No other watch on Earth can boast the space credentials of the Speedmaster, the unparalleled watch worn on the Moon. The inquisitive fact about the Speedmaster is that it wasn’t intended to go to the Moon. No one at Omega might have predicted that the Speedmaster would before long be circling out of the Earth’s atmosphere to join man on the greatest adventure of all. Brought into the world in 1957 as part of a set of three of instrument watches, the Speedmaster was originally intended for car racers or anybody keen on measuring elapsed occasions with 1/fifth of a subsequent accuracy. The main chronograph of its sort to feature a tachymetre scale on the external bezel, the Speedmaster reacted to an internal mandate for a solid, exact, waterproof watch that was reliable, intelligible and easy to manipulate. Today we will dive in profound with the Speedmaster and give you a compilation of the most ‘notorious’ references – and therefore the ones generally desired by collectors – that marked the evolution of this extraordinary watch which is as yet underway today.
Trilogy of 1957 Master Watches
The Speedmaster framed part of a set of three of Master instrument watches launched by Omega in 1957. There was the Seamaster 300 CK 2913 with waterproof properties for jumpers, the Railmaster CK 2914 with anti-magnetic properties for engineers, and the Speedmaster CK 2915 with stopwatch functionality for car racers et al. The names Flightmaster and Chronomaster were proposed for the chronograph, however the Speedmaster name won hands down.
A print advert of 1958 dedicated to the Speedmaster portrays two men in a convertible games car as the co-pilot raises his left wrist to call out the elapsed time and speed to the driver. The headline of the ad says everything: For Men Who Reckon Time in Seconds: The Omega Speedmaster, which included “scientists, engineers, T.V. and film directors, athletes and their coaches‘”, and basically anything that moved and required an exact 1/5th of a subsequent planning. After all, Omega was by then the Official Olympic Timer and liable for “splitting the subsequent when pined for records and medals are at stake”.
The particularity of the Speedmaster was the location of its tachymetre scale. Instead of appearing on the dial, the scale was relocated to the outside and engraved on the steel bezel. Characterized as a “high-accuracy wrist computer with tacho-productometer scale”, the Speedmaster was capable of measuring anything from the speed of a shot to the creation rate of a specialist. With its black dial and sharp white contrasting markings and hands, the dial captured the lively dashboards of Italian racing cars of that time.
The Race to Space
Meanwhile, 6,571 km away from Omega’s HQ in Bienne, the US Congress passed legislation to establish the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a civilian agency answerable for coordinating America’s activities in space. The creation of NASA in 1958 was an immediate reaction to the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of the primary satellite – Sputnik I – and marked the official start of the US-Soviet Space Race.
Below, Walter ‘Wally’ Schirra wearing his own Speedmaster CK 2998 on board of the recovery transport USS Kearsarge (3 October 1962) and Gordon Cooper who also privately purchased a Speedmaster CK 2998 and took it in space, here strapping it in 1963 preceding flight.
The first Speedmaster (CK 2998) worn in space was on astronaut Walter Schirra’s wrist during the Sigma 7 mission of the Mercury program in 1962. At this early stage in NASA’s turn of events, watches were not part of the official astronaut pack and Walter Schirra’s Speedmaster was his personal wristwatch. As innovation developed, so did the solicitations of astronauts who demanded mechanical backup timing gadgets. Flight Crew Operations Director, Deke Slayton, reacted and gave an update mentioning strong, accurate chronographs for the Gemini and Apollo teams. In 1964 a delicate was shipped off 10 watch brands however just four reacted. Of those four (Longines, Omega, Rolex and Hamilton), engineer James Ragan chose three: Hamilton was discarded because it sent a pocket watch chronograph instead of a wristwatch. The resulting Qualification Tests, which are elucidated bit by bit in Brice’s article here , were intended to test the watches in the most extraordinary situations imaginable with radical oscillations in temperature, destructive 100% oxygen conditions, shocks of 40g and so on. Only one chronograph endure and in 1965 the Speedmaster (ST 105.003) was declared “flight-qualified by NASA for all manned space missions”.
As the guaranteed watch for astronauts of Gemini and Apollo missions, the Speedmaster made its first ‘official’ trip into space onboard the Gemini III mission and on the wrists of Virgil (Gus) Grissom and John Young. It was also photographed on Edward White’s wrist during the primary historic spacewalk – extra-vehicle activity (EVA) – during the Gemini IV mission of 1965. On 21 July 1969, Neil Armstrong entered the annals of history as the principal American astronaut to go to the Moon. However, he wasn’t wearing his watch yet Buzz Aldrin was, with his Speedmaster strapped over his cumbersome spacesuit with Velcro. Following this epic walk on the Moon, the Speedmaster became known as the Moonwatch.
One mission, in particular, the disturbed 1970 Apollo 13 “Okay, Houston, we’ve had an issue here“, demonstrated how vital the watch really was. Following a blast of a save oxygen and hydrogen tank in the help module and the subsequent framework failure, Commander James Lovell depended on his Speedmaster to time the critical terminating of the reemergence rockets allowing for the safe return of his team to planet Earth.
