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Legend of The Moon Watch: Omega Speedmaster

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Yes! A Moon Watch.

 

Omega Speedmaster is the first watch that had ever been to the moon, we all know that it's the way that Omega publicized this watch. However, if you deeply reserched that what had happened during the space exploratory competition of the America and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, you would easily discover that there are many questions and arguements covered under these surprising lengends which added Speedmaster a mysterious charm.

 

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The Moon Watch Ad

 

Omega was built by Louis Brandt in 1848, it was said that, the name Omega was suggested by a friend of Brandt who was a banker, called Henry Rieckel, and it was the first time to be used on Omega in 1894. The present productions of Omega are basically including the Seamaster(1948), the Constellation(1952), the Deville(1967), the Dynamic(1968) and the Speedmaster which we talk about today. Speedmaster is a sport chronograph watch which was produced under giving consideration to high durability and legibility design idea in 1957. The stiff steel case helps the watch to be water resistant to 60m, and due to its screw-in caseback is derived from the design of Seamaster, the pattern on the caseback of the Speedmaster also used the image of hippocamp. The movement is under the protection of soft iron so that can keep away from the influence of magnetic force to make sure the durability of the watch, the broad arrow-type hand and the tachymetre on the bezel can make the time easier to be read.

 

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Speedmaster CK2915

 

The first generation of Speedmaster issued in 1957, its reference is CK2915, used manual winding Calibre 321 that is modified from Lamania 2310. Calibre 321 is the subsequent production of 27 CHRO 12 which was reserched and invented by Jaques Reymond of Omega and Albert Piguet of Lemania in 1942, the frequency is 18,000 bph. Omega quickly changed the style of Speedmaster in 1959, and issued a new type whose reference is CK2998, it also used Calibre 321, canceled the broad arrow-type hour hand, the second-chronograph hand was modified to be a slender long arrow type, and the case diameter increased from original 39mm to 40mm, O-ring Gasket was added for the chronograph buttons. Before 1966, the Speedmaster had few changes but some modification made on the hands and dial.

 

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Speedmaster CK2998

 

Four years later since the Speedmaster was launched, the space fight of human was unveiled. On Apirl 12th, 1961, the Soviet Union firstly to send a manned spaceship to the space, astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to the space and the earth orbit. It was said that, what Yuri Gagarin wore was Sturmanskije Rodina.(Althought the Soviet Union watch are quiet durable and accurate, it was pointed that, the Soviet astronauts would wear Speedmaster in the future. In the later Apollo-Soyuz Space Station Program, Speedmaster also became the specified timer. Omega also had ever released 250 pieces, which have a symbol of Apollo-Soyuz Mission at 12 o'clock on the dial.)

 

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Rodina

 

Later, America kept fighting to catch up with the Sovie Union and President Kennedy made a determination to explore the space and land on the moon, the NASA also started to implement several missions. The Ameican space operation didn't require the astronauts to wear a watch when carrying out a task in the preliminary stage of Project Mercury period and of course did not appoint wearing specified timer. On May 24th, 1962, the Amercan astronaut Scott Carpenter who drove the Aurora 7 to outer space orbit while wearing a Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaut, it is the first Swiss watch to the outer space that we can found in the record. Among the three American astronauts who entered the space before Scott Carpenter, we knew that John Glenn didn't wear a watch, Alan Sheppard and Virgil (Gus) Grissom died before they could be interviewed.

 

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Speedmaster 1967-68-69

 

It was in 1962 that the NASA began to really consider to choose a watch for the astronauts who would carry out the later Gemini and the Apollo programs. It was pointed out that the equipment buyer of NASA went directly to the town of Boston to buy 6 chronograph watches released from different companies(Omega, Rolex and Longines) to the space center for a serious testing (these watches were not manufactured for a special purpose but also for common people). These watches were put in the vacuum that simulated the outer space, they must pass a series of strict tests, including harsh temperature changing from 93℃ to -18℃, 12G accelerated centrifugal force, drastic vibration and striking, of course, the performance of water resistance and antimagnetic, finally, Omega stood out among these watches.

