While the Omega Speedmaster was created as a racing watch, with its chronograph function and tachymeter scale, today this has long been forgotten and instead has become more famous for its exploits in space. Known as the ‘Moonwatch’, the Omega Speedmaster Professional made history by being flight-qualified by NASA for all manned space flights and becoming the first watch worn on the moon when it was on the wrists of astronauts during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.
As a result, the Speedmaster has become a cult icon, and it's hard not to see why. Collectors can buy into such a great story and with a generation that grew up idolizing space travel and astronauts, this watch would certainly have to be one of the most important wristwatches ever made. While the Speedmaster we know is iconic in its looks, the ‘Speedmaster’ name has had many iterations, including the example here today.
First introduced in 1998, the first generation X-33 was designed to supplement the existing and more familiar Speedmaster Professional as the rise of digital technology and quartz movements could provide greater functionality needed for future missions. The process was spearheaded by General Tom Stafford, who was a former NASA Apollo X astronaut and at the time sat on the board of Omega. He provided great insight as to the type of capabilities the watch would require, and this was further supplemented by the feedback that came from professionals ranging from the Navy Seals to the US Air Force. As a result, the Speedmaster Professional X-33 was born.
In 2012, a 2nd iteration was introduced with an even more bizarre design, despite maintaining the same level of functionality as the original X-33. It was dubbed the Speedmaster Spacemaster Z-33. It was a flop and as a result, the true heir to the original X-33 was released only two years later- the Skywalker X-33. The watch looks and feels much more reminiscent of the original X-33 but catered to a more modern taste and with even greater technical enhancements.
The watch is large at 45mm in diameter, but the all-titanium case means the watch wears light. The grade-2 titanium case is a slightly darker grey, which was done deliberately in order to minimize the amount of light reflected.
Looking at the dial, you’ll notice that the dial has two levels, with the outer ring indicating the standard hour and minute function, whilst the center containing the LCD, which is backlit to enable greater legibility when in darker settings. In terms of its capabilities, the watch has three different time zones, three alarms, a chronograph and countdown function, and a perpetual calendar. Additionally, the Skywalker integrates a mission elapsed time (MET) and a phase elapsed time (PET), which allows for astronauts to record the time the instant the spacecraft launches. With the PET function, it removes the need for manual calculations to set a timer or an alarm, making it a lot less stressful during high-pressure situations.
As for the heart of the watch, it is powered by the Cal. 5619, which was developed under an ESA patent license and has a thermo-compensated circuit to negate the undesirable variation that results from changes in the surrounding temperature. The cal. 5619 is hugely important, especially in the context of space because it removes the need for the user to calculate the time elapsed since, or the time remaining until a given event. Making the PET a vital function to have since all space missions are timed in the context of MET or UTC.
Unlike the first-generation X-33, which was NASA flight approved, this watch is yet to be approved but it has been certified for use in manned space flights by the European Space Agency (ESA) and is currently being used on the ISS. More recently, however, the previous iteration of the X-33 was spotted on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This was the first time in history that NASA astronauts used a commercially built spacecraft, by Elon Musk no less, to reach the ISS.