Initially introduced in 1957 as a chronograph marketed towards the sports and automobile racing crowd, the Speedmaster was a highly functional wrist chronograph that allowed its users to simultaneously measure elapsed time and an accompanying speed – the latter of which could be read against the tachymeter scale engraved on its bezel. At the time, chronographs made up a very small percentage of total wristwatch sales, and so a timepiece like the Speedmaster was a strictly functional, purpose-built tool with a rather narrow intended market.
In 1962, the Omega Speedmaster began to catch the attention of NASA, when astronaut Wally Schirra wore his personal Speedmaster reference 2998 into space aboard the Mercury Atlas 8 mission. The watch worn by Schirra was his own, privately purchased Speedmaster, and at that point in time, the Omega Speedmaster had nothing to do with NASA at all. However, once NASA realized that personally purchased items were being used on official missions, they recognized the potential hazards and began to seek out a watch that could be officially qualified for manned space flight.
By 1964, NASA had begun conducting official testing in order to find a suitable timepiece for their astronauts. Watches were procured from several different high-end timepiece manufacturers, and after an extensive testing process, Omega’s Speedmaster was selected as the winner. In addition to approving it for space flight, NASA also qualified the Speedmasterfor use outside of a spacecraft while beyond the Earth’s atmosphere – a distinction that, to this day, is not shared by any other watch.
Due to the Speedmaster’s long, fascinating history and its iconic and timeless design, Omega’s classic line of sports chronographs has garnered one of the strongest followings and most avid collector bases among any watch – by any manufacturer. From social media movements such as #SpeedyTuesday, the sheer love and interest level in this particular Omega timepiece has inspired countless instances of people coming together to celebrate and discuss this legendary watch.
Over the course of its remarkably long history, the Speedmaster has been fitted with both automatic and manual-wind movements. Additionally, Omega has manufactured the Speedmaster in a wide variety of different sizes and metal options, with varying complications, dial colors, case shapes, bezels, crystal materials, and almost every other possible design element imaginable. However, despite all of the different renditions and variations, the core DNA of the Speedmaster remained, which has only further reinforced the legendary status of Omega’s iconic sports chronograph.
Throughout its six-decade long production run, Omega has released countless variations of the Speedmaster, with certain vintage references attaining mind-boggling levels of value and collectability. Although it is not the most rare, complex, or expensive wristwatch ever produced, the Omega Speedmaster has truly become an industry favorite. With an iconic design, a myriad of different variations, and one of the most interesting and illustrious histories that one is ever likely to encounter, the Omega Speedmaster is a bona fide classic that has a place within any watch collection.
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