July 20 marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most famous human endeavours of our time: the Apollo 11 space mission that landed man on the moon. For such a conquest you need the appropriate survival gear. “The watch was a backup,” James Ragan, the NASA engineer who qualified the Speedmaster in 1965 for space missions, is reported as saying. “If the astronauts lost the capability of talking to the ground, or the capability of their digital timers on the lunar surface, then the only thing they [would have] had to rely on was the watch they had on their wrist.”
An Omega Speedmaster was the first watch worn on the moon, and to commemorate this golden anniversary the brand released a collection of commemorative timepieces powered by the manual-winding Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 3861, an evolution of the Calibre 861 movement that went to the moon. The grand prize is the 42mm Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Limited Edition, comprising 1 014 pieces in a new proprietary alloy, 18kt Moonshine gold that is warmer than yellow gold and more resistant to fading. This edition is a tribute to the original Speedmaster BA145.022 that was presented to the astronauts at a special dinner on November 25 1969. Those 18kt yellow gold watches had a rare burgundy bezel and were Omega’s very first commemorative numbered edition. The new edition features a vertically brushed Moonshine gold dial with facetted onyx hour markers and vintage Omega logo. As a nod to the original, there are touches of burgundy in the ceramic bezel ring, on the open caseback, and the movement.
The Calibre 3861 has a Master Chronometer certification from Metas, the Swiss federal institute of metrology that works closely with Omega. For decades the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (Cosc), an independent body, has been the standard for chronometer testing (for accuracy and temperature tolerances of uncased movements only). Metas is said to be a more demanding standard that includes not only the movement but also the performance of the entire wristwatch and requires that a watch keep time to within zero and five seconds a day. Cosc tolerances are minus four to six seconds. Metas also requires a watch to be resistant to magnetic fields of 15 000 gauss and includes an unwound power-reserve test and a pressure test for water resistance.
The original manual winding Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow was created in 1957 and was the first wristwatch with its tachymeter scale engraved on the bezel. The NASA-approved Speedmasters were also worn on the Gemini and Apollo missions. The first steps taken on the moon are also being celebrated with a 42mm stainless steel Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition (of 6969), a near-identical re-edition of the early fourth generation Speedmaster (ST105.012-65) worn on that mission. This eye-catching edition with its tonal grey-black dial comes with a steel bracelet and polished 18kt Moonshine gold-and-black ceramic bezel. At 9 o’clock, the subdial has a laser-engraved image of Buzz Aldrin and a distinguishing “11” hour marker. It is also powered by the Calibre 3861.
• Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Limited Edition, R474,000. Stainless steel edition, R132,000.
• From the August edition of Wanted 2019.