Many brands have rolled out products marking the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon. Among these brands, luxury Swiss watchmaker Omega played a vital role in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) landmark events.
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin took the first steps on the moon. Aldrin wore his Omega Speedmaster, making it the first watch on the moon.
To celebrate the milestone, Omega distributors worldwide simultaneously held a commemorative exhibit opening at the exact hour of the historic arrival.
At the Omega Apollo 11 Speedmaster exhibit at the Podium in Ortigas Center, the historical notes cited Omega’s long history as Nasa’s official timepiece. In 1965, the Gemini 3, the first manned mission to orbit Earth, carried the Omega Speedmaster. Edward White wore the Speedmaster when he became the first astronaut to walk in space in the Gemini 4 mission.
Nasa’s official timepiece
Emerson Yao, managing director of Lucerne, Omega’s distributor in the country, noted that the watchmaker undertook stringent tests to qualify as Nasa’s official timepiece.
In 1964, Nasa had written watch companies requesting a quotation for their chronograph—a watch with timer functions. Companies did not know what the watches would be used for. Only four responded, including Omega.
Nasa engineer James Ragan tested the watches in various conditions—extreme heat and cold, extreme pressures, high-oxygen environments, high humidity, temperature cycling in a vacuum, different variations in G-force conditions, and high-decibel environments. Only the Omega Speedmaster made the cut.
Throughout the space missions, the watch not only kept the earth time, but was also used as backup for clocks and countdown timers. The Speedmaster has been part of six moon landings.
Yao cited Omega’s pivotal role as portrayed in the Oscars’ vBest Picture nominee “Apollo 13.” When the Apollo 13 mission had to stop midstream, the crew used their Omega watches to time the 14 seconds required for the fuel burn-off that would allow their reentry into earth.
Omega has come up with three commemorative editions. The first is the 18-k gold Speedmaster Professional Chronograph, a remake of the watch given the astronauts and then President Richard Nixon. It was later referred to as the Moonwatch.
The second watch is made of stainless steel with the vintage Omega logo. At the nine o’clock position, the seconds sub-dial is engraved with an image of Aldrin leaving the Lunar Lander. The caseback is engraved with a partial footprint of the lunar moon landing.
The third commemorative Apollo 11 Speedmaster is designed with a platinum case, and subdials echoing bits of the lunar meteorite and the revival of the Calibre 321 movement, a mid-century model known for its endurance.
The local launch is in line with Omega’s worldwide strategy of tapping the millennial and Gen Z influencers that depict the same adventurous spirit as the Apollo 11.
Gracing the affair were Richard and Raymond Gutierrez, and Lovi Poe, touted as “Friends of Omega,” and other young celebrities such as Leila Alcasid, Max Collins, Laureen Uy and Vince Uy. Also present were longtime Friends of Omega Richard and Lucy Gomez.
Friends of Omega travel to major events around the world to bond with the Omega family. Last May, the Gutierrez twins flew to the moon landing commemorative event at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
At the local launch, Raymond Gutierrez wore the Moonwatch with a black leather strap.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Gutierrez. “I check the time on my phone though. The wrist piece is more about style. It completes a look.”
His brother Richard has had a long relationship with Omega. He received his first luxury watch, an Omega Seamaster, as a high school graduation gift from his mother. Back then, Omega began its long partnership with James Bond, and Pierce Brosnan, Agent 007 at the time, was the brand ambassador. —CONTRIBUTED
The Omega commemorative exhibit runs through this week at the Lumina Lobby, The Podium, 12 ADB Ave. Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City