How did Snoopy find its way onto the Omega Speedmaster timepiece?
Horology, space exploration and a beloved comic character make for an unusual combination. Here’s how it all came about.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Omega Speedmaster being awarded NASA’s prestigious Snoopy Award for its pivotal role in helping the Apollo 13 space exploration crew avert disaster back in 1970. To celebrate this milestone, the watchmaker has released the Omega Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award 50th anniversary.
The beloved beagle plays a prominent role on this special edition timepiece, first appearing as an embossed silver medallion on the blue subdial at 9 o’clock, dressed in a spacesuit.
On the caseback is where the fun begins. Snoopy makes an appearance here too, "piloting" a Command and Service Module (CMS). As a whimsical touch, Snoopy’s CMS moves in tandem with the chronograph seconds hand (on the dial side), taking him around the mysterious side of the moon. Watch enthusiasts will want to activate the chronograph just to see Snoopy "disappear" behind the moon for about 30 seconds, before he "reappears" and continues his journey.
Here the lunar surface is decorated on the sapphire crystal using a unique technique known as micro-structured metallisation.
But how did this cartoon character end up on a Speedmaster in the first place?
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 American adventures in space, and established Snoopy as a symbol of exploration.
So in 1968, when NASA went in search of a “face” for its safety programme, Snoopy was the obvious choice.
Back in 1970, the Omega Speedmaster was part of the mandatory equipment for astronauts flying for the Apollo programme. For the astronauts of the ill-fated Apollo 13 shuttle – the third mission meant to land on the moon – an oxygen tank exploded on board their module before they touched down.
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.
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.
Without their digital timers, the crew, led by Commander James Lovell, instead used their Omega Speedmaster chronographs to time the burn. To huge relief, this worked perfectly, and Apollo 13 landed safely back to Earth on Apr 13.
In recognition of its overall contributions, including the remarkable Apollo 13 mission, Omega received the Silver Snoopy Award on Oct 5, 1970.
Playing on this achievement, the brand unveiled two watches as a tribute to the Snoopy Award, one in 2003 and the other in 2015.
This 2020 version is rendered with an AG925 silver dial measuring 42mm, with two more blue subdials as well as a blue PVD angle-shaped hour markers and hands.
Powering the Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award 50th Anniversary is the recently-introduced calibre 3861, an evolution of the iconic calibre 1861. It now boasts a co-axial escapement.
The watch sits on a blue nylon fabric strap that matches the other blue elements of the watch, and even features the trajectory of the Apollo 13 mission embossed on the lining.
For the first time, this Omega Speedmaster Snoopy timepiece won't be a limited production. The timepiece is presented in its own Apollo 13 presentation box, with a microfibre cleaning cloth, a brochure, and a magnifying glass to help you see all its details up close.