 

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Speedmaster

 

On October 3rd,1962, it was the first time for Wally Schirra to drive Sigma 7 to travel around the earth orbit while wearing the Speedmaster. On May 15th, 1963, Gordon Cooper drove the Faith 7 to travel around the earth orbit while wearing the Speedmaster Accutron Astronaut (the first American watch entered the space) for testing. After that, Cooper concluded the advice that offered by Mercury Project and selected the Speedmaster for appointed timer. On September 21st, 1964, Donald "Deck" Slayton, the Director of Flight Crew Operations, officially sent a letter to appoint the Omega Speedmaster as the specified timer in the American space mission. And the Speedmaster became a part of the astronauts outfits since the Gemini 3 and the Apollo mission in 1965.

 

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On March 18th, 1965, the Soviet astronaut Alexei Leonov completed the first spacewalk in human history, he didn't wear a watch out of his spacesuit, but it was said that he might wore a Soviet watch that was similar to the one which Yuri Gagarin wore, but it couldn't be proved. What interesting is that Alexei Leonov also participated in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Flight (ASTF), and he also wore the Speedmaster that was the American astronauts standard equipment. On June 4th, 1965, the American astronaut Edward Higgins White took the Gemini 4 to complete the first spacewalk of America. On the outside of his spacesuit, he wore a Speedmaster with a Vecro strap, so the Speedmaster undoubtly became the first watch that was esposed to the outer space, a serious environment! The spacewalk photos of Edward H. White in the outer space were published on the cover of the Life Magzine, the Speedmaster quickly attracted the attention of watch fans all over the world, the interesting part was that Omega Watch Company didn't know the progress of the NASA choosing watches and their final determination untill they saw Edward White's exciting spacewalk photos, and they were surprised like others.

 

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Edward H. White, II in Spacewalk

 

Edward White continued to wear his Speedmaster (Reference ST105.003) after his epoch-making spacewalk untill he died in an accidental fire with his colleagues, Gus Grisson and Roger Chaffee, they were being trained for preparing to the Apollo 1 mission. The Speedmaster existed in this fire and finally being given to Mrs. Edward White for relique, and then, it was given to his son, Edward H. White, III. Edward H. White, III wore this watch for many years, he locked it in a safe box and kept it till today.

 

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Edward H. White, II's Omega Speedmaster

 

Since Omega found that Speedmaster had been officially appointed as the American astronauts' timer and used in their missions, they added the word "Professional" to "Speedmaster" since 1966 and changed its name to Speedmaster Professional(Reference ST145.012). In 1968, Omega changed the movement in Speedmaster Professional, the former Caliber 321(Lamania 2310), which adopted Column Wheel, was replaced by Caliber 861(Lemania 1873) that was much cheaper but more accurate.

 

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Caliber 321 vs Caliber 863

 

Next, what could be said to be the greatest adventure mission in human history and the success of science and technology is the feat of the American Apollo 11 landing on the moon on July 21st, 1969. As we all know, when astronaut Neil Armstrong walked out the spaceship, he said, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." However, the first person who landed on the moon wearing Speedmaster was not Armstrong, it was Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, who landed on the moon after Armstrong. Because a timer in the spaceship went wrong at that moment, and to make sure they had a safe spare timer, Armstrong decided to leave his Speedmaster in the spaceship and made a spacewalk without it. Therefore, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin's Speedmaster was the real first watch to land on the moon. The regretable thing was that Edwin Aldrin's Speedmaster was stolen on the way to the Smithsonian Institute for exhibition and had never appeared since that time.

 

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Buzz Aldrin in Speedmaster

 

Because Omega started to use Calibre 861 movement in Speedmaster since 1968, we didn't know whether Edwin Aldrin's Speedmaster and other Speedmasters used in Apollo 11 in 1969 and Apollo 17 in 1972 was Calibre 321 or Calibre 861? According to the Time Capsule: the Speedmaster used in Gemini and Apollo all belonged to the old models whose movement was still the Calibre 321 before being changed in 1968. The present evidences were indirect from the subsequent astronauts' Speedmaster because Edwin Aldrin's had been lost, including Alan Sheppard who was the moon landing director of Apollo 14 and Ron Evans, who was the flight officer of Apollo 17. The Serial Number of these two astronauts' Speedmaster watches had been proved to belong to Calibre 321, so Edwin Aldrin's Speedmaster that was allocated by NASA could be almost sure to be Calibre 321 rather than Calibre 861.

 

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Another arguement about Speedmaster happened when Apollo 13 carried out the moon landing mission In July, 1970. When the spaceship was ready to approach the moon, an accident of the oxygen tank blowing out happened that caused the spaceship lose oxygen and eletric power gradually. At that moment, the control centre immediately accepted the message sent from 205,000 miles away, "Houston, we have a problem", This sentence suddenly disturbed all the scientists and engineers in the center because that is what they absolutely unwilling to hear.

