Normally, making assumptions about which cultural events or new luxury watches have registered with our readers and which haven’t is not something I’d risk for fear of offending someone in the process. But I will say this: If by some giant leap of imagination, you are not aware that 2019 marks 50 years since man first set foot on the moon, then you must have literally (or very consciously metaphorically) had your head in the sand for the past several weeks.
The Omega Speedmaster is easily the most famous moon watch, but there are plenty of other lunar-inspired timepieces.
The Moon Landing and Moon Watches
To recap: On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. By exiting their craft (in that order) they became the first men to walk our satellite’s surface. They stayed a short while, collecting rock samples, taking photos, and leaving footprints amongst other things. The culmination of years of shared human endeavor had succeeded. Just 24 years after the end of World War II, it looked as if quarrels on Earth may finally be put into perspective despite the continuing international discord between the USA and Russia. It was a time of heady optimism.
Since man first stepped on the moon, the Speedmaster has been the go-to moon watch.
As we know, things didn’t quite pan out the way many might have thought they would, but it seems no one who witnessed those blurry images beamed live around the globe has ever forgotten the giddy sense of possibility they sired within them. Kennedy was nearly six years dead, but his words of a brave new future echoed louder than they did the day they were uttered.
Simply put, there is one brand that owns the bragging rights to the moon mission’s success, and that’s Omega. The Speedmaster was the first watch on the moon, chosen for the adventure for its unwavering precision and environment appropriate plexiglass: fast-moving space dust that exists beyond our atmosphere can shatter a sapphire crystal, while Plexiglass is more likely to bend but not break under the same conditions. Omega has had its fun with this very special anniversary, as it deserved. But that wasn’t the end of it. Oh, no…
The Omega Speedmaster may have been the first watch worn on the moon, but here are 5 other great moon watches!
If you’ve been around the watchmaking industry for any time at all, following new releases on this and other media outlets, you’ll know that brands don’t need very much encouragement to get very excited about very little. We’re used to flimsy partnerships, incongruous collaborations, and weak ambassadors, so when something genuinely inspirational comes along, it would be foolhardy to imagine savvy sales executives desperate for an angle (any angle) would let it pass them by without hopping onto the bandwagon, their eager grins stretching from ear-to-ear as dollar signs light-up their eyes.
Queue a slew of moon-landing-inspired watches that nobody asked for, and only the very accommodating would accept as legitimate. And yet despite a bucketload of weird, sideways justifications for their release, there are a few pearls amongst the grit. Contentious, crass, but confusingly cool, here are my top 5 moon watches that are anything BUT Omega:
Unimatic Modello Uno U1-SP NASA Anniversary Edition
This is a simple, but surprisingly satisfying way to kick off this list. With a very tasty retail price of $650, it is no wonder the Unimatic Modello Uno U1-SP NASA Anniversary Edition sold out within hours of its launch. Weirdly, the split-second decision making a desirous would-be customer was required to make was yet another nod to the fabled mission that inspired a generation to look to the stars.
Aesthetically, this watch does some interesting things to recall the legendary journey to the Sea of Tranquility. The case is coated with a white ceramic, which is then “stonewashed” to give an aged and distressed effect that is supposed to recall the Spacesuits following exposure to the harsh environment of space.
The NASA “worm” logo is applied between the center and 6 o’clock and brings a welcome dash of color to proceedings. The harmonious palette of crisp white, bright red, and black works incredibly well with the faux-aged lume that, for one reason or another, makes this look even more like an authentic astronaut’s tool.
Perhaps my favorite part of this watch, which was limited to 50 pieces as a reference to the anniversary itself, is the choice of strap style and material. While the watch is supplied with a second (orange leather) strap, the white nylon is beautifully utilitarian, and its extra-wide keeper just smacks true of the function-first philosophy of the team responsible for the successful mission to the moon.
UNDONE × Peanuts Limited Edition ‘Snoopy Starlight’
Given the brand is well known for offering a raft of customization options across their standard offerings, it should come as no surprise that UNDONE, which already has a good relationship with the characters of Schulz (having produced several Peanuts-themed watches over the years) should take this opportunity to remind the world of everyone’s favorite beagle’s association with the moon landings.
No, Aldrin did not smuggle a pet dog aboard to distract Armstrong so that he might descend that ladder first. Rather, NASA decided to start conferring a special honor to employees or contractors for outstanding achievements related to human flight safety or mission success. The name for this award? The Silver Snoopy. Omega has, itself, referenced this award on more than one occasion with highly sought-after limited editions.