The Speedmaster was available for one more unequivocal crossroads in space history during the 1975 joint USSR-US Apollo-Soyuz docking. The emblematic handshake in space, the start of the finish of the Space Race, revealed that the two groups were wearing Speedmasters.
Although the popularity of Moon landings began to wane – the last man to go to the Moon was Eugene Cernan in 1972 – NASA actualized its Space Shuttle program in 1978 and the Speedmaster was recertified as the official watch. With six Moon landings added to its repertoire, accompanying each US manned space trip since 1965 and presently in Russia’s MIR International Space Station, the Speedmaster has been an observer and an ally in man’s greatest feats of exploration.
The Lemania Connection – Calibers 321 and 861
Before the Speedmaster even existed, its heart was already beating at Lemania’s manufacture in Villeret. Famous for its outstanding watch developments, in particular chronographs, stopwatches and repeaters, Lemania once gave chronograph calibers to the large names in business. In 1941, Lemania created the 27 CHRO C12, the ancestor of Omega’s caliber 321 that was, and still is, perceived as one the best and most beautiful hand-wound chronograph developments at any point delivered. The caliber was created by Albert Piguet, the technical director of Lemania. The caliber, known as Lemania 2310, was also utilized by top watch brands, including Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Breguet from the 1940s up until as of late. Since 1932, Lemania had framed part of the SSIH (Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère) watch consortium, which also included brands like Omega and Tissot.
Lemania was in charge of the creation of complicated developments for its sister brand Omega giving chronographs to the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and eventually for models like the Speedmaster. The hearty components of caliber 321 were delivered with a maximum of accuracy and could be interchanged without modification, a profoundly unusual feature of the time. The 321 beating inside the CK 2915 Speedmasters was the development that made it into space and as such is the most desired of all Speedmaster Moonwatch references.
A derivation of the caliber 321, known as the caliber 861 (based on Lemania 1871), was acquainted in 1968 with substitute the original caliber. With a flat balance and a higher recurrence of 21,600vph, the 861 abandoned the section wheel mechanism and replaced it with a more hearty cam for the chronograph exchanging capacity. The steel brake switch of the central chronograph wheel will also later be subbed with a synthetic Delrin brake switch to absorb shocks. To put it plainly, the 861 featured enhancements over the 321; it was easier and cheaper to create than the 321 and entirely planned to satisfy the flooding need of the Speedmaster after it was spotted on the wrist of NASA astronauts.
The Bible of the Moonwatch
Just before we take a gander at the famous references of the watch, I’d prefer to communicate a couple of expressions of gratitude and admiration to Grégoire Rossier and Anthony Marquié, the authors of Moonwatch Only. A colossal 500+ page tome, Moonwatch Only is dedicated only to the Speedmaster/Moonwatch marvel. The number of other individual models can you consider with this sort of devotional following?
I depended broadly on this book for the article. Just to give you an idea of the extent of material canvassed in Moonwatch Only, almost each and every adaptation of the species is recorded, from the features of each and every caliber to the most infinitesimal details: Is the Omega logo applied in metal or painted on the dial? Is there a ‘T’ (for tritium) on either side of the Swiss Made engraving on the dial and is it a nearby ‘T’ or a spaced ‘T’? Is the dial ventured or not? Does the Omega logo on the crown have flat feet, angular feet or wide feet? What sort of hands are those – Broad Arrow, Alpha, baton? Is the bezel graduated to 1000 or 500? Does the caseback have a twofold slant or a solitary slant, is it a blank caseback or is it engraved with a Seahorse (hippocampus) or with Flight-Qualified by NASA? Is the caseback smooth or finished? Are those flat drags or lyre carries, short and wide pushers or wide and tall pushers? Also the 20-odd references for the metal bracelets and the models with display casebacks, moon phases, restricted and special arrangement. You get the picture.
As the authors of Moonwatch Only call attention to, the history of this watch isn’t “an exact science”. The evolutions of the Speedmaster have not always been linear, references here and there overlap each other as expected and staying aware of the changing reference numbers is an art in itself. In any case, on the off chance that you are not kidding about gathering, it merits putting resources into a duplicate of Moonwatch Only , a one of a kind reference book where almost every manifestation of the watch is recorded in adoring detail and substantiated with photographs. It is a brilliant guide for amateur investigators and seasoned collectors who want to make sure what they’re purchasing and avoid common pitfalls, a way of separating the wheat from the chaff.
GENESIS – CK 2915 ‘BROAD ARROW’
The generally desired of all Speedmasters, the CK 2915 was the principal reference, the progenitor of this famous family. Launched in 1957 as part of the Master Trilogy (see above), the Speedmaster was the main chronograph to feature the tachymetre scale on an external bezel. With its steel bezel with engraved numbers and a base 1000 tachymetre scale, its black dial with three recessed sub-dials, its distinctive Broad Arrow hour hand, its radium-filled lists and hands, the primary Speedmaster was pitched as the watch for men “who reckon time in seconds”.