 

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At this moment, the three astronauts in the spaceship were facing an unprecedented test, they had to endeavour to return to the earth in four days, besides the guidance of the wireless from the centre, they could depend on nothing but themselves. For unwilling to die in the space and being seperated from their families, they overcome all the troubles with courage, perseverance and team spirit and finally came to the key moment of deciding how to return safely: the engine of the Apollo 13 must be ignited accurately in 14 seconds, so that they could exactly get rid of the moon orbit and enter the earth orbit. At the moment, the director of the astronauts, Jim Lovell(Tom Hank acts this role in the movie) and Jack Swigert used their watches to finish this mission calmly(the other astronaut was Fred Haise, he replaced the driver Ken Matingly who was suspected to suffer from mumps, but he got cold as soon as he boarded the spaceship). James Dowling and Jeffrey Hess, the authors of "The Best of Times: Rolex, an unauthorized Histor", pointed out in the book that the GMT-Master which Jack Swigertg was wearing helped the astronauts in the Apollo 13 return to the earth safely. James Dowling admitted that it might be Jim Lovell who was wearing the Speedmaster to take key responsibility to count time, but he didn't explain that Jack Swigert's GMT-Master helped the Apollo 13 return safely.

 

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Reviewing the photographs and the videos, Jack Swigert was indeed wearing a Rolex 1675 GMT Master, but we could also found he was wearing a Speedmaster with a Vecro strap out of his spacesuit in a shot. However, we could found obviously in a photo that Jack Swigert wore two watches on his two wrists at the award ceremony that President Richard M. Nixon gave the the Medal of Freedom to the members of the Apollo 13 in Hawaii. At present, we can't identify which watch was used when Swigert counting to ignite the engine through the video, so, we guessed that it was Rolex saved the Apollo 13 rather than Speedmaster but this inference without any evidences. It was interesting that when we only took the performance of chronograph for consideration, the practicability of GMT Master was obviously lower than the Speedmaster, which had the performance of stopwatch, that was why the NASA selected a Chronograph for astronauts' equipment at the begining.

 

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Apollo 13 Members, Jack Swigert was wearing Rolex 1675 GMT Master on left hand.

 

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Fred Haise in Speedmaster in the Movie Apollo 13

 

Actually, not only Swigert, most of astronauts are originally fans of Rolex, including Lovell, their photos with their signiture were even displayed in the headquater of Rolex and were publicly displayed by the theme name of Rolex & NASA. Therefore, if these three astronauts had not think this glory of the accurate timing and helping the spaceship return safely belong to Omega Speedmaster, they would not have signed their name to give The Snoopy Award to Omega Company.

 

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The Snoopy Award

 

Omega declared in many publicity materials that Speedmaster was the ONLY watch worn on moon, but it was not the truth, like the thing that Speedmaster didn't finished the missions successfully every time. David Scott, an astronaut of Apollo XV, had ever pointed in 1996: he found the watch glass of his Speedmaster fell off in his second spacewalk, so, the next time he wore his own watch, the Waltham, which had the similar performance, and this watch ran well in the hostile environment of that time. Therefore, Speedmaster was not the only watch that had ever landed on the moon, the Waltham was the other one.

 

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Speedmaster Apollo XVII Limited Edition

 

The Speedmaster became famous because of the space missions that caused dissatisfaction from the Bulova, an American Horology Corporation, especially there was a Buy American Act at that time. The Bulova pressured at many members of Congress to force the manager of the NASA to take consideration for using the chronograph watches of Bulova as the specified watch in the Apollo moon project. In particularly, the Apollo project had obtained a quite great success, plus the other sectors, the headquarter of NASA declared to stop the manned moon landing operations after the Apollo 17 finished the landing in December, 1972, this caused a more intense lobbying from the Bulova, they hoped the last mission could use their watches. So the NASA hold another test in 1972 with informing 16 manufacturers, Breitling, Bulova, Elmore, Elgin, Forbes, Girard-Perregaux, Gruen, Hamilton, Heuer, LeCoultre, Longines, Omega, Rolex, Seiko and Zodiac. In order to be suitable for the Buy American Act, Omega specially let the Starr Watch Case Company in Michigan to make the case of Speedmaster and let Hamilton to assemble the watch. While the Bulova originally is an American Corporation, did in an opposite way, they purchased the Universal Geneve from its Swiss subsidiary corporation and sent it to be tested after being assembled in the America. The result came out in Novermber, the Speedmaster won the appointed timer again. In 1978, the NASA suffered the pressure from the Bulova again because the selection of the appointed timer for the Space Shuttle. So they had to held the third test and the result did not change.

