Since the successful launch of the Speedmaster ‘Speedy Tuesday’ limited edition, quite a bit of people asked us about the radial dial. Although Omega already had a radial dial in one of their watches in 1966, it wasn’t used in the Speedmaster Professional until 1972 with the Alaska Project II. Let’s have a closer look at the radial dial models since then.
In short, you could say that – with the exception of the Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday limited edition – that the radial dial lay-out was only used in watches dedicated for NASA purposes. In 1972, Omega came up with their Alaska Project II, using the radial dial in the Speedmaster Professional. More information regarding the purpose of the Alaska II Project can be found here.
Based on a drawing from September 10th 1972, as you can see below, the sub dials received these Arabic numerals per 5 minutes instead of 10, 10 seconds instead of 20 and 12 hours instead of 4. It improves readability of the sub counters, and besides that, it looks very awesome.
People made remarks about some of the numerals being positioned upside down opposed to what’s normally done on the Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday limited edition, but as you can see it is 100% based on the original drawing. The 1972 Alaska Project II watch you see above, does not have these ‘upside downs’. It seems that the 1972 drawing was used for the 1978 Alaska Project III watch, see below.
Our colleague Alexander Linz of Watch-Insider.com was able to capture this original drawing of the radial dial.
From 1972 till 1978, the Speedmaster radials were not used in watches. The Alaska Project II watch was never actually used by NASA and also didn’t make it into regular production. In 1978 though, Omega participated in the NASA tender for chronographs for the upcoming Space Shuttle missions in the 1980s. As you probably know, Omega – again – was certified for EVA use during Space Shuttle missions. This time, with the reference 145.022 model. Until then, only the Speedmaster Professional 145.012 and 105.012 were officially used during EVA.
Omega issued 56 watches to NASA for the Space Shuttle program. These 56 watches all had the radial dial, as we discussed in this article here. These 56 watches were internally (at Omega) called Alaska Project III Speedmasters. You have to know that everything Omega did for NASA purposes, was referred to as ‘Alaska Project’ to keep things as discrete as possible. There were more watch brands located in the small city of Bienne and you never know who was ear-dropping in the local schnitzel restaurants.
As you can see below, astronaut Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. wore his radial dial Speedmaster Professional 145.022 during the STS-8 mission in 1983. The watch you see next to it, is the digital Seiko Sports 100 watch (reference a829-a6019) that was used by many astronauts at the time on board of the space shuttle. We covered it in this article about ESA astronaut Wubbo Ockels. *Thanks to the guys from Moonwatch Only for the input for the image below.
In 2012, in the first year of our Speedy Tuesday feature, we’ve found the watch that was used by ESA astronaut Reinhard Furrer. He is known to be wearing the Seiko reference a829-a6019 as well as a black PVD Sinn 140, but he also got this Speedmaster in his possession. Someone close to this publication had that watch and showed it to us. We covered that story ‘We’ve found an astronaut’s Speedmaster‘. How the watch got into the hands of Reinhard Furrer will always remain a bit of mystery, as he wasn’t a NASA astronaut. There is a possibility that he actually received the watch during a training he received from NASA, with the rest of some NASA equipment. Of course, everything had to be returned after missions and these type of trainings, but there is a good chance that Reinhard Furrer just kept this watch.
In any case, we had the watch in our possession for a short period to do some research and a photo shoot back in 2012, and it was quite a ‘magical’ thing to put on your wrist. Even when it wasn’t really sure whether it flew or not.
This amazing ‘find’ and the beautiful radial dial of that watch led that you will now also find a radial dial in the Speedmaster ‘Speedy Tuesday’. As the back of the watch indicates, it is a ‘Tribute to Alaska Project III’.
We are happy to learn more about the design reasons for the upside down Arabic numerals on the counters, or the use in other Speedmaster watches. If you have any additional information, do not hesitate to contact us.
Ever since he was a young child, Robert-Jan was drawn to watches, even though it were digital Casio and quartz Swatch models at the time. In the mid-1990s, his interest increased when he started to read about mechanical watches in... read more