And while this particular Snoopy-themed watch doesn’t make a direct reference to the award, the association is clear. Additionally, this model pays direct tribute to the preceding Apollo mission, Apollo X. Having this as part of a moon landing collection, though, makes perfect sense.
This particular UNDONE watch boasts a nice lumed starscape, which is something I enjoy. I like it very much when brands play around with lume, as it can give a watch a whole secondary character when the lights go out. It’s not often something you see the major players experiment with (although Omega did make their most recent Snoopy luminous, which was seriously cool) but here is an example of a watch respecting that its price point makes it a fun purchase for a long-term watch lover. The blackened stainless steel case sets the stage for the Spacewalk scene, while the Spacesuit-clad Snoopy at 9 o’clock steals the show.
Given this piece was limited to just 300 pieces and that the retail price was only $480, it is perhaps no surprise that it has sold out already. When these watches with such cross-appeal (watchmaking/Snoopy/moon landing) come up for sale, buying in quick is the only way to give yourself a chance of success. With that in mind, read on…
Timex Snoopy MK1
For many watch collectors, Timex is the brand that started a lifelong obsession. The standard Timex watch is an American classic, but these humble, affordable watches hadn’t been made Stateside for a long, long time. That’s why people were so pleased to hear that Timex was planning on producing an American made watch. The result debuted earlier this year and hit a lot of lovers of retro Timex watches right in “the feels” (despite the fact “the feels” didn’t exist when they first encountered the brand).
With such a wealth of good feeling surrounding a brand that even the most seasoned aficionado can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic over, it makes perfect sense that Timex would also jump on board with celebrating one of America’s greatest triumphs over nature.
And guess who’s on hand to help? That’s right, it’s that pesky beagle once again. Snoopy adorns the dial of three new Timex watches celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, but none of which does so with such panache as the MK1.
Due to be released on August 13th, the MK1 is expected to fly off the shelves given its funky, retro dial design, and its super-cool backlight, that silhouettes Space Snoopy while illuminating the numerals (which are etched on the underside of the lens) from behind. With a retail price way south of $200, the MK1 collection is the perfect price point for a whimsical special edition like this, and I doubt very much that it will be around for very long. If you want to get your hands on one, you can register your pre-release interest on the official Timex website.
Christopher Ward C1 Moonglow
Image: Christopher Ward
Integrating a moonphase display into a watch that is not only modern but somehow broodingly masculine is no mean feat. That is, in my opinion, what British Watchmaker Christopher Ward has achieved with the release of the Christopher Ward C1 Moonglow. This one actually stood out to me so much, I’ll be writing a full-length review of it, so keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks. This 40.5mm stainless steel watch (which is currently available on a black leather strap, but customers will, from mid-October, have the option of a Milanese bracelet for just £30 more) is only water-resistant to 30 meters, has timekeeping parameters between -10/+20 seconds per day, and a relatively small power reserve of just 38 hours, but – and this is a big but – it is absolutely, totally, unequivocally brilliant.
On the wrist, it looks like a watch 2-3 times the price. The sizing, the styling, and the surprising modernity of it all make for a compelling package at the stunning starting price of £1,695 (around $2,060 at the time of writing).
Moritz Grossmann Moon in Space
Image: Moritz Grossmann
This offering from Moritz Grossmann makes the list for being bonkers. As a fervent fan of German watchmaking, I would be mad to ignore the majesty of Mortiz Grossmann’s Movements but would be lying through my back teeth if I said I thought the cased-up results were always on the same level. I’ve concluded that Moritz Grossmann is just about the most hit and miss company in existence for me. Several releases this year, like the Hamatic, the GMT, and the Power Reserve produced for the Only Watch Auction, have been bull’s eyes. Others (normally celebrating weird moments in history like sports contests or political events) go right over my head. They are so bizarre, in fact, that I keep checking my calendar to see if April 1st has come round again.
And so we come to the Moritz Grossmann Moon in Space, released at this time to capitalize on the good vibes generated by looking back at one of mankind’s most scintillating endeavors. The manufacture movement 102.0 that powers this watch is, as usual, absolutely divine, with classical German finishing and exquisitely heat-treated screws. The dial? Well, two small grand feu enamel dials relay the hours and minutes (white dial) and seconds (black dial). Both a set against a domed, engraved moon, realized in silver. The moon, carrying its two dials, is suspended in the case to the right-hand side, held in place by four arms that reference the antenna of man’s first satellite in space, Sputnik I.