As promised, we’ve been working our way through Omega’s Speedmaster press releases. We’ve reached mid-2006. Obviously there is still quite the road ahead, but we came across a fun release that we couldn’t resist to share on our front page – the Speedmaster Professional Facts & Figures as shared by Omega in their 2007 50th Anniversary press release:
Omega Speedmaster Professional Facts & Figures
- The first Omega Speedmaster was produced in 1957. The dial aesthetics were inspired by the dashboards of Italian cars of the time, with contrasting black and white for high legibility. The watch used the Omega 321 mechanical movement, also known as the Lémania. The name “Speedmaster” came from the tachymeter, which appeared on the bezel for the first time on any watch in the world.
- The first Omega Speedmaster to reach space came off the production line on 15 November 1961. Walter Schirra, an American astronaut of Swiss origins who had purchased the watch for his own use, wore it on 3 October 1962 during the “Sigma 7” mission of the Mercury programme. Schirra completed six earth orbits.
- In the early 1960s NASA began a search for a “space proof” wrist-chronograph with the purchase at the Houston retailer Corrigan’s of around ten chronograph models from different watchmakers – without the knowledge of the brands concerned. By 1964, several chronographs had been eliminated and NASA asked each of the six brands remaining to provide a dozen watches for a last series of eleven extremely demanding tests. Tests included exposure to extreme temperatures, vacuum, intense humidity, corrosion, shock, acceleration, pressure, vibration and noise.
- The Omega Speedmaster was the only watch to survive all of NASA’s tests, and on 1 March 1965 it was declared “Flight qualified by NASA for all Manned Space Missions” and given to Virgil “Gus” Grissom and John Young, the crew of Gemini 3, the first manned Gemini mission.
- The date 23 March 1965 marked the inaugural flight of the Omega Speedmaster Professional as NASA’s official chronograph, on the Gemini 3 mission, and on 3 June 1965 during Gemini 4 Edward White wore his Omega Speedmaster Professional during the first American “spacewalk” (also known as Extra-Vehicular Activity).
- The term “Professional” was added to the Speedmaster dial in 1965 as a reference to the professionals of NASA, for whom the Speedmaster had become the watch of choice.
- In 1968 the Calibre 321 is replaced by the high-oscillation Calibre 861 movement, still the only significant change to the Speedmaster since it was first produced. The Calibre 861, later renamed 1861, is still in use today.
- On 19 April 1968, after travelling 44 days and 1320 kilometres across the polar cap, four men calculate their position with a sextant and a Speedmaster; they are at 90° latitude North, the exact geographic North Pole. The expedition was led by the American Ralph S Plaisted and was the first confirmed trek to the Geographic North Pole (7 March to 19 April: 43 days, 2 hours, 30 minutes).
- During Plaisted’s expedition, the crew’s Speedmasters were checked daily by radio. They did not vary more than one second per day. One crew member said: “I could not have wished for a watch more accurate than my Omega Speedmaster. The temperature varied from -52°C to -26°C in our base kitchen. As you know, navigation is impossible without a precise chronometer, especially when it is only based on a watch and a sextant!”
- Buzz Aldrin becomes the first astronaut to walk on the moon wearing an Omega Speedmaster Professional, on 21 July 1969. Neil Armstrong had left his Speedmaster in the Lunar Module (LM) as a backup for the onboard timekeeping system which had failed.
- The Omega Speedmaster Professional models which have been to the moon are the 105.003, the 105.012 and the 145.012. All of these watches were equipped with the Omega calibre 321 movement, and all were produced prior to 1968.
- At various times during NASA’s manned space flight programmes, certain Omega competitors sought to have their chronographs flight-qualified by NASA. Each time the Omega Speedmaster Professional prevailed, and NASA repeatedly confirmed its choice of the Omega Speedmaster Professional for all manned space missions. First certified by NASA in 1965, it was re-certified in 1972 and again in 1978, for the Space Shuttle missions.
- “Houston, we have a problem.” During the April 1970 Apollo 13 mission, an explosion damaged the main power supply, requiring astronauts to shut down all electrical instruments with the exception of the radio, to conserve energy for the manoeuvres necessary to return their capsule to earth. Precision was the key element in timing the secondary rocket burns to correct their trajectory, and the crew relied on their Omega Speedmaster Professionals to start and stop the 14-second burns, allowing them to direct the crippled spacecraft back to earth. In recognition of the critical role played by the Omega Speedmaster Professional in saving the lives of the Apollo 13 crew, NASA awarded Omega the coveted Snoopy Award.
- The first automatic Speedmaster was released in 1971. The advertisement at the time: “After six landings on the moon there was only one thing we could teach the Speedmaster. To wind itself.”
- The last man to walk on the moon was Captain Eugene Cernan, during the Apollo XVII mission from 7 to 19 December 1972. His Omega Speedmaster Professional was produced on 6 December 1965. He had previously worn this calibre 321 Speedmaster during the Gemini 9 (June 3-6, 1966) mission, in which he became the first “space walker” to make a complete orbit around the earth, and during the Apollo 10 mission (May 18-26, 1969). Cernan took his Speedmaster along for the last moonwalk on 14 December 1972.
- In 1973 the Omega Speedmaster 125 was released, the first officially certified automatic chronometer produced in series in the world, for Omega’s 125th anniversary.
