Monthly Archives: April 2002

The diamond Speedmaster: Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow

OMEGA’s Speedmaster line has a considerable heritage. Flight-qualified for manned spaceflight missions by NASA and chosen by the Russian space agency for the same purpose, it is the only watch ever to have been worn on the moon. Its reliability is such that today, over 35 years after initially being approved for space missions, it is still the only watch approved for extra-vehicular activity in outer space. The new Speedmaster Broad Arrow, which takes its name from the distinctive hands used on the very first Speedmaster models, signals not only a completely new model in the Speedmaster collection but also the arrival of a brand-new prestige watch movement that is exclusive to OMEGA. The two latest models in this new collection turn these prestige watches into stunning jewellery pieces.

April 4th 2002 – read more below the gallery

The heart of the Speedmaster “Broad Arrow” is undoubtedly the new OMEGA calibre 3303 movement, developed by OMEGA and produced exclusively for OMEGA by Frédéric Piguet – a totally new self-winding COSC-certified chronometer-chronograph movement that benefits from the latest in watchmaking technology. Its column-wheel chronograph mechanism consists of a ratchet wheel with columns that govern the precision operation of various levers for the chronograph functions: start, stop and reset for the central chronograph seconds hand and the hour and minute totalisers (located at 6 o’clock and 3 o’clock respectively). Column-wheel chronographs are widely recognised as the finest chronograph movements available. However, they remain exclusive, since very few manufacturers are capable of producing this highly sophisticated mechanism. The exclusive nature of OMEGA’s new movement is further enhanced by OMEGA’s proven sprung-balance without index, which offers improved regulating stability.

Two new Broad Arrow models elevate the luxury status of this timepiece even further, ensuring that the highly complicated movement is encased appropriately using only the most precious of materials. Both models have a stainless steel case and bezel paved with 54 diamonds, as well as hour markers on the dial encrusted with 32 diamonds. The luxury theme continues with a choice of a white mother-of-pearl or black crystal dial and a stainless steel bracelet or hand-sewn black or brown alligator leather strap. Both models share the same top-of-the-range quality levels as all other Broad Arrow models, with an anti-reflective scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, screw-in case back and OMEGA double gasket crown that ensure water resistance to 100 metres.

From the Moon to Mars with the space watch for the 21st century: the Omega Speedmaster Professional X-33

OMEGA’s Speedmaster trademark has been associated with the field of space exploration for over 35 years, ever since the Speedmaster Professional chronograph became the first watch to be worn on the moon, as the only watch to pass all of NASA’s stringent tests to be approved for use on manned spaceflight missions. Whilst this “Moon Watch” is still used by astronauts and cosmonauts today for extra-vehicular activity in outer space, OMEGA’s Speedmaster Professional X-33 represents the state of the art in space watches for the new millennium. OMEGA is pleased to present a new version of this instrument watch that incorporates improvements based on feedback from the professionals who use the X-33 in the field.

April 4th 2002 – read more below the gallery

OMEGA’s Speedmaster trademark has been associated with the field of space exploration for over 35 years, ever since the Speedmaster Professional chronograph became the first watch to be worn on the moon, as the only watch to pass all of NASA’s stringent tests to be approved for use on manned spaceflight missions. Whilst this “Moon Watch” is still used by astronauts and cosmonauts today for extra-vehicular activity in outer space, OMEGA’s Speedmaster Professional X-33 represents the state of the art in space watches for the new millennium. OMEGA is pleased to present a new version of this instrument watch that incorporates improvements based on feedback from the professionals who use the X-33 in the field.

X-33 was the code name used by OMEGA watchmakers for their project of a new space watch, which saw four different prototype versions rigorously tested over five years on space missions and by the American “Blue Angels” and “Thunderbirds” pilots. The valuable experienced gained from this extensive collaborative period resulted in a watch that meets all requirements for use by professional pilots and space travellers. The X-33 has since been qualified for NASA Space Shuttle missions and chosen by the Russian Space Agency as standard equipment on all its shuttle flights, making it ex officio the watch worn on board the new International Space Station (ISS).

