The “Speedy Pro” as it is affectionately known. The watch that went to the moon.
A watch that has stood the tests of both time and zero gravity still exists today albeit in a slightly updated form. It has become a must have for chronograph collectors and is considered to be one of the building blocks of a watch collection due to its historical significance.
Reference 3126.96.36.199.01.005 is the current model of the Moonwatch and remains faithful bar some modernisation to reference ST105.012 worn by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission.
In 1964 when NASA was procuring a watch for their space mission they sent out a list of requirements written by James H. Ragan, a young engineer at NASA. A sheet of specifications was sent out to several watch manufacturers in combination with Ragan’s brief. Only four brands answered: Rolex, Omega, Longines and Hamilton. All sent in watches to undergo NASA’s vigorous testing, a phase which lasted for 4 months (from 21st October 1964 to 1st March 1965).
The tests were as follows:
- High temperature test: 70° C for 48 hours, then 93° C for 30 minutes in a partial vacuum.
- Low temperature test: -18° C for 4 hours.
- Vacuum test: heated in a vacuum chamber and then cooled to -18° C for several cycles.
- Humidity test: ten 24-hour cycles in >95% humidity with temperatures ranging from 25° C to 70° C.
- Corrosion test: in an atmosphere of oxygen at 70° C for 48 hours.
- Shock-resistance test: six 40 G shocks in six different directions.
- Acceleration test: progressive acceleration to 7.25 G for about ﬁve minutes and then to 16 G for 30 seconds in three axes.
- Low pressure test: pressure of 10’6 atmospheres at 70° C for 90 minutes, then at 93° C for 30 minutes.
- High pressure test: in an air pressure of 1.6 atmospheres for 60 minutes.
- Vibration test: random vibrations in three axes between 5 and 2,000 Hz With an acceleration of 8.8 G.
- Sound test: 130 decibels at frequencies from 40 to 10,000 Hz for 30 minutes.
James H. Ragan performing some of the NASA tests on the Speedmaster.
The Speedmaster was the only watch to pass the months of rigorous testing and was commissioned by NASA for their space missions. It was was present and clearly able when the first steps on the moon were taken on 21/07/1969 and has accompanied astronauts on the Apollo and Gemini programs.
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” … and a definite win for Omega.
Speedmaster very much on display on the extra long Velcro “spacesuit” strap which is still included in the modern box set for those feeling particularly adventurous.
Unfortunately a mystery surrounds Buzz Aldrin’s Moonwatch (ST105.012) as it was stolen in transit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. where the watch was set to be permanently exhibited. A team of transport carriers were contracted under a special order from NASA to deliver the watch to the museum safely but it never made it to its destination. NASA was rightly furious over this and requested the handover of ALL Speedmaster’s used on the moon landing mission. Aldrin later commented that he was saddened about this as he knew that his team mates were very fond of their watches and enjoyed wearing them as souvenirs of their mission. Armstrong had become particularly attached.
Neil Armstrong’s Speedmaster, Serial number 24002981, c/o the Smithsonian. Further images can be seen here – https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/chronograph-armstrong-apollo-11
Buzz. Still a brand ambassador for Omega and a few of his Speedmasters appear regularly on his Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/drbuzzaldrin/?hl=en
The Moonwatch is an absolute icon, and represents excellent value in an increasingly prohibitive watch market. Here at Official we are able to supply one following this link –
- At 42mm it is well suited to most wrist sizes.
- The vintage style domed Hesalite crystal is a joy. Far warmer than standard sapphire and less prone to shattering under heavy impact. It is a robust throwback to a bygone era where any minor marks or scuffs are easily wiped away using a compound called “Polywatch” which is widely available online. There are few modern watches left using acrylic crystals, but wearing and maintaining one often leaves buyers wanting more.
- The Moonwatch has been keeping time for 50 years. It has earned its place as a reliable and timeless piece.
- The manual calibre 1861 movement with 48 hour reserve. Wind it and enjoy the routine of interacting with your watch, set it, and go. No worries about constant wear to maintain power and as odd as it sounds, winding a manual timepiece creates a bond between watch and owner that cannot be described sufficiently. Best to experience…M@officialwatches.com