Friday, December 15, 2006


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The Omega Speedmaster, the legendary "Moonwatch", selected by NASA for all the Apollo missions.Launched in 1957 by Omega, the Moonwatch is a type of Omega Speedmaster watch which was selected by the NASA for the Project Apollo. As such, they became the first watches worn on the Moon, gaining the nickname.

The Speedmaster passed NASA's numerous tests, which included exposure to extreme temperatures, vacuum, intense humidity, corrosion, shock, acceleration, pressure, vibration and noise [1], whereas the Rolex, Breitling, Bulova, Longines and TAG Heuer, notably, all failed.

The Speedmaster is the only watch to have been worn on the moon (except for the Waltham Watch Company wristwatch worn by Dave Scott after the crystal had popped off his Speedmaster), and the only watch flight-qualified for EVA use by NASA. It is the watch chosen for use in outer space by the Russian space agency NPO Energija.


Back of the Omega Moonwatch.When the step-by-step procedures of the Project Gemini space-walks were first mapped out, NASA realized that they had overlooked the requirements for specialized personal timekeeping devices for the Astronauts. NASA did not have an approved wristwatch for space travel.

The normal procedure of soliciting bids for the design, manufacture and testing of special “Space Proof” wristwatches was a time consuming process. To save time, NASA sent two systems engineers into downtown Houston “incognito” to purchase several reputable “off-the-shelf” chronographs to be tested for possible use in space.

Five different brands of chronographs were purchased and returned to NASA for testing. After the first round of tests, two of the five brands were disqualified. After the second round of tests, only one wristwatch, the “Omega Speedmaster”, survived. NASA ordered several more watches of each of the brands tested, including twelve Omega Speedmasters.

The tests were completed on March 1st, 1965. At the completion of the tests, three of the chronographs from different manufactures were still running, but only the Speedmaster had passed without any of the serious discrepancies encountered with the others. The Omega Speedmaster was adopted by NASA as the “Officially Certified Wristwatch For All Manned Space Missions.” At this point, Omega was completely unaware of these activities.

The first Omegas were issued to the Gemini 3 crew, Grissom and Young. The watch was worn on the outside of the pressure suit with a long black Velcro band. On Gemini 4, Edward White left the space capsule with an Omega Speedmaster on his wrist to become the first American to walk in Space.

The Omega Speedmaster was the first watch to be worn on the Moon with Apollo 11. In April 1970, it was used to manually time the secondary rocket burns to bring the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft back to Earth.

The Omega Speedmaster was re-certified in 1972 and in September 1978, for the Space Shuttle missions.

Today, all NASA-issued wristwatches are government property and must be turned in once the astronauts return to Earth. Astronauts are permitted to check the watches out before launch and take them home to familiarize themselves with the watch’s operation.