Commemorating the first lunar landing, Omega issues a special edition of the watch that took NASA’s astronauts to the moon in 1969, and it’s a masterpiece

There are many watches that can claim links to great moments of human endeavour and adventure—whether it be mountaineering, deep-sea diving, athletics, motor racing or aviation. But it’s fair to say that insofar as legendary feats go, no watch can match the Omega Speedmaster.

The first timepiece on the moon, the Speedmaster didn’t simply help man climb to the top of a mountain or descend to the bottom of the ocean. It took us into orbit — and crucially, helped bring us safely back down to earth again.

The race that the Speedmaster kept time over didn’t take place on any terrestrial track. Instead, this was the watch that helped the United States win a much larger competition: the Space Race. The story begins in 1964 when, gearing up for their attempt (successful, as it turned out) to beat the Soviet Union’s cosmonauts to the moon, NASA sent a request to various leading watchmakers for chronograph timepieces to test as potential US astronaut kit.

Among NASA’s rigorous list of specifications were requirements that the watches be highly accurate, preferably not gaining or losing more than two seconds over a 24-hour period. Four renowned watch companies submitted timepieces for trial, but only Omega survived the punishing tests that resulted in the Speedmaster being used by all US astronauts.

It became the first watch on the moon in 1969 when it was worn by Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin during their historic lunar landing of Apollo XI. It was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” — and an amazing moment for Omega.

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After Armstrong, Aldrin and fellow crewman Michael Collins returned from their momentous journey, to celebrate Apollo XI’s success, Omega organised an Astronaut Appreciation Dinner on 25 November 1969. At the soiree, each of NASA’s serving astronauts was presented with a unique numbered edition Speedmaster in 18-karat yellow gold.

(The following year, the crew of Apollo XIII would find their standard steel Speedmasters to be worth their weight in gold, when they used the watches to time a nerve-wracking 14-second manoeuvre that allowed the spacecraft to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere safely, saving the astronauts from a fiery demise.)

In honour of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo XI mission, this year, Omega launched a commemorative edition of the Speedmaster, created in homage to the yellow-gold watches given to NASA astronauts in 1969. Remarkably similar in look to its mid-century ancestor, the new limited edition (in a series of 1,014 pieces) lives up to its space-age provenance by utilising cutting-edge materials.

Instead of the original yellow gold, case, bracelet and dial are cast in 18-karat Moonshine Gold, an innovative new fade-resistant alloy. Rather than aluminium, the burgundy bezel ring is in ceramic.

Natty onyx indexes are used, just as they were on the original, while the Master Chronometer certified movement 3861 is a contemporary update on the calibre 861 found in the watch’s ancestor. This manual-winding Co-Axial escapement movement features Moonshine Gold-plated main plate and bridges, and burgundy markings to complement the bezel.

See also: Omega Unveils Anniversary Edition Of The First Watch Worn On The Moon

The new special edition debuted, like its predecessor, at an astronaut appreciation dinner—this time, held at Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre. In attendance were Omega’s ambassador George Clooney, who recalled watching the moon landing as an eight-year-old boy, and veteran Apollo-era astronauts Thomas Stafford and Charlie Duke. The man who first certified the Speedmaster for space missions, James Ragan, was also on hand.

To this day, Ragan remains astonished by the resilience of the Speedmasters that were put through such punishing lab and real-world trials.

“I was surprised that I could get any watches through those tests,” he says. “The environments were really made for pieces of hardware that you mount on vehicles. It was difficult. It was the most extreme testing you could do to a piece of hardware.” Fifty years later, the Speedmaster continues to meet your every exacting demand.

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