Our 10th September Fine Art auction includes several desirable wristwatches by Omega, Rolex, Breitling and Tissot. Amongst these is lot 1165, the Omega Speedmaster Professional chronograph, a.k.a. The Moonwatch.
An example of this watch has been on every single one of NASA's piloted missions since 1965 - from the first spacewalk on Gemini 4 to the current International Space Station. It also has the honour of being the first watch on the moon, whilst on Buzz Aldrin's wrist on that historic journey in 1969. It remains the only watch qualified for Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA), which is any activity done by an astronaut outside a spacecraft beyond the Earth's atmosphere. However, it is also eminently suitable for wear for any earthbound activities!
Chronographs were first developed for use in artillery during battles, but their split-second timing and ability to calculate speed and distance made them essential to pilots and submariners as well as racing car drivers. Released in 1957, the Speedmaster was originally introduced as a sport and racing chronograph; Omega has been the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games since 1932. In the early 1960s, NASA solicited bids from all the major watch manufacturers for a suitable chronograph for use on space missions. After subjecting the chronographs to intensive testing including high and low temperatures, humidity, oxygen environment, shock, high and low pressure, and vibration, the Omega Speedmaster was eventually chosen in March 1965.
It was a good choice. In 1970, after Apollo 13 was crippled by the rupture of an oxygen tank, Jack Swigert's Speedmaster was famously used to accurately time the critical 14-second Mid-Course Correction 5 burn using the Lunar Module's Reaction Control System, which allowed for the crew's safe return. In recognition of this, Omega was awarded the Snoopy Award by the Apollo 13 astronauts, "for dedication, professionalism, and outstanding contributions in support of the first United States Manned Lunar Landing Project."
Over the years, Omega has sought to improve functional aspects of the basic Speedmaster Professional. The early Speedmasters used the calibre 321 movement, which was replaced in 1968/69 with the introduction of the calibre 861, which was used in the 'moonwatch'. Other alterations include shrouded lugs, anti-reflective mineral glass crystal, black or white dials, and creating a removable anodized aluminium housing to shield the watch from a wider range of temperatures. Regardless of these tweaks it remains a classic and historic design, and a credit to any wrist within our galaxy!
1165 - A gents Omega steel cased Speedmaster Professional chronograph, having signed black dial, three subsidiary dials, luminous baton markers, automatic CAL.861 movement, the back cover inscribed 'Flight-Qualified by NASA for All manned space missions, the first watch worn on the Moon', circa 1988, with original steel bracelet and Omega clasp, dia. 4.2cm, sold with original box and papers to include Omega Speedmaster Professional brochure, original Omega International Guarantee and purchase receipt for Walker & Hall dated December 1988. £800-1200