Monday, July 20, 2009

First Watch on the Moon -The Omega Speedmaster.


The Omega Speedmaster Chronograph - seen here worn by Neil Armstrong in his lunar pod, just minutes before making history on the face of the moon. Buzz Aldren was wearing his Speedmaster Chronograph when he stepped foot on the moon, forty years ago today. Since that date in 1969 ,Omega has been promoting the Speedmaster chronograph as the "first watch on the moon". NASA had chosen the Swiss-made timekeeper for all its astronauts four years prior to this momentous date.

NASA did not simply pick Omega out of a hat, the Speedmaster and its rivals were subjected to rigorous testing. The watches simmered for hours at 93 degrees then were immediately frozen at - 18 degrees. The watches were steeped in pure Oxygen for two days, struck with tremendous blows, compressed then decompressed, vibrated, subjected to incredible speeds and numerous other experiments. The only watch to emerge virtually unscathed within the allowed deviations of 5 seconds per day was the Speedmaster.

Till today, the Speedmaster is the preferred choice for astronauts. The Russians too came to favor the Omega Speedmaster when they discovered the Watch in 1975 during the Apollo-Soyuz link-up.

As a watch leaves the confines of earths atmosphere, it is subjected to elements never experienced on earth. The atmospheric pressure within a watch might explode as the watch experiences zero-gravity. Omega with its ingenuity has affixed a clamp ring to the glass of the Speedmaster, enabling the watch to withstand five times the amount of pressure the watch will experience in space. The internal pressure of the watch has to remain constant in order to prevent the lubricating oil ,which adheres to the moving parts of the watch, to leak, obscuring the glass and preventing the watch mechanisms from working properly. Alternatively, a vacuum inside the watch may cause the watch to run to quickly as it would prevent the balance wheel from effectively working.

Omega Speedmaster's glass is sufficiently thick and elastic to withstand the great tempreture differences that occur while exiting the earths atmosphere and traveling through space.

In addition the Watch needs to be extremely accurate as the depketion of an Astronauts Oxygen Supply occurs in minutes and seconds rather than in volume. Other Luxury Watch Companies have tried and tried again to vanquish the Omega Speedmaster, and capture the NASA contract; however, the Speedmaster has always defeated the rivals, and till today, still remains the Watch in Space.

Omega, now has its eyes on Mars.

As to what happened to the original Watch that Buzz Aldren wore on the moon; it disappeared in the early 1970's on its way to the Smithsonian Institution. What happened to it remains a mystery until today. Neil Armstrong was on the moon, but he was not wearing his Omega Speadmaster Chronograph, his watch did not leave the lunar module. The module's electronic counter had failed, and Armstrong left the Watch on board as a back-up. It is thrilling to know that the Omega Speedmaster was used as a back up for an instrument on a lunar module.