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.