- After the last moon landing the American space programme continued with the Skylab missions (1973/74). The Skylab SL-4 mission that took off on 16 November 1973 suffered a failure of the clock equipping its cartographic camera. NASA asked Omega to research, develop and deliver a solution – in less than two weeks. Omega’s R&D department performed as requested and a special electronic (tuning fork) chronometer in the precise dimensions required was delivered to space lab astronauts and fitted in the camera at the end of November.
- When the Apollo astronauts Tom Stafford, Donald Slayton and Vance Brand joined their Soyuz counterparts Alexei Leonov and Valery Kubasov for the famous Apollo-Soyuz Test Project space rendezvous on 17 July 1975 the members of both crews were wearing Omega Speedmaster Professionals. The Russians, in fact, were wearing one on each wrist: one for GMT time, the other for Houston or Baikonur time. Since 1975 the Speedmaster has always been the watch chosen for use in outer space by Russian space agency NPO Energia and is in use today on the International Space Station (formerly MIR).
- 1988 saw the release of the Speedmaster Automatic “Reduced”, featuring slightly smaller dimensions than the original (the diameter was reduced from 42 to 39mm). • Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner, the first to have climbed all fourteen “eight-thousanders” (peaks over 8,000 metres above sea level) and the first to have climbed Everest solo without supplemental oxygen, wore a Speedmaster on his 1989 expedition to the Geographic South Pole, crossing Antarctica on skis.
- The first Omega Speedmaster Professional “MIR” edition was produced in 1990/91 in a special edition limited to ten numbered models in steel. Each watch orbited the earth 1,600 times during its 90-day stay on board the Russian space station MIR (December 1990 to March 1991). A second special edition limited to 35 numbered watches orbited the earth for 365 days (July 1993 – July 1994) on board the Russian MIR space station. This watch was launched for the Russian-American Atlantis-MIR space rendezvous of 29 June – 3 July 1995.
- In 1991, Omega released the Speedmaster Automatic “Reduced – Date”, featuring calibre 1155 with registers positioned at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock.
- The Omega Speedmaster Automatic Day-Date, fitted with calibre 1150 and equipped with date, day of the week, month and 24-hour displays, was launched in 1993.
- In 1998 Omega launched the Omega Speedmaster X-33, developed in collaboration with NASA astronauts. Designed to be operated with gloves, it is equipped with a very loud (80-decibel) alarm, a long-running chronograph “MT – Mission Elapsed Time” function and, since astronauts also asked for the figures and legends of the digital display to be larger and with more contrast, a powerfully lit dial. The Omega X-33 fulfils all the specifications established in over five years of tests with American and European astronauts. Flight qualified for the next 100 missions of NASA’s Shuttle, the X-33 watches have been worn onboard the American Space Shuttle since the launch of STS-90 and the Russian MIR Station.
- The Omega Speedmaster Automatic Rattrapante Chronometer, a COSC-certified calibre 3600 with circular graining and Geneva stripes, was released in 1999.
- The Omega Speedmaster Automatic “Reduced Ladies”, the first lady’s model featuring a bezel set with 49 brilliant-cut diamonds, appeared in 2000.
- In 2001 the Omega Speedmaster Automatic Chronometer “Broad Arrow” was launched—an enhanced version of the 1998 Replica 150th anniversary model.
- In 2005, Omega released a tribute to Michael Schumacher, a stainless steel Omega Speedmaster Automatic Chronometer conceived as the first of the “Michael Schumacher ‘The Legend’ Collection”.
- 2006 saw the launch of the Omega Speedmaster Chronometer “Broad Arrow Co-Axial Rattrapante”, an unlimited version of the “Torino 2006” limited edition.
- Since the first Omega Speedmaster was produced in 1957, Omega has manufactured approximately 1.8 million Speedmasters equipped with a range of automatic, diapason, quartz and manual winding movements. This estimate includes some 330,000 “Moon Watch” Omega Speedmaster Professional chronographs.
- Some 250 variations of the Speedmaster have been produced from its creation in 1957 to date (2007), with a large variety of movements: hand-wound, automatic, tuning fork, moon phase, perpetual calendar, split-seconds, with a crystal caseback, gem set, in gold, in titanium, with a skeleton movement, numerical quartz and hybrid multifunction quartz (the Omega Speedmaster Professional X-33 of 1998, also called the “Mars Watch”)
- On 15 April 2007, 300 lots of Omega watches were auctioned by Antiquorum. Two original Speedmasters were sold for 30 times more than the current retail price, and a rare “Speedmaster Missions Collection” comprising 22 Omega Speedmaster Professionals and a replica of the first Omega Speedmaster ever made, sold for CHF368,900 (€227,716; $312,627). Produced in a limited edition of only 40 sets, the Speedmaster Missions Collection watches feature the logos of NASA’s most famous space missions (eight Gemini missions from 1965 to 1966, eleven Apollo missions from 1968 to 1972, and three Skylab missions from 1973 to 1974).
- Forty-two years after landing on the moon, the Speedmaster will take to the skies again on board a plane with a wingspan wider than an Airbus 380 yet less than 0.4 per cent of the weight. Omega is one of three main sponsors of Solar Impulse, the audacious plan led by Swiss aviator Bertrand Piccard to develop, build and fly an exclusively solar-powered airplane around the world. The plane will embark on test flights in 2009 before ultimately attempting to circumnavigate the earth in 2011 using only the power of the sun. Omega has contributed key technology and expertise to the project and the crew will wear Omega Speedmasters during all flights.
Check out the database as completed thus far right here.
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