Saturday, July 30, 2016

Snoopy Attitude - Failure Is Not An Option!

Few people actually know the connection between Snoopy, NASA and the Omega Watch Company.

The manufacture Omega unveiled in Baselworld 2015 the new Snoopy Speedmaster Professional to mark the 45th Anniversary of Apollo 13. As you may recall, that mission was in jeopardy when the oxygen tank exploded and the mission to land on the Moon was aborted. But what was more important was how to get the astronauts back to Earth safely.

One of the critical operations was to reposition the module for reentry into Earth's atmosphere. As they needed to conserve power, the only timing equipment that was still working was the timepiece the astronauts were wearing. What they needed to do was to time that critical operation - 14 seconds. Any more or less and this would have led to an incorrect entry angle of the module and that would have meant the module might not return to Earth.

Anyway, as the we all know now, the crew of Apollo 13 made it safely back to Earth. Thanks much to the wristwatch they had a timing mechanism at hand! And because of that, Omega received the Silver Snoopy Award which is awarded to individuals or companies that contribute to the safety of NASA's space missions.

In the latest iteration, Omega renamed the the timepiece Speedmaster Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award. More about the Silver Snoopy Award later.

Instead of the regular black dial, Omega chose the white dial. And on it, two very important inscriptions - "Failure Is Not An Option" and "What Could You Do in 14 Seconds?". Notice the white hands on the 9 o'clock sub-dial?

Another special feature of this Snoopy timepiece is the Super Luminova effects on the dial and bezel. The markers are made of Super Luminova and have a black varnish centre. To the naked eyes, nothing special.

But going into low light conditions, you will discover the special feature. Not only does the markers glow green, even the bezel glows green too.

The Super (Luminova) Snoopy is painted on the sub-dial at the 9 o'clock position and like the markers has a great glow in the dark.

An intriguing piece of information on the inscription. In the Apollo 13 movie in 1995, Ed Harris played the role of the NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz and this was what he said in one of his famous conversation - "We've never lost an American in space, we're sure as hell not gonna lose one on my watch! Failure is not an option."

A more well known inscription - What Could You Do In 14 Seconds, is found between the one to fourteen seconds. This refers to the critical operations of firing one of the engines and turning it off exactly 14 seconds into the blast so that the module is positioned correctly for the reentry into Earth's atmosphere. Here you can see the inscription starting at one second mark extending to the fourteen seconds mark.

On the caseback is another solid case but with a special feature. The caseback features a silver Snoopy in a space suit carrying a portable air conditioning unit. This is the same image of Snoopy that is found on the Silver Snoopy Award pin. The award given to both individuals and companies that have contributed to space travel safety is a sterling silver lapel pin that has actually flown during a NASA mission.

On closer inspection, one can see the dark blue enamel background of the case and the sprinkling of silver powder giving the impression Snoopy is floating in space.

The other unusual feature is the use of a anti-resistant crystal sapphire instead of the usual Hesalite crystal. The strap is black nylon fabric with white stitching.

This is, however, not the first Snoopy Omega Speedmaster Pro. Back in 2003, there was the first version of the Snoopy Speedmaster Pro which I had blogged about earlier.

Two very different Snoopy Speedmaster Pro but both coming as a result of their place in the history of space exploration, the Moon landing and Apollo XIII.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pretty Pastel - The La Grande Classique de Longines

The La Grande Classique de Longines is a truly elegant timepiece for the ladies.

Coming in three colour variations - the pink, blue and white mother-of-pearl star dials are truly amazing.

What sets these mother-of-pearl dials apart is the way they manufacture the dials. The star motif is made up of individually cut pieces of MOP and painstakingly assembled. And as with all MOP dials, the colour gradation is much dependent on the light source. So in effect, no two pieces are alike.

And the alligator skin strap is in a pearly pink shade matching the dial.

