By Kien Lee
George Clooney has played titular roles as an astronaut in Solaris in 2002 and the highly-acclaimed Gravity in 2013, but few know about his affinity, well, love affair to be exact, with space exploration.
When Apollo 11 touched down on the moon on 20 July 1969, answering the challenge laid down by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to put a man on the moon, young George was already straining his eyes to the stars.
One Giant Leap for Mankind
Growing up in the sixties and eight years old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the lunar surface, like most children of his generation, astronauts were his heroes and going into space was his dream.
"It was the most exciting time to be a kid. We knew all the astronaut’s names. We even ate the food that the astronauts ate..."
"During one of our vacations, we drove through Neil Armstrong’s hometown, simply because we wanted to drive through his hometown. The astronauts were that big a deal to us."
Clooney also recalled all the kids knew that the astronauts were wearing OMEGA watches, remembering that "Omega was absolutely part of the space program when I was growing up.
"OMEGA was about precision time… and it seemed like the space program was a natural progression."
Like the astronauts of the time, Clooney's father also wore an OMEGA.
When Clooney Senior heard that his son was working with OMEGA, he presented him with his old OMEGA as a gift which he possesses till today.
"He brought it down from the attic, after putting it away for 20 years... and he wound it and it started running again."
"It was a special moment. I grew up with that watch on his arm."
OMEGA - The Watch that Went to the Moon
It was in 1964 that NASA began hunting for a chronograph to use on its manned space missions. They chose watches from a number of different brands and put them through the same series of tests that were used for every piece of hardware that was intended for space.
Only one watch survived the extreme temperatures, vibrations, hard shocks, and unforgiving vacuums of the testing process – the OMEGA Speedmaster.
Today, the Speedmaster is still qualified for all manned space missions and is a permanent piece of equipment on the International Space Station. The "Moonwatch" as it is nicknamed, remains essentially the same as the one released by OMEGA in the pre-space age, a clear testament to its forward-thinking and by now, timeless, design.
"In just 60 years, we’d gone from inventing cars to [talking about] landing a man on the moon," says Clooney.
"It felt like the ultimate in optimism, the ultimate in forward thinking. It made us feel like anything could be done."
A Tribute to the Speedmaster's 60th Anniversary
2017 marks the 60 years since the launch of the Speedmaster which had become an instant hit with professional drivers.
Its rugged construction meant that it could withstand intense vibrations and shocks while keeping perfect time. In addition, its tachymetric scale on its bezel allowed drivers to time their laps more easily. It was the first watch with these features, which at the time, revolutionized the design, durability and functionality of wristwatches.
Ultimately, it was these two features that would make the Speedmaster so suitable for space exploration, and would lead to its place on the wrist of every astronaut in the Apollo program from 1965 onwards.
On the occasion, OMEGA pays tribute to the chronograph’s lifetime, celebrating 60 memorable models. Each tell a unique story and whether they are rare editions, special tributes or significant for their technology or design, the Speedmaster spirit remains true to everyone.