Omega Speedmaster Professional.
The manual winding Speedmaster Professional or ”Moonwatch” is the most well-known and longest-produced Omega watch; it was worn during the first American spacewalk during Gemini 4 and was the first watch worn on the moon during Apollo 11. The Speedmaster Professional remains one of several watches qualified by NASA for spaceflight and is still the only one qualified for EVA.
In 1962 a number of commercial chronograph wristwatches were furtively purchased from a Houston jeweler to evaluate their use for the Gemini and Apollo Programs. In the test leaving were three contenders: Rolex, Longines-Wittnauer, and Omega. These watches were subjected to tests under extreme conditions. All chronographs tested were mechanical hand-wind models since neither the first automatic chronograph nor the first quartz watch would be available until 1969. The evaluation concluded in March 1965 with the selection of the Speedmaster, which survived the tests while remaining largely within 5 seconds per day rate.
Gus Grissom and John Young wore the first officially qualified Speedmasters on Gemini 3 on March 23 1965. Several months later, Ed Whitemade the first American space walk during Gemini 4 with a Speedmaster 105.003 strapped to the outside of the left-side sleeve of his G4Cspace suit. In order to accommodate the space suit, the watch was attached via a long nylon strap secured with Velcro. When worn on the wrist, the strap could be wound around several times to shorten its length. According to Omega, the company was surprised to learn of the Speedmaster’s role upon seeing a photograph of the EVA. Speedmasters were issued to all subsequent Gemini crews until the end of the program in 1966.
To reinforce the association with astronauts, Omega also began using the ”Professional” appellation for existing Speedmaster models after Gemini 4. In 1966, Speedmaster reference 105.012 was updated to reference 145.012. These two models would be the two Speedmaster references known to have been worn on the moon by Apollo astronauts, the original ”moonwatches”.
Speedmasters were used throughout the early manned Apollo program, and reached the moon with Apollo 11. Ironically, these and prior models are informally known as ”Pre-moon” Speedmasters, since their manufacture predate the moon landings and lack the inscription subsequent models carry: ”The First and Only Watch Worn on the Moon”.
Although Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong was first to set foot on the moon, he left his 105.012 Speedmaster inside the Lunar Module as a backup because the LM’s electronic timer had malfunctioned. Buzz Aldrin elected to wear his and so his Speedmaster became the first watch to be worn on the moon. Later, he wrote of his decision:
”It was optional to wear while we were walking on the surface of the moon … few things are less necessary when walking around on the moon than knowing what time it is in Houston, Texas. Nonetheless, being a watch guy, I decided to strap the Speedmaster onto my right wrist around the outside of my bulky spacesuit.”
Aldrin’s Speedmaster was lost during shipping when he sent it to the Smithsonian Institute; the reference number of the watch is not known for certain, though it is sometimes reported as a 145.012. Speedmasters were carried by the crews of all subsequent Apollo missions, including American members of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (Soviet crew wore Omega Flightmasters).
In 1970, after Apollo 13 was crippled by the rupture of a Service Module oxygen tank, Jack Swigert’s Speedmaster was famously used to precisely time the critical 14-second Mid-Course Correction 7 burn using the Lunar Module’s Reaction Control System, which allowed for the crew’s safe return. In recognition of this, Omega was awarded the Snoopy Award by the Apollo 13 astronauts, ”for dedication, professionalism, and outstanding contributions in support of the first United States Manned Lunar Landing Project.”