Similarly, the white piece comes with a white mother-of-pearl star motif dial with a matching alligator skin pearly white strap. Please pardon the lint on the watch.

Between the blue and the pink, I would say it is a tough fight. Here, is the blue in steel bracelet. I was told the links of the bracelet is especially fine thus allowing it to mould to the wrist.

What I featured here are those without the diamond bezel. The timepiece is fitted with an ultra thin quartz movement fitted in two case sizes - 24mm and 29mm. Ultra feminine timepieces for the ladies out there. The attractiveness of the quartz movement is that it is "maintenance free". Just pick up the timepiece and it is ready to wear. And with such pastel colour combination, it will surely go well to matching the ladies' outfits and accessories.

These pieces are well priced and great value for money. Pink, blue or white? All three perhaps?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Longines RailRoad - Continuing Tradition

The Longines RailRoad timepiece is the closest in terms of reissue to its original.

Back in the 1960s, not many brands fulfilled specific requirements in terms of aesthetics, quality and precision for watches to be used for rail road purposes. Longines did.

The original version of the RailRoad has the words RR 280 - RR stands for Rail Road and 280 is the original calibre that drives the timepiece.

With the reissue, the timepiece now comes with a new calibre. The 888 which is an ETA based calibre manufactured for Longines. The dial is polished white dial with black lacquered hands.

And what's with the "0" at the twelve, you ask? In the tradition of the 24 hours dial layout, the creators of the timepiece followed that convention with zero hours signifying midnight and 12 being midday. The steel case timepiece is 40mm in diameter.

And for once, I am happy that they actually removed the date making it cleaner in my humble opinion. And to complete that vintage look, Longines uses a raised sapphire glass with multi-layer anti-reflective coating.

The solid case back is equally fascinating. The engraving is inspired by the original decorations found on pocket watches designed for railway companies in the 1920s. Underneath the hood is the automatic Calibre 888 which is an ETA movement exclusively made for Longines. Provides 60 hours of power reserve far better than the original calibre 280.

With their long history in watchmaking, I can see Longines making a strong comeback with more timepieces paying tribute to their origins.

Monday, July 25, 2016

What's With Snoopy and the Omega Speedmaster Pro

Did you know that the Apollo 10 Lunar Module was named Snoopy and the Command Module named Charlie Brown?

The most famous beagle, Snoopy is the icon of quality and safety in NASA's space program and that comes in the form of a sterling silver pin with an engraving of Snoopy in a spacesuit helmet. The Silver Snoopy is presented by an astronaut to individuals and companies who works in the space program that has gone above and beyond in pursuit of quality and safety. The pin depicts Snoopy in a space suit with a space helmet on.

The Snoopy comic strip has a strong following and at the time of the launching of the Apollo 10 mission, the crew had named the Lunar Module Snoopy and the Command Module Charlie Brown. So there you are for the link between Snoopy, NASA and Omega Watch Company.

What is important to note is how the Speedmaster Pro helped in the failed Apollo 13 mission. During the mission the oxygen tank exploded and crippled the module. Because of the explosion, the crew needed to turn off all non-essential equipment in order to conserve energy in the Command Module to prepare their re-orbit into earth's atmosphere. The only timing device they have was the Omega Speedmaster Pro.

The crew had two critical operations that relied solely on the chronograph function of the Speedmaster Pro. Firstly to time ignition of the rockets to shorten the estimated length of the return to Earth and secondly to time ignition of the rockets to decrease speed and raise the flight path angle for re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. For the mid-course correction, the rocket had to fire for 14 seconds... any more or any less and the re-entry into earth's orbit would have failed and the entry vehicle would have missed the trajectory into earth - meaning to say Apollo 13 would never have returned to earth. We now know that the operation worked and Apollo 13 landed safely back to earth.

A happy looking Snoopy on the 9 o'clock sub dial with the motto "Eyes on the Stars".

And if you didn't already know, there is an Omega logo underneath the Hesalite crystal.