The Speedmaster Professional X-33 is built for working in harsh environments. It has a lightweight, ultra-resistant and anti-allergenic titanium case, as well as a matching titanium bracelet or strap made out of the equally resistant and lightweight material Kevlar. The watch case is reinforced so that the watch can withstand great shocks. Perhaps the best trial of all was the X-33’s perfect performance (apart from superficial case damage) after a high impact crash on the wrist of a jet pilot evaluator (who also escaped serious injury). At the request of astronauts, the dial and display have been made as clear as possible, with luminous hour markers and hands contrasting against a black background, as well as a digital display with large, high-contrast LCD letters and numbers.

The X-33 has numerous functions that have been tailored to the requirements of astronauts and professional pilots:

  • Mission Elapsed Time: a long-term chronograph function that records days, hours, minutes and seconds. This chronograph is started at the beginning of the mission and is the main reference time for all mission activities.
  • Mission Alarm: an alarm that can be set to sound at a given point during the mission, e.g. as a reminder to start experiments.
  • Universal Time: GMT, indicated as the day of the week, the hour, minutes and seconds. This is used to avoid confusion between time zones, but can also be set to a second time zone.
  • Universal Time Alarm: This function may be programmed at any time throughout the mission. The X-33 has a double titanium case back to ensure that the alarm function reaches a minimum of 80 decibels – essential to be heard in the interior of the Space Shuttle.

The X-33 also has a digital chronograph that can be used to time any event to within 1/100th of a second, as well as a countdown timer and date display. The new version of the X-33 has certain subtle changes that nevertheless make a big difference for those who use the watch professionally: new pushbuttons and a new titanium crown make it easier for pilots and astronauts to operate the watch’s functions whilst wearing gloves and a new brushed steel bezel reduces glare and makes it easier to read off the display, with a luminous dot at 12 o’clock on the bi-directional bezel offering a useful point of reference for timekeeping operations using the bezel at night or in poor light.

Each Speedmaster Professional X-33 is rigorously tested before shipment. It must be accurate to within 0.3 to +0.5 seconds per day, water and pressure resistant to 3 bars (ISO standard 2281) and temperature resistant from –20 to +70 degrees C. Special alarm, lighting and vacuum tests are also made on the X-33. As OMEGA has proved once again with the Speedmaster Professional X-33, it is such stringent tests that give the Speedmaster watches their proven reliability and with it their legendary status in the watchmaking industry.

Omega’s legendary involvement in the field of space exploration

An association that started 40 years ago with the very beginnings of space exploration and is still going strong today.

April 4th 2002 – read more below the gallery

Long before the term “space race” was coined, OMEGA was renowned for its pilot watches: Having supplied the British Flying Corps as early as 1917 and later its successor, the Royal Air Force (as well as the British Army) during World War II, the brand soon became official supplier to numerous other armed forces. In 1942, OMEGA launched its 27 CHRO C12 calibre – the forerunner of the calibres 321 and 861, which would later equip the Speedmaster and the smallest chronograph movement in the world at the time.

When the first OMEGA Speedmaster was launched in 1957 as a robust sports chronograph that allowed the time to be read clearly and easily, nobody could have imagined that a legend had been born. In fact, the watch fulfilled its remit so well that it was the only chronograph from a group of 12 brands purchased anonymously by NASA for its strict tests for use in space missions – tests that included exposure to extreme temperatures, vacuums, intense humidity, corrosion, shocks, acceleration, pressure, vibrations and noise. The ensuing list of superlatives makes compelling reading for any avid watch collector, hardly surprising for one of the few watches that is so famous it even has a nickname: The Moon Watch.

As the only chronograph to be flight-qualified for manned space missions by NASA on 1 March 1965, the Speedmaster was standard issue for all American astronauts and therefore became the first watch to be worn in outer space (outside a spacecraft) and subsequently the first watch to be worn on the moon when Apollo XI landed there on 21 July 1969. The temperature extremes of +100 to – 50 degrees Celsius, as well as the lower gravity encountered there illustrated the need for NASA’s strict tests, but nevertheless had no effect on the Speedmaster, which continued to function perfectly.

