20:56:15 UTC

That's one small step
for a man, one giant leap
for mankind.

Omega

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Westime Stories
Hand Holding a Watch

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On July 20, 1969, at 20 hours, 56 minutes and 15 seconds UTC, the world watched in awe via television the landing of U.S. spaceflight Apollo 11 on the Moon, and with it, the first two people to set foot on the lunar landscape, commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin, both American, both wearing two Omega Speedmaster ST105.012 watches.

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During the landing, Armstrong’s heart rate apparently ranged from 100 to 150 beats per minute. He announced the landing to Mission Control, and to the world, with the words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed. ”

Even though commander Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the Moon, he left his 105.012 Speedmaster inside the lunar module as a backup, because the LM’s electronic timer had malfunctioned. On the other hand, Buzz Aldrin, who joined Armstrong about 20 minutes later, wore his timepiece, and so his Speedmaster became the first watch to be worn on the Moon.

“It was optional to wear while we were walking on the surface of the Moon…few things are less necessary when walking around on the Moon than knowing what time it is in Houston, Texas.” Aldrin later said. “Nonetheless, being a watch guy, I decided to strap the Speedmaster onto my right wrist around the outside of my bulky spacesuit.”

The mission was planned to the minute, with the majority of photos taken by Armstrong with a single Hasselblad camera. The astronauts’ moonwalk lasted only two and a half hours, but the Apollo 11 mission remains to this day the most treasured and celebrated event in Omega’s remarkable space legacy. 

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The Moonwatch

 

The journey to this iconic moment began in 1957, when the newly-launched Speedmaster became the “pilots’ choice” due to its sturdy, reliable, easy-to-read design. In 1964, NASA’s space programme was growing and the agency began searching for a watch that could withstand the difficult conditions of its manned-missions. Of all the brands that submitted their models, only the Speedmaster survived the grueling tests and was named “Flight Qualified for all Manned Space Missions”, with Omega becoming the only supplier for NASA’s Human Space Flight Program.


“The watch was a backup.” explained James Ragan, the NASA engineer who qualified the Speedmaster in 1965.

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“If the astronauts lost the capability of talking to the ground, then the only thing they had to rely on was the Omega watch they had on their wrist. It needed to be there if they had a problem.”

Although Speedmasters were used throughout the early manned Apollo program, and finally reached the Moon with Apollo 11, these and prior models are known as “pre-Moon” Speedmasters, because their manufacture predate the Moon landings and therefore they do not have the inscription engraved on later models: “The First Watch Worn on the Moon.” 

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It is now 50 years since mankind stepped onto the moon and changed history forever. On this golden anniversary, OMEGA is looking back on its own special role aboard Apollo 11 and the Moonwatch legacy that still inspires the brand today.
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1848

The beginning of the OMEGA brand dates back to 1848, when watchmaker Louis Brandt opened a small workshop in the Swiss village of La Chaux-de-Fonds. His high-quality, accurate watches soon gained a reputation in Europe, further developed by his sons, Louis-Paul and César, who took over the company after their father’s death.

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1885

In 1885, their first series-produced calibre, the “Labrador”, was launched, an achievement followed by the creation of the world’s first minute-repeating wristwatch, a miniaturized version of existing pocket watch movements and the only one of its kind ever made. However, it was two years later that the OMEGA brand was officially born, when the Brandt brothers released the 19-Ligne calibre. Produced by using revolutionary new methods that set higher standards in watchmaking, it was crowned “OMEGA”, signifying the utmost achievement.

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1900

In 1900, the OMEGA collection received the Grand Prize at the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris, the highest honor given to a brand at the time. It was so successful that by 1903, OMEGA had established itself as the largest manufacturer of finished watches in Switzerland.

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1905

In 1905, the brand served as official timekeeper at sixteen sporting events in Switzerland and elsewhere, thus establishing OMEGA’s long-lasting commitment to and improvement of sports timekeeping.

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1931

In 1931, OMEGA prototyped the first automatic movement to use two weights, a development which facilitated the winding of the movement in both directions, improving winding efficiency. The brand made history again in 1932 when it became the first watchmaker to time an entire Olympic Games in Los Angeles, from then on becoming the official timekeeper at almost all Olympic Games.

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1936

In 1936, a 47.7mm OMEGA calibre set a world precision record of 97.8 points out of 100, a record that remains unbeaten to this day. In 1947, the company created one of the world’s first tourbillon wristwatch movements, succeeding in miniaturizing an extremely complex mechanism.

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1948

In 1948, at the Olympic Games in London, a new era of electrical sports timekeeping began with two other significant innovations: OMEGA’s “Magic Eye” photoelectric cells and the slit photofinish camera, while the brand celebrated its centenary the same year with the launch of the Seamaster, a watch inspired by OMEGA’s military excellence and built to withstand any challenge at any altitude. Another iconic watch, which became known as “the Swiss watch”, was the Constellation, launched in 1952 and named after the eight stars emblazoned on its crest.

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1960

In 1960, the OMEGA Speedmaster was qualified by NASA for all its manned space flights, and six lunar landings and many space missions followed. The watchmaker has indeed withstood the test of time and carried its passion and commitment into the present.

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2017

In 2017, the International Olympic Committee entrusted OMEGA with the role of Official Timekeeper until 2032, marking 100 memorable years of recording Olympic triumph. Forever reaching new heights, OMEGA joined the Solar Impulse project to create an airplane that can circumnavigate the globe using only solar energy, a mission completed in 2016.

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Three Omega Watches