This is a solid case back timepiece with the painted Snoopy and the motto again. Underneath the cover is the Calibre 1861 manual winding (Lemania base) column wheel chronograph. Provides 45 hours of power reserve. It is said another reason why a manual winding timepiece was chosen is that in space, the vacuum and the absence of gravity affects the automatic winding mechanism.

This version of the Speedmaster Pro was launched in 2003 and comes as a Limited Edition of 5441 pieces. Why such an odd number 5441? Well, it reflects the elapsed time of the Apollo 13 mission: 142 hours, 54 minutes and 41 seconds.

Lovely Snoopy Speedmaster Pro and thanks to my good friend Joe for allowing me to shoot this piece.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pinnacle of Montblanc

More well known for their writing instruments, Montblanc of late has been making waves of their own in the field of horology.

Starting with their Villeret collection about 10 years back in 2006 and working with vintage Minerva movements, Montblanc has been steadily growing in the field of horology. Thanks to my friend Robin who invited me for one of the Montblanc dinner recently, I managed to catch a glimpse of some very sophisticated pieces.

To start off the evening, the Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama. Can the name get any longer?

The timepiece uses the in-house Manufacture Calibre MB M68.40 which houses a 1-minute cylindrical Tourbillon. The 47mm manual winding timepiece comes as a Limited Edition of 18 pieces.

And the two spheres indicate the North (left sphere) and South (right sphere) hemispheres and gives the world time. And just in case you are wondering, the two spheres are fixed and does not rotate. Notice the different shades on the discs around the spheres indicating the day and night.

Next up is the Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique and this is the world's first wristwatch to feature a Tourbillon with double cylindrical balance springs.

But wait, there is one more "complication" - the Heures Mystérieuses better known in English as Mysterious Hours! But truth be told, the mysterious hours is possible courtesy of sapphire crystal discs stacked one on top of the other.

But the highlight of the evening must be the 4810 ExoTourbillon Slim. This timepiece features a Montblanc patented ExoTourbillon in a very slim case.

The Montblanc Calibre MB29.21 is special in that the balance wheel is outside of the Tourbillon cage. On top of that, the timepiece comes with a quick stop-seconds mechanism which is rather difficult to achieve in a Tourbillon.

The timepiece in rose gold is 42mm and comes with an exhibition case back featuring a micro rotor.

Many thanks to Robin, Sincere Fine Watches and the folks from Monthblanc for a wonderful evening of discovery.

All pictures taken with iPhone 6S.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Longines Heritage 1918 - Vintage Elegance

Longines continues their line of reissues with the Heritage 1918 with not one but two.

The house of Longines has a strong heritage dating back to their founding 1832. And with the Heritage range of timepieces, they are bringing back their glory days. I started noticing the brand again after they launched the Heritage Single Push Piece Chronograph of which I now own the two toned version.

With the new Heritage 1918, that winning trend continues. Drawing from the brand's rich history Longines has reintroduced the 1918 and I am liking it as well.

The lugs are reminiscent of the pocket watches of that era and and the dial is white polish lacquer. Pardon my tardiness on the lint.

Lovely blued steel hands with honey coloured varnish gives the vintage feel to the timepiece. My only gripe is the date window... I wish Longines would remove that.

It is interesting to note that the folks at Longines continues with the use of lacquered dials giving it a truly nice polished look. Combining with the blue and honey coloured numerals gives it that vintage feel and to "complete" the set, the timepiece comes with a honey coloured alligator strap. The men's timepiece is a very wearable 41mm.

The timepiece comes with a solid case back and with an automatic movement Calibre L615 which is a Longines calibre modified from ETA. Provides roughly 42 hours of power reserve.

With several of their new launches for both men and women, Longines is starting to revive their days of old. The Heritage 1918 also comes with a women's version. Called the Heritage 1918 Lady, the timepiece measures 38.5mm and comes with a diamond bezel adorned with 60 top Wesselton VVS diamonds making up to 1 carat. An elegant piece to say the least.