As accurate timing to the second became increasingly important in the Apollo programme, so too did the OMEGA Speedmaster. It even proved life-saving on the troubled Apollo XIII mission, when it was used to time to within a fraction of a second the firing of the re-entry rockets whilst the spacecraft was out of communications range on the dark side of the moon. As a result, OMEGA was presented with the “Snoopy” Award – the highest honour awarded by NASA astronauts.

Though little needed, the Speedmaster Professional’s reputation received a further boost in 1975 on the occasion of the Apollo-Soyuz rendezvous. This historic docking between a Soviet and American spacecraft at the height of the Cold War revealed that the Soviet cosmonauts were also wearing the Speedmaster. Though the watches had been offered to the cosmonauts by OMEGA, to ensure that they were on time for the rendezvous with their American counterparts, what OMEGA did not discover until 14 years later was that the Russian space agency NPO Energija also subsequently adopted the Speedmaster as standard equipment, covering its requirements totally anonymously by government purchase orders.

As part of the preparations for the Space Shuttle programme, NASA reviewed its entire range of equipment, effectively starting from nothing and requesting proposals from suppliers, including some thirty chronograph manufacturers. OMEGA naturally submitted its proven Speedmaster, whose extraordinary resistance and reliability was confirmed when NASA again chose this legendary watch. Once more, the merits of OMEGA’s manual-winding mechanical watch movement proved unbeatable for use in outer space!

In 1992, OMEGA itself took the initiative and drew up a list of specifications in conjunction with American and European astronauts (including Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier) and Russian cosmonauts with a view to developing a watch specifically for use in space. Thanks to OMEGA’s long-standing links with the Russian space agency, the brand was even privileged to be able to use the MIR space station as a test laboratory in space. The result was the Speedmaster Professional X-33 multifunction quartz watch, which, in addition to the Speedmaster Professional Chronograph, forms part of the standard equipment issued to all astronauts and cosmonauts departing from US and Russian space centres and is therefore worn by all visitors to the International Space Station (ISS).

The start of the third millennium saw a revolutionary step in the field of space exploration with the first “space tourist”. The world’s first fare-paying passenger into space was 60-year old American billionaire Dennis Tito. Like all professional astronauts, Mr Tito received a Speedmaster Professional X-33 to record all the important moments of his once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The OMEGA Speedmaster Professional Chronograph nevertheless remains the true space watch, as the only timepiece flight qualified by NASA for extra-vehicular use and chosen by the Russian space agency for the same purpose. Forty years after Man first ventured into space, it is the same Speedmaster, with relatively minor changes to the design and the movement, that sets the standard for precision timekeeping… even in the most extreme circumstances known to mankind.

Omega Ladies Speedmaster Automatic Reduced

For ladies who have certain expectations in terms of the internal workings and dimensions of a watch, but who nevertheless do not want to surrender feminine aesthetics as a result, OMEGA has created a new generation of mid-sized chronographs with a breathtaking design:”Speedmaster Automatic with diamonds” – a contemporary, and above all feminine, interpretation of traditional mechanical watchmaking.

April 4th 2002 – read more below the gallery

Originally conceived to meet the technical demands of high-speed motor racing drivers, the Speedmaster was a byword for robust, sporty and masculine wrist chronographs. As the only watch to pass all the strict tests for NASA spaceflight qualification for all manned space missions in 1965, the Speedmaster became the first and (as yet) only watch to be worn on the moon when Man took his first steps there on 21 July 1969, turning this humble chronograph into a legend in watchmaking.

With a case diameter of 38.8mm, the Speedmaster was designed primarily to be worn by men. However, its legendary status and universal appeal were such that the first series of the “Speedmaster Reduced”, with slightly reduced dimensions, was equally popular with ladies. The obvious demand for such a watch led OMEGA to adapt the design of these mid-size (35.5mm case diameter) watches to feminine tastes. The result is the OMEGA Speedmaster Automatic Reduced for ladies, a collection of exclusively feminine models in stainless steel.

