Testing is a vital weapon for a serious watch brand that allows it to trumpet the capabilities—and the value—of a high-end wristwatch. The Swiss go to great lengths to prove the accuracy and precision of the movements inside their watches, often submitting them to independent testing as well as running their own rigorous internal tests to replicate daily wear and tear. At the same time, many have resorted to far less scientific—but way more entertaining—tests like strapping a watch to a dummy in a plane’s ejector seat test rig (Bremont), throwing a watch out of a third story window (G-Shock), or driving over it with a tank (Victorinox). Passing the tests, even the silly ones, give a brand value.
Yet arguably Omega went literally the furthest—200,000 miles to be precise (and albeit by accident) to prove the functionality of the iconic Speedmaster Chronograph.
Just gone 50 years ago in April 1970, it literally saved the lives of the three-man crew of Apollo 13. During that famous “Houston we have a problem” moment, with onboard computers on the fritz owing to a system blowout, and most electricals shut down to conserve energy, James Lovell turned to his Omega Speedmaster (fortuitously issued as a back-up of a back-up of a back-up to all NASA crews since 1965). He used his to time a vital 14-second fuel burn to correctly reorient the NASA capsule for re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. The watch was critical. Too little fuel and the craft would bounce off the atmosphere, too much and it could burn up on re-entry.
After splashdown, a huge sigh of relief and some quality R&R, the team sent Omega a Silver Snoopy Award in the form of a silver pin badge designed by Charles Schultz himself (and issued since 1968 to astronauts and contractors) in gratitude for the performance of the watch that saved their lives. Snoopy had been adopted as an unofficial NASA mascot and mission “watchdog” for his ability to keep calm under pressure.
Alongside the production model Speedmaster, Omega produced two very collectible Silver Snoopy editions, most recently one in 2015 that has a striking black and white dial—effectively a negative of the 2003 original—with Snoopy asleep on the nine o’clock subdial. It clearly resonated with collectors. The same edition is listed currently with several independent online dealers well above $30,000, an illustration if ever there was one of the appreciation in price that can happen to the right limited edition. Even the first Snoopy from 2003 remains highly sought-after and regularly fetches in excess of $10,000. [
On the inside of most Speedmasters—including the Snoopies and the standard model, should a Snoopy be, like, stratospherically out of your budget—there still ticks a hand-wound movement in homage to the Speedy’s manual origins in 1957, a good 12 years before the first automatic chronographs appeared in 1969 (from Zenith and Heuer). It’s a small effort to keep it powered up, sure, but then when everything else in our lives is going arse-over-elbow, there’s something very reassuring about having one useful thing in your life that doesn’t require charging.
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