The first thing which strikes you about the new Omega Speedmaster Moonphase Chronograph Master Chronometer is the extraordinary reproduction of the moon. In fact, it almost feels like a homage to the first moon landing as Armstrong took his first steps revealing sharp black and white images of the moon. Thus it is fitting that for Baselworld 2016, almost 50 years after the high resolution shots of Aldrin and Armstrong appeared in the cultural zeitgeist, we finally see the famous footprints rendered in the latest Speedmaster Moonphase Chronograph. But first, let’s trace the footsteps of its more famous cousin.
How the Speedmaster became the Moonwatch
While NASA’s robust tests for a Moonwatch are often mentioned, the specific tests are rarely published. NASA’s objective was a watch with resistance and endurance to meet the requirements of extra-vehicular activities (EVA) in space. By late 1964, three brands were in the running- Longines, Rolex and Omega. Each watch had to complete a series of 11 tests.
- High temperature of 70°C for 48 hours and then 93°C for another 30 minutes in partial vacuum.
- Low temperature test of – 18 °C for 4 hours.
- Vacuum test: heated first in a vacuum chamber and then cooled to – 18°C for several cycles
- Humidity test: ten 24 hour cycles in >95% humidity with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 70°C.
- Corrosion test in a pure oxygen atmosphere at 70°C for 48 hours.
- Shock resistance test: six 40 G shocks in six different directions.
- Acceleration test: progressive acceleration to 7.25 G for 5 minutes and then to 16 G for 30 seconds in three axes.
- Low pressure test of 10−6 atmospheres at 70°C for 90 minutes, then at 93°C for 30 minutes.
- High pressure test of 1.6 atmospheres for 60 minutes.
- Survive random vibrations in three axes between 5 and 2,000 Hz with an acceleration of 8.8 G.
- Sound test: 130 decibels at frequencies from 40 to 10,000 Hz for 30 minutes.
After each test, each “Moonwatch” was inspected for physical integrity of the different components as well as functions and chronometry. Where other brands had failed the high temperature test with one of the watches losing its glass to the heat. Another glass deformed during the decompression test. In one instance, humidity killed one of the watches completely, leaving only the Omega Speedmaster.
Though the Omega Speedmaster officially became the Moonwatch in the strictest sense, it did not come out completely unscathed – it suffered loss of its luminous material on the hour markers and like the others, had its chronometric rate affected (though to a lesser degree) by the acceleration and decompression tests.
On March 1, 1965, the Omega Speedmaster became the Moonwatch with the ST 105.003 accompanying astronauts on the Gemini missions while the Speedmaster Professional ST 105.012 would follow on the Apollo missions.
2016 new Omega Speedmaster Moonphase Chronograph Master Chronometer
The new Omega speedmaster moonphase chronograph with Master Chronometer isn’t the first watch on the moon but it’s the first watch to bear the footprints of mankind’s first expedition to the moon. More importantly, the “Master Chronometer” title celebrates another pioneering moment: Omega’s new standards of testing set together with Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS), recalling the high standards set for its veteran Speedmaster moonwatch by NASA.
While Speedmaster Moonphase watches began with limited runs in 1985, they were all built with a Lemania based calibre 866. Even the new Speedmaster Professional Moonphase continues to use the Omega modified 1866 calibre. Today, the Omega Speedmaster Moonphase chronograph with Master Chronometer certification begins a new legacy with the in-house 9904 movement with chronograph and moonphase functionality built upon the calibre 9300. That means with silicon hairspring in the Co-Axial escapement, along with a myriad of other amagnetic components, the tolerances of the 2016 Speedmaster Moonphase chronograph is expected to best tolerances set by COSC and NASA.
Furthermore, the 2016 Speedmaster Moonphase chronograph is a departure from the standard Speedmaster Moonphase watches (fans call them Speedymoon) which display the moonphase indicator at 12 o’clock.
Following 29.5 days per lunar month, the latest Speedmaster Moonphase chronograph with 12 hour chronograph and crescent date pointer on sub-dial displays its moonphase indicator at 6 o’clock. Omega takes its extra-terrestrial symbology so seriously that the photo-realistic moon rendering is detailed to the point where microscope magnification can actually display the footprints of the NASA astronauts around the Sea of Tranquility.
The moonphase module of the 9904 movement is highly precise requiring adjustment only once per 10 years. Even then, adjustment is not complicated, avoiding recessed pushers typical on other watches, instead relying only on a few turns of the crown.
The latest Omega Speedmaster Moonphase Chronograph is a large-ish watch at 44mm and comes in a cool steel and blue accents with ceramic blue bezel insert and a matching high gloss blue dial. The glossy sheen seen on the 2016 Speedmaster Moonphase Chronograph is the result of Omega’s patented Liquidmetal. The 2016 Omega Speedmaster Moonphase Chronograph Master Chronometer is priced CHF 8,400.
In any case, this new Omega Speedmaster Moonphase Chronograph appears to be the pinnacle of evolution in a series originally designed for automobile racing and engineers (thus the moniker “Speedmaster”). Now, its involvement has extended beyond Earth and into the stars; there’s no telling what’s next in Omega’s future (maybe the first watch to travel at warp speed?).