October 5 marks the day that Omega received a Silver Snoopy Award from NASA in 1970. Some think the Snoopy cartoon on a Speedmaster is a bit childish, but often they don’t know why it is there. In this article, we’ll explain how Snoopy ended up on the dial of a Speedmaster.

Exactly 50 years ago, NASA astronaut Thomas P. Stafford presents a Silver Snoopy Award to Omega. Not everyone realizes how important this award is. It is an award given by NASA crew to staff or contractors for their special contribution and outstanding efforts. It is actually the highest award that can be given by NASA. Besides the award certificate, there’s also the (flown) silver Snoopy lapel pin the contractor or staff receives from the NASA crew.

Stafford gives the Silver Snoopy lapel pin to Omega’s Hans Widmer

Speedmaster Snoopy

But why did Omega receive this highest award from astronaut Stafford (on behalf of the Apollo 13 crew)? Well, the full story can be seen in the 1995 blockbuster Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks (which we recommend watching anyway). If you have not seen the movie yet, here’s a short recap of what happened in April 1970.

The Apollo 13 after their safe return

Apollo 13

After Apollo 11 the general interest decreased a bit in the space program. The missions continued though, to explore the Moon and bring back some samples from the lunar surface. The objective for Apollo 13, was to explore the Fra Mauro formation on the Moon. However, the crew (Lovell, Haise, and Swigert) didn’t get so far. Onboard of the service module, 200,000 miles away from their homes and families, an accident happened.

Explosion

There was an explosion caused by damaged wire insulation, which resulted in venting contents of both oxygen tanks to space. Without oxygen, needed for the astronauts to survive and for generating electric power, the Apollo 13 spacecraft wasn’t exactly a place you wanted to be. With the help of the ground crew, the Apollo 13 astronauts were able to execute a working solution (one that includes the use of duct tape) that would give them the opportunity to at least return home safely.

The Return

The Apollo 13 crew needed the Omega Speedmaster, first to time ignition of the rockets to shorten the estimated length of the return to Earth, and secondly, to time the ignition of the rockets to decrease speed and raise the flight path angle for re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. This 14 seconds operation was crucial since any mistake in the timing could have led to an incorrect entry angle and, as a result, a potential disaster for the crew.

The Moonwatch - 105.012

Omega Speedmaster Professional 105.012

Speedmaster

We hear you! Any watch could have timed the 14 seconds. But that’s not entirely true, of course. The Omega Speedmaster was the only watch that passed all severe tests by NASA in 1965. No other watch still worked after NASA put it on the stand, only the Speedmaster. The Longines-Wittnauer 235T and Rolex 6238 chronographs didn’t pass. Neither did the later submitted Bulova. The Speedmaster is the only chronograph the Apollo 13 crew could rely on for this apparently easy task, timing exactly 14 seconds.

Snoopy on the Dial

Snoopy “Eyes on the Stars”

But Snoopy is a comic. Why would NASA use a comic for their most important award that a crew can give to personnel or contractors? You might know a thing about Apollo missions already, but did you know that NASA chose the famous beagle in 1968 as an icon to act as a “watchdog” over its missions? Also in 1968,  NASA decided to use a sterling silver Snoopy pin as a sign of appreciation to NASA employees and contractors. Together with a commendation letter and a signed framed Snoopy certificate.

Sterling Silver

Each of the sterling silver Snoopy label pins has been flown during a NASA mission. Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who created the “Peanuts” comic strip was a supporter of the NASA Apollo missions and agreed to let them use “Snoopy the astronaut” at no cost. He even drew the Snoopy figure for the sterling silver label pin.

Speedmaster Snoopy Award 3578.51 (2003)

For some weird reason, 33 years after Omega received the Silver Snoopy Award from NASA, the Speedmaster Professional Snoopy Award was introduced. Omega used the standard Speedmaster Professional and put the Snoopy Award logo on the subdial at 9 o’clock. On the backside, there’s the same logo covering a sapphire crystal.  Omega produced this 2003 Snoopy Award reference 3578.51 as a limited edition (limited to a substantial 5,441 units, but limited nonetheless). This number, 5441, is referring to the 142 hours, 54 minutes, and 41 seconds that the mission lasted. A bit of a stretch, but you have to come up with something (you can read an in-depth article on this watch here).

Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award 311.32.42.30.04.003 (2015)

Making a bit more sense, in 2015, 45 years after Omega received the silver lapel pin and certificate, Omega comes up with another Speedmaster Snoopy Award watch. The reference 311.32.42.30.04.003 (click here for an in-depth article) that was limited to 1970 pieces only, commemorating the year of the Apollo 13 mission and the award given to Omega. This watch was a “life changer” for Omega and the Speedmaster, you could say. The watch sold out in a flash and became unobtainium due to the limited amount (of 1970 pieces, mind you) and incredibly high asking prices.

High demand

Today, these watches are sold for a multitude of the original price of €6000. On the backside, there’s a Snoopy reproduction of the lapel pin, in sterling silver. On the dial, you’ll find the dog on the 9 o’clock subdial with a few references to the Apollo 13 mission (14 seconds and “Failure is not an option”).

50th Anniversary

This year’s October 5th marks the 50th anniversary of Omega receiving the Silver Snoopy Award from NASA.  This will not go unnoticed, and we are sure that Omega has something coming for you (and us). Will it be as successful as the Silver Snoopy Award from 2015? In a few hours, you will probably know the answer. We will keep you posted!

More information via Omega online.