The chronicle of two legends: Buzz Aldrin and the Omega Speedmaster Professional

On the anniversary of the first moon landing, many people think primarily of Neil Armstrong and his famous quote. But lunar lander pilot Buzz Aldrin, no one would have landed on the Earth's satellite. And he, in turn, relied on an Omega Speedmaster »Moonwatch« in space. We take time to look back at a few decisive seconds.
Text Marko Knab
Photo NASA

July 20, 1969, 20:17:58 UTC. A good 18 seconds have passed since »Contact Light,« the first contact with the lunar surface - and then the news everyone was waiting for: »The Eagle has landed.« Means concretely: Apollo 11 now stands with all four landing feet in the dust of the lunar crater »Mare Tranquillitatis«. Aboard the lander: Neil Armstrong - who will take his first steps on the moon only a little later - and Buzz Aldrin, pilot of the lunar module. The Omega Speedmaster Professional shines on their wrists. The foundation has been laid for its unprecedented rise to become a timeless classic in watch history.

The pilot of the lunar landing capsule:
Buzz Aldrin. The Omega Speedmaster Professional shines on his wrist.

Its caliber is already appropriately known by the numerical abbreviation 321, which is by no means a coincidence - just like its elegant but functional appearance with three totalizers, chronograph scale and good readability. However, what is most impressive is the extraordinary requirements that the watch met even back then, which is still the case today: It was the only watch to be »Flight-qualified by NASA for all manned space missions,« which is synonymous with resistance to weightlessness, strong magnetic fields, but also temperature changes from -18°C to +93°C. And a chronograph with universal aspirations must be able to withstand no less than that.

Back to the moon. There, where seconds now decide on the success or failure of the moon mission: Because the lunar module touches down on the Earth's satellite almost a minute late, the emergency launch window that was so important for Aldrin and Armstrong closes. Not that anything has gone wrong so far - but if the landing legs of the shuttle were to sink further into the lunar soil, the two men would have to abort the mission immediately and set off again toward Earth. Otherwise? The capsule with the third astronaut Collins would have already passed the landing site and their return home would be more than uncertain.

Just five seconds remain, ten at the most, to wait and see - and even more important: to make a decision that is vital for survival.

The second hand ticks. Unstoppable.

Then the capsule comes to a final halt - and the moon landing is a success. The clock continues to tick. A good five hours pass. With a jerk, the door of the shuttle opens and Neil Armstrong climbs down the ladder. On his wrist? No more Speedmaster Professional. Because unlike the chronograph, the mission's own watch in the landing module has since stopped working - Armstrong therefore leaves his watch behind as a replacement. Then finally, on July 21, 1969 at 02:56:20 UTC, Armstrong becomes the first man to take steps on the moon, followed twenty minutes later by Buzz Aldrin. He may be the second man on the moon - but the first clock wearer to step on earth’s satellite. Now, at the latest, another legend is born:

The Omega Speedmaster Professional became the »Moonwatch« at that very moment.

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