That Omega would commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of that “giant leap for mankind” was never in any doubt. Fans anticipated a salvo of Speedmasters in honour of the one which, on July 21st, 1969, shared that historic moment with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. And so it comes as no great surprise that the Speedy is the star of Omega’s 2019 collections, with two Speedmaster Apollo 11 limited editions and a Speedmaster Moonphase. However, Omega has more up its sleeve than these three tributes to the Moonwatch. They are part of a vast offering that gives an impressive demonstration of the brand’s command of advanced materials.
Shades of gold
Omega already presented the result of its research into new alloys in 2013 when it introduced Sedna gold, a blend of gold, copper and (replacing silver) palladium. As well as being lighter on the wrist, this rosy-red gold is infinitely more resistant to fading. After naming its first exclusive alloy after a planetoid, Omega followed up this year with another celestially-named proprietary alloy: Moonshine, used to sculpt the 1,014 pieces in the new, limited-edition Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary. A more subtle, lighter shade than traditional 18k yellow gold, it is blended from gold, copper, silver and palladium in proportions defined by Swatch Group’s very own alchemists – or rather, metal experts. In addition to its beautiful moonlight colour, it delivers far higher resistance to fading than a conventional 18k gold alloy. Fittingly for a golden anniversary, Omega has used it for the case, dial and bracelet of this commemorative edition, inspired by the Speedmaster BA145.022 that was presented, on November 25th, 1969, to the astronauts who took part in the Moon landing. True to the burgundy bezel of the original, the new model sports a burgundy ceramic bezel with a tachymeter scale in Ceragold – an innovation in its own right. Developed in 2011, this technology enables the growth and bonding of gold to ceramic, a material known for its extreme hardness and total scratch-resistance.
The second Speedmaster Apollo 11 anniversary watch, this time a limited edition of 6,969 pieces , also comes draped in Moonshine. Not for the 42mm case, which is cut from steel, but for the bezel that is topped with a black ceramic ring set with a Ceragold tachymeter scale. There is more Moonshine gold on the dial, for the hour markers, the vintage Omega logo, and the hands. Collectors will get a “buzz” from the 11 (for the Apollo 11 mission) standing in for the 11 o’clock index, and from the laser-engraving, in Moonshine gold, of Buzz Aldrin descending the ladder of the lunar module onto the Moon’s surface.
We’ve lost track of the number of ceramic watches coming onto the market in recent years. Omega was one of the first brands to master its complex and highly technical machining process when in 1982 it launched the Seamaster Black Tulip in Cermet, a ceramic and titanium carbide alloy. Over the past thirty years, the brand has become a specialist in this ultra-resistant material. “At Omega, it’s in a class of its own,” says Gregory Kissling, Head of Product Management. “We have developed a range of techniques that enable us to machine watches entirely in ceramic, from the case and dial to the bezel, pushers and crown. We can bond Liquidmetal to ceramic. In 2014 we developed a technique for setting diamonds in ceramic, and we can also grow gold on our bezels.” All these innovations are rolled out on several of the brand’s latest releases. For example, the blue ceramic bezel on the Speedmaster Moonphase is inscribed with a Liquidmetal tachymeter scale. The Seamaster Diver 300M Chronograph has a blue ceramic dial, while the ceramic bezel on the Seamaster Diver 300M in ceramic and titanium features a magnificent tachymeter scale in Grand Feu enamel.
In the same family, the Seamaster Planet Ocean and Seamaster Planet Ocean Chronograph haven’t been overlooked. Both come with an orange ceramic bezel. “Omega has been able to produce orange ceramic since 2014,” notes Gregory Kissling. “Knowing how to make black, white, even blue ceramic is one thing. Making coloured ceramic is a real challenge. Whatever the colour, ceramic has opened many doors from a design perspective, such as the laser-engraved waves on the Diver ceramic dials. Ceramic is high in tension and this gives a much sharper, cleaner outline. Also, whereas a lacquered dial will never be perfect, with ceramic it’s possible to achieve a uniform colour.” It’s this attention to detail that makes all the difference, in a perfect alchemy of beauty and longevity.