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Omega celebrated its historic links with space exploration by marking 45th anniversary of the 1970 Apollo 13 mission with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) in Houston, US.
The Swiss watchmaker brought together nearly 200 guests from around the world to relive its history of space exploration with a special tour of the Nasa’s Space Centre and Mission Control in Houston on May 12.
This was followed by a lavish gala which was attended by its film star George Clooney, its brand ambassador, as well as a host of astronauts and celebrities.
Ever since man landed on the Moon in 1969, Omega’s Speedmaster wristwatch has become an enduring icon.
As the first watch ever worn on the Moon, it has accompanied astronauts on all six lunar landings, including the unforgettable Apollo 13 mission, immortalised in the 1995 movie Apollo 13.
While on its way to the Moon, Apollo 13 was sticken by an explosion and it was only the quick thinking, ingenuity and courage of astronauts James Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise that brought the spacecraft back safely to Earth.
After the in-flight explosion crippled their spacecraft, Swigert used his Speedmaster to keep time as Lovell and Haise executed a critical engine burn that put them back on the course for their safe return to Earth.
For this and its other contributions to the Apollo programme, Omega was awarded Nasa’s Silver Snoopy Award - one of the space agency's highest honours - in 1970.
The award, in the form of sterling silver lapel pin, features a space-suited Snoopy based on a drawing by creator Charles Schulz.
Snoopy, for those who never read comics, is Charlie Brown’s pet dog in the famous comic strip Peanuts.
At the Nasa centre, guests also had the opportunity to relive the famous line “Houston, we’ve had a problem”, sent by the Apollo 13 mission 45 years ago.
Following the tour, Omega President Stephen Urquhart, along with astronauts General Thomas Stafford and Captain Lovell, engaged in a captivating Q&A session led by Lily Koppel, author of the book “The Astronaut’s Wives Club”.
Captain Lovell recounted the frightening tale of his Apollo 13 experience: “It was necessary to manoeuvre without the use of our equipment, we had to burn the engine for 14 seconds in order to course correct so we used the watch to time the burn of the engine and return safely.”
Later that evening, a gala was held at a Western Airways Airport hangar in Sugar Land, which was transformed into a starry universe.
As the event began, guests were treated to cocktails aboard an impressive space vessel, which then audibly "departed" the Earth and transported them to a spectacular moon setting. Among the guests were astronauts Gene Cernan, General Stafford, Captain Lovell, prominent members of the Houston community including style icon Lynn Wyatt, philanthropist Becca Cason Thrash, NFL player Chester Pitts, actress Joanna Garcia Swisher as well as a whole host of industry legends.
On stage, the entertainment was equally as uplifting, as brand ambassador Clooney shared his appreciation for the astronauts.
“This was a time for us in our country when we needed these people to dream. You gentleman are an inspiration to all of us here and I have to tell you what an honour it is to be standing up here with you,” he said.
Clooney was just eight years old at the time of the first Moon landing when the Speedmaster became an icon and got to be known as “The Moonwatch”.
Since then, it has accompanied astronauts on all six lunar landings, cementing the bond between Omega and space flight.
Summing up the relationship with the Apollo 13 mission, Urquhart said: “For Omega it was an unbelievable story. It could have been a disaster but turned out fantastic and today it’s an incredible part of our heritage.”
SILVER SNOOPY AWARD
Omega has brought out a limited edition watch to commemorate the 1970 mission aptly called the Speedmaster Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award.
The watch was revealed with other new Speedmaster models – the Speedmaster '57 and the radiant White Side of the Moon - at the Baselworld watch and jewellery show in Switzerland earlier this year.
A closer look at the timepiece shows that Snoopy, the beloved dog from the Peanuts cartoon and a Nasa mascot, decorates the dial and the caseback – a small tribute to the Silver Snoopy Award that Omega was presented with in 1970.
The watch’s dial, inspired by the black and white comic strips printed in newspapers, is at once recognisable as the inverse of its legendary predecessor. The white dial contrasts the black varnished Moonwatch-style hands and the polished black ceramic bezel, which features a Super-LumiNova tachymeter scale.
Super-LumiNova is also found on the central hour, minute and chronograph seconds hands. The luminescent material was used to make the indexes and their glow is enhanced by the black varnish that fills the indexes’ top cavities.
Distinguishing this timepiece are the two inscriptions that decorate the dial. Fourteen small squares between zero and 14 seconds on the dial come together to form a long comic strip, with the words “What could you do in 14 seconds?” written underneath.
The question is a nod to the 14-second mid-course correction that the Apollo 13 astronauts timed with their Speedmaster.
At the centre of the dial is the quote: “Failure is not an option.” These inspiring words were spoken by actor Ed Harris who played Apollo 13 Flight Director Gene Kranz in the 1995 film about the historic mission. A small image of a sleeping Snoopy painted on the dial with Super-LumiNova is positioned in the small seconds sub-dial at 9 o’clock and it appears as if he is dreaming of the token phrase that is often used in association with the mission.
Among the most interesting and intriguing features of the timepiece is its caseback. Protected by a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal is a 925 silver medallion that resembles the pin that accompanied the award.
The silver Snoopy is mounted on a plate of the same material and is surrounded by dark blue enamel. Silver powder is sprinkled over the enamel of the caseback, giving the impression that Snoopy is floating in space.
“Silver Snoopy Award”, “Eyes On The Stars”, “45th Anniversary”, “0000/1970” And “Apollo Xiii” are engraved in the stainless steel caseback in black.
The 42-mm timepiece is presented on a black coated nylon fabric strap with white stitching and a foldover clasp.
At its heart is the Omega calibre 1861, the same manual-winding chronograph movement that powered the ‘Moonwatch’.
The Speedmaster Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award is offered with a full two-year warranty and is water resistant to 5 bar (50 m/167 feet). It will be produced in an edition limited to 1,970 pieces.
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