It was back in 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon; a moment that left a defining footprint on the history of space exploration.Strapped onto the wrists of the astronauts, it was during this iconic moment that the OMEGA Speedmaster Professional became the first watch worn on the moon. On this golden anniversary, OMEGA is celebrating the occasion with an absolutely breathtaking timepiece called the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition in 18K Moonshine Gold™. Now, we’ve seen many interpretations of the Speedmaster over the years, which happens to be one of the most popular watch collections in the world today, but this one is truly something special and has a very special connection to the astronauts and the legacy of that Apollo 11 mission.
History repeats itself
Before we get into the watch, let’s not forget what this rare Speedmaster commemorates. The success of Apollo 11 was fervently celebrated around the world in 1969. On the 25th of November that year, OMEGA presented the original Speedmaster BA145.022 to the astronauts in NASA’s space program, at a very special “Astronaut Appreciation Dinner” in Houston, Texas. Crafted from 18K yellow gold with a rare burgundy bezel and an inscription on the caseback that read, “to mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time”, the watch housed the calibre 861 and was OMEGA’s very first commemorative numbered edition, with only 1,014 models being produced from 1969 to 1973.
The very first of these was created for US President, Richard Nixon, with number two allocated to the US Vice President Spiro Agnew. These watches, however, were later returned to OMEGA due to the US government’s strict gifting protocol. Model numbers 3 – 28 were given to the NASA astronauts, including 19 of those who were present at the gala dinner in Houston. This also included three models that were awarded posthumously to the three crew members who died during Apollo 1 – Virgil Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Watches 29 to 32 were offered to Swiss watch industry leaders and politicians, without any engraved number. The public were given the opportunity to purchase model numbers 33 – 1000. Although these models had a different caseback inscription, reading “OMEGA SPEEDMASTER”, “APOLLO XI 1969” and “Ω THE FIRST WATCH WORN ON THE MOON”, they remained highly sought- after due to their rarity and connection to space. They also came in an exclusive moon crater presentation box, which itself is a prized collector’s item today. Model numbers 1001 – 1008 were later presented to the astronauts of Apollo 14 and 17, while models 1009 – 1014 were reserved for other personalities. For true Speedmaster fans, the BA145.022 is one of the great highlights in the chronograph’s iconic history. Not only is it a beautiful watch to look at, with its blend of gold and burgundy, but it also pays the highest tribute to the NASA astronauts who delivered mankind to the moon.
Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition in 18K Moonshine™ Gold
With a 42mm polished and brushed case crafted in 18K Moonshine™ Gold (a unique new alloy whose colour is inspired by the shining moonlight in a dark blue sky), the new Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary looks pronounced on and off the wrist. The bracelet, dial, hour-markers and hour-minute hands have all been created in this unique alloy. In a paler hue than traditional 18K yellow gold, Moonshine™ gold offers high resistance to the fading of colour and lustre over time. The case itself features the asymmetrical caseband of the 4th generation Speedmaster. Around the wrist, the brushed-polished bracelet bears the five–arched-links-per-row design and a grooved clasp with an applied vintage Ω. The vintage Ω can also be found on the dial and the crown.
The vertically brushed step dial of the Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary is made entirely out of 18K Moonshine™ gold and is marked ‘Au750’ for the use of this alloy. It is further enhanced by the facetted black onyx indexes set in the polished hour-markers, as well as the hour- minute hands filled with black varnish and the black varnished central chronograph seconds and subdial hands.
Sticking to the homage it pays to the original Speedmaster BA145.022, OMEGA has included a burgundy bezel ring – this time in ceramic [ZrO2], according to a special patent pending process, with its tachymeter scale in Ceragold™. This adds a pop of drama to the all gold watch. Following the first generation of the Speedmaster tachymeter scale, which graduated to 500 units per hour, this new model features a marker dot above 90 (also known as “Dot Over 90” or “DON”).
While the front of the watch is beautiful, the real magic happens on the rear end. The outer caseback ring features mechanically engraved markings: “1969-2019” and the Limited Edition number highlighted in burgundy, as well as uncoloured “Master Chronometer”. The inner decorative ring, also created in 18K Moonshine™ gold, has undergone two separate laser ablation processes, as well as two PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) colour treatments in blue and black. It features a partial world map of the American continent with a glimpse of Cape Canaveral, the rocket’s lift-off site and a domed lunar meteorite inlay, representing the true proportions of the Earth and the Moon.
Limited to 1014 pieces, the new Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition is powered by the Master Chronometer Calibre 3861 – a manual- winding movement with Co-Axial escapement, silicon Si14 balance spring, Moonshine™ gold-plated main plate and bridges and burgundy markings.
The unique Crater box in which the watch is presented is also inspired by the original packaging of the BA145.022 model in 1969. The panels of the box are in grey ceramic with 3D printing of the lunar surface. Since every panel is structured differently, no crater box will be alike. Furthermore, the top panel of every box is printed with the image of the Sea of Tranquillity and the landing position of Apollo 11.
How OMEGA reached the moon
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the lunar surface at 02:56 UTC on the 21st of July 1969. Their moonwalk lasted just two and a half hours, but their achievements left a defining footprint on the history of space exploration. Strapped onto the wrists of the astronauts, it was during this iconic moment that the OMEGA Speedmaster Professional became the first watch worn on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission is certainly the most celebrated moment in OMEGA’s considerable space heritage. But the journey to reach that point began more than 10 years earlier, in 1957, when the very first OMEGA Speedmaster was launched. Thanks to its robust, reliable and easy-to-read design, the Speedmaster became known as the “pilots’ choice” and was adopted by those in the U.S Air Force. Many of those aces became Mercury astronauts in NASA’s first manned space programme and, in 1963, one of those astronauts, Walter Schirra, took his own Speedmaster CK2998 on the Mercury- Atlas 8 mission. Orbiting the Earth six times, his privately-owned model became the first OMEGA watch worn in space. By 1964, NASA’s space programme was accelerating rapidly and it officially went in search of one watch that it could rely on for all of its manned-missions. Flight Crew Operations Director, Deke Slayton, issued a request for wrist-worn chronographs from different watch manufacturers around the world. Several brands, including OMEGA, submitted their timepieces for the punishing tests – such as thermal, shock, vibration and vacuum examinations amongst others. Only the OMEGA Speedmaster survived these tests and, as a result, it was declared “Flight Qualified for all Manned Space Missions” on the 1st of March 1965. From that moment, OMEGA was the only supplier of watches for NASA’s Human Space Flight Program. It was trusted throughout the Mercury Missions, Gemini Program, and, of course, the Apollo Program – which had its sights set on the moon.
James Ragan, the NASA engineer who qualified the Speedmaster in 1965 has spoken about the importance of OMEGA by saying, “The watch was a backup. 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 had to rely on was the OMEGA watch they had on their wrist. It needed to be there for them if they had a problem.”
With the eyes of the world on Apollo 11 in 1969, every piece of technology and kit had to be just right. There was no room for error. That’s why it is such an honour for OMEGA to look back and know that its watches were implicitly trusted by everyone involved. 50 years later, they’re still incredibly proud to have timed mankind’s greatest hour.