It’s possible that you’ve been practicing Transcendental Meditation, Pan Sufism, or just really getting into the writings of Soren Kierkegaard. Alternatively you’ve decided to go off the grid, live in a cave, and recycle your pee into drinking water using solar powered membrane distillation. But these are the only likely scenarios in which you wouldn’t know what an Omega Silver Snoopy is, and the vast feeding frenzy and near hysterical hunt for the 1970 pieces comprising its limited edition currently igniting chat rooms, and trading platforms on the world wide interwebs and around the globe.
So in deference to those of you still trying to ascertain how Charles M. Schulz’s beloved comic character (yes, I know he doesn’t actually look like a beagle) the National Aeronautic and Space Association (NASA) and one of Switzerland’s most iconic watch brands got together and through a love fest in a high G centrifuge emerged with one of the most mythical and revered modern sport watches of all time, and why that watch is very possibly both one of the all time coolest Omega limited edition Speedmasters ever and a must-have as a major long term investment, let me break it down to you with the following five reasons.
The incredible story of the Omega Speedmaster and Apollo 13
If NASA didn’t already view the number 13 with circumspection, the saga of Apollo 13 will have forever changed that perception, Apollo 13 was the third mission planned to land on the moon. At 56 hours into the flight, on April 13th 1970, an explosion on the craft caused all electrical systems to shut down, prompting Jack Swigert to utter the now oft-quoted phrase, “Houston, we’ve got a problem.” Looking out the spacecraft, astronaut Jim Lovell saw gas being vented into space. One of the oxygen tanks immediately read zero and moments afterwards, two of the ship’s fuel cells failed. Soon after, they lost the majority of power to the craft.
The crew knew that their only option for survival was to immediately return to earth. The astronauts decided to use the moon’s gravitational pull to slingshot them around and back to earth. But there was one major problem – the angle of the craft’s re-entry. Too steep and it would burn up from excessive speed; too shallow and in would bounce off the earth’s atmosphere, leaving the crew floating helplessly in space.
Using Jim Swiggert’s Omega Speedmaster, the only watch to pass NASA’s rigorous testing to be official astronaut equipment, the crew used the lunar module’s manually controlled descent propulsion engine to create 14-second mid-flight course corrections that allowed them to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere successfully.
Upon return, NASA and the astronauts of Apollo 13 awarded Omega with the Silver Snoopy award which is an honor given to employees and contractors for outstanding service contributing to flight safety and mission success. The award consists of a Silver Snoopy pin that has actually flown in space, a letter of commendation and a signed commemorative certificate.
In 2003, Omega created its first Snoopy Award Speedmaster in a 5,441 limited series (this number comes from the duration of the Apollo 13 mission which was 142 hours, 54 minutes and 41 seconds). The watch features a charming image of Snoopy as an astronaut in a blue space suit against a blue sky resembling the depiction of Snoopy on the commemorative certificate and endowing the model with the sobriquet Blue Snoopy. In addition, the sapphire caseback features a sticker of Snoopy with the same motif. Though it should be noted as the dial and sticker were sourced separately, the sticker is missing the four lines of reflection on Snoopy’s helmet on the dial and on the original certificate. Today, the Blue Snoopy is a highly coveted Omega Speedmaster limited edition.
But in 2015, Omega CEO the dynamic Raynald Aeschlimann and his excellent head of product development Jean-Claude Monachon wanted to create something even more special to celebrate the 45th anniversary of this amazing award and story. The result is a watch that is considered to be one of the most brilliantly conceptualized and perfectly executed Omega watches of all time.
It’s a white dial Omega Speedmaster
Now this may not seem like a big deal until you delve a little bit into Omega’s history. White dials have generally been limited to special edition white gold Speedmasters as well as a few moon phase watches. Indeed, prior to the Silver Snoopy, the only steel case, white-dialed Omega Speedmasters in original tri-compax configuration are the much-coveted 500-watch Speedmaster 40th anniversary watch made for the Italian market in 1997, the mythical 300-piece run of the 2003 Mitsukoshi Speedmaster made for the Japanese retailer, the 3,500-watch Apollo 11 35th anniversary Speedy from 2004, the 1970 series of Alaska Project watches from 2008, the 2016 CK 2998 in 2,998 watches. Now check this out. Every one of these watches trades above its retail price, many of them at massive premiums on the secondary market. Omega has always kept its white dial for truly special timepieces.
The detail of the dial
The Silver Snoopy features one of the coolest dials Omega has ever conceptualized and the saliency with which Apollo 13 lore has been woven into its iconography is nothing less than inspired. On the seconds track, 14 small rectangles referencing the frames of the Peanuts comic have been added along with the words “What could you do in 14 seconds?” in homage to the 14-second rocket bursts timed with the Omega Speedmaster that allowed for successful re-entry.
At 9 o’clock perched on the continuous seconds counter as he does atop his doghouse is an image of Snoopy rendered in Super Luminova so that he glows in the dark. A thought bubble rising from his head reads “Failure is not an option.”
This actually comes from the film version of Apollo 13 which in turn comes from Jerry C Bostick, the flight dynamics officer at mission control for Apollo 13 who explained to screenwriters Al Reinhart and Bill Broyles that when a problem occurred, “We never panicked, we never gave up on finding a solution.” According to Bostick, he later learned Broyles would say, “That’s it. That’s the tagline for the whole movie. Failure is not an option.”
It’s a great combination of history and modernity
The Silver Snoopy was the first Omega to feature a luminous tachymeter engraved to a ceramic bezel.
The first luminous tachymeter appeared in Omega’s Speedmaster Mark II. However, that was a luminous scale printed under the watch’s sapphire crystal. At 42 mm in diameter it is a big watch and it uses a domed sapphire crystal instead of the vintage style hesalite acrylic found on the Speedy Professional. But the movement is the 1861, the modern version of the iconic caliber 861 that was introduced in the Speedmaster in 1968 and is found in the majority of watches that went to space.
Every watch is unique!
The coolest element of the Silver Snoopy is not visible from the front of the watch and definitely obscured if you wear it on a NATO strap as I do. Taking inspiration from the silver Snoopy pin that accompanies the award, Omega has created handcrafted silver medallions for every one of the 1,970 watches, each sitting in a bed of blue enamel with flecks of silver representing a starry sky. This stunning artistic element makes each and every Silver Snoopy unique and is kept safe behind a sapphire crystal which does add height to the watch but I think you’ll agree is well worth it.