Understanding the Omega Speedmaster Origin

The Speedmaster’s beginnings date back to 1957 when it was released as a sports and racing chronograph to support Omega’s role as the Olympic Games’ official timekeeper.

Its tachymeter scale bezel and the Omega convention used for other models like the Seamaster and the Railmaster led to the “Speedmaster” moniker being chosen. Initially, the Speedmaster belonged to the Seamaster line.

The triple-register chronograph layout, the high-contrast index indicators, and the domed Plexiglas crystal were all included in this original Speedmaster model, reference CK 2915, popularly known as the “Broad Arrow,” which was created by the Swiss Claude Baillod. The dial served as an illustration of perfect proportion and balance. The watch had broad arrow hands, straight lugs, and a steel bezel with black engraving on it. The case had a 39 mm diameter.

A 1958 reference CK 2915-1 Speedmaster that sold for the highest price ever at auction. Image courtesy of Phillips

Alpha hands and a black aluminum bezel were added to the reference CK 2998 Speedmaster in 1959 to improve readability. Omega initially incorporated the so-called O-ring gasket around the push buttons to increase water resistance, expanding the case diameter from 39mm to 40mm.

Finally, Omega debuted the traditional straight baton hands for the Speedmaster in 1962 with reference ST 105.002 and in 1963 with reference ST 105.003.

A 42 mm asymmetrical case, with the reference ST 105.012, was introduced that same year, adding protection for the chronograph pushers and crown. This is the case that is still being produced today with few changes. During the summer of 1965, a Professional designation emerged beneath the Speedmaster emblem on the dial.

The Speedmaster Professional ref. ST 105.012 with the new Lyra lugs and asymmetrical case – 1964

NASA was preparing for the Gemini (two-man) and Apollo (three-man) missions as the solo-fly Mercury space program was nearly complete (astronaut Wally Schirra had worn his own Speedmaster ref. CK 2998 on his Mercury flight on October 3, 1962). They required a wristwatch that could resist the harsh conditions of space because the astronauts on these missions were expected to walk around outside the spacecraft in orbit.

The test findings were finished on March 1, 1965, and only the Omega Speedwatch passed. The three chronographs chosen at the time had undergone operational and environmental testing, and as a result of the testing, three members of the Gemini Titan III crews received Omega chronographs that had been calibrated.

The watch was a backup, according to James Ragan, the NASA engineer in charge of the qualifying testing, who also discussed the significance of the Speedmaster. The Omega watch on each astronaut’s wrist would be their only source of support if they were unable to communicate with Earth or use their digital timers on the lunar surface. If they encountered a problem, it had to be there to help.

The first manned lunar landing on July 20, 1969, was unquestionably one of the most significant scientific achievements in human history. The first person to set foot on the moon was Neil Armstrong. Armstrong had kept his watch aboard as a solid backup since the electrical timing system on the Lunar Module was not working properly. Buzz Aldrin, who was wearing his Omega Speedmaster Professional, the first watch to be worn on the moon, joined him 19 minutes later. It had a Calibre 321 Omega Speedmaster Professional movement. Buzz’s watch was taken a few months after this expedition and was never recovered.

A Speedmaster that can accompany a man on a voyage to Mars in 2030, where temperatures vary from -133°C to 27°C, is currently being developed by Omega.

The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch has remained the crown jewel of Omega’s manufacture for more than 60 years and is still one of the most recognizable chronographs ever created.


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