Omega Spacemaster Watches
Furthering the special connection between the Omega brand and NASA, Omega Spacemaster watches are an exciting addition to anybody’s collection. Its unveiling was conducted using a concert with a live satellite link to the Russian space station MIR, ensuring the watch’s launch happened with much fanfare. The combination of features also makes it perfectly suited for the cockpit, as well as everyday use, while the connection with space adds an extra element of cool.
The History of Omega Spacemaster Watches
The Omega Spacemaster (or the Speedmaster Professional X-33 as is its official title) was launched on March 28th 1998 at NASA’s Johnson Space centre. It was conceived and guided through development by former astronaut General Tom Stafford, who also sat on Omega’s board. This new timepiece was designed to update and support the original Omega Speedmaster Professional, which had been used by the space agency since the Gemini Project.
Its development came about after General Stafford recognised the demands that NASA astronauts would face when the International Space Station was launched and the astronauts would be based there. The parameters of outer-orbit operations were going to be entirely different to what had been experienced previously, meaning an entirely new functionality would be needed. That being said, the Omega Spacemaster was not meant to entirely replace the original Speedmaster, since the older model would still be required for spacewalking roles.
In terms of features, it was essential that the watch could reference multiple time zones at the same time. The reason for this is because the Space Station would be travelling in its orbit at 17,100 miles per hour, meaning the crew would experience 16 sunrises and sunsets within a 24-hour period – making it incredibly difficult to get a clear grasp of the concept of day and night. A pair of chronograph functions was also integrated into the calibre, one of which being a standard chronometer capable of breaking down increments of as little as 1/100 of a second. The other functionality was a ‘mission timer’, which could measure periods of time in days, hours, minutes and seconds – something that could also prove useful in day-to-day life.
Omega eventually halted civilian production of the Spacemaster in the summer of 2006, although it did continue to supply other space agencies, as well as NASA, and would also remain in service during NASA space flight missions. In addition, it is still available to military aviators as part of the Military Pilot Programme.
The Mars Watch
The name X-33 was initially just used as a prototype development codename, before being adopted as the timepiece’s official title. It came from an ill-fated NASA space programme that hoped to demonstrate the viability of the Single Stage to Orbit Reusable Launch Vehicle (SSTO RLV). This new invention was supposed to be under autonomous control and be able to take off vertically like a rocket, but land horizontally like a plane. Named VentureStar, the vehicle was intended to replace the ageing Space Shuttle fleet, while also making space launches cheaper and more available to civilian commercial clients.
Despite the fact that neither the X-33 or VentureStar were supposed to be capable of interplanetary flight, Omega decided to focus its marketing efforts on product placement in the film “Mission to Mars”. The brand doubled-down on this decision by basing the entire marketing theme on “the Mars Watch”, something that baffled space enthusiasts and unfortunately caused quite a bit of derision for the brand.
In March 2001, NASA announced that it would cease funding the X-33 programme despite already spending $912 million on the project.
Rise of Skywalker
Following the discontinuation of the Spacemaster, everything went quiet for a number of years. That is, until 2014 when Omega once again tapped into the space theme by releasing a new version of the timepiece – the X-33 Skywalker. This new iteration had similar levels of functionality but a brand new design. The casing was changed from Grade 5 to Grade 2 titanium and there was a greater contrast added to the digital displays and dial. Since then, the manufacturer launched two more variations of the timepiece, the X-33 Regatta that was geared towards sailing, and the the X-33 Solar Impulse that was made to commemorate the first circumnavigation of the world using just solar power.
These watches have had a long and respectable history of being flown by both astronauts and pilots, yet for collectors and watch enthusiasts they remain somewhat of a niche offering. This makes it true to its purpose and a real diamond in the rough.