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George Clooney launches new Omega Moonwatch

Words by Rob Chilton

Stars from space and film came together to mark the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing with an updated and limited edition Omega watch

George Clooney has eaten hundreds of VIP dinners in some pretty memorable locations, but sitting down under the giant Saturn V rocket that took the first men to the Moon in 1969 must have given the actor to look up more than once.

Clooney, his wife Amal Clooney and some of the astronauts from that era attended the VIP event at Florida's Kennedy Space Centre to pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s Moon landing. “It’s a great pleasure to be here, and an honour,” said Clooney. “I have enormous respect for the people who made the Apollo missions such a success.”

The Saturn V rocket that took men to the Moon

Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon on July 21, 1969. Their moonwalk lasted just two and a half hours but stunned the world watching 380,000km below and became one of the most significant moments in human history.

“It smelled like burnt charcoal,” says Aldrin of the lunar surface, “or similar to the ashes that are in a fireplace, especially if you sprinkle a little water on them.”

Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin wears the new gold Speedmaster

Hosting the event was President and CEO of Omega watches, Raynald Aeschlimann. Although he was the first man to walk on the Moon, Armstrong left his watch behind in the Eagle lander and so the Omega Speedmaster worn by the second man, Buzz Aldrin became the watch that made history.

Amal and George Clooney attend the event in Orlando

Created 12 years before the 1969 landmark moment, the Omega Speedmaster was carefully chosen by NASA as the watch that would accompany its astronauts on all their space missions. Watchmakers around the world sent their chronographs to NASA for consideration in the space flight programme. Each watch was rigorously examined in tests such as thermal, shock, vibration and vacuum examinations and only the Speedy survived. On March 1 1965, the watch was officially declared ‘Flight Qualified for all Manned Space Missions’ – cue champagne corks popping at Omega HQ.

Omega's Moonwatch

The man who gave the Speedmaster the go-ahead was NASA engineer James Ragan. “The watch was a backup,” he explains. “If the astronauts lost the capability of talking to the ground, or the capability of their digital timers on the lunar surface, then the only thing they had to rely on was the Omega watch they had on their wrist. It needed to be there for them if they had a problem.”

Clooney, event host Belkys Nerey and ex astronaut Thomas Stafford

Today, 50 years after Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins wrote their names in the record books, Omega has released a limited edition run of 6,969 stainless steel 42mm watches that feature a laser-engraved Aldrin stepping on the moon at the 9 o’clock sub-dial. The 11 o’clock hour marker is a number 11 in tribute to the Apollo 11 mission, while the caseback is engraved with an astronaut’s footprint and Neil Armstrong’s famous quote: ‘That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Having those words next to your wrist should be enough to give you goosebumps.

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