Omega Speedmaster

The Speedmaster is a chronograph model of the Swiss watch brand Omega . She is known to have been the only watch officially worn on the moon . It is also the only watch to be approved for all NASA 1 manned flights . The Speedmaster is still part of all the missions planned by NASA.



The name Speedmaster comes from the tachymeter bezel of the chronograph. The brand hesitated between Chronomaster , Flightmaster , Speedmaster . The first version of the Speedmaster appeared in 1957 , it was part of a trio of innovations sharing a little the same aesthetics and the same technicality: Seamaster (sporty and waterproof) and Railmaster (antimagnetic). It was based on the caliber 321 developed ten years earlier by Lemania . Since its launch, this flagship product from Omega has continued to be manufactured without discontinuity. In 2007,

Objectif Lune

Buzz Aldrin with his Speedmaster during the Apollo 11 mission
Speedmaster in the left arm of Alan Bean .

By the end of the 1950s , the American conquest and the American and Soviet race had become a center of global interest. The first astronauts, who remained enclosed in their capsules ( the Mercury program ) used current watches that did not have to meet special requirements.

But with the Gemini program , astronauts were called out of the capsule and needed an autonomous timepiece capable of resisting spatial conditions.

In 1962, NASA began testing watches that could withstand extreme conditions. The tests were as follows 1 :

  • High temperatures: 48 hours at 71 ° C followed by 30 minutes at 93 ° C .
  • Low temperatures: 4 hours at -18 ° C .
  • Vacuum temperature cycles: 15 cycles warming to 71 ° C for 45 minutes, followed by cooling at -18 ° C for 45 minutes to 10 -6 atm .
  • Humidity: 250 hours at temperatures between 20 ° C and 71 ° C at a relative humidity of 95%.
  • Environment rich in oxygen: 48 hours at 100% oxygen at 0.35 atm and 71 ° C .
  • Shocks: 6 shocks at 40 g over 11 ms in different directions.
  • Linear acceleration: from 1 to 7.25 g in 333 seconds.
  • Vacuum: 90 minutes to 10 -6 atm and 71 ° C followed by 30 minutes at 93 ° C .
  • High pressure: 1.6 atm for one hour.
  • Vibrations: 3 cycles of 30 minutes with vibrations varying from 5 to 2 000 Hz with a minimum acceleration of 8.8 g .
  • Acoustic vibration: 30 minutes at 130 dB with sounds from 40 to 10,000 Hz .

Several watches of the most famous brands clashed. Finally, only the Speedmaster chronograph from Omega passed all the tests. According to Alan A. Nelson 2 who produced an authoritative study on the space use of the Speedmaster , the watch used by NASA for its tests was a model of the trade, bought from a store in Houston , Texas .

In 1965, the Speedmaster was chosen to be part of the standard equipment of the Gemini program’s human missions. In fact, each astronaut wore two Speedmasters to “facilitate the execution of his various tasks” . Given his performance, Omega was again selected for the Apollo program . But this time there was very heavy pressure from the industrialists and the American army to favor a national product. In particular, Bulova exerted considerable lobbying (the Senate devoted several committee sessions) to be preferred. But in the end, it was the Swiss firm that came out.

His first official flight took place in the framework of the mission Gemini 3 in March 1965 (though it has already been washed before twice during the Mercury program ) 3 .

The , During the Apollo 11 mission , the Speedmaster was thus the first timepiece carried on the Moon by Buzz Aldrin , the second human being to have set foot there. Neil Armstrong had to leave his aboard the lunar module due to a computer crash. The Armstrong Speedmaster is kept in the Nasa chests. By cons, Aldrin was robbed of his and no one has ever found any trace 4 . The accurate references of the Speedmaster worn by Aldrin and Armstrong are now known, following the joint work between the Omega Museum and NASA. Armstrong as Aldrin were each given an Omega Speedmaster Professional ST105.012 5 . In Switzerland , on the morning of 21 July, Omega celebrates the event by launching a major advertising campaign (window decoration, slogan “Omega Speedmaster, the watch carried by American astronauts on the Moon 6 ” ).

During the Apollo 13 mission , the Speedmaster also played a crucial role, following a breakdown on board the spacecraft, allowing time to be measured (14 seconds) for the firing of the capsule To be able to return to the atmosphere without wasting the energy that was at its fairest level. Electric instruments are no longer operational, the Speedmaster saved the lives of astronauts and received the highest honor given to an external provider to NASA: the Silver Snoopy Award  (in) 7 .

In April 1970 the American Tom Stafford and the Soviet Alexei Leonov both carried a Speedmaster during their meeting during the Apollo-Soyuz 3 mission .

