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Lunar wonder

Omega celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission with a new "Dark Side of the Moon" watch.

Omega's 2018 Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8.

Omega Speedmaster Grey Side of the Moon.

Omega's 2016 Grey Side of the Moon Meteorite.

OMEGA'S Speedmaster watches are out of this world - literally. Some of the Speedmaster models have passed Nasa's extreme tests and were picked for its space missions.

The Speedmaster Professional was the first watch to land on the moon in 1969 with the Apollo 11 mission. Since then, it's known as the Moon watch. How iconic can a watch be?

The Speedmaster, a name which has become virtually synonymous with Omega, has sure come a long way for a line of chronograph watches first rolled out in 1957 for sports and racing fans. After the ride to the moon, it just got stuck with it and has never looked back.

Omega has subsequently produced many commemorative and limited edition variants of the basic Moon watch design, celebrating important anniversaries and events, emblazoned with the different patches of the space missions it was issued for. One of the most sought-after of these is the Speedmaster Snoopy.

In 1970, the Speedmaster played a vital role in guiding astronauts on the Apollo 13 mission to re-enter Earth safely, after the oxygen tank in the spacecraft blew up and disabled the electrical system.

A grateful Nasa conferred the Silver Snoopy award to Omega for saving its crew. In 2003, Omega launched the Speedmaster Professional "Snoopy Award", which featured the beloved cartoon character on the front and back of the watch, to commemorate the 1970 milestone.

All 5,441 pieces of the limited edition were quickly snapped up and the Speedmaster Snoopy is one of the most collectable timepieces today. The Speedmaster Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award model followed in 2015. This also has Snoopy on the dial and case-back, though on a white and not a black dial like the first model. This limited edition of 1,970 watches was also sold out fast.

Obviously Snoopy and the link to the saviour of the Apollo 13's crew have great marketing appeal. And the Apollo space missions still have plenty of eventful experiences for Omega, thanks to Nasa's endorsement, to milk in expanding the Speedmaster watch line.

The most recent addition, which has won a big following, is the "Dark Side of the Moon" series. Rolled out in 2013, the Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon is dedicated to Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon in 1968 - and the three astronauts on board who were the first men to witness the far, or dark side, of the moon. The all-black, all-ceramic - including the crown - Speedmaster chronograph is designed to highlight the unseen side of the moon.

Then came the Speedmaster "Grey Side of the Moon" in the following year. Inspired by the lunar dust that captured mankind's first and last steps on the moon, the watch, essentially the same as the original "Dark Side", was crafted from ceramic white which was transformed to metallic grey in a high temperature plasma furnace.

In 2015, Omega presented the Speedmaster "Dark Side of the Moon" ceramic timepiece in four colours - black black, Sedna black, pitch black and vintage black. The watches represent earth's night lights against the backdrop of space.

The Speedmaster Grey Side of the Moon "Meteorite" launched in 2016 reflects the side we didn't know exist - the meteorite side.

While the watch remains all-ceramic, the dial is made from slices of the Gibeon meteorite which fell in prehistoric times in Namibia.

Continuing the line, Omega released the "Dark Side of the Moon and Grey Side of the Moon" in 2017, with no big changes from earlier versions.

The first major change was made with the Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8, unveiled this year which marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission. The best parts of the original are kept in the latest version of the Dark Side of the Moon, like the 44.25mm brushed black all-ceramic case.

The biggest change is in the movement. The automatic mechanism that powered the Dark Side of the Moon watches is replaced by a version of the hand-wound calibre 1861 once found in Speedmaster chronographs. The bridges and main plate of the movement are lasered and decorated to recreate the rugged surface of the moon, which is visible through a skeletonised open-worked dial.

A manual-winding movement takes up lesser space, thus reducing the new timepiece to just 13.8mm thick, 2.5mm slimmer than the earlier Dark Side of the Moon watches. It also allows a reconfiguration of the twin sub-dial layout and date window to a more traditional and balanced display of three counters with no date.

Reflecting the two sides of the moon, the dial side is lighter in colour which depicts the view seen from earth; the back of the watch is darker, replicating the far side of the moon.

Engraved on the caseback is the mission date as well as the immortal words of the mission's command module pilot, Jim Lovell, uttered just as the spaceship disappeared behind the moon: "We'll see you on the other side."

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