Today marks the death of arguably the world’s greatest modern explorer. Neil Armstrong was the first human being to step foot on the moon on July 20th, 1969. With that one step, the entire planet entered a new age of science and exploration. He was a hero for all mankind.
But to watch-nerds, he was even more. You see, there has been no more storied use of a mechanical wristwatch than that of the Apollo astronauts. The folk-lore around Omega’s Speedmaster is built entirely around the fact that it was the watch chosen above five others (including those from Rolex, Heuer, and others) to become the official watch of NASA, and thus, the first watch on the moon.
What most people don’t know is that while Armstrong was certainly the first man on the moon, his watch was not the first watch. No no – in fact Armstrong left his Speedmaster aboard the lunar module because the mission timer had failed. So, it was actually his colleague Buzz Aldrin’s Omega that first made an appearance on the moon. But, Aldrin’s watch, which he claimed to have sent to the Smithsonian, never made it and we don’t know its whereabouts to this day. Armstrong’s, on the other hand, sits proudly at the National Air and Space museum in Washington DC and we once found a watch exactly like it.
So, on this day, we celebrate the life of an American and horological hero alike.
Here is an excellent video of Armstrong recounting his trip to the stars on the BBC back in 1970.