Omega’s main focus at this year’s Baselworld was on its Seamaster and Seamaster Diver collections, both of which marked major anniversaries. Not to be overlooked, however, is the latest addition to the brand’s popular Dark Side of the Moon series commemorating NASA’s historic Apollo 8 mission. The new Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8 is the first in the collection to feature a specially decorated, skeletonized movement.
The Apollo 8 mission, which took place in 1968 and thus reaches its semi-centennial in 2018 (yes, yet another anniversary invoked among this year’s luxury watch crop), was the second manned spaceflight launched by the United States and the first to leave Earth’s orbit, reach and orbit the Moon, and return safely to Earth. The mission paved the way for the more famous Apollo 11 mission in 1969, which first landed men on the Moon and during which the Omega Speedmaster famously became the first watch worn on the lunar surface, earning the model its enduring “Moonwatch” nickname. The new timepiece is notable for its exquisitely skeletonized movement, upon which laser ablation has been employed to decorate both sides of the blackened mainplate and bridges with realistic depictions of the moon’s surface. From the dial side, the effect is executed in a lighter shade and echoes the view of the moon that we see from Earth, while the rear side, visible through a clear sapphire caseback window, is darker, aping the eponymous “dark side” that only astronauts have ever viewed in person.
The watch’s case measures 44.26 mm in diameter and 13.8 mm thick and is made entirely of jet-black zirconium oxide ceramic, placing this Speedy firmly within the Dark Side of the Moon family, while the tachymeter bezel, tricompax dial, and leather strap all feature contrasting highlight elements in yellow. The choice of yellow, a color often associated with speed, for these elements goes back to another Omega watch from 1968, the Speedmaster Racing model. (As its name implies, the Speedmaster chronograph was a watch built for timing auto races before it became inextricably linked with space exploration.) The yellow features include the dial’s central chronograph hand, which has a varnished finish, the small chronograph hands on the subdials at 3 and 6 o’clock, the word “TACHYMETRE” on the black ceramic bezel, and the tips of the rectangular hour indices. (White varnish is used for the small seconds hand on the 9 o’clock subdial, and white Super-LumiNova coats the hands and indices.) On the back of the case, you’ll find engraved text indicating the date of the Apollo 8 mission and the famous quotation, “See you on the other side,” spoken by Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell just before the Apollo 8 crew drifted out of range of radio contact on its history-making journey to the dark side of the Moon.
The black-and-yellow motif continues onto the pebbled black leather strap, which features a yellow-rubber middle section glimpsed through a series of micro-perforations made by a special milling tool, and enlivened by yellow contrast stitching on the top side. The movement is based on the same historical chronograph-equipped movement that powered the first Speedmaster on the moon in 1969, Omega’s manual-wound Caliber 1861 (itself based on the Lemania 1873). This specially decorated, openworked version of that legendary movement has been dubbed Caliber 1869, in honor of 1969, the year of the moon landing, after which the Speedmaster would forever become the Moonwatch — though one wonders why Omega didn’t just change the “8” in the reference number as well, just to make the tribute more obvious. The movement holds a 48-hour power reserve when fully wound.
The Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8 carries the two-year warranty that is now common to Omega watches and comes in a special presentation box. Available in July 2018, it will be priced at $9,750.