Space And Time
In 1892, Louis Brandt and Audemars Piguet developed the first minute-repeating timepiece. In 1894, just two years later they launched the 19-line Omega Caliber, which revolutionized the watchmaking industry and became an industry standard. Because of its new-found reputation for optimum performance, they changed the company’s name to Omega which in the Greek alphabet is the symbol of perfection completed.
Omega became the official timekeeper at sporting events in Switzerland in 1905. The brand then acquired one of its most vital timekeeping partnerships when it became the official timekeeper for the 1932 Xth Olympiad Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California. In 1948, Omega watches introduced the first edition of perhaps its most iconic watches, the Seamaster.
It was at this time that many water-craft and water based sports and hobbies were very popular. Because Omega was the most reliable waterproof watch, it became the most sought after brand. It was in 1932 when Omega first launched its Marine watch. It was worn by French navy officer and inventor of the modern scuba mask and tank, Yves Le Prieur. Four years later Charles William Beebe wore an Omega Marine while commanding an unpowered submarine called a bathysphere, at a depth of 14 meters in Bermuda.
The initial Seamaster was based off waterproof timepieces worn and designed for those in the British military during World War II. The distinguishing feature of the Seamaster was the O-ring gasket. Other water-resistant watches relied on lead or shellac gaskets which were unreliable when exposed to temperature and depth changes. Omega replicated the rubber gasket on the hatch of submarines, except smaller of course. This new feature in the case remained intact at depths up to 60 meters and temperature ranges between -40 degrees and 50 degrees Celsius.
In 1957, Omega introduced its Master class: the Speedmaster, the Railmaster and the Seamaster 300 which was worn by iconic oceanographer Jacques Cousteau during the 1963 Conshelf II experiments. Unlike its predecessor, the Seamaster 300 was designed for underwater use. Ironically, however, the Seamaster 300 could only dive to depths of 200 meters which Omega claimed was due to equipment limitations and not that of the watch.
In the wake of the Sputnik incident and the subsequent Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, man had a new ocean – space. Launched into space on October 3rd, 1962 astronaut Wally Schirra wore a Speedmaster on his Mercury Sigma 7 Mission, making it the first Omega watch to enter space. In 1965, Omega received a significant endorsement from NASA, which solidified the Speedmaster as the official chronograph for NASA piloted space missions. On July 19, 1969 Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon while wearing their Omega Speedmasters. From that point on, the Speedmasters was nicknamed, “the Moon Watch”.
The tests that NASA engineer James Ragan performed on the chronographs that were submitted to the agency in 1964 were designed to destroy the watches. Space is a hostile environment and the selected watch had to be able to withstand the vigorous tasks that the astronauts would be performing. The watch was intended to be a backup to the digital clocks in place. In the event that the capsule lost power, the astronauts would still be able to maintain time awareness. Ten watch companies were approached. Four submitted. One watch brand instantly failed. Three different brands were tested for months Then began months of testing: vacuum, humidity, vibration, shock-proof, water-resistant, and capable of withstanding 12 G's of acceleration. However, in the end only one watch survived: the Speedmaster.
Since Aldrin and Armstrong’s initial lunar landing, the Omega brand was worn on all six lunar landings. In 1970, the Speedmaster was crucial in helping the astronauts of the Apollo 13 mission return home safely. Veteran actor George Clooney was 8 years old when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. His father owned an Omega Speedmaster at the time. He recalled looking through a telescope claiming to see the astronauts on the moon, which was impossible with a department store bought telescope. But the excitement of men actually walking on the moon still stuck with him. Last year Clooney had the chance to meet his childhood hero and share the legend and lore of the iconic watch and Apollo mission. Since the famed Apollo missions. Even to this day, Omega and space programs worldwide continue to have a working relationship.