“I’m the fastest man alive,” said 88 year old Lieutenant General Thomas Stafford to an audience of journalists at the Kennedy Space Center outside of Orlando, Florida last week. He was referring to the record speed he reached aboard the Apollo 10 mission in May of 1969, alongside two other crewmates, the late John Young and Gene Cernan. They hit 24,791 miles per hour or 0.0037% the speed of light on their return to earth—a record yet to be surpassed. “When you go into space...you can predict your trajectory a week in advance. It’s all based on time. This is why you need a reliable timepiece,” he said. General Stafford wears an Omega Speedmaster.
In 1964, NASA’s former lead crew equipment engineer, Jim Ragan, reached out to a select list of watch brands inciting them to participate in a competition to be the official watch partner of NASA. After conducting a series of rigorous tests on the proposed timepieces, he found Omega held up against extremes of pressure, humidity, temperatures, shock, and acceleration better than any other watch in the running. Ragan certified the Omega Speedmaster 105.003 as NASA’s official Moonwatch and in 1965 it took off with astronauts Virgil Grissom and John Young on the Gemini III missions.
One month after General Stafford’s trip around the moon, 600 million Americans huddled close to their radios in silence waiting for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to take their first steps on the moon—”one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” The entire crew aboard the Apollo 11 mission was wearing the Omega chronograph. That was 50 years ago this summer.
To celebrate the anniversary of the landing and the longtime collaboration between Omega and the American astronauts, the Swiss watchmaker invited a group of media and VIP guests down to the Kennedy Space Center to celebrate the release of their newest iteration of the Moonwatch.
This new Speedmaster was inspired by the gold watches gifted to the astronauts after the very first mission. It’s a 42mm done in a new 18k alloy gold (“Moonshine Gold”) case and bracelet with a burgundy ceramic bezel printed with Omega’s Ceragold scale. The clear sapphire caseback is surrounded with commemorative text and finished with a tiny piece of meteorite. It’s limited to 1,014 pieces—the same run of the 1969 version. While it certainly captures the spirit of the vintage Speedmasters, it is updated with an entirely new Master Chronometer-certified movement. The Omega Caliber 3861 includes a manual-winding co-axial escapement movement with exclusive new Moonshine gold plated main plate and bridges and is finished with burgundy markings.
As part of the launch, George Clooney, Omega’s longtime ambassador, and the brand’s CEO Raynald Aeschlimann hosted a dinner beneath the Saturn V rocket near Cape Canaveral. In attendance were Apollo mission heroes Charlie Duke and Thomas Stafford, NASA astronaut Nicole Stott and ISS commander Terry Virts.