Event Report – OMEGA X Fratello Watches Speedy Tuesday Event in Bienne
What is Speedy Tuesday?
It all started in a sunny Cannes in 2012, where I stayed over for a holiday. I also remember it was actually in the Radison Blu hotel there, where I made a wristshot of one of my Speedmaster watches and posted it on-line saying “Speedy Tuesday” (it was a Tuesday). Then, together with the team, we decided to make it a recurring item here on Fratello Watches. We are all Speedmaster fans, some of us have impressive collections, some of us only have one. But we all love the Speedmaster, for many different reasons.
Our first Speedy Tuesday event took place in 2013. An official event with the support of Omega, in the ESA/Estec Space Expo visitor centre. A few more followed, with and without official support, but always with a nice group of collectors to share the passion for this iconic chronograph.
Speedy Tuesday Event in Bienne, Switzerland
Last Friday, a new mile stone took place. An official Speedy Tuesday event together with Omega, at their headquarters in Bienne, Switzerland. Together with Omega, we decided to invite 25 guests for Speedmaster get-together in Bienne. Within just a few minutes after publishing the invitation, we were fully booked. It shows how popular the Speedmaster is, and perhaps even how popular Speedy Tuesday is. We were already happy to see that we had a nice group of enthusiasts willing to make the trip. Some people came from far, to say the least.
A group of international collectors and enthusiasts were invited to come visit Omega in Bienne, visit the museum, receive several presentations on the Speedmaster (dial making, accuracy tests and see the new 2016 Speedmaster models as presented in Basel). Also, the guests were treated with a peek behind the scenes regarding the famous Omega archives. The place where they work hard to get you your Extract of the Archives. After the tour and presentation, we would have a Q&A with a special guest.
A Welcome By OMEGA CEO Raynald Aeschlimann
But first things first, we were all welcomed by Omega President & CEO, Raynald Aeschlimann. He welcomed everyone to the Speedy Tuesday Event and explained to us how important the Speedmaster is to Omega, and to him. Also, how important the enthusiasts are to Omega, of which the #speedytuesday community is a great example. Omega decided to support #speedytuesday on their social media channels and also to support it by hosting this event.
Next, I did my word of welcome to the guests, explaining how Speedy Tuesday came to life and how my enthusiasm for the Speedmaster started in 1999, when I bought my first Moonwatch (from Gerard Nijenbrinks, when he had his watch shop in The Hague). How this enthusiasm in fact led to Speedy Tuesday on Fratello Watches. Today, also driven by the on-line Speedmaster community on Instagram and Facebook where fans post the most wonderful images of their Speedies.
Next, Raynald Aeschlimann introduced other persons from Omega’s management to all the guests of the Speedy Tuesday Event and gave the word to Petros Protopapas. The curator of Omega’s museum. Petros explained his role at the museum and in fact invited us over to the museum.
Omega Museum & Archives Visit
Divided into two groups, we visited the Omega Museum at the other side of the road where the Omega headquarters is located. Although the building is beautiful, it will move to the headquarters in the future.
One group went with Petros to the museum, to have a guided tour and the other group had a presentation on the new Speedmaster models and to have a closer look at the production process of the meteorite dials, ceramic cases and the Silver Snoopy Award dial and caseback. Also, Omega showed us the effect of magnetism on watches. The guests were also able to have their own watch checked for accuracy and check whether de-magnetizing the movement would improve accuracy (and it did).
Another exciting part of the museum tour was a visit to Omega’s archives. Not only is it the place where Omega looks up the serial / movement numbers in order to determine the production year and – if available – information about the original delivery of the watch, but also where they keep historic brochures, press material, manuals etc. A true treasure for any Speedmaster fan. Especially the vintage manuals and brochures could count on some serious drooling by the guests.
Speedy Tuesday Event Trophy
After the two groups finished the tours and presentations, it was time for drinks. We headed back to the main building across the street and everything was set-up for the upcoming Q&A session. However, not before CEO Aeschlimann presented a super nice reminder of this event to each of the guests individually.
