Wednesday, 13 February 2008

A short review of a truly great watch...the Omega Speedmaster Professional

What makes it great?

- Survived some major watch-sadist's dream tests in a showdown wif some other chronos of the time
- Was cool looking 40yrs back and is still cool looking today
- The whole non-marketing department driven NASA association origins(back then) and the space flight / walk / moon thingy
- A great classic column wheel chrono movement in the lemania 27 CHRO C12

The Survivor
Nasa tested this and other watches it had bought off the shelf to find a chrono that could withstand the harsh conditions of space. What exactly were these tests? The following bears repeating…

1962 Test Program
In 1962, NASA began the search for a wristwatch that could be worn by the Gemini and Apollo astronauts. a watch should be able to operate in the vacuum of space where there exists wide variances in temperature and pressure. To be "flight-qualified by NASA for all manned space missions", a wrist chronograph must pass all of the following tests numerous times without failure of any kind:

1. High Temperature - 48 hours at a temperature of 160° F (71° C) followed by 30 minutes at 200° F (93° C). For the high temperature tests, atmospheric pressure shall be 5.5 psi (0.35 atm) and the relative humidity shall not exceed 15%.

2. Low Temperature - Four hours at a temperature of 0° F (-18° C).

3. Temperature Pressure Chamber - pressure maximum of 1.47 x 10exp-5 psi (10exp-6 atm) with temperature raised to 160° F (71° C). The temperature shall then be lowered to 0° F (-18° C) in 45 minutes and raised again to 160° F in 45 minutes. Fifteen more such cycles shall be completed.

4. Relative Humidity - A total time of 240 hours at temperatures varying between 68° F and 160° F (20° C and 71° C, respectively) in a relative humidity of at least 95%. The steam used shall have a pH value between 6.5 and 7.5.

5. Pure Oxygen Atmosphere - The test item shall be placed in an atmosphere of 100% oxygen at a pressure of 5.5 psi (0.35atm) for 48 hours. Performance outside of specification tolerance, visible burning, creation of toxic gases, obnoxious odors, or deterioration of seals or lubricants shall constitute a failure. The ambient temperature shall be maintained at 160° F (71° C).

6. Shock - Six shocks of 40g's each, in six different directions, with each shock lasting 11 milliseconds.

7. Acceleration - The test item shall be accelerated linearly from 1g to 7.25g within 333 seconds, along an axis parallel to the longitudinal spacecraft axis.

8. Decompression - 90 minutes in a vacuum of 1.47 x 10E-5 psi (10 E-6 atm) at a temperature of 160° F (71° C), and 30 minutes at a 200° F (93° C).

9. High Pressure - The test item shall be subjected to a pressure of 23.5 psi (1.6 atm) for a minimum period of one hour.

10. Vibration - Three cycles of 30 minutes (lateral, horizontal, vertical, the frequency varying from 5 to 2000 cps and back to 5 cps in 15 minutes. Average acceleration per impulse must be at least 8.8g.

11. Acoustic Noise - 130dB over a frequency range from 40 to 10000 HZ, duration 30 minutes.

NASA performs the tests several times on the various wrist chronographs it obtained. The Speedy survived these gruelling tests better than other watches they had purchased and was the chosen one.

“really really ridiculously good looking” – Zoolander ... ok it’s a good looking watch and a design that’s coming on 40years and going strong…

NASA flight qualified and the first watch worn on the moon

It was no marketing association driven by $$$ which a lot of present day stuff is about ie the numerous and some gag-inducing tieups wif sports teams and personalities, movie n fashion stars ad nauseum

“A requirement exists for a highly durable and accurate chronograph to be used by Gemini and Apollo flight crews as an essential adjunct, or as a backup for spacecraft timing devices and for accomplishing time critical operations and experimental tests. In order to select a chronograph which best meets our overall requirements, it is necessary to accomplish a comparative evaluation of the better quality "off the shelf" chronographs under realistic operational conditions.” Extract from Deke Slayton

The Omega Speedmaster was first flight tested in space by Walter Schirra aboard Sigma 7, October 1962. The Speedmaster becomes the first watch to be worn into the vacuum and temperature extremes of space strapped to Ed White on Gemini IV in 1965. To commemorate its success at NASA, Omega added the word "Professional" to the title of the Speedmaster in October 1966. It was strapped to the outside of the space suit of Buzz Aldrin when he and Neil Armstrong made man's first lunar landing during the historic Apollo 11 mission in July 1969. During Apollo 13 in April 1970, Commander James Lovell had to use his Speedmaster Professional for both the timing and interval of thrust for critical engine burns as they rounded the moon and set a course for home saving their lives. Nuff said.

Of some fine caliber… Lemania 27 CHRO C12 aka Lemania 2310 …
the pics do the talking for this one… it still keeps great time

Why i recommend it?

For something below US$3k you get a truly great watch. Its good to have something that’s not so marketing / hype driven like a lot of whats out there… its something of real value which is saying alot these days.

(Disclaimer time: Of course there is a lot of great stuff out there right now don’t get me wrong and I will probably end up getting another new piece if something nice comes out from this years basel/sihh releases J ).


would like to give a shout out to shawn from heirloom gallery for his great service and being an overall fine chap to deal with. if u're into vintage watches do check him out. I got the speedy from him (at the time of this writing he has several pre-moon speedys at his place too yuh) and he helped hook me up wif his watch maker who help put all the pieces i bought together (google heirloom gallery to pop by his site) - note this is just my opinion based on my experience dealing with him. cheers


Anonymous said...

I really like the croc strap on your Speedy.

I must say it looks a hell lot better.

Is it from Omega too?

raphael too said...

Hey there, the croc is not omega and came free from the guy i bought the watch from. (see end of the post) i chose it from a range that he had on hand, i don't think they are from a major brand per se but the quality seems pretty ok, and i think it really suits the speedy... the color of the stitching almost matches the color of my tritium indices which is WWWWAAAAAAYYYYY cool :)

Anonymous said...

*Clap, Clap*

Very nice review..

Personally, I find it a hassle having to wind the Speedy every time I decide to put it on..

Do you?..

raphael too said...

thanks mate... I am cool wif winding each time i put it on. its not too much time and effort spent imo and the joy of having it on makes up for it in spades :) cheers

Anonymous said...

Currently, I am thinking of the IWC Ref. 371701..

Any thoughts about that watch?..

Before I make a mistake and regret.. Heh..

raphael too said...

watch purchases are very personal decisions... see my advise on watch buying... what calls to me may not to u and vice versa which is why theres a world of choices out there. whats important is u make the right one for yourself :)

for me, i think the iwc is a nice looking watch but i wouldn't buy it as i don't feel the need for it in my collection. cheers

Anonymous said...

Great watch indeed! Looks great on that croc strap...

Excellent post. :)


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