The Moon Watch
Listed in the Omega section (here) of our website is a rather special watch that I had no idea had so much history behind it. A quick skim of its wikipedia page will also tell you that this watch is next to bulletproof, perhaps laughably so, as I had no idea some watches underwent such demanding testing. With that short introduction I present to you the Omega Men’s Speedmaster, also known as the Moon Watch, as it was the first watch worn by an astronaut walking on the surface of the moon and the watch worn during the first American spacewalk. Normally I don’t go in for watch history, but this one is actually quite good. Read on to find out more!
Strictly speaking the Moon Watch was not originally designed to be worn or used for space exploration. Coming from the Chronograph (watches used as stopwatches) family this watch was originally used amongst submariners, race car drivers, and pilots, who all relied heavily on accurate time reading, splits, and measurements down to the second in order to time perfect manoeuvres, and procedures.
Nevertheless, the Moon Watch would find its way into space through a bit of luck and excellence in design allowing it to pass NASA’s strict testing procedure. This came about in the 1960s when it became increasingly popular for NASA pilots to bring their own watches on flights and so, in 1962 a short list of official watches was developed by NASA pilots who were hand selecting brands they were familiar with. Brands such as Brietling and Rolex, and of course, Omega’s Moon Watch, officially known as the Omega Speedmaster Professional Ref. 145.012, were selected.
1. Following this short-listing, the watches were subject to Space Qualification Tests – tests under extreme conditions, listed as follows:
2. High temperature: 48 hours at 160 °F (71 °C) followed by 30 minutes at 200 °F (93 °C)
3. Low temperature: Four hours at 0 °F (−18 °C)
4. Temperature cycling in near-vacuum: Fifteen cycles of heating to 160 °F (71 °C) for 45 minutes, followed by cooling to 0 °F (−18 °C) for 45 minutes at 10−6 atm
5. Humidity: 250 hours at temperatures between 68 °F (20 °C) and 160 °F (71 °C) at relative humidity of 95%
6. Oxygen environment: 100% oxygen at 0.35 atm and 71 °C for 48 hours
7. Shock: Six 11 ms 40 g shocks from different directions
8. Linear acceleration: from 1 to 7.25 g within 333 seconds
9. Low pressure: 90 minutes at 10−6 atm at 160 °F (71 °C), followed by 30 minutes at 200 °F (93 °C)
10. High pressure: 1.6 atm for one hour
11. Vibration: three cycles of 30 minutes vibration varying from 5 to 2000 Hz with minimum 8.8 g impulse
12. Acoustic noise: 30 minutes at 130 dB from 40 to 10,000 Hz
Quite the battery of tests! The Speedmaster Moon Watch survived all testing whilst remaining largely within the 5 seconds per day accuracy required, quite remarkable for a hand-wound watch subject to such extreme conditions. It therefore became the watch of choice and was sanctioned for use for NASA’s Gemini Space Walk programme, and the Apollo programme. The watch is perhaps most famously worn by Buzz Aldrin, who elected to wear his watch as he followed Neil Armstrong onto the surface of the moon during Apollo 11, thus making the Moon Watch the first watch on the surface of the moon.
The watch has since earned the NASA Snoopy award in appreciation of ‘dedication, professionalism, and outstanding contributions in support of the first United States Manned Lunar Landing Project’. This was following one incident where it was used to time a critical 14 second burn required for the safe return of Apollo 13 after the vessel was crippled by an oxygen tank failure. Finally, the watch has since undergone several developments and has been used for a number of other expeditions, such as trips to the North Pole, as well as being adapted for the luxury watch market, making it a luxury watch that has been to the moon! We hope you can find inspiration to buy yours here (https://www.boutiquevonburg.com/brands/brand-watches/omega/men-s-speedmaster-moonwatch-black-dial-stainless-steel-watch) at Boutique Von Burg.