The Omega Speedmaster Professional watch is a significant and historical timepiece, especially in the aviation and aerospace industry, and is one of the most trusted watches today for pilots and astronauts alike. This watch has been on numerous flights both around Earth and into space, most famously on the Gemini and the Apollo space missions. Today, the Omega Professional watch continues to be a trusted source for timekeeping, and for good reason; it’s a reliable, easy to use, and incredibly accurate watch.
This Omega speedmaster professional watch review aims to cover all of the key points of this incredibly historical watch, while also honoring its impact on space exploration and how far is has come since its creation 60 years ago.
History of the Omega Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch”
From its original conception in 1957 until today, the Omega Professional has hardly changed over the years. It is still as elegant and as reliable as ever, though a few minor tweaks have been made as technology has gotten better. This watch features a stunning 42mm stainless steel case, and a hand-wound movement that can only be described as infallible. In fact, the only thing that has changed throughout the years is the calibre that drives this timepiece.
The first watches were powered by a calibre 321, which soon changed in 1968 to the calibre 861. From there, OMEGA introduced a rhodium plating on the movement, which allowed for a longer lasting, and ultimately more efficient watch movement, which soon resulted in the calibre 1861 and 1863. Despite these changes, the Omega professional “moonwatch” has maintained the same accuracy and readability throughout the years, and has remained largely unchanged from the first time it was featured on the moon.
Another distinction that should be made between the Moonwatch and other watches is the material of the glass. Omega Professional Moonwatches feature Hesalite crystal instead of the usual sapphire crystal glass that is used in many watches today. Hesalite is more durable, featuring shatter-proof capabilities, and a virtually scratch resistant surface. If scratches do happen to appear on the surface of the glass, they can easily be buffed out with PolyWatch. If there is serious damage, the Hesalite face can be replaced for a relatively inexpensive price.
The Omega Professional Watch in Space
In 1970, Jack Swigert, an astronaut on the Apollo 13 flight, used the Omega Speedmaster Professional to accurately time the mid-course correction of the craft’s propulsion module after a ruptured oxygen tank put the craft in jeopardy. The prompt response of Mr. Swigert, coupled with the accurate time-keeping of the Omega Speedmaster is the reason that the Apollo 13 crew made it back to Earth safely. Because of this flight, NASA awarded the Omega Speedmaster - and the crew of the Apollo 13 - with the Snoopy Award, a highly prestigious award signifying an outstanding achievement related to human flight and mission success.
Qualifications and Testing
But what does it take to become the most trusted brand of watch both on Earth and in space? In order to be even considered as a watch in space, NASA had to put this timepiece through its paces with a series of rigorous tests to ensure that the watch would hold up safely and accurately. Some of these tests include (but are not limited to):
- Enduring high temperature. The watch was first put in 160 °F (71 °C) for 48 hours followed by 30 minutes at 200 °F (93 °C)
- Testing low temperature limits. The Omega Professional watch had to endure four hours at 0 °F (−18 °C)
- Temperature cycling in near-vacuum conditions. For a watch to be considered in space, the ability to withstand a vacuum is a must. This watch went through 15 cycles of heating to 160 °F (71 °C) for 45 minutes, followed by cooling to 0 °F (−18 °C) for 45 minutes at 10−6 atm.
- Humidity: 250 hours at temperatures between 68 °F (20 °C) and 160 °F (71 °C) at relative humidity of 95%
- Oxygen environment: 100% oxygen at 0.35 atm and 71 °C for 48 hours
- Shock: Six 11 ms 40 g shocks from different directions
- Linear acceleration: from 1 to 7.25 g within 333 seconds
- Low pressure: 90 minutes at 10−6 atm at 160 °F (71 °C), followed by 30 minutes at 200 °F (93 °C)
- High pressure: 1.6 atm for one hour
- Vibration: three cycles of 30 minutes vibration varying from 5 to 2000 Hz with minimum 8.8 g impulse
- Acoustic noise: 30 minutes at 130 dB from 40 to 10,000 Hz
The Moonwatch Today - Models and Price
Because of the watch’s rich history, it has become somewhat of a collector’s item. Every few years, Omega has released a new version of the Speedmaster Professional watch to commemorate certain anniversaries and milestones. Many of these watches are hard to find, and as such are incredibly valuable.Collectors are eager to get their hands on the calibre 321, mostly due to the fact that it’s as close to the original watch as one can get. The only issue is that parts for this watch are incredibly hard to come by, and there are very few watches in existence today. The calibre 861 and 1861 are easier to find, with parts in relative abundance, and are more suited to casual collectors or for people who want a reliable and easy to read watch.
Getting your hands on one of these watches is relatively simple, but there are some key differences between each of the models out in circulation today. The model number 3572.50 is a watch that was available up until a few years ago. It featured the Hesalite front and a sapphire crystal, see-through back, but other than that minor difference it was virtually indistinguishable from the 3570.50. The 3570.50 is a model that is still available today, and is known as the true Moonwatch - the exact model that was used on the Gemini and Apollo moon landings.
Another model of the Speedmaster Professional watch is the 3573.50, which features a sapphire crystal front and back. Though it is not the “true” Moonwatch, the insides are virtually the same, and it is still incredibly reliable and accurate.
The Moonwatch’s model has changed changed since it was first created; instead of being the 3570.50, it is now 3184.108.40.206.01.005. While it is the same watch in principle, there are some notable differences, such as screwed in pins instead of push in, and a gift box that also begets a higher price for the whole set. Despite these changes, the Moonwatch is an exceptionally good gift for the space enthusiast or pilot in your life.
This Omega Speedwatch Professional watch review gives a great deal of insight as to the watch’s impact on space exploration and the aerospace industry, as well as how one might find such a rich and historically significant timepiece. Whether you are an avid collector, or simply want a reliable and durable watch, the Speedmaster Professional is one watch nobody should be without. However, be prepared; a watch such as this does not run cheap. The current asking price on the official Omega website exceeds $5000, though it is available for slightly cheaper on external sites such as Amazon or Walmart.