The firm’s marketing uses this image of reliability excellence and still produces today a copy of the original model called “Moon Watch”, ” Flight-qualified by Nasa for all manned space missions ” .

Many commemorative Speedmaster Apollo missions were created by Omega over the years: Speedmaster Apollo 11 20 th anniversary (1989), Speedmaster Apollo 11 25 th anniversary (1994), Speedmaster Apollo 11 30 thanniversary (1999), Speedmaster Apollo 11 35 th anniversary (2004), Speedmaster Apollo 11 40 th anniversary (2009), Speedmaster Apollo 11 45 th anniversary (2014), Speedmaster Apollo 13 Snoopy 45 th anniversary (2015)Speedmaster Apollo 15 35 th Anniversary (2006), Speedmaster Apollo 15 40 th Anniversary (2011), Speedmaster Apollo 17 40 th Anniversary (2012) 8 .

One name for several watches

Omega Speedmaster at the wrist of the Swiss writer Erich von Däniken

Since its first appearance, the Speedmaster has undergone many evolutions and has been declined in several “lines” which present great differences not only aesthetic, but also technical: the Speedmaster calibres are numerous and quite different. Furthermore, the characteristics of the models include or not a glass sapphire domed, bottom sapphire , certified COSC , automatic movement, manual or the new exhaust coaxial .

The lines can be distinguished:

  • Professional : the “Moon watch” is equipped with a hand-wound movement only, it is declined in several models more or less faithful to the original:
    • Caliber 321: original caliber of the Speedmaster until 1968, when he was replaced by n o 861.
    • Caliber 861: has equipped the chronograph since 1969.
    • Caliber 863: refined and luxurious version of n o 861. It equips most commemorative versions, with transparent background (eg 3592.50).
    • Caliber 864: COSC stopwatch version.
    • Caliber 867: “skeleton” version in 1992 (50 copies) 9 .
    • Caliber 1861: caliber of the current Moon Watch . Used since 1997 on the version closest to the original, with among others, two versions of glass: the traditional plexiglass (hesalite) or the sapphire , more convenient for a daily use, because almost scratch-resistant.
    • Caliber 1863 refined and more luxurious version of n o 1861 team most commemorative versions, with transparent background.
    • Caliber 1866: 1863 + complication Phase of the moon .
  • Broad Arrow ;
  • Legend ;
  • Date ;
  • Day Date;
  • Reduced ;
  • etc.


Movement Omega Cal. 1861

The collectors of the ” Moon Watch ” are numerous. Several points are the subject of recurring polemics:

  • What was the caliber of the model carried by the Apollo XI astronauts in July 1969?
  • The evaluation of the technical change caused by the transition from the 321 caliber to the 861 caliber.

Originally, in 1957, the Speedmaster was powered by the 321 gauge with a central control by column wheel , original Lemania: it equipped the Speedmaster until 1968 . In 1969 , Omega replaced it with the caliber 861 (also of origin Lemania): a chronograph with central control by cams. It is still used today in the same model, in its various evolutions: calibres 1861, 1863, 1866. The first lunar model was still equipped with the caliber 321. In the following missions, this caliber will be gradually replaced by the 861 10 .

Although he acknowledged that the 861 caliber was aesthetically less successful than the 321, Marco Richon said that the 861 caliber made several improvements to the former model:

  • A higher frequency (21 600 A / h 11 against 18 000 A / h) obtained by a change of the pendulum.
  • The simplification of the mechanism (wheel-to-column shuttle), which improves reliability, robustness, lifetime, softer operation and easier assembly.


  1. a and b Omega Speedmaster Pro: the Moonwatch [ Archive ]
  2. ↑ The translation of his article appears in full in Omega Saga p.  366
  3. a and b SPEEDMASTER IN THE SPACE ” , on (accessed May 27, 2015 ) [ Archive ]
  4. ↑ Marco Richon, Omega Saga p.  367
  5. ↑ ” The Omega Speedmaster became the Moonwatch – Monochrome-Watches ” (accessed May 4, 2015 ) [ Archive ]
  6. Omega Saga , p. 381
  7. ↑ ( en ) ” Omega Speedmaster Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award Limited Edition Watch ” , on A blog to watch , [ Archive ] (Accessed14 May 2015 )
  8. ↑ For example . [ Archive ]
  9. ↑ Marco Richon, Omega Saga . p.  394
  10. Omega Saga , p.  377
  11. ↑ A / h = Alternation / hour


  • Marco Richon , Omega Saga , Biel, Adrien Brandt Foundation for Omega Heritage,, 487 p. ( ISBN  978-2-883-80010-6 , OCLC  715935483 )
  • Marco Richon , Omega: Journey Through Time , Biel, Omega SA,, 831 p. ( ISBN  978-2-970-05620-1 , OCLC  428216537 )

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