The stars in this collection are undoubtedly the two contrasting models with white or black mother-of-pearl dials and matching calfskin straps. They have a bezel paved with 49 diamonds, with a further 30 diamonds being used to encrust the hour markers. Other model variations are available in the same colours with a choice of two further calfskin straps in light blue and light grey with the white mother-of-pearl dial. With diamond-set bezel or polished steel bezel with tachymeter scale, Arabic numerals with or without 12 additional diamond hour markers… Whatever the preference, the heart that beats for those who love mechanical watches: a self-winding mechanical chronograph movement, OMEGA calibre 3220, with rhodium-plated finish, Geneva wave decor and a power reserve of 40 hours.

This collection, which mixes the timeless elements of black, white, mother-of-pearl and diamonds with the trendy appeal of pastel colours, naturally comes complete with all the top-quality features of the Speedmaster, including luminous painted hands, a hesalite crystal as used on the original Moon Watch and water resistance to a depth of 30 metres.

The only watch worn on the moon!

The OMEGA Speedmaster Professional Chronograph has the unique claim of being the only watch to survive NASA’s two-year programme of extreme tests to find a chronograph suitable for its astronauts on their space missions. As a result, it was the first – and until now only – watch ever to be worn on the moon, when Man landed there on 21 July 1969 at 02:56.20 GMT. The latest incarnation of this legendary watch has a scratch-resistant sapphire case back and crystal.

April 4th 2002 – read more below the gallery

Only thanks to OMEGA’s considerable expertise in watchmaking did the Speedmaster Chronograph pass NASA’s stringent tests to be flight-qualified for all manned spaceflight missions. The key to its success were the small trade secrets used in the movement design, as well as the top quality components used in the manufacture of the watch, such as the highly resistant acrylic crystal used on the original model – a crucial component on the watch that proved a stumbling block for its main competitors in the two-year tests in 1964/65. One of the biggest advantages of this crystal for use in space is that if it is broken or smashed, it does not shatter into tiny pieces. This is important, since such tiny fragments of glass floating around in zero gravity would represent a considerable safety risk.

The movement calibre 861 that equipped the original Speedmasters is still used in the collection today. Though, like all OMEGA movements, it employs the very latest technical standards, it still retains its original design. This is hardly surprising, since this calibre is one of the masterpieces in watchmaking history. The fact that the Speedmaster Professional Chronograph is still today qualified for extra-vehicular activity by NASA and chosen for the same purpose by the Russian space agency is testament enough to the extraordinary reliability of this movement, found in the Speedmaster Professional today as calibre 1863: a manual winding chronograph with a power reserve of 45 hours. The hand winding chronograph is the only suitable mechanism for extra-vehicular use, since the functioning of the rotor in a self-winding movement would be compromised in the vacuum of outer space.

The design of the “Moon Watch” retains the same classic look it had in the 1960s, with its black dial with luminous hour markers, luminous hands and stainless steel bezel with a black aluminium ring bearing the tachymeter scale, which allows calculation of the speed of a moving vehicle or the hourly output of a machine. The Speedmaster Professional line is enhanced by a version with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and transparent sapphire crystal case back, revealing the movement in all its glory and bearing the inscription “The First and Only Watch Worn on the Moon”. This exclusive timepiece is water resistant to 30 metres and is available with a stainless steel bracelet with safety clasp or a black alligator leather strap with foldover clasp.

The Speedmaster Professional Chronograph’s less-famous claim to fame is that was also the last watch to be worn on the moon, leaving the Earth’s natural satellite with the Apollo XVII mission for the last time at 22:54:37 GMT on 14 December 1972. As we prepare to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this historic event, the Speedmaster legend is still going strong, with the commander of the final Apollo mission, Capt. Eugene Cernan wearing an OMEGA Speedmaster to this day!