London was hit by an invasion of sorts recently, as the “men from the moon” made their presence known on the streets. Astronauts had heads turning as they went about their daily business, reading newspapers in the street and making phone calls in the famous red telephone booths.
The reason? The 60th anniversary of the Omega Speedmaster, the first watch to be worn on the moon by Buzz Aldrin in 1969.
Omega has had a long relationship with space exploration, starting way back in 1965 when the watch was first officially tested and qualified by Nasa for all manned space missions.
James Ragan, who worked for Nasa and was the engineer in charge of the process, spoke about the relationship between the Speedmaster and Nasa during a presentation with Petros Protopapas, director of the Omega museum.
“Of all the watches we tested in 1965, the Speedmaster was the only one that passed all the tests. The others got eliminated in the very first test.
“So it has a very good reputation with Nasa and even today it is still used in space. That says a lot about the watch.”
The Speedmaster has quite a history – it was the first watch in the world with tachymeter scale on the bezel. It’s also one of the most recognised chronographs in the world.
The design has since stood the test of time, being worn by not only astronauts, but also explorers, athletes, Air Force pilots and actors.
Talking space and time
Aldrin, the first astronaut to wear the Speedmaster on the moon, gave a talk about his experience in space during the presentation. The media was given a glimpse of the historic event through some iconic photos.
At the Q&A after the talk, Aldrin was asked whether there was anything else he wanted to see in space exploration during his lifetime.
“Explore better ways to have space rendezvous,” he said. “I grew up hoping that I’d get to play football. I ended up pole vaulting. Then flying combat during the Korean War. Then got into the space programme and became a doctor of science.
“After I left Nasa, I turned [my attention]to cycling orbits [around] Earth and the moon, then to Mars. The plan I’m developing now is a complete plan. And I hope it is something that gets developed into actuality when I’m not here anymore.
“My mother was born the year the Wright brothers first flew, my father was an aviation pilot in World War II. I was in the Korean War and got to go to the moon.
“Now I’m planning for humans to go to Mars. What better time to be here on the surface of the Earth than during the fortunate life I’ve had.”
Starry, starry night
Apart from having astronauts moonwalking around the city, Omega also celebrated their continuing legacy in space exploration by holding a gala night with the theme – what else, but – Lost In Space.
Aldrin, along with Hollywood actor George Clooney, were the guests of honour at the amazing event at Tate Modern.
Astronauts lined the entrance of the venue and it was an out-of-the-world experience as guests were treated to a sensory experience with lights making a visual spectacle.
The venue had a sleek, futuristic look with a centrepiece of 60 Omega Speedmaster models from 1957 to 2017.
The drinks and food matched the theme and during dinner, guests were given a lighted box with their name engraved on it.
Inside was a complete tableware setting (with instructions!) that had vacuum sealed utensils.
Physicist Prof. Brian Cox hosted the night and Raynald Aeschlimann, president and CEO of Omega, spoke on the significance of the Speedmaster.
“The Speedmaster is one of the most, if not the most, iconic chronographs in the world. Not only for Omega, but for the many men and women who have worn and trusted it.
“Even after 60 years, its power and charisma has not diminished. We’re so proud to have an event of this scale and to share it with the Speedmaster’s biggest fans.”
And, what better way for Aldrin to make an appearance than to appear in a spacesuit?
On his memories of his time in space, Aldrin said: “We weren’t scared. More so, we were proud to have been able to represent everyone and to have the skills and the knowledge to carry out something that was very meaningful to us as astronauts, but also to so many other people.”
Clooney, who was on stage with Aldrin, is a Speedmaster fan and also of space exploration. The Apollo missions and the Speedmaster are among his most treasured memories.
“Speedmasters were a big part of my growing up. My uncle and my father all had them because it was such a big part of the moon landing. And it was huge in our lives.
“My father gave me, as my graduation present, a Speedmaster. There’s every reason to love them because they’re elegant watches. But I also love them because of the history.”
Clooney also shared his memories of the moon landings and gave a personal tribute to Buzz: “It mattered to all of us. What you did mattered to all of us and I can’t thank you enough for your courage, leadership and everything you’ve done.”
Quite a number of celebrities attended the event, ranging from Hollywood actors, international celebrities, singers and athletes.
Liv Tyler, Gemma Arterton, Clemence Poesy, David Gandy, Pixie Lott and Ellie Goulding were seen along with Liu Shishi, Shohei Miura, Praya Lundberg and Nicholas Saputra.
The event ended with a performance by ESKA, who sang David Bowie’s classic song, Space Oddity.
It was the perfect ending to an event that celebrated both space and time.