- Robin Swithinbank
Omega has launched a 50th anniversary Snoopy Speedmaster
Fifty years to the day since Nasa gave Omega a Silver Snoopy Award, the Swiss watch company has launched an Omega Snoopy Speedmaster that finds a playful way to tell the incredible story of Apollo 13
Fans of the Omega Speedmaster, the first watch worn on the moon, will know there are Speedmasters and then there are Snoopy Speedmasters. They’ll also know that today’s announcement of the Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary is a big moment.
Why? Let’s start with a bit of background.
The Speedmaster’s connections with Snoopy begin in the 1960s when Peanuts creator Charles M Schulz began drawing his loyal but temperamental beagle on the moon. This was a golden era for Charlie Brown and his friends and Snoopy became a light-hearted symbol of a nation’s obsession with space exploration. In 1968, a charmed Nasa adopted Snoopy as its safety mascot and introduced the Silver Snoopy Award, still awarded today to agency workers and contractors for achievements in the field of human flight safety and mission success.
Omega’s part in the piece began in 1965 when it was “flight qualified for all manned space missions” by Nasa, having endured a barrage of tests failed by Rolex and Longines. After travelling to the moon with Apollo 11 in 1969, it was then called on during the fateful Apollo 13 mission, when a mid-flight accident left the crew stranded in space.
Part of Houston’s rescue involved timing a 14-second thrust (using the Speedmaster’s mechanical chronograph) to ensure the command module hit the Earth’s atmosphere at the right angle for re-entry, instead of bouncing helplessly back into space.
In recognition of the role the Speedmaster played in getting the Apollo 13 crew home safely, Nasa presented Omega with a Silver Snoopy Award on 5 October 1970. But it wasn’t until 2003 that Omega first produced a Speedmaster carrying the image of Snoopy himself. Since then, Snoopy Speedmasters have picked up a serious following among collectors. Two years ago, a 2015 Speedmaster Moonwatch Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award in steel went under the hammer at Christie’s for CHF21,500 (£18,000 at today’s rates), having cost CHF6,100 (£5,000) new. Not a bad return in three years.
All of which makes today’s announcement, 50 years to the day since Nasa gave Omega its Silver Snoopy Award, a pretty big deal.
The new watch has the same 42mm stainless-steel case as the collection Speedmaster, although it houses Omega’s upgraded antimagnetic hand-wound Calibre 3861 Master Chronometer. The bezel has a blue ceramic insert with a white enamel tachymeter scale, giving the watch its snappy blue-and-silver aesthetic.
But, predictably, it’s when Snoopy gets involved that the fun starts. First, we get a space-helmeted Snoopy dancing playfully on a sub-counter at nine o’clock. And then he appears again on the case back in animated form, flying round the dark side of the moon in a black-and-white command module and away from an earth disc that spins in sync with the watch’s small seconds. The conceit is that he’ll only appear 14 seconds after you’ve started the watch’s chronograph, a neat trick that then begins a 60-second cycle during which Snoopy appears and disappears every 30 seconds. At reset, he jumps back to a point where he’s 14 seconds from reemerging from the blackout. Clever. Worth watching the film to get the full drift…
It’s wonderfully madcap and very much in the Peanuts spirit. How hard will it be to get hold of one? Omega isn’t actually limiting this one, although don’t expect production to be high, and at £8,250 it doesn’t come cheap. If you’re one of the chosen few, though, you might find you want to quote Snoopy who, on becoming the first beagle on the moon, exclaims, “I even beat that stupid cat who lives next door!”