Released in 1957 and based on earlier chronographs from the '20s and '30s, the Omega Speedmaster is one of the most iconic modern chronograph timepieces in existence. Named after the tachymeter along its bezel, the Speedmaster was designed for race car drivers and pilots who needed to time events in order to make rapid calculations while driving or flying. While these adrenaline-fueled activities might be not for the faint-hearted, they weren't what made the Speedmaster so iconic - that was its use in space and on the Moon.
Qualification for Space
Three years before the Speedmaster's eventual qualification for spaceflight, numerous brands submitted their best watches to NASA in 1962. This was so their watches could be subjected to a litany of tests in extreme conditions to examine their space-worthiness. Alongside Omega's Speedmaster was watches from Rolex, Hamilton, Breitling and Longines-Wittnauer. Following the first screenings, only three contenders were left; Rolex, Omega and Longines-Wittnauer. Their watches were tested at extreme temperatures and humidity, exposed to extreme temperature cycling and much more. Following the long list of gruelling tests, the Speedmaster was selected in 1965 as it had successfully remained with 5 seconds deviation per day.
Use in Space
The Speedmaster finally debuted in space on the Gemini program in March of 1965. Worn by astronauts on the outside of their spacesuit, the Speedmaster was fitted to a nylon strap that would wrap around their arm several times. Omega used images of the Speedmaster being worn during spacewalks in their marketing material in order to establish the connection between their watch and space, by far the most exciting theatre in which a company's product could be used at the time – and still to this day.
The Apollo Program
Following on from their Gemini program, NASA sought to bring the first humans to the Moon with their Apollo program. NASA once again used the Speedmaster as a standard-issue piece of equipment and so on the 20th of July 1969 Buzz Aldrin's Speedmaster was the first watch worn on the Moon. While Lance Armstrong was on the Moon before Buzz, he decided to leave his Speedy on the lunar module and let Buzz, a watch guy, to continue wearing his.
The Silver Snoopy Award
During 1968, NASA was on the hunt for a figure to act as their mascot for their safety program. Eventually, NASA decided upon Snoopy, a beloved animated Beagle, to act as their "safety watchdog during space flight missions". The idea for the award was to promote safety and the awareness of safety between NASA employees and contractors, much like the United States Forest Service's Smokey Bear Award, which it certainly did. Just two days into the flight of the Apollo 13 mission one of the on-board oxygen tanks exploded, forcing the entire crew into the lunar module. As it was designed for only short periods of use, by fewer occupants, the mission had to be abandoned. As a result, all systems had to be powered off to conserve fuel – making the digital clocks on-board obsolete. Following the explosion, the ship was thrown off course. This meant that a perfectly timed 14-second long engine burn was required to make the ship's way back into Earth's orbit. Without their digital clocks, the crew had to rely on Jack Swigert's Omega Speedmaster in order to time the burn, ultimately proving successful and resulting in Omega being awarded the Silver Snoopy Award in 1970 – 50 years ago.
The Anniversary Models
In typical Omega style, Omega released a special-edition Speedmaster model to celebrate the success of the Apollo 13 mission in 2003. Following on from this they released another in 2015 to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the mission. While these models look different – with their black and white dials, they both have Snoopy pictured adorably in their 9 o'clock subdial. These two-anniversary models have also become two of the most sought-after Omega Speedmasters in recent years, and as such, their prices on the grey market have been pushed up far beyond what their original retail price was. This massive success, coupled with the 50th anniversary for Omega's Silver Snoopy Award made it all but a certainty that Omega would drop a 50th Anniversary edition of the Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award, which they did just a few days ago.
The Latest Release
Paying homage to the illustrious award with Snoopy in its 9 o'clock subdial, the latest Snoopy Speedmaster is perhaps the most distinctive of the three-anniversary models. With a white dial made of silver, just like the award, the hands, indices create a stark contrast to the dial vial their blue PVD coating. Continuing with this blue theme, the subdials and bezel are also the same blue colour, as is the nylon fabric strap. While the watch looks stunning from the front, the real surprise is with the caseback - it features a depiction of the Moon, Earth, and a white Command and Service Module (CSM) with Snoopy riding along inside. Looking to take this caseback to the next level, Omega has created a 'magic hand' which allows Snoopy's CSM to move when the chronograph is engaged. Travelling around the far side of the Moon, Omega makes a direct reference to the trip the Apollo 13 astronauts were forced to take all those years ago. In addition to this, the Earth itself spins once per minute as it is connected to the seconds hand subdial completing what is a unique and ingenious tribute to the most critical event a Speedmaster has ever been used in.
Like the two Snoopy Speedmaster's that came before it, this watch is in massive demand but surprisingly is not a limited edition – it is just a limited release so is only being offered at Omega boutiques. In addition, we've already seen massive premiums associated with the watch on the market, so be sure to get one at MSRP if you can! There's no doubt this model will become just as iconic as the previous two Snoopy Speedmaster's. With its unique caseback and a distinctive dial, this is undoubtedly a hot release, regardless of its tie to the iconic award - and we can't wait to get our hands on one. If you would like any more information regarding this watch please check out Omega's website here.