What makes it even more interesting is the price point at which Longines have been relaunching their timepieces. The list price is under SGD3,000 and I will be surprised if this is not another hit for Longines. Reissue one without the date and I am on the bandwagon! Unfortunately, I did not have access to the Heritage 1918 Lady. But take my word for it, it is truly vintage elegance.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

From The Moon To Mars - The Omega Speedmaster Professional

The story of how the Omega Speedmaster Professional came to being called the Moon Watch is now legendary.

But I think it is still relevant to remind how the race to conquer space in the Cold War years between the Americans and the Soviets (then) in the early 1960s came to making this timepiece an icon. Because a government tender would take too long (plus the secrecy needed), the folks at NASA went to several watch brands in Houston and bought a few watches - subjected them to several tests including extreme temperature ranges, shock resistance, humidity tolerance, extreme pressure changes to name a few. At the end, all but one was still standing - the Omega Speedmaster Professional. At that time, even the folks at Omega were none the wiser.

Following the success of the first successful manned landing on the Moon in 1969, the Omega Speedmaster Professional has gained infamy and aptly names The Moon Watch. The original used the Calibre 321 after which it was replaced by Calibre 861. The most current models house the manual winding Calibre 1861 and still featuring a column wheel chronograph. Several Limited Edition versions have since been released and I featured one of it in one of my earlier posts - the Apollo 15 but I find this iteration special.

Released to mark the 35th Anniversary of the moon landing, this version reference 3577.50.00 was released in 2004. The dial features three sub-dials depicting Earth, the Moon and the red planet Mars. Not that man actually landed on Mars, but represents the aspiration to.

Even if man made it to Mars, a totally different timepiece will be required as the conditions in Mars as well as the difference in the length of a day will make usual timepiece irrelevant. Average temperature on Mars is around -55 °C with lows going down to -100 °C and highs of about 20 °C. Even the atmospheric pressure on Mars is very different from that of the Earth and our Moon.

Other than the dial difference, it is essentially still the same Moon Watch - Calibre 1861 which base movement comes from Nouvelle Lemania, Hesalite Crystal (instead of sapphire), a 42mm brushed and polished case and an adjustable bracelet with a deployment buckle. The power reserve is a respectable 45 hours. At the 9 o'clock sub-dial is a picture of Earth, and the Moon is at 6 while the Red Planet is at the 3 o'clock position. The other special feature are the words "From The Moon To Mars" that is found on the dial between the 6 and 3 o'clock marker.

The watch was never listed as a Limited Edition but one that is a "Special Edition" which is serially numbered. No actual production numbers were published but many suspect that it should be around three thousand plus pieces. Mine featured here is number 2545.

The back is a solid case back with the inscriptions "Flight-Qualified By NASA for All Manned Space Mission" and for this version "From The Moon to Mars". Also inscribed is the number 2545 which is the piece number.

Under the hood is the Lemania base column wheel chronograph Calibre 1861. A workhorse movement that provides 45 hours power reserve. There is a feature in the Hesalite Crystal that may escape some owners - a logo of Omega under the crystal.

The Hesalite Crystal gives the timepiece a more vintage look than sapphire crystal. Although the sapphire crystal is harder than Hesalite, one can polish off minor scratches on the Hesalite while it will be very difficult to with sapphire crystal.

And when Man finally lands on Mars, this would be a nice momento to mark the occasion.

The other special piece I have had the fortune to handle is this Snoopy Edition belonging to a good friend of mine. Look out for the post on this at a later stage.

The Omega Speedmaster Pro is one iconic timepiece all collectors should have in their collection. And given the price point, I would say it is a good starting piece. A great heritage piece to present to your child as their first timepiece.

I shall be posting about the regular version of the Speedmaster Pro and my gift to my son on his 21st birthday.