The Moon. Wolves howl at it, tides move with it, and legends are made on it. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left their footprints on the lunar surface on July 21, 1969 wearing an Omega Speedmaster Professional, hundreds of millions of Earthlings watched as they did. From that day, the names of Armstrong, Aldrin and the Omega Speedmaster, along with that of Michael Collins who remained in orbit to take them back to Earth, became as famous as the Apollo 11 that brought them there.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the Grand Palais in Paris has curated “La Lune. Du voyage réel aux voyages imaginaires” (The Moon. From Real to Imaginary Journeys), a five-part exhibition that relates our eternal fascination with the Moon through a series of artworks, photographs, books, comic books, paintings and artefacts from Antiquity until today. The objects on exhibit, from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Far East and South America, are as far removed in space as they are in time, ranging from a 7th–4th century BC statuette of Khonsu, the ancient Egyptian god of the Moon, to the footprint, moulded in cement, of that first “small step for a man”. Monitors display the 1902 Georges Méliès film “A Trip to the Moon” with its unforgettable face of the man in the moon, alongside Fritz Lang’s “Woman on the Moon” made in 1929. Photographs taken by the Apollo 11 astronauts on the Moon’s surface face a pink fiberglass “First Spaceship on Venus”. Paintings, that include works from Dali, Miro, Chagall, Delvaux and Tishkov, as well as Manet, Millet, Vernet and Turner, are exceptional, each depicting the artist’s interpretation of the Earth’s natural satellite.
A great story for Omega
To make the 50th anniversary of the moon landing complete, the exhibition also presents the Omega Speedmaster worn by Ronald “Ron” Evans Jr during his 1972 “deep space walk” from Apollo 17 (to recover film from external cameras) along with the Velcro strap that allowed for quick repositioning of the watch to the outside of the astronauts’ spacesuits, and a training glove worn by the astronauts of the Apollo program.
Omega is naturally co-sponsor of the exhibition, and for President and CEO Raynald Aeschlimann, “it’s very important for Omega to remind the world of its moon heritage. It’s one of the great stories of our brand and perfectly demonstrates our qualities of reliability, precision and pioneering spirit. The brand will be focusing a lot on the Apollo 11 anniversary, and some special Limited Edition watches are on their way” (the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary in gold was previously presented in March). A full exhibition and a “huge event with some very special guests” is planned, to be announced soon.
Omega has been the only supplier of watches throughout NASA’s Human Space Flight Program.
The association of the Speedmaster and the Moon is phenomenal, and if other watch brands have accompanied astronauts into space, “the Omega Speedmaster is the only watch to ever be qualified by NASA,” states Mr. Aeschlimann. “That has been true since the first qualification in 1965 and remains true today. There are no other watch brands that have made the journey into space as an official piece of astronaut kit. The success is purely down to quality. The Omega Speedmaster was the only watch to survive NASA’s tests in 1964 and therefore the only watch they could trust in space. Omega has been the only supplier of watches throughout NASA’s Human Space Flight Program. Its use in space has extended through the Mercury Missions, Gemini Program, Apollo Program (all six moon landings), Skylab Program and the Apollo-Soyuz Program. It is also still in use for space flight today. That’s the simple reason why the Omega Speedmaster has such a great reputation in the world of watchmaking.”
Ready for the digital age
The first Speedmaster Chronograph dates from 1957, with countless versions in the market today, including limited editions that sometimes leave customers waiting. “It would be impossible to list the exact number,” replies Aeschlimann. “Unique models, movements and designs are introduced every year. We are proud of our Limited Editions because they not only celebrate the best of the Omega brand, they also allow our customers to own something different and personal to them. It feels special to be a part of something unique. Watch buying is so personal. A customer’s decision is often based on their own emotions, character and style. That’s why choice is important. Of course, that comes with waiting lists and disappointment for some people. But we know that if you miss out on one, there is always another that you will love. But the Limited Editions are definitely limited. Once they’re gone – they’re gone!”
If NASA makes a manned voyage to Mars, we will of course be ready to assist in any way required.
Raynald Aeschlimann has occupied different functions at Omega for more than two decades. What changes have marked him? “The major change has been the digital age. Even in my time as President, the growth of e-commerce, online marketing, social media and fan communities has been incredibly rapid. It’s something we’ve recognised and adapted to. For instance, Omega has recently introduced online sales in the USA and we’ll now do that in other countries too. We’ve embraced the possibilities of social media and our Speedy Tuesday watches are a great example of how we’re connecting directly with consumers. These sorts of things are important for a brand to remain relevant and accessible. I’m proud to know that Omega is leading the way. We’ve brought ourselves closer to the customers than ever before – and much closer than some of our competitors.”
What about Mars? With the first crewed mission scheduled for the 2030s, will Omega be part of the trip? “That decision is not in our hands. We’ve been to the Moon and into space because we were tested, proven and chosen by various space agencies. If NASA or any other space agency makes a manned voyage to Mars, we will of course be ready to assist in any way required. But let’s see what the future brings.”
Grand Palais, Paris
April 3 to July 22, 2019