Mario Andretti is a name synonymous with high speed and he famously once said: “If you have everything under control, you’re not moving fast enough”. This attitude was so prevalent in those exciting, early days of motor racing and is the same spirit that inspired the first chronographs a decade earlier, most notably the original Omega Speedmaster ‘Broad Arrow’ created in 1957 – identifiable by its large arrow-tipped hour hand.
In those ‘Mad Men’ days people smoked in their offices and on planes, and although men lived for sweat and speed, they were a little stunted when it came to sharing emotions. Formula One was still edgy and featured spectacular crashed, with fireballs and fatalities. Although some things happened a lot slower, when it came to the track, the accelerator pedals were floored.
The chronograph is 2018’s number one complication and the iconic Speedmaster was the first wristwatch to feature this complication. It was also the first with a tachymeter scale engraved on the bezel – introduced in 1959, this feature was designed for the benefit of racing drivers.
The second generation Speedmaster CK 2998 was the first in space, worn on the wrist of astronaut Walter Schirra in 1962 and is the inspiration for one of my favourite special releases this year, the Moonwatch Chronograph 39.7mm (R81,000). The original’s classic design is reinterpreted exquisitely through a limited 2998 pieces with the famous Calibre 1861 manual-winding movement. With a vintage-inspired 39.7mm stainless steel case, it is a perfectly elegant man-size featuring a lightly sand-blasted silvery dial with three black subdials. The micro-perforated black leather strap completes a watch inspired by the track.
Omega has accompanied the adventurous on high-speed raceways and many missions into outer space with next July 20th marking the 50th anniversary the very first steps taken on the lunar surface. Strapped to the wrists of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969, the Speedmaster became the first watch ever worn on the moon.
Universal Pictures’ FIRST MAN not only highlights some of Omega’s period pieces and long association with NASA, it also puts a lot into perspective and effectively immerses us in the perilous world of the astronaut at that time, indicating how vulnerable they were inside those claustrophobic spacecrafts.
The Speedmaster Professional chronograph has been on all of NASA’s piloted space missions from Gemini (1965) to the current International Space Station programme. This 42mm chronograph with black dial and tachymeter scale was designed to stand out. The indexes and central hour and minute hands are coated in Super-LumiNova. A hesalite crystal protects the dial enhanced with a 30-minute recorder, 12-hour recorder and small seconds sub-dial. The stainless steel case is presented on a matching bracelet or a black leather strap. Bar a few small updates, it is powered by virtually the same hand-wound calibre 1861 movement, which powered those first watches on the Moon.
- Swatch Group 011-911-1200.