If you have followed and collected Omega Speedmaster watches for a while, you’ll already be aware of the association between Omega and Apollo 13. The story of the space mission that swerved a tragedy by seconds has gone down in history and in those crucial moments, it was no other than an Omega Speedmaster Professional watch that assisted the wrist of John Swigert as he timed a very specific procedure down to the last second. But how did the relationship between Omega and Snoopy begin? How did the cartoon character become associated with this prestigious watch brand? If you’re looking to learn about the Omega Speedmaster Snoopy watch collection, this article will take you through the story and how Snoopy became part of Omega’s rich history in expert watchmaking.
To understand the relationship between Omega and Snoopy, we first need to understand Omega’s partnership with NASA. As Omega said itself:
”The OMEGA Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch is one of OMEGA’s most iconic timepieces. Having been a part of all six lunar missions, the legendary Speedmaster is an impressive representation of the brand’s adventurous pioneering spirit.”
Interestingly, the Omega Speedmaster was not intended as a watch for space missions. It was a sporty racing-inspired wristwatch. Several watch brands were bidding for a place on the wrists of NASA’s highly skilled astronauts. But Omega’s Speedmaster was selected in March 1965 for its ability to withstand extreme conditions, surviving extensive quality tests and proving exceptional accuracy. This brings us to the story of Snoopy. The Apollo Lunar team named their lunar model after the famous cartoon character, as well as their command module Charlie Brown – Snoopy’s human friend. Snoopy was also the name selected for NASA’s manned flight awareness award. It was chosen by NASA as a character that everyone could associate with. It’s an award that is still assigned today, bringing Omega into the story. The award is assigned to those who “contribute to the success of human space flight missions.”. Recipients receive a letter of commendation personally signed by an astronaut, including Omega who was assigned the award in 1970, with a sterling silver pin denoting Snoopy wearing a space helmet and spacesuit. The Snoopy award signified Omega’s crucial role in the Apollo 13 space mission.Peanuts creator Charles Schulz also drew mission-related artwork for NASA.
The award is assigned to those who “contribute to the success of human space flight missions.”. Recipients receive a letter of commendation personally signed by an astronaut, including Omega who was assigned the award in 1970, with a sterling silver pin denoting Snoopy wearing a space helmet and spacesuit. The Snoopy award signified Omega’s crucial role in the Apollo 13 space mission.Peanuts creator Charles Schulz also drew mission-related artwork for NASA.
On April 13th, 1970, three astronauts named John Swigert, Fred Haise and James Lovell prepared for a landing on the moon. Disaster struck during the mission and an oxygen tank on the craft’s exterior exploded. This required the shutting down of all non-essential systems. 205,000 miles from Earth, the crew were limited to few food supplies and, in a cramped space, all heating had been lost. The hope of landing on the moon had been dashed and the mission had turned to a fight for survival. The only option would be to try and return to Earth safely without blowing their one last shot. Returning home would involve using the gravity of the moon along with the lunar module’s Descent Propulsion System (DPS). There was one problem, however. The current angle of descent would cause the lunar module to bounce straight back into space. To avoid this the astronauts would need to burn the engines for exactly the right amount of time to hit the Earth’s atmosphere at the correct angle. Relying on total accuracy, Swigert used his Speedmaster watch to time the procedure, which turned out to be the right choice, as the first 14-second burn was so precise it needed very little adjustment. On April 17th, the lunar module crashed down into the South Pacific ocean and despite this extreme pressure and the pressure caused by the re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, all Speedmaster watches on the wrists of the team survived and kept perfect timing.
A Silver Snoopy Award was given to Hans Widmer six months later, commending Omega’s contribution to the safe return of the Apollo 13 crew. Years later, Omega returned the honour to the Apollo 13 space mission, with the release of a special edition model. It bore many powerful attributes to the mission that became associated with five words believed to have been uttered by Flight Director Gene Kranz; “failure is not an option.”
The Snoopy edition watches from Omega did not arrive until 33 years after the Apollo 13 space mission was carried out. They honoured the Silver Snoopy Award that NASA presented to the brand after the mission was saved back in 1970.