A wonderful trophy that says ‘#SpeedyTuesday 2016’ and features a genuine “Flight-Qualified by NASA for all manned space missions” caseback engraved with the name of each guest of this Speedy Tuesday event.
Q&A Session With NASA’s Jim Ragan
It was also time to introduce the special guest that Omega had flown in for the Speedy Tuesday Event. No-one less than James Ragan, former NASA engineer who was responsible for the procurement process and test procedures of the watches that should be used during the Apollo (and later on Space Shuttle) program. Not only for watches, but for all other sorts of equipment that the astronauts would take with them in space (e.g. Hasselblad cameras, the Fisher Space Pen).
The Q&A session was kicked off by Petros and Jim Ragan, where they zoomed in on the selection procedure of the watches to be used by NASA and the Alaska project watches. From the first awkward looking model to the digital watches. It was interesting to learn that even after the selection and certification of the Speedmaster Professional, Jim Ragan kept testing the Speedmaster watches for several different purposes and in different circumstances (for example, the bumpy ride in the Lunar Rover of Apollo 15). After Petros finished his last question, the guests were able to ask questions to Jim Ragan. Questions variated from the relationship of the Mark II models and the first Alaska project watch to which other models from other brands were put to the test (no answers given there). The Q&A session ran out quite a bit, as Jim Ragan tried to answer each question as detailed as possible and is, in all honesty, a great storyteller in general. It was very entertaining and provided a lot of new insights into NASA’s Apollo program to many of the guests of the Speedy Tuesday event.
Up Close With Special Speedmasters
There was also time to have a look at some of the special Speedmaster watches that were discussed during the Q&A. There was the Alaska Project and Alaska Project II watch as well as the Speedmaster 145.022 that flew with astronaut Ron Evans during Apollo 17.
Another interesting watch was the gold Speedmaster Professional that Omega presented to US President Nixon at the time, in 1969, after the Apollo XI landing. The President had to decline, as gifts valued over a specific amount could not be accepted. So it now has a special place at the Omega Musuem in Bienne.
It is simply amazing that the guests could just try it on, hold it and observe it up close. The same for the Alaska Project watches, some even as prototype model. Where other brands put their ‘prototypes’ behind glass and are afraid of touching it, Omega understands how enthusiast and collectors love this stuff.
Speedy Tuesday Event Diner
This fantastic Speedy Tuesday Event ended with a marvelous diner in restaurant Melo’s in Bienne. Wonderful courses were served and in between, there was time for the mandatory ‘table shot’, as is so common to do at GTGs for collectors. Some of the guests were wearing the latest Speedmaster models, while others simply boosted CK2915 (the first Speedmaster reference) on their wrists. A great combination and link between old and new. All share the same love and respect for the Speedmaster. After the diner a group of people went to bar Cecile’s in the center of Bienne for some additional drinks.
Our Love For Speedmasters
We often get to hear that we do publish an awful lot on this watch. Which is true, every Tuesday since 2012 to be precise. Some of the other watch brands condemned us for this, some brands asked us to do the same for them (paid). We can’t and won’t do the latter and don’t care about the first. We love the Speedmaster, in fact, it was the first watch for many of our team that got us started in watches. The love is genuine and some of us collect them. We also love other watches, and watches from other brands, of course. Otherwise we could not be doing this.
The cool thing about the Speedmaster is that is a relatively affordable and accessible watch. The Moonwatch retails for 4300 Euro today. This is actually the model from the current collection that comes closest to the original model that went to the Moon. Omega also has several variations in their collection, including the ceramic Dark Side of the Moon models with their own in-house automatic Co-Axial chronograph movement. A vintage model from the 1980s can be picked up for below the retail price of a new one. But you can also go crazy and spend tens of thousands on a vintage first generation Speedmaster CK2915 or other special piece. As I’ve written before, and what we also saw during the Speedy Tuesday Event, it is all good. Both type of buyers have fun and can talk hour about their favorite piece, whether it is a brand new reference or a caliber 321 vintage model.
Next year is the 60th anniversary of the Speedmaster watch. We can’t wait to see what Omega has in store for us.
A big T H A N K Y O U to all our guests and to OMEGA of course, for making this possible.
The official press release can be found here.