Whilst I considered my beautiful Speedmaster professional ST145.022 to be as close to a keeper as I’m ever likely to have, of late I’ve also been suffering increasingly lustful feelings brought on by photos of the “Ed White” 105.003 and sure enough I gave in to temptation when an absolute gem popped up on TZ-UK. It meant letting a friend have his old watch back (well, he had been hinting for some time, if truth be told) but I have no doubt whatsoever that I made the right decision.
It was in June 1965 that Edward H white II – a member of the Gemini 4 spacecraft crew – opened the hatch and embarked on a 22 minute spacewalk with an Omega Speedmaster mounted on a NASA velcro strap adorning the outside of his spacesuit.
The funny thing is, Omega themselves weren’t even aware that this amazing piece of horological history was going to be created, and it was only after the read the Life Magazine report of the spacewalk and saw the accompanying pictures that they realised the extent of the opportunity afforded to them. Future models of the Speedmaster would thereafter bear the word “Professional” on the dial and a legend was born.
Whilst the Speedmaster may have been the first watch to be actually exposed to the hostile environment of space, the association of watches with space exploration slightly more muddied, and for those interested Chuck Maddox provided a nice little timeline here. Even more interestingly, however, not only is the 105.003 thought to be the first watch exposed directly to outer space, but it was also the last watch to be worn on the moon as Eugene Cernan wore a reference 105.003 on the Apollo 17 mission. Cernan was the last person to leave the surface of the moon and his watch can now be seen in the Omega Museum.
History aside, then, the Ed White is identifiable by it’s (smaller – 40mm?) round, symmetrical case, straight lugs, lack of crown guards and a stepped dial that features an applied Omega logo. Inside, the c.321 movement is based on a design development project titled “27 CHRO C12” (27 mm diameter, chronograph, with extra 12-hour register) which took place in the 1940’s and involved Albert Piguet and Jaques Reymond (it was actually a joint development project between Omega and Lemania). Launched in 1942, the 27 CHRO C12 later became known as the Lemania 2310 (or Omega c.321). It was used not only in the Omega Speedmaster from 1957 to 1965, but also in the renamed and re-cased Omega Speedmaster Professional from mid-1965 through to mid-October 1968, together with the DeVille, Seamaster and other Omega chronographs during this era. (This info, together with some great background on all of the Speedmaster Moonwatch movements, can again be found courtesy of the late Chuck Maddox here.)
All in all, an instantly recognisable piece of horological history and one of the true icons amongst watches. This one, from 1967, is in frankly stunning condition, having gone to STS for the full spa treatment in 2006. The case is near perfect, the dial nothing short of glorious, and whilst it sports a service replacement bezel the original (along with the original crown and pushers) were included in the sale package. All in all, it really is the ultimate Speedy, so with this and the lovely Mk II Racing that I’m also lucky enough to own, I think I can tick that box for good.