The first and original edition – the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Snoopy Award watch landed in 2003 and was produced in a limited edition run of 5,441 pieces, representing the 142 hours, 54 minutes, and 41 seconds of the Apollo 13 mission. The ref: 3578.51.00 was a 42mm model crafted from stainless steel and showcased many characteristics of the popular Omega Speedy. In fact, there are very few differences. The immediately visible difference, however, is the Snoopy image that resides at the 9 o’clock running seconds sub-dial. The cartoon beagle floats through the cosmos whilst clad in a blue spacesuit and red flying ace scarf. Above his head are the same words featured on the NASA Snoopy award; ‘Eyes on the Stars’. There is some beautiful artwork to be appreciated on the back of the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Snoopy Award watch too, which conceals the Caliber 1861 behind its sturdy structure. This self-winding movement superseded the Caliber 861 with a cam-actuated system as opposed to a column wheel-controlled chronograph. This 2003 limited edition Omega Speedmaster Snoopy watch, although produced in a large number of 5,441 pieces, is today the rarest commemorative version and is considered the most sought-after and expensive model of all Snoopy watches on the pre-owned market.
Featuring a different rendering of the famous cartoon character, the Speedmaster Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award watch is a 2015 model that marked the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 Mission. The first difference to appreciate here is its white dial, which differs from the signature black dial of the former Speedmaster Snoopy watch. Omega usually reserves its white dial models for special pieces such as its white gold or moon phase watches. The watch, with its monochromatic colour scheme, features the same 9 o’clock small seconds sub-dial depicting Snoopy flat out on his belly as if on top of his kennel. Above his head is the ‘Failure is not an option,’ phrase uttered by Flight Director, Gene Kranz in the Apollo 13 movie.
Marking the first 14 seconds on the dial is the lettering ‘What Could You Do In 14 Seconds?’ that signifies the length of time it took to burn out both of the module’s engines whilst desperately attempting to control the trajectory. The generous coating of Super-LumiNova applied to the hands, indexes, the markers on the tachymeter bezel, and the Snoopy character all ensure effective readability in dark conditions. The canine hero takes centre stage on the back of the case of this Speedmaster Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award Watch. Different from the painted Snoopy on the back of the first iteration, this model features a silver hand-engraved medallion. Enhancing a three-dimension effect, the medallion sits against a blue enamelled backdrop flecked with silver stars on each of these 1,970 limited editions -a number that marks the year of the mission. Other differences include a sapphire crystal glass front as opposed to the former hesalite crystal glass front, and the watch is fitted on a black nylon strap as opposed to the usual Speedmaster steel bracelet.
Lastly, to complete the Speedmaster Snoopy watch story, Omega released the 50th-anniversary edition a couple of years ago. The Speedmaster `Silver Snoopy Award` 50th Anniversary watch was launched exactly 50 years after the Apollo 13 mission and once again, measures a 42mm stainless steel case, with a laser-engraved Ag925 silver dial featuring the favourite beagle at 9 o’clock. The pooch is shown wearing his spacesuit in the exact same style as seen on the Silver Snoopy Award pin. Blue PVD-coated hour markers and hands meet the matching blue hue of the sub-scales and the surrounding tachymeter bezel, with a special dot over the 90 mark – true to the Speedmaster’s legendary tachymeter scale.
Special attributes to the space mission continue on the back of the case, with a special NAIAD LOCK that keeps the image of the moon, earth and Snoopy inside his Command and Service Module in an upright position. Interestingly, when the chronograph second hand is used, Snoopy takes a trip around the far side of a sapphire crystal-decorated moon. The earth disc also rotates once within a minute in conjunction with the small second hand. A nylon blue fabric strap completes the look of this watch, powered by the Co-Axial Calibre Omega 3861. The movement is equipped with a silicon balance spring, offering an impressive 50-hour power reserve, completing the design of this Speedmaster Snoopy watch and proving a highly collectable model to Omega enthusiasts far and wide.