On the night of July 20, 1969, our world changed forever: two men, representing the sum of humanity, traversed the surface of the moon. 50 years since mankind took its first daring steps onto the moon, Omega is celebrating with a Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition.
“I believe this nation should commit itself, before this decade is out, to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” – President John F. Kennedy committing NASA resources to landing a man on the moon
For the golden anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Omega is celebrating the occasion with a brand new Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition that binds the astronauts and the legacy of human advancement in one historic mission.
When President. Eisenhower left office in 1961, the future of NASA’s space program was uncertain to say the least. There were no earmarked funds in the budget proposal for NASA’s Project Apollo, and President-elect Kennedy’s closest advisors were skeptical that there was any value launching humans into space. That said, the geopolitical reality and intense ideological rivalries between the United States and the Soviet Republic would convince the Executive Branch of the political value (even if they didn’t understand the economic value) of the monumental achievement of sending a man to the moon at the time and Swiss watchmaker Omega was lockstep with them (even if they didn’t realise it at the time).
“We choose to go to the moon! We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things—not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” – President Kennedy on the immense challenges that await
Given the immense funding thrown at getting a man to the moon before the end of the decade, it is interesting to note that rather than commission a watch designed for space travel, NASA aeronautics engineer James H. Ragan decided to seek COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) timepieces – that is models which civilians could purchase and the future ‘Moonwatch’ Omega Speedmaster was among the many models chosen. Little did he know, many of the Flight Crew were already using Omega Speedmasters on their daily missions.
Omega Speedmaster ‘Moonwatch’ – Made of the Right Stuff
Thanks to its robust, reliable and easy-to-read design, the Speedmaster developed a reputation 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 Speedmaster to be worn in space.
“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.” – NASA aeronautics engineer, James H. Ragan
While the Apollo 11 landing is the most culturally significant as a milestone, one aborted moon landing (the infamous Apollo 13) and five other moon landings were the most scientifically relevant because the astronauts stayed on the surface longer and ventured farther from their landing crafts, especially once they had lunar rovers on missions Apollos 15–17, each time, accompanied with their Omega ‘Moonwatch’ Speedmasters. The Apollo 13 mission was considered “NASA’s most successful failure” but for Omega, it was indeed testament to NASA engineer Ragan’s faith in Omega has a backup. When computers completely shut down in the Apollo 13 module, Commander Lovell only had his Omega Speedmaster to do precision timing of the positioning thrusters – Mis-timed firing of the rockets would have condemned the astronauts to certain death as they bounced off Earth’s atmosphere into the infinite void of space. That said, the milestone success of Apollo 11 is the one most fervently celebrated around the world. On the 25th of November 1969, a special “Astronaut Appreciation Dinner” was held in Houston, Texas, in tribute to the moon landing heroes.
The original solid gold Speedmaster BA145.022 in Appreciation of Astronauts
Crafted from 18K yellow gold and included a rare burgundy bezel, the solid gold Speedmaster housed the calibre 861 and was the Bien Manufacture’s very first commemorative numbered edition, with only 1,014 models being produced from 1969 to 1973. Created in appreciation of the remarkable accomplishments of NASA astronauts, the 18K yellow gold Omega Speedmaster and newly christened ‘Moonwatch’ was created for US President, Richard Nixon, with number two allocated to the US Vice President Spiro Agnew.
Model numbers 3 – 28 were given to the NASA astronauts, including 19 of those who were present at the gala dinner in Houston. These Limited Edition Omega Speedmasters bore a special inscription on the caseback that read, “to mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time.” making these Moonwatches distinct from the models eventually offered to the general public. Civilian models bore three different inscriptions reading “OMEGA SPEEDMASTER”, “APOLLO XI 1969” and “Ω THE FIRST WATCH WORN ON THE MOON”.
Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition is a New Gold Alloy “Moonshine” remake of that legendary Moonwatch
Following the famous design of the Speedmaster BA145.022, this new Moonwatch marking the golden anniversary of the first moon landing has been crafted from an exclusive new 18K gold alloy called Moonshine. The case, bracelet, dial, hour-markers and hour-minute hands of the new Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition have been created in 18K Moonshine™ gold – a unique new alloy whose colour is inspired by the shining moonlight in a dark blue sky. Omega Moonshine gold is slightly paler (else virtually indistinguishable) than traditional 18K yellow gold yet offering superior resistance to tarnishing and fading over time.
Remaining true to the historical 1969 gold Speedmaster BA145.022, the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition is outfitted with a burgundy bezel ring in ceramic [ZrO2], according to a special patent pending process, with its tachymeter scale in Ceragold™ rather than anodised aluminium. However, while it differs materially from the original bezel, the aesthetic elements follow the first generation of the Speedmaster tachymeter scale, graduated to 500 units per hour, and features a marker dot above 90 or “Dot Over 90” (DON).
The Limited Edition Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary is powered by a brand new manual-winding Master Chronometer calibre 3861 with Co-Axial escapement, silicon Si14 balance spring, Moonshine™ gold-plated main plate and bridges and burgundy markings, produced in a limited edition series run of 1,014 pieces and accompanied with one of the industry’s longest warranty periods – five-years.
The biggest departure from full replication of the original gold commemorative Speedmaster resides in the lack of a caseback. Instead, a sapphire caseback shows off the gorgeously finished Master Chronometer calibre 3861 with an outer caseback ring featuring machine engraved markings: “1969-2019” and the Limited Edition number highlighted in burgundy, as well as uncoloured “Master Chronometer”.
The 18k Moonshine gold inner ring also holds a motifs of vital importance – a matte-finish blue ocean that surrounds a partial world map of the American continents (in polished finish), with a glimpse over the rocket’s lift-off site Cape Canaveral and a matte-finish black background which accentuates polished markings including, “APOLLO 11 – 50th ANNIVERSARY” and “THE FIRST WATCH WORN ON THE MOON”; both produced through separate laser ablation processes, as well as two PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) colour treatments in blue and black.
Finally, a domed lunar meteorite inlay representing the Moon has been delicately set into the cavity of the ring in true Earth to Moon proportions of 3.67 : 1.