuvers necessary to return the capsule to Earth. Precision was the key element in triggering the supplementary rockets at the precise moment, to correct their trajectory, and the crew relied on their Omega Speedmaster Professionals to start and stop for 14 precise seconds the burning of the rockets, allowing them to return the damaged spacecraft to Earth. “Houston, we have a problem”, the famous phrase said from space, had a happy outcome after all, also thanks to the reliability of a watch that NASA, in recognition, awarded with the famous Snoopy Award.