The Speedmaster is a wristwatch with chronograph function, which was put on the market in 1957 and was then equipped with the manual winding movement 27 CHRO of 1942. In 1965 the Speedmaster was selected by the NASA as the official watch for the astronauts. Since 1966 it bears the name Speedmaster Professional and has received the typical design with a contrasting black dial.
The Omega Speedmaster Professional was the only watch which passed the extensive tests at the NASA. These tests included magnetic fields, gravity loss, temperature changes from -18 to +93 degrees Celsius, as well as extreme shocks and vibrations. It had a stainless steel case and was waterproof up to 50 meters. Initially the Calibre 321 was built in, since 1968 the manual winding movement 861 (or 1861) with 21.600 A/h was used.
This watch is known to have been the first and only wristwatch on the moon, and is therefore often referred to as the 'Moon Watch'. On 16 July 1969 the Apollo 11 mission took off, and on 21 July 1969 Buzz Aldrin walked on the lunar surface with the Speedmaster his wrist. Thus, the watch of Aldrin was the first watch on the moon, as Neil Armstrong's watch was left behind in the lunar module. When Aldrin later sended the watch to the National Air and Space Museum, it was unfortunately lost and did not appear to this day. The two watches of Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins are now on display.
As another credit this manual winding chronograph can take, that in 1970 it provided valuable support to the crew of the damaged Apollo 13 capsule. After the on-board electronics had failed for good, in a crucial moment it helped to enable the manual ignition of the returning engines.
Although most enthusiasts equate the Professional name with the Moonwatch and its hand-winding Cal. 321 movement, the company has been more flexible in their naming. Just before the moon landing, Cal. 861 was introduced and this soon became the standard movement for the Speedmaster Professional series. These later Professional “moon watches” feature an asymmetrical case that somewhat protects the chronograph pushers.
But the Moonwatch case is not the hallmark of “Professional” either. The automatic Mark II was labeled “Professional” throughout its run, as was the later Mark IV. And the Mark III was given the “Professional” label in 1973 as well. These watches featured a wide variety of cases and dials along with their automatic movements and all were officially called “Professional”.
Indeed, Omega has been notably inconsistent in its use of the “Professional” name over the years, both on the Speedmaster and Seamaster. Therefore, the only real mark of a “Professional” Omega watch is the label on the dial.
In 1969, Omega introduced the Omega Speedmaster Professional Mark II, indicating that this was a successor to the original Speedmaster Professional. This model used a decidedly different tonneau case. A Mark III line appeared in 1971 with three different cases reminiscent of the Flightmaster and Seamaster and the new 2-register Cal. 1040 central-rotor automatic movement. The Mark III was not originally marked “Professional”, but it gained this name after 1973. The Speedmaster Professional Mark IV appeared in 1973 with a new case style and Cal. 1040. This case was shared with a 3-register non-Professional automatic Speedmaster using the new Cal. 1045. In 1984, Omega introduced another non-Professional Speedmaster Mark V with another new case and the 3-register Cal. 1045.
1973, at the 125th anniversary of Omega, followed a limited special edition, the „Speedmaster 125“ as chronometer with modified design, an additional date display and the automatic Calibre 1041. Later also the regular Speedmaster models were equipped with self-winding movements.
1989 a contract between Omega and the Russian space agency was ratified that ensured that the Omega Speedmaster Professional was also used as the official watch at the cosmonauts. Between 1993 and 1994 the Russian space agency conducted tests with various watches on board of the MIR and ultimately decided in favour of the Speedmaster.
Today the Omega Speedmaster Professional belongs to the standard equipment of the astronauts.
2007 with the Omega Speedmaster 50th Anniversary Omega launched a limited anniversary series of the 'Moon Watch' in stainless steel and three gold versions, which offered a number of useful improvements movement with co-axial escapement (and higher power reserve), certified chronometer (COSC), sapphire crystal, caseback with sapphire crystal, higher water resistance and improved steel bracelet.
The series "Speedmaster" has been steadily expanded in recent years and today is one of the four main pillars of the Omega model range. It covers a broad spectrum of different versions and variations of the series, from the Speedmaster Broad Arrow to the Editions in honor of Michael Schumacher, the 5-Counter Chronograph and the GMT "Solar Impulse".