How replica Omega’s Speedmaster ‘Moonwatch’ made space history

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If we can talk about celebrities in the watch world,replica Omega Speedmaster takes the cake. Celebrating its 60th anniversary of uninterrupted life on Earth, and 48 years since it first landed on the Moon, the Speedmaster has not lost an inch of its gravitational pull since it was spotted on Buzz Aldrin’s wrist in the epic Moon landing of July 1969. With an unmatched record of six Moon landings, the Speedmaster has been on every manned US space flight, making this timepiece a veritable hero of horological and space history.

The birth of an icon

Launched by Omega in 1957, the Speedmaster was the first chronograph to display a tachymeter scale on the bezel, setting an aesthetic benchmark in the realm of chronographs that has yet to wane. Designed to measure elapsed times and speed with chronograph and tachymeter functions, the Speedmaster was one of three professional replica watches launched by the Swiss brand – along with the Seamaster and the Railmaster – offering a high-precision, water-resistant watch that was easy to read and use.

Celebrating six decades of success, Omega outlet has launched an anniversary edition of the Speedmaster that pays great respect to the original 1957 model. To capture the iconic spirit of its ancestor, the 2017 model features Broad Arrow hands, a black tropical dial, vintage-style beige SuperLuminova and the original manual-winding calibre 1861, the same one that accompanied American astronauts to the Moon and back.

The Space Race

In 1958, NASA started its foray into manned space exploration, pitting the USA and the USSR in a technological and patriotic duel to conquer space. President John F. Kennedy aimed even higher and in his address to Congress in 1961 said: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space.”

Maiden voyage in zero gravity

Omega’s ‘unofficial’ maiden voyage into space occurred in 1962 on board Walter Schirra’s wrist during the Mercury programme orbital flights. The CK 2998 Speedmaster worn by Schirra on board the Sigma 7 in 1962 was, in fact, his personal watch, back when astronauts were not kitted out with official timepieces by NASA.

All this would change in 1964 following a petition by astronauts for backup timing devices on their missions. Flight Crew Operations Director, Deke Slayton, issued an internal memo asking for “a highly durable and accurate chronograph to be used by Gemini and Apollo flight crews”, and the wheels were set in motion for a series of tests to select a winning candidate for the job.

Tested to survive destruction

According to James H. Ragan, retired NASA Project Engineer and author of the section on Speedmaster and NASA in Moonwatch Only – the most extensive recounting of the Moonwatch’s evolution over the past 60 years – the trials were “designed literally to test the replica watches to destruction”. Exposing the timepieces to massive oscillations in temperature, from 93oC to -18oC, violent shocks of 40 g’s, high and low pressure, humidity, a corrosive oxygen environment, noise and vibrations, the only watch to endure the torture was Omega’s Speedmaster.

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