When things around unravel as they have, I take great comfort in old-school analogue. Vinyl, handcraft, and mechanical timepieces particularly are a reminder of our ability to create beautiful, useful and reliable things, focused on bringing joy rather than annihilate each other in a war of Tweets or bombs.
On April 11 1970, handy analogue saved the crew of the Apollo 13 mission when they were left stranded in space with almost no power, following the explosion of one of their oxygen tanks. Among the many challenges they faced was to manually ignite an engine so that they could correctly align their craft for re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Using a manual-winding Omega Speedmaster with Calibre 1861 movement they were able to successfully time a 14-second burn, which saw them splash down on April 17. Omega received the Silver Snoopy Award from Nasa as a mark of gratitude.
Less than a year earlier, the Speedmaster “Moonwatch” (reference ST 105.012) had received even more attention for being part of one of the most famous endeavours of our time, when they accompanied the Apollo 11 astronauts as they took humankind’s first steps on the moon.
The new manual-winding Master Chronometer certified co-axial Calibre 3861 first appeared in 2019 in the Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Limited Edition as well as a special steel edition, followed by a “Silver Snoopy” 50th Anniversary Speedmaster towards the end of last year.
To kickstart 2021, Omega has announced that the Calibre 3861 will now be in all standard production Moonwatches. In celebration, there are eight novelties in stainless steel, Canopus gold or Sedna gold, all inspired by the fourth generation Speedmaster Moonwatch (reference ST 105.012) worn by Apollo 11 astronauts during the moon landing.
The ‘new’ Moonwatch retains the 42mm asymmetrical case and step dial but gets a new integrated fully-brushed bracelet with a five–arched-links-per-row design. It is also available with historically accurate Hesalite plexiglass with Omega logo in the centre and engraved metal caseback, or with more modern sapphire-crystal glass front and back.
“Another Moonwatch?”, I hear you ask. Yes, but this is significant news as the new Calibre 3861 replaces the Calibre 1861 of the original after five decades in use, and offers even higher precision, performance and magnetic-resistance to 15,000 gauss: certainly well equipped for any new missions into outer space. The Calibre 3861 is an evolution of the Calibre 1861, which in turn replaced the Calibre 321 of the original Speedmaster “Broad Arrow” (reference CK 2915) first introduced in 1957. In accordance with the increased frequency at 21,600 vph, the minute track is now split by three divisions, as opposed to the five on the older models.
In 2018, Universal Pictures’ First Man highlighted Omega’s long association with Nasa, but also the perilous world of the astronaut in the early days of human spaceflight. Fifty years on, despite great technological advancements achieved by Nasa, Virgin Galatic or SpaceX, the mechanical Speedmaster Professional is still a trusted backup plan, because things can go wrong when you’re very, very far from home. It is one of a very few watches qualified by Nasa for spaceflight, and is still the only one approved for extravehicular activity (EVA).
The new Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Master Chronometer Professional Chronograph starts at R111,000 for the stainless steel reference with Hesalite crystal and coated nylon fabric strap, and R117,000 for the steel-on-steel version. Sapphire references are about R20,000 more. Sedna and Canopus gold models are R459,000/R648,000 and R566,000/R843,000 respectively.
• Visit omegawatches.com, or call Swatch Group 011-911-1200.