The most famous space watch is without a doubt the Omega Speedmaster. In fact, it is so famous that it is one of the very few iconic watches that enjoys instant recognition far beyond watch lovers.
What is not so well known are the extreme tests that NASA put the original 321 Speedmaster through. At the start of its Gemini program in 1961, NASA realized that its astronauts needed a clock that could handle the extreme temperatures and g-forces experienced during space flight. So in October 1964, wristwatch manufacturers were contacted and asked to submit watches they thought would work for space missions. Only four brands were brave enough to listen to the call: Hamilton, Rolex, Longines and Omega.
NASA immediately rejected Hamilton’s contribution. Somewhat confusingly, the company had submitted a wristwatch instead of a pocket watch. The space agency then put the Rolex, Longines and Omega records through 11 tests designed to simulate conditions in space and on the moon itself.
These durability tests included using 48 hours at 70 ° C, then 30 minutes at 93 ° C, then four hours at -18 ° C; fifteen 45-minute cycles alternating between 71 ° C and -18 ° C; acceleration from standstill to 7.25 gs within five minutes, then 16 gs for 30 seconds along three axes; vibration from 5 to 2,000 Hz along three axes with an acceleration of at least 8.8 g; and decompression for 90 minutes in a near vacuum at 10-6 atmospheres.
Rolex and Longines both failed in the high-temperature trials, but the Omega continued to work through all 11 tests, and it was duly awarded NASA certification. It is therefore fitting that it is on our list below of the selected group of five clocks associated with space adventures.
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