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The Omega Speedmaster was released in the late 1950's as an extension of the new and highly accurate 'master' series of wristwatches aimed at professionals.
The Seamaster was a sturdy water resistant watch suitable for submersion and almost totally airtight.
The Railmaster was an antimagnetic and easy to read watch designed to be used by scientists, doctors, railwaymen and other professionals working around electricity.
And this, the Omega Speedmaster, was the ultimate split-second timer, designed as a sports/racing chronograph and popular with pilots.
While initially designed to be a sports timer though, this watch was destined for greater things. This would become The Moonwatch!
In the 1960's, NASA were training astronauts for a manned mission to the moon. The equipment they carried had to be the best available. Safe, strong and reliable.
While knowing the right time in space wasn't exactly essential, split second timing was vital to a lot of the docking and navigation procedures. Therefore, NASA took delivery of watches from dozens of high end manufacturers and began some of the most extreme testing ever subjected to a watch.
During the weeks of testing, each watch was timed for hours at a time at high temperatures (as high as 93 degrees C), low temperatures (as low as -18 degrees C), high humidity, high and low pressure, extreme vibration, shock absorption, high oxygen exposure and dozens of other positions and situations.
Most watches didn't survive the testing process, and of the three that did, the Omega had run at an average of +/- 5 seconds per day.
They had found their moonwatch!
The accuracy was down to the 321 calibre Lemania movement, which was upgraded to the Omega 861 calibre in 1968. It was the same movement but with two slightly upgraded components which enabled it to run at an even higher beat rate (resonance) of 21600 beats per hour rather than the 321's 18000 beats per hour. This advancement made the watch even more accurate!
Since the day it became 'flight approved', the Speedmaster has featured in all 6 moon landings and has been a staple piece of equipment for countless manned space missions.
The watch is a hugely complex machine. Inside the 42mm steel case lies a complicated 27mm chronograph movement comprised of hundreds of moving parts working together in unison. Regular upkeep is essential, but a service every 5 years on an older watch should be sufficient to keep it running forever. There is very little to wear out inside, so a clean and re-lubricate is all the maintenance it should ever need unless it suffers a serious knock.
The black dial is painted steel and should only really show wear concurrent with its age - slight fading if it's been in the sun is about as bad as it gets.
In addition, the watch benefits from a Hesalite Crystal lens. While not as tough as Sapphire Crystal, Hesalite is great for watch glass as it's high tensile, resistant to chipping, easy to mould, easy to clean and 100% transparent. Also, vitally for the moon missions, it won't fragment when broken, just crazes and stays in a single piece.
The real beauty of this watch is its staying power. Launched in 1957 and still available today. And if you were to put the 55 year model against a brand new model, the differences are barely noticeable!
There have been other Speedmaster variants over the years, but the Speedmaster Professional has remained untouched.
I suppose the rule is, design it right in the first place and there is no need to go back to the drawing board!
Buying a Speedmaster is like owning a piece of history!