8.12.2023 | 5 MIN
Forget about MoonSwatches. If it's Omega design you're after, there are lesser-known alternatives to the famous moonwatch... And some of them have actually been to the moon. Today, we're taking a look at 5 alternatives that are available to mere mortals.
It is said to be the best watch in the universe and the Holy Grail of every watch enthusiast. There's a lot of talk about them in general. The important thing is that they have rightfully earned their fame. In fact, they have been worn by astronauts on every lunar landing in history - as official gear by crews from Apollo 11 (1969) to Apollo 17 (1972).
The sixth and final Apollo 17 lunar mission is interesting to us because it involved astronaut Eugen Cernan, who was originally from Czechoslovakia. He was the last man to walk on the moon. And of course, with an Omega Speedmaster on the sleeve of his spacesuit. An interesting article about Apollo 17, Eugen and his Speedmasters appeared in the last issue of Watches & Jewelry (Spring 2023, Volume XVI). For a more detailed story, see The Last Man on the Moon (Academia, 2003).
The most famous alternative, which is still practically unavailable for the Czech market are of course the famous MoonSwatches. They caused a crowd frenzy without exaggeration, people stood in queues for hours and some were even able to stab themselves for them. And that's not even the limited edition ones... There's a simple explanation - the design of the Omega's for an affordable price. Well, I guess there is no need to add anything.
The other star then, is the well-known Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, which was shortlisted for the Apollo mission watches in the 1960s (along with the Omega, Longiness, Bulova and Hamilton watches... or so it is said, sources often diverge). The Rolexes however, can certainly not be considered an affordable alternative.
The selection criteria were strict and the design requirements very specific. And design is what we're all about today - a simple but all the more striking style of chronographs with a tachymetric scale and a black and white colour palette.
The Omega Speedmaster was chosen by NASA as its official watch in 1965 and has been used on many missions since then. But few people know that the Speedmasters helped save the crew of the Apollo 13 mission in April 1970 when the ship's onboard systems failed. The astronauts used the watch to help correct course and return to Earth. And for that, the Omegas also earned the Silver Snoopy honor - the highest award for significant contributions to the success of a space mission.
I can't begin other than with a watch with a similarly interesting story. Bulova Lunar Pilot, an American brand with Czech roots is a legend that has walked on the moon too... albeit unofficially.
In 1971, the Apollo 15 crew led by Dave Scott went to the Moon. The official equipment included an Omega Speedmaster, of course, but Scott also packed his backup Bulova watch. And he used it as a backup watch too as his faceted Omega had a glass crack and so the Bulova Lunar Pilot also made its way to the moon.
Dave Scott and his Bulova, which became the only known privately owned watch on the moon.
That Invicta is a controversial brand is a well-known fact. And I don't think that's to Invicta's detriment - is there any watch fan who hasn't heard of Invicta? Because of its size, among other things, Invicta has the resources to embark on unique projects... Invicta may not have made it to the moon or into space yet but they were damn close.
In December 2012 Invicta launched the fantastic Invicta: Edge of Space project, in which experts launched 36 watches into the upper stratosphere to test their quality and durability. It should be noted that the project was judged a success.
It's not known if Speedway watches were specifically involved in the near-space project, but the design... is spacey.
It's like a Rolex, isn't it?
Hamilton, originally an American brand was also reportedly involved in the battle for the moonwatch. But exactly which watch was involved, I have not been able to find out. However a similar style and more importantly a strong story accompanies the Hamilton Intra-Matic watch.
It is surprising how many "races and battles" accompany the watchmaking world. Especially in the late '60s and early '70s. In 1969 there was a pitched battle for the world's first automatic chronograph and Hamilton was one of the first teams (the Heuer-Hamilton group) to introduce an automatic chronograph.
And so the Caliber 11 Chrono-matic was born from which today's piece is based. It remains in great demand to this day, not only for its story but above all for its beautiful classic retro-style design, which is a visual delight.
Speedmaster, Speedway, Speedtimer... watch brands were not only competing to see which watch would fly to the moon or who would come up with the first automatic chronograph, but apparently also in naming. Anyway, Seiko won one of these firsts - the first watch with an automatic chronograph was launched by these ambitious Japanese.
Seiko is rightly proud of its historical milestones and often commemorates them with various reissues, such as the Seiko Speedtimer Solar. The watch reminiscent of the first automatic chronographs has caught fans' attention with its smaller 39mm size, sandblasted dial, solar-powered movement and panda (or reverse panda) design that recalls the style of the 1960s.
Seiko by the way, was the first to get automatic chronographs into space. It was in 1973 and it was the Seiko 6139-6002 "Pogue" Chronograph. Who knows if we might see a reissue of these in time.
It's no coincidence that the designs for virtually all of these watches were created between the 1960s and 1970s. The style of this era has an unmistakable atmosphere and so watch brands like to revive it. And the Citizen Bullhead is no exception.
You might know it from Brad Pitt's wrist in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and interestingly, it was a bit of an anachronistic decision - the watch came out in 1972 but the film was set in 1969, so it couldn't exist yet. Bullheads were made by a number of brands in the 1970s and got their nickname from the two pushers unusually placed above the twelve.
Finally, outside the official selection, I include an affordable curiosity - the Timex Q in the Omega style. The watch is unfortunately no longer available.
What watches do you think are definitely part of the selection? Let us know in the comments. :)