 

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Caliber 321

 

With the end of the Apollo moon project and the nomalization of the space missions, the glory of the Speedmaster Moon Watch began to be a part of history like the brave astronauts, and would be remembered by the fans of watch and space. In order to catch the tendency of the fashion, the Speedmaster added various types including the Speedmaster Moonphase, the Speedmaster Day-Date, the Speedmaster Rattrapante and the Speedmaster Racing for absorbing people's attention. Today, we can buy the Speedmaster Ladies Reduced with a bezel full of jewels which seems sporty and elegancy.

 

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Speedmaster Broad Arrow

 

The Omega declared on the Chinese brochures of the Speedmaster Broad Arrow that was newly released by Omega: Broad Arrow is the name of the hands of the original Omega Speedmaster which was launched in 1957. The legendary Speedmaster had ever been to the universe and landed on the moon with wearing by the astronauts since it was issued, and it has been appointed to be the equipment of the Russian Space Station and the International Space Project. For commemorating the famous broad arrow hands of the Speedmaster, Omega specially named the new type automatic watch the Speedmaster Broad Arrow. It can be imagined that when many fans of the Speedmaster saw this words might think that is unbelievable. No one can figure out this words  that came from the original manufactorer of the Omega which produced the Speedmaster.

 

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Speedmaster Broad Arrow

 

First of all, the original type of the hands of the Omega Speedmaster could be called broad arrow, but it didn't be named Broad Arrow at that time. As we all know, Broad Arrow is actually a proper noun that the fans of watch can often see it, a symbol of arrow on the military watch, which had been selected to be the symbol of the royal capital by the British Empire for a long time. No one would take it as a military watch athough the Speedmaster had been used in the space fighting. It may be a little thoughtless that the Omega named it Broad Arrow for its look only, because the Speedmaster Replica which was issued previously, has the same broad arrow hands, it also has no date and has automatic movement that has not been propagandized as the tribute of the Moon Watch, and has not been named the Broad Arrow.

 

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Speedmaster Replica

 

What's more. The Speedmaster is indeed the first watch that had taken part in spacewalk, landed on moon and it became the official watch in the later space missions, but it is absolutly not the Speedmaster CK2915, the first type watch with the broad arrow hands that was launched in 1957, it is the updated CK2998, the Speedmaster which had been a little changed in 1959. So, the Speedmaster should maintain its hands type to present compliments to the space exploration and the history of the moon landing rather than change back to the broad arrow hands which was issued in 1957, in addition, the outline of the case, the dial, the metal hourmarkers and the techymeter of the Speedmaster Broad Arrow are different from the Speedmaster (Professional). Besides, the Speedmaster Broad Arrow had been changed to use the automatic movement and added a date at the 6 o'clock positon that made it more and more suitable for common people which is contrary to the unreliable truth that used a self-winding movement in the weightless space. Therefore, this publicity that "the legendary Speedmaster had ever been to the universe and landed on the moon with following the astronauts since it was issued. And it has been appointed to be the timing equipment of the Russian Space Station and the International Space Project" is obviously misleading the fans who want to wear a Speedmaster that has a little connection with the exploration and the success of the history to wear a self-winding Speedmaster Broad Arrow rather a manual-winding Speedmaster Professional which is closer to the truth.

 

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Thus, the Speedmaster Broad Arrow should be regarded as an extension type like the Speedmaster Michael Schumacher, Speedmaster Moonphase, Speedmaster Day-Date, Speedmaster Ladies, Speedmaster Rattrapante and the Speedmaster Racing. And only the Speedmaster (Professional), which used manual winding Calibre 321 or Calibre 861/863 that had been modified, could be regarded as the tribute of the real Moon Watch. So, althought the Speedmaster Broad Arrow has the excellent movement and the undoubtedly beautiful look, it still can not replace the real space watch, the Speedmaster (Professional) in the hearts of the fans who fell in love with the wonderful space exploration history and the attrative Moon watch.

 

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Speedmaster Caliber 321

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