We give a lot of Speedmaster coverage, but mainly on (Speedy) Tuesdays. Today we make an exception, as we were invited to join the Omega Speedmaster Event in London, with Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former NASA’s engineer James H. Ragan who was responsible for testing and selecting the Speedmaster and actor George Clooney, a long-time space and Speedmaster fan.
Speedmaster Event in London
There is no secret that I love the Speedmaster. I’ve told this many times before, but the Speedmaster is the model that got me into watches in general and one that I collect myself. A love that resulted in starting the Speedy Tuesday feature and has been celebrated with its own limited edition watch for its 5th anniversary. Therefore, I was very happy to receive an invitation from Raynald Aeschlimann (CEO and President of Omega) to join their Speedmaster event in London, to celebrate the 60th birthday of this iconic chronograph.
We arrived in London last Tuesday, but other than a wonderful diner in one of London’s fine restaurants there was not really a program. When I was about to meet up with a few people in the lobby of the hotel, I found myself in the elevator with Buzz Aldrin and his manager (Mission Control Director as she likes to call herself). Surreal, to say the last. Anyway, the program for the Speedmaster Event started on Wednesday morning.
James H. Ragan and Petros Protopapas Explain
Not entirely new to us, or to you, but former NASA engineer James H. Ragan and Omega’s Brand Heritage Manager Petros Protopapas gave an explanation on the Speedmaster and how it became the Moonwatch. A quick Speedmaster 101 to explain the iterations from the first Speedmaster from 1957 till the models with crown guards (105.012). Omega also brought some Speedmasters to the game, from the CK2915 till the Speedmaster Professional 105.012, the reference that was on the wrist of Buzz Aldrin when he set foot on the Moon.
Above, an overview of the Speedmaster CK2915 from 1957, the second generation CK2998 (introduced in 1959), the 105.003 ‘Ed White’ (introduced in 1964) and the 105.012 (also introduced in 1964).
Below, some close-ups of the first three references mentioned. The CK2915, the first Speedmaster ever, designed by Pierre Moinat. The CK2998, the second generation of Speedmaster watches featuring a black bezel and Alpha-hands. Third, the reference 105.003, introduced in 1964 with its white baton hands and actually the watch that was tested by NASA for the Apollo program.
Other watches that were brought to the table were the Speedmaster Professional 145.022 with caliber 861 that was used by Apollo 17 astronaut Ron Evans. He didn’t wear the watch, but he attached it to one of the control panels of the Command Module to do some tests. It wasn’t an approved/certified watch for Extra-Vehicular Actitivies. It wasn’t until 1978 that the 145.022 reference was certified for use in space during EVA. Then, James H. Ragan and Petros Protopapas talked about the Alaska IV LCD Speedmaster watch and the Speedmaster X-33 for a short while. They even brought the prototype X-33 model (shown below) that was used by NASA for test purposes.
Mr Ragan was wearing his personal Speedmaster Professional 145.022 during this session while Mr Protopapas was sporting the very rare Speedmaster Professional ‘Galaxy Express’ (we covered it here).
An Interview with Buzz Aldrin
One of the part that most guests were looking forward to, was the interview with Apollo XI astronaut Buzz Aldrin. On July 21st 1969, he sat foot on the Moon together with astronaut Neil Armstrong. Buzz Aldrin was accompanied by his manager who also did the talk with him during the meeting/interview. We were shown some incredible cool images (mainly from NASA) and Buzz commented on them to tell us what happened there, or what we were looking at exactly. Very interesting to hear his comments next to some of the famous photographs we all know (of Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, in the Lunar Module, his footprint). At the end, there was some time to ask Buzz Aldrin a couple of questions. The importance of the watch and the future of space exploration were things he elaborated on.
About the importance of the watch on the Moon Buzz Aldrin said the following:
“It was a little difficult to activate the stopwatch to time things. But we didn’t need to do that really. We were in communication with Earth all the time. So we felt at home because we could talk to each other. But we wore the watches and we kept them set to the time of the shifts of the people back in mission control. They were on an 8 hour shift. So, there we were on the moon, going around, but we knew what time it was in Houston, Texas all the time.”
On his wrist, Buzz Aldrin was wearing a regular Omega Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’. On his other hand, he was wearing the crazy combination of the X-33 and a gold De Ville (looked like the Chronoscope Co-Axial Chronograph, but I could be wrong).
BaselWorld 2017 Product Presentation
Next up was the presentation of the BaselWorld 2017 novelties. You have already seen most of them here on Fratello Watches and on other websites, we are sure. I took the opportunity to take some additional images of a watch we haven’t covered yet for a Speedy Tuesday (but soon will): the Speedmaster Racing caliber 9900 in Sedna gold.
So you’ve seen all the novelties before, but one little update that was new to us, is that the gold Apollo 17 limited edition won’t be limited to 72 pieces only, but to 272 pieces. Omega increased the number due to high demand. Not everyone will like this (especially those who managed to get one of the 72 pieces already), but on the other hand, people who missed out on it at first might have a new chance to buy one.
Speedmaster Event Video
Omega provided us with a video of the Speedmaster Event in London, giving you an insight look of what was told and shown during the presentations and interviews on Wednesday April 26th.
The video shows the talk with Buzz Aldrin and later on you will see a few snippets of what James Ragan and Petros Protopapas presented to us. Last but not least, Jean-Claude Monachon (Omega Head of Product Development) talks about some of the BaselWorld Speedmaster novelties.
Gala Diner with George Clooney and Buzz Aldrin
On Wednesday evening, I attended the gala diner of the Speedmaster Event. Special guests were Buzz Aldrin and George Clooney. However, Omega also invited some more of their ambassadors to spice up the evening. You can see some of the images of the gala diner on our Instagram account (@fratellowatches). One of the awesome things they had in the Tate Modern (the venue for the evening) was a large plate with all 60 Speedmaster watches on there that we showed to you in this overview.
On our Instragram account you will find more images of the evening as well as on my personal Instagram account (@rjbroer).
It was a thrill…
This Speedmaster Event in London was not only for watch press. Better said, it was mainly for lifestyle publications and retailers (and their VIP clients). Only few watch publications were invited actually. For lifestyle publications (and its audience), some of the things we know about the Speedmaster and the Moonwatch story are not always evident. I noticed that some of the press didn’t exactly know much about the Moonwatch-story or about the Moonwatch in general. This is perhaps also the reason for Omega to focus on those publications (and audience), to get the story across a wider audience than only us watch enthusiasts and Speedmaster fans. That said, it was great to see Omega putting so much effort in getting the story told (again). I think that for ‘our’ type of audience, real Speedmaster enthusiasts, there are other events that are more interesting and in-depth to attend. The thrill of meeting Buzz Aldrin however, is something you definitely would want to experience, I am sure.
Thank you Omega for inviting us.