Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Introduction
At 03:15 UTC on July 21, 1969, Buzz Aldrin stepped on the surface of the moon. At that moment, the Omega Speedmaster Professional ref. 105.012 that was securely strapped to his wrist became the Moonwatch. There are countless Moonwatch stories that begin with, “From the moment I saw that, I knew that one day I would own a Moonwatch.” It is a true icon that transcends time, brand and cost.
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch
Space travel requires absolute precision on every component involved. Just as NASA engineers subjected every spacecraft system to failure testing, so too did they test the timepieces considered for flight. The Speedmaster was the only watch to pass NASA’s 11-part qualification test battery, which set in motion a series of missions and events that ultimately landed the watch on the moon.
Accompanying Apollo 11’s crew were three different reference number Speedmaster Professionals: 105.021 (Armstrong), 105.012 (Aldrin) and 145.012 (Collins). Collins stayed in the Command Module and Armstrong’s Speedmaster Professional remained on the Eagle to ensure that he and Aldrin had an accurate backup for the return flight, which made Aldrin’s ref. 105.012 the first true Moonwatch. Still, all three reference numbers are considered Moonwatches, along with a long list of subsequent versions.
The Moonwatch continued to play an important role in the space program after Apollo 11. On every manned NASA mission since, the accuracy and reliability of the Moonwatch was on full display aboard Apollo 13 when it was used to time the 14-second burn to adjust the lunar module’s trajectory after an oxygen tank explosion. This event was commemorated with the 2015 Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award edition (ref. 3126.96.36.199.04.003) that pays homage to NASA awarding its Silver Snoopy Award to Omega. The Silver Snoopy features Snoopy dozing on the small seconds register, the words “Failure is not an option” and special markings between the 0 and 14 second ticks asking “What would you do with 14 seconds?”.
Primary Purpose and Watch Audience
At its core, the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch is a tool watch with broad appeal derived from a number of factors. It is, first and foremost, a beautiful timepiece that is rugged, durable, accurate and reliable in the most extreme conditions. For anyone who witnessed the moon landing or studied the Space Race, there is a deep emotional connection and a direct link between the watch and one of the greatest human achievements in history. As such, the Moonwatch resides on many watch enthusiasts' must-have lists. Those who own one frequently describe it as their go-to watch for everyday wear.
Omega Moonwatch Features
The classic Moonwatch is a 3-register chronometer with luminous baton hands. Its black dial is marked with a stacked presentation of “Omega Speedmaster Professional,” a black tachymeter bezel and a 42mm steel asymmetrical case with crown guards topped with Omega’s Hesalite crystal. The Moonwatch caseback features an engraved Hippocampus, which varies by version and may also include “The first watch worn on the moon. Flight qualified by NASA for all manned space missions.”
All three of the Apollo 11 reference watches contained the hand-wound calibre 321 movement manufactured by Lemania. Later versions had the calibre 861/1861, though much to the joy of Moonwatch obsessives, the 50th anniversary Moonwatch released in 2019 featured a calibre 321 reissue. Though the design has been largely untouched since 1964, Omega has iterated the dial, caseback, logo application and bezel with subtle changes.
Omega Moonwatch Fun Facts
Astronauts developed close relationships with their Moonwatches. Since NASA collected each Moonwatch after training exercises, many astronauts would check the serial number when they were returned the next day to confirm that the watch handed to them was indeed theirs. Gene Cernan mused that his Moonwatch was the only thing that connected him to life on Earth when he gazed at our planet from the solitude of the moon’s surface. Sadly, the original Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch worn by Buzz Aldrin mysteriously disappeared when it was being transported for exhibit at the Smithsonian. It has never been recovered.
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Collectability
Unsurprisingly, demand for new and used Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatches is consistently strong. For vintage Speedmaster Moonwatches, look for any of the reference numbers that travelled on Apollo 11. 145.012 was the reference most worn by astronauts and is more widely available than the others.
Moonwatches produced with the calibre 861 and 186X (ref.145.022) are the most prevalent. They offer the same style and can be acquired for less investment than earlier models. Look for used Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch special editions, especially the 50th Anniversary and Silver Snoopy Award. Omega has also produced several non-Professional Speedmaster Moonwatch including the Dark/Grey/White Side of the Moon, the Speedmaster Moonphase and the “First Omega in Space” editions. The “Sapphire Sandwich” with its front and caseback crystals, is also popular.
In 2019, Omega made a widely celebrated announcement about the movement inside its Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch: Caliber 321 would make its return! Caliber 321 is the designation for the column wheel chronograph movement that powered the Speedmasters that made the trip to the moon and back. After the Apollo missions, Caliber 321 was eventually replaced with Caliber 861. Caliber 861 modified some of the chronograph mechanism, making it more reliable in certain ways. Caliber 321 remained popular with collectors of vintage Omega Speedmaster Moonwatches, but remained out of production for decades.
To bring the Caliber 321 back into production, Omega's research and development team went to great lengths to faithfully recreate the famed Caliber 321. Precise 3D scanners were used to find the exact dimensions of parts of the Caliber 321 movement, and the team worked under a codename so that news of this project wouldn't escape the factory walls. Omega has since created a specialized Caliber 321 workshop in their factory, where all examples of the Caliber 321 and the Speedmaster Moonwatches they power are assembled by the same watchmaker. It seems it was no accident that this announcement came in 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission where astronauts landed on the moon for the first time.