On October 3, 1962, Walter M. Schirra orbited the Earth in a Mercury rocket with the call-sign Sigma 7. The mission that Schirra piloted, Mercury Atlas-8, was the fifth manned space mission in the Mercury program. Schirra orbited the Earth a record six times, making his the longest manned spaceflight ever achieved at that stage in the Space Race.
Early Speedmasters, particularly those dating from the early days of the Space Race, are especially desirable. However, their relative scarcity--due to the brevity of their production runs--make them difficult to find on the vintage chronograph market, and the prices are often astronomical (pun intended). Fortunately for collectors who dream of strapping a CK2998 to their wrists, but don't have the resources to obtain a vintage version, there's the First Omega in Space Edition.
This model captures the look and feel of the CK2998, with a 39.5mm straight lug case, reminiscent of its ancestors. Like the CK2998, the logo on the dial of the First Omega in Space is applied, and the hour and minute hands are the "alpha" style that were present in the Speedy until the Reference 105.003 debuted in 1964; likewise, the dial lacks the inscription "Professional," since the CK2998 predates the Speedy's flight qualification by NASA in 1965.
The only departures from the original are the crystal, the case back, the bezel, and the movement. The crystal of the First Omega in Space is sapphire, and the case back is adorned by a medallion embossed with the hippocampus seen on Speedmasters until the post-Moon Reference 145.022 was released in 1971. While purists questioned the choice of the Calibre 1861 movement instead of the legendary Caliber .321 used in Schirra's actual Speedmaster, the Caliber 1861 was also flight-qualified by NASA, and is just as venerated in collectors' circles for that fact.
The First Omega in Space is a worthy successor to its progenitor, and is a great addition to Omega's limited editions of Speedmaster. This example dates to 2013 and comes complete with its inner and outer boxes, books, and cards.
As true to the original as can be without being an exact replica, the First Omega in Space deserves a place in the possession of even the most discerning vintage collectors.
The Speedmaster Story
After touching the lander down on the lunar surface, Buzz Aldrin transmitted to Houston control these words, nary more than a whisper, the first communication between human beings not concurrently on the same planet.
When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon for the first time, his Omega Speedmaster was in the module serving as a backup for its electric timer that had malfunctioned. It was Aldrin who, following Armstrong to become the second human to walk on the moon, introduced the Speedmaster to the lunar surface.
Today, Omega has become synonymous with the Apollo missions, the moon landing and space exploration in general. The provenance of the brand, driven by the incredible reliability and functionality of the watches that they produced throughout the space era is second to none. But at the heart of the moon missions, at the core of their objective, was the intrinsic human desire to explore, to crest the horizon and, undaunted, step forth into the unknown.
NASA approved the Speedmaster for its space missions because it was the best, most accurate timepiece they could find, and testing revealed that it needed no modification in order to remain functional under the duress of space flight. NASA was concerned with accuracy, durability and usability; they didn't care about Omega's history, they needed a tool that could accompany humans on a mission to the moon and help them get back safely. They exposed the Speedmaster to high and low temperatures, blasted it with vibrations, challenged it with g-force extremes and submitted it to high and low pressure. Through it all, the Speedmaster ticked on, proving that it could go where no watch had ever gone before.
Today the Omega Speedmaster is often regarded by collectors and enthusiasts to be the single most important wristwatch ever made, if for no other reason than that it accompanied us on mankind’s greatest feat – touching down on and exploring a heavenly body.
While most of the Omega Speedmasters in circulation haven’t left Earth’s atmosphere, we can all take a certain amount of pride in knowing that they could – and would continue to perform just as they would down here on the ground. When you stop and think about all that entails, that’s really saying something.