A type of Omega watch, the Speedmaster Professional, has the words “flight-qualified by NASA for all manned space missions” engraved into the back of it. If that isn’t cool enough, it has this because it was the first watch on the moon worn by Buzz Aldrin on the most famous space mission ever. Neil Armstrong did have one too but he took his off before taking his ‘one small step for man’ because the electronic clock in the lunar module had malfunctioned so he left his watch as a back up. As you can imagine, NASA’s specifications for a watch that could withstand the demands of space travel were exacting indeed and the testing they did to make sure it met those standards was really quite extraordinary. The fact that the Omega Speedmaster Professional, now known as the Moonwatch, was the only one that was up to scratch has made it an iconic watch ever since.
What NASA Required
As you can imagine, NASA asked a great deal of watch manufacturers and, as such, only four proposed their watches for testing. Not only was the reliability of the watch a huge factor, of course, but it needed to have certain functions such as a chronograph (stop-watch) with the ability to time seconds up to a minute, minutes up to 30 minutes and hours up to 12 hours. However, the demands that meant average watches need not apply were the conditions the watch had to be able to withstand without breaking. A watch going into space had to be shockproof, waterproof and anti-magnetic just for starters. It also had to be able to withstand dramatic changes in pressure, extreme temperatures and extraordinary levels of acceleration. It had to be able to do this while maintaining an accurate time and being easy to read in all types of light.
How They Tested the Watches
To make sure the watch they took to the moon could endure the conditions it would face on the journey, NASA subjected it to those conditions at high levels. These including putting it in a chamber which was heated up to 71°C for 48 hours and then 93°C for 30 minutes. It also spent 4 hours at -18°C too to make sure it could withstand cold temperatures as well as hot. Other conditions it was subjected to included 23.5 psi of pressure, a vacuum of 1.47 x 10E-5 psi, 95% humidity, a pure oxygen environment as well as vibration and acoustic noise. Only the Omega Speedmaster Professional stood up to these tests well enough to meet NASA’s standards.
An Icon Ever Since
Not only is the Speedmaster a seriously tough watch which has the extremely desirable trait of being the first watch on the moon, it also just looks so cool. This has made it an incredibly popular watch ever since. It’s so iconic that Omega have released a 50th anniversary of the moon landing collection of Speedmaster watches with names like Speedmaster Apollo 11 and Speedmaster ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.
Here’s an interesting, and quite exciting, fact about the first watch on the moon. Although Neil Armstrong’s watch is currently in an exhibition on the moon landing at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, Buzz Aldrin’s watch, the one that actually spent time on the surface of the moon, never made it to the museum. It was posted there but didn’t arrive so it’s still out there somewhere! We would love to be able to tell you that we have a 1960s Omega Speedmaster that could be that watch but we can’t unfortunately. However, we do often sell vintage Omega Speedmasters along with many other lovely, and very tough, prestige vintage watches. Call us on 01273 239763 or email email@example.com to see what we have available and what we can source for you.