Omega’s Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8 is a hat-tip to the 50th anniversary of the historic 1968 lunar mission. The first space mission that saw astronauts leave Earth’s orbit, reach and orbit the Moon, and return safely to Earth, it paved the way for the more famous Apollo 11 mission in 1969. This watch is first Speedmaster Moonwatch to contain a skeletonized version of the watch’s storied movement, Caliber 1861.
Omega has outfitted the Apollo 8 in a 44-mm-diameter case, 13.8 mm thick, made entirely of jet-black zirconium oxide ceramic, with a polished ceramic tachymeter bezel, bearing white numerals and indices and the word “TACHYMÈTRE” in bright yellow. This yellow highlight can also be found elsewhere on the watch’s dial and strap and is a callback to the Speedmaster Racing model from 1968, as is the tachymeter feature.
The case is exquisitely finished, employing both polishing and satin brushing, with the middle curving elegantly into the faceted lugs (though, like most all ceramic cases, it is very susceptible to being marred by fingerprints). The plunger-style chronograph pushers are in polished black, and subtly rounded on the top for tactile comfort. A rather firm push is required to engage the chronograph and halt it with the top pusher and to return the yellow, arrow-tipped chronograph seconds hand to zero with the bottom one. Nestled between the two pushers is the polished black, fluted crown, which does not screw down and is inscribed with the Greek letter Omega.
Moving on the dial, the central chronograph hand and small chronograph hands on the subdials are in varnished yellow, so are the tips of the rectangular, applied indices. The slightly conical subdials float like satellites over the front side of the openworked movement, upon which laser ablation has been employed to decorate both sides of the blackened mainplate and bridges with realistic 3D depictions of the moon’s surface.
From the dial side, the effect is executed in a lighter gray shade and echoes the view of the moon that we see from Earth, while the rear side, visible through a clear sapphire caseback window, is darker gray, aping the eponymous “dark side” that only astronauts have ever viewed in person. As one would expect, these realistic lunar details come to life under a loupe, adding a great deal of individualistic character to this Moonwatch.
Legibility-wise, the effect of all this detail is a mixed bag. The white hour indices and especially the prominent yellow chronograph seconds hand are easy to discern in all lighting conditions. The motion of the running seconds at 9 o’clock is also fairly obvious at a glance, allowing the wearer to check whether the watch is running — an important feature in a manually winding watch. However, the relative thinness of the hour and minute hands — thin enough, in fact, to occasionally get a bit lost among the background details, and at times even obscured by the much more noticeable central seconds hand — was somewhat unexpected. I would have thought these hands would be at least as wide as the indices on which they indicated the time.
A sapphire window on the caseback affords a view of the decorated movement, its brushed black ceramic frame offers historically inspired, engraved text indicating the date of the Apollo 8 mission (December 1968) and the famous quotation, “See you on the other side,” spoken by Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell just before the Apollo 8 crew drifted out of range of radio contact on its history-making journey to the Dark Side of the Moon (a phrase also engraved on the caseback).
The movement itself — whose lunar-landscape-finished bridges and plates add visual appeal to an already attractive architecture, and should wow even the most seasoned connoisseur of the Speedy and its famous caliber — is based on the same historical chronograph-equipped movement inside the first Speedmaster that went to the moon in 1969, Omega’s manual-wound Caliber 1861, based on the Lemania 1873. While this vintage-derived caliber is still used for the mainstream Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch” models, the Apollo 8 represents the first time it’s been used in a Dark Side of the Moon watch; previous models have been equipped with the self-winding, co-axial chronometer-certified Caliber 9300, whose chronograph readout has two registers rather than three.
This version of the legendary Moonwatch movement has been dubbed Caliber 1869, in honor of 1969, the year of the moon landing — though one wonders why Omega didn’t just change the “8” in the reference number as well, just to make the tribute more obvious. The movement holds a 48-hour power reserve when fully wound; it has no stop-seconds function but does incorporate a decoupling mechanism that prevents the mainspring from being overwound.
The pebbled black leather strap is perforated (another nod to the Speedy’s early auto-racing-inspired style) and continues the black-and-yellow motif of the dial. Black on both the top and the underside, the strap includes, sandwiched between these layers, a yellow rubber middle section, which can be glimpsed through the micro-perforations made by a special milling tool. This somewhat subtle effect is enhanced by yellow contrast stitching on the top side. The black ceramic pin buckle, with polished finish and engraved Omega symbol, has a wide tongue that inserts nicely into the rectangular holes for a secure and comfortable wrist fit.
The Apollo 8 edition is priced at $9,750. With its vintage Speedmaster design elements, first-of-its-kind openworked and decorated movement, and historical lineage, I expect many, many potential owners to be as “over the moon” for this timepiece as I was.