A NEED FOR SPEED. For the 60th anniversary of The Speedmaster, Omega held a star-studded GALA at the Tate Modern. Peter Zewet reports from London
The star-studded celebration at Tate Modern in London
For anyone familiar with the Omega brand, the Omega Speedmaster is perhaps the most famous and desirable chronograph from the horological master’s extensive list of masterpieces. Its historical impact, as the first watch ever worn on the moon, made it an enduring symbol of ingenuity like no other.
While its trip to the moon in 1969 made it famous, the Speedmaster was originally intended for a completely different purpose. As the name suggests, it was built for speed, and when first released in 1957, it was intended not for rocket ships, but for racing cars.
With a driver’s instincts in mind, the Speedmaster was built with a hardy construction that can endure intense vibrations and shocks while keeping perfect time. The Speedmaster was also the first watch in the world to take the tachymeter scale off the dial and place it on the bezel, making it easier for drivers to time their laps. As the first watch with these two features, the Speedmaster was an instant hit with professional drivers when it was first introduced to the market. It also revolutionized the design, durability and functionality of wristwatches.
the Speedmaster watches
These two strong features of the original Speedmaster was also what made it so suitable for space exploration, and would lead to its place on the wrist of every astronaut in the Apollo program from 1965 onwards.
It was in 1964 that NASA began hunting for a chronograph to use on its manned space missions. They chose watches from a number of different brands and put them through the same series of tests that were used for every piece of hardware that was intended for space. Only one watch proved a match to the extreme temperatures, shocks and vacuum mandated by the selection process: the Omega Speedmaster.
“While evolution may have produced different variations over the passing decades, the Speedmaster spirit remains true”
Today, six decades on, the Speedmaster is still qualified for all manned space missions and is a permanent piece of equipment on the International Space Station. As testament to the forward-thinking design of the original, the Moonwatch produced today is essentially the same as the one released in the pre-space age.
While evolution may have produced different variations over the passing decades, its spirit remains true, with “classic” features that made it an icon. For 2017, Omega presents the Speedmaster Racing Master Chronometer. The distinctive minute-track style on this stainless steel watch first appeared on a 1968 Speedmaster model. Linked to the Speedmaster’s motor racing heritage, it returns on a matt-black dial (go to this issue’s 360 Watches for details).
The polished ceramic bezel features a brushed Liquidmetal tachymeter scale as well as distinctive orange wording that matches the color of the varnished hands and tip of the seconds hand. For the strap, black leather that contains a section of orange rubber, seen through micro perforations, provides a sporty look while ventilating the wearer’s skin.
The Speedmaster Racing Master Chronometer represents the next Speedmaster model with Master Chronometer certification. Driven by the calibre 9900, the watch and its movement have reached the Swiss industry’s highest standard of precision, performance and magnetic resistance, as certified by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS).
Another 2017 model is the Speedmaster 38 mm. Nicknamed the “Cappuccino,” this refined Speedmaster is just one piece in the complete collection for both men and women. Its case is made from stainless steel and 18K Sedna gold, while the strap has been made from taupe-brown leather. One of the watch’s most interesting features is the diamond-paved bezel that also includes a tachymeter scale on a brown aluminum ring. This dual design has enabled Omega to add the elegance of diamonds and also retain the sporty DNA of the original Speedmaster. The caseback of the watch is stamped with the Speedmaster’s iconic Seahorse medallion, and on the inside, the watch is driven by the Omega Calibre 3330, complete with Co-Axial technology and a silicon balance spring.
To officially celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Speedmaster line, Omega held a gala dinner on the evening of Wednesday, April 26, at Tate Modern in London.
“The Speedmaster is one of the most, if not the most, iconic chronographs in the world. Not only for Omega, but for the many men and women who have worn and trusted it. Even after 60 years, its power and charisma has not diminished. We’re so proud to have an event of this scale and to share it with the Speedmaster’s biggest fans,” says Raynald Aeschlimann, president and CEO of Omega. George Clooney and Buzz Aldrin were the guests of honor at the “Lost in Space” evening, a theme which paid tribute to the Speedmaster’s unrivalled legacy in space exploration.
Few watches have the power to inspire like the Omega Speedmaster. As it celebrates its role in one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century, the Omega Speedmaster is set to become part of many more great milestones in the next 60 years and beyond.