The first Speedmaster was released by Omega as a sports timer in 1957 to compliment Omega’s appointment as the official timer for the Olympic Games. Its movement was the 321 which was based on the old Lemania 2310, first introduced in 1942.
In 1965 Omega replaced the 321 with the 861, based on the Lemania 1873. This was about the time that NASA was testing watches to be used in their space programme.
Of the six chronographs that NASA tested, the Speedmaster was the only one to withstand all of the severe tests under conditions of zero gravity and magnetic fields, extreme shocks, vibrations and temperatures ranging from -18 to +93 degrees Celsius.
So as the astronauts’ official watch this lead to the most memorable moment in the Speedmaster’s history; 21 July 1969 at 02:56 GMT, when it became the first watch worn on the Moon’s surface. With this unique accomplishment came its nickname: the Moonwatch.
In another historical event, the Speedmaster was worn on the wrists of both the American astronaut Tom Stafford and the Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov during the historic Apollo-Soyuz space rendezvous. This was the first time the cosmonauts also wore the Omega Speedmaster. Ever since, the Speedmaster has been the official chronograph of all Russian manned space missions.
The Speedmaster, along with the space pen (zero gravity pen) are the only two items of the Apollo 11 astronauts’ equipment that is available to the general public.
I always wanted one but never dream’t that I would end up with such an immaculate example. Omega etched “Certified by Nasa” etc on the back from the late 70’s. Apart from that the moonwatch went unchanged for many years. This is a 1984 example with 861 calibre movement. It is signed six times including an omega symbol in the centre of the glass.
I love this watch!
The only fault is that the bracelet is made of folded steel and feels tinny compared to the solid steel of later models. Nevertheless, I prefer this, the genuine moonwatch and therefore I have something in common with Neil Armstrong.