Omega’s Speedmaster Moonwatch has been available for more than 50 years. But while it’s widely known as the timepiece from the 1969 landing on the Moon, what is less remembered is that unlike the metal bracelet used on Earth, the crew of Apollo 11 made use of a Velcro strap.
The reasoning behind this is simple. Metal clasps are not the friend of chunky space gloves, and the considerable adjustability of a Velcro NATO strap would mean the watch could be placed around a spacesuit sleeve as well as a human wrist.
To mark this union of fabric strap and space watch, Omega has announced three new Velcro straps that bear both the watchmaker’s name and the Nasa logo for good measure.
The 2021 Omega Velcro Nasa straps come in black, white and silver, and can be swapped in for any 20mm strap
The Nasa straps cost £165, making them an easily worthwhile investment when paired with the £4,000+ Omega Speedmaster. The 2021 range comes in black, white and silver, and of course can be paired with any watch that will fit the 20mm strap, but if you want to emulate the Buzz Aldrin look (below) then a Moonwatch is the only option.
This is not the first Velcro strap from Omega. For a couple of years a simpler, £140 NATO black version has been available. However, these three new iterations update this design.
The black version references the original Velcro strap, which was produced by an American company and not Omega at the time, while the white is a nod to the Apollo-era spacesuits. The silver version apparently pays tribute to the shiny suits worn on the pre-Apollo missions: Gemini and Mercury.
It was at the start of its Gemini program in 1961 that Nasa recognised it needed to find a watch that could endure the extreme temperatures and G-forces encountered during space flight. Only four companies – Hamilton, Rolex, Longines and Omega – submitted watches to be tested for suitability.
The 11 tests attempting to simulate conditions in space and on the Moon itself included the watches being heated for 48 hours at 70°C then 30 minutes at 93°C; accelerated from standstill to 7.25G for five minutes, then 16G for 30 seconds, along three axes; and a vibration test from five to 2,000Hz, along three axes, with acceleration of at least 8.8G. The Omega was the only watch to pass all the tests.
Joseph Bonnie’s Velcro strap is supposedly made to the original 1969 specifications including printed stock numbers
But in all these tests the strap was never a factor despite Velcro only being a relatively recent invention. Patented in 1955 by Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral, the design was inspired by the burdock seeds that got stuck in both his coat and his dog’s fur.
If you are a stickler for authenticity, however, though the original Velcro straps are no longer manufactured you can get a recreated version from Joseph Bonnie for €65 that is supposedly made to the original specifications and dimensions, even mimicking the stock numbers printed on the upper surface.
Staunch Omega fans though will likely prefer the new, updated branded versions complete with that iconic NASA “meatball”.
Price: £165 | Omega
Jeremy White is WIRED’s executive editor. He tweets from @jeremywired
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