Omega fitted the Speedmaster with the Lemania-delivered caliber 321 (based on the Lemania 2310, see above), a manual-winding section wheel chronograph with a lateral grasp, a shock-insurance mechanism and an anti-magnetic cover.
In creation for three years from 1957-1959 with three references, the last reference was 2915-3. Delivered in 1959, it is regarded as a transitional model subbing the Broad Arrow hands for Alpha hands and featuring the bezel in black for enhanced legibility.
The CK 2915 Speedmaster is viewed as the ultimate grail watch. What is astounding is the way clearly the traits of this watch have marked the evolution of each Speedmaster model to come.
THE EVOLUTION – CK 2998 First ‘unofficial’ Speedmaster in Space
The CK 2998 marked the following stage in the Speedmaster’s evolution and subbed the CK 2915 of every 1959. Its claim to fame is the fact that it was the principal ‘unofficial’ Speedmaster in space; it was Wally Schirra’s personal watch which he utilized during the Sigma 7 Mission of 1962 (see paragraph on The Race to Space). Following the changes made to the CK 2915-3, the CK 2998-1 featured a black aluminum bezel (which makes it marginally larger than the CK 2915, at 39.7mm) and Alpha hands.
Still fueled by the original caliber 321, there were 6 sub-references of this model with unobtrusive changes like the optional candy hand with drop stabilizer for the chronograph seconds or the optional pulsometer scale to substitute the tachymetre scale, as well as the change in scale from base 1000 to base 500 (2998-3). Another improvement was the addition of O-ring gaskets around the pushers to improve water-resistance.
It merits referencing that in 1962 the original coding framework was replaced by the more elaborate Mapics framework. The pre-1962 code applied to two models – CK 2915 and CK 2998 – the CK an abbreviation for Staybrite stainless steel. The main Speedmaster with a Mapics reference is the ST 105.002, a similar watch to the CK 2998 which was just created for two years between 1962-1964. One of the distinctive features of the 1964 ref. ST 105.002 was the presentation of hour and moment baton hands in 1964.
The NASA qualified ‘Ed White’ Model – ST 105.003
The ST 105.003 is the reference that passed the 11 tiresome NASA Qualification Test Procedures (see paragraph on the Race to Space) in 1965 and the main watch to take a walk in space on Ed White’s wrist during the principal EVA spacewalk during the Gemini IV mission of 1965. It is also the last Speedmaster to feature straight lugs.
Just to befuddle things, the name of the ST 105.003 was changed to ST 145.003 in 1967 because of another change in the coding framework. Another curiosity was the incorporation of the letter ‘T’ on either side of the Swiss Made engraving on the dial to indicate the presence of radioactive tritium utilized for luminescence.
The Moonwatch – ST 105.012
Research at the Omega Museum in Bienne demonstrates, without question, that ST 105.012 was the reference that landed on the Moon in 1969. Both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were wearing ST 105.012 models . Although NASA trials were led with the ST 105.003, the ST 105.012 was authorized for use in space with no further testing.
In addition to the historic Moon landing, the ST 105.012 revealed important changes in the development of the case to make it more powerful. The uncovered pushers and crown were given defensive supports creating an asymmetrical case plan and the drags were inclined and contorted to become the hallmark ‘lyre carries’ of the Speedmaster. The ST 105.012 is also famous because it was one of the last Speedmasters outfitted with the beautiful segment wheel chronograph caliber 321 and the first to feature the Professional engraving from the start of its creation in 1964.
The last model to have the dearest caliber 321 was the ST 145.012. Marginally not quite the same as the ST 105.012, this model had pushers with taller caps that were in a bad way into the caseband and was worn by several astronauts on various Apollo missions.
The first caliber 861 model – ST 145.022
In 1968, caliber 321 was eventually phased out and replaced with caliber 861. Also made by Lemania and created by Albert Piguet, the caliber 861 featured a cam-controlled chronograph and marks the second major evolution in the existence of the Speedmaster. Some complex changes were also incorporated on the ST 145.022 models with the chronograph hand featuring a flat stabilizer rather than the previous drop stabilizer and the accented È on tachymètre was eliminated on models created from 1970 on. Photos beneath by Bulang & Sons.
The ST 145.022 has had various designations. During the 1970s the Mapics framework acquainted a seven-figure reference with become ST 145.0022 and in 1988 another coding framework, known as Product Identity Code or PIC, was introduced.
As you can imagine, there have been and will keep on being innumerable variations on the Moonwatch theme: from models with open casebacks, anniversary models, special numbered releases, moon phases, restricted arrangement, recognitions for astronauts, mission models, MIR space station models, gold and diamond skeletonised models, faithful generations of the CK 2915, even a Snoopy model to celebrate NASA’s Snoopy Award to Omega in 1970…Ample proof of the unwaning popularity of the Moonwatch.
There are a lot of articles on MONOCHROME covering the early history of the Speedmaster , the 1970s phase of Speedmasters and the Alaska Project , and the rare and restricted versions . And obviously, Omega has posted its own beautifully illustrated 60th-anniversary review of this legendary watch on its site .