On Monday, October 5, 1970, US astronaut Thomas P. Stafford, Commander of Apollo 10, presented Omega with the Silver Snoopy Award, a unique 925 sterling silver pin. The Swiss watchmaker was also presented a Manned Flight Awareness certificate signed by the crew of Apollo 13 – James Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise. From that moment, the Snoopy and Omega stories have been forever entwined.
To mark the 50th anniversary of that momentous occasion, Omega has just unveiled a special timepiece. Combining animation with watchmaking art, this delectable Snoopy tribute has taken the Omega Speedmaster to new realms of design.
The special connection between Snoopy and NASA first started in the 1960s, when Charles M. Schulz began creating comic strips depicting the lovable dog on the moon. Those animations captured public excitement about America’s adventures into space, and established Snoopy as a symbol of exploration.
In 1968, when NASA went in search of a “face” for its safety programme, Snoopy was the obvious choice. Not only would he act as a safety “watchdog,” but he represented total mission success, while also keeping things light in serious situations.
In fact, Snoopy became so beloved by NASA’s astronauts, that they created a very prestigious prize in his name. Designed by Charles M. Schulz, the Silver Snoopy Award depicts the beagle in a spacesuit and wearing his famous Flying Ace scarf.
“If somebody really did something outstanding, really helped in the safety of the overall mission, they would possibly be awarded a little Silver Snoopy pin. They weren’t handed out very often. It was a rare thing. So if you had a Silver Snoopy, it meant that you had done something really outstanding to help the programme. Usually, an astronaut awards it, because it’s their life that’s on the line,” says Stafford.
To be personally recognised by the flight crews in such a way is considered to be a highly esteemed honour within the industry. Since 1968, it has been given to no more than 1% of eligible recipients, proving just how rare and special it is.
“I remember presenting the Snoopy award to Dr Widmer from Omega at a little ceremony in my office. I thanked him, and Omega watches for the wonderful service they’d given us throughout the space programme, but particularly on Apollo 13 because the Speedmaster was so critical in helping us get safely back to the Earth,” adds Stafford.
Omega had been an invaluable support to NASA ever since the Omega Speedmaster was declared, “flight-qualified for all manned space missions” in 1965. The chronograph was subsequently trusted by all the astronauts throughout some of their most important hours, and even became the first watch worn on the moon in 1969. But it was the Apollo 13 mission, in 1970, which best represents Omega’s critical precision.
When an oxygen tank exploded on board, just two days after launch, the crew was quickly moved into the Lunar Module. This craft, however, was not built to support so many people for such a long time. Therefore, to conserve energy, the astronauts shut down nearly all power – rendering their digital timers obsolete.
Apollo 13 faced many serious challenges over the next several days, as NASA worked around the clock to overcome the increasingly volatile situation. It was at the final stages, however, when Omega’s mechanical excellence was called for. Because the mission had drifted off its intended course, it meant that the module would re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at the wrong angle, and bounce back into space with no chance of recovery. Therefore, to manually readjust the course of the craft, an exact 14-second burn of the engine was required.
“When the spacecraft clocks stopped, that’s when we required the Speedmaster. Without our normal navigation equipment, we had to view the Earth and use it as a guideline. Then we had to burn the engine for 14 seconds and turn it off, so we used the watch that Jack Swigert wore,” recalls Lovell.
There was simply no room for error. Without their digital timers, the crew led by Commander Lovell, instead used their Omega Speedmaster chronographs to time the burn. To huge relief, the manoeuvre worked perfectly, and finally, on April 17, Apollo 13 splashed safely back to Earth.
“Over the years, I’ve kept on thinking about Apollo 13 as a great example of teamwork, particularly between Mission Control and the flight crew. I can still remember the sudden explosion on board, and that feeling of successfully landing in the ocean,” says Lovell.
Stafford adds: “The Speedmaster meant mission failure or success because they didn’t have electrical power to turn on timers or computers. So all they had was just the watch. For so many seconds, they would thrust on that descent engine. It was Omega that got them back, and for that, it was decided that they should receive a Silver Snoopy Award.“
“Omega was an integral part of our total effort in space. When you’re in space, your baseline is time. Everything is based on time. We loved the professional Speedmaster. It worked good. Never failed. It was always just there ready to go.“
In the Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary watch – launched this month to commemorate the specific moment when Omega’s contribution to the safety of the astronauts was recognised – their favourite beagle plays a prominent role.
Snoopy appears as an embossed silver medallion on the blue subdial at 9 o’clock. Here, he is shown wearing his famous spacesuit, in the exact style of the silver pin that NASA astronauts give to award recipients. The dial itself is also silver and laser-engraved with Ag925. It includes two more blue subdials, as well as blue PVD angle-shaped hour markers and hands.
On the caseback, Snoopy has gone into orbit, thanks to his animated black and white Command and Service Module (CSM) on a magical hand. When the chronograph seconds hand is in use, Snoopy takes a trip around the mysterious far side of the moon – just like the Apollo 13 crew – with the lunar surface being decorated on the sapphire crystal using a unique micro-structured metallisation.
In the distance, a vision of our home is included. This Earth disc rotates once per minute, in sync with the watch’s small seconds hand, and symbolises the precise rotation of the Earth. The iconic quote, “Eyes on the Stars”, is included within the black universe.
The NAIAD Lock keeps all caseback engravings in the correct, upright position, including the date in 1970 that Omega received the Silver Snoopy Award, as well as a tribute to the imperilled Apollo 13 mission that same year.
Showing Omega’s attention to detail, the watch’s blue nylon fabric strap matches the other blue elements of the watch. It also features the trajectory of the Apollo 13 mission, embossed on the lining. This strap is attached to a 42 mm case in stainless steel, which is inspired by the 4th generation Speedmaster style – the first watch worn on the moon in 1969. The tachymeter scale, with the iconic “Dot over Ninety”, is shown in white enamel on a blue ceramic [ZrO2] bezel ring.
The watch is driven by the Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 3861. This ground-breaking movement has taken the legendary Moonwatch calibre to new standards of excellence, with anti-magnetic innovation, as well as Master Chronometer certification from the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS).
The timepiece comes with Omega’s full 5-year warranty, and will not be a limited production. Each watch comes in an Apollo 13 presentation box, with a microfiber cleaning cloth, a brochure, and a magnifying glass to truly appreciate the finer details of the watch.