Forty-five years after the legendary Apollo 13 mission, George Clooney and Omega celebrate the courage and ingenuity of the NASA astronauts.
He’s known for bringing a sense of unflappable cool to his many roles, whether he’s preparing to pull off the heist of the century or heading into orbit. This sense of demonstrating grace under pressure is one of the qualities that makes actor George Clooney the ideal brand ambassador for Omega, a watch that has been helping the astronauts of NASA maintain accuracy on their history-making missions into orbit, and onto the surface of the Moon.
This storied timekeeping company has been associated with astronauts and their incredible feats for more than 50 years—going back to 1962, when some of NASA’s first astronauts personally chose the Omega Speedmaster as their watch of choice for their missions. The Space Agency was impressed by the Speedmaster’s ability to hold up under the toughest of conditions, and following a series of grueling endurance tests, the watch received a seal of approval as a “Flight Qualified” timepiece, capable of taking on the toughest missions on Earth, and above it.
Some seven years later, all three of the astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission—Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins—were all wearing Speedmaster watches, which quickly became known as the “Moonwatch.” Omega’s link to the American space mission had officially been forged.
That mettle was truly put to the test less than a year later, when an oxygen tank on Apollo 13 exploded, putting the lives of the crew in jeopardy some 330,000 kilometers away from Earth. The bold plan for return that managed to bring the team back safely depended on improvisation, ingenuity and pinpoint accuracy—it was a situation where missed seconds would cost lives. Because of damage to the spacecraft’s electrical power, the crew relied on a Speedmaster to time every crucial second of the engine’s thrusters that guided the spacecraft on its return trajectory.
It was in honor of this daring return to Earth 45 years ago that Clooney was in Houston for the Omega event last month. The silver-maned actor was just eight years old during those momentous times; however, as they did for so many others who witnessed those events on the small screen, the memories that those astronauts’ deeds inspired remain with him to this day. “I remember when I was a kid, I went outside to look at the moon to try to catch a glimpse of the Apollo mission.”
The Western Airways hangar in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land definitely looked like a part of the Apollo generation: over the course of the night, it transformed from a space vessel/cocktail lounge into a lunar landscape, surrounded by the stars of the Milky Way. The elaborate staging was the work of famed fashion show producer Alexandre de Betak, who rose to fame as the man behind the runway shows of Victoria’s Secret. Cocktails for the night were in the space-age theme: a spiked version of the astronauts’ drink, Tang, and pallid moon-tinis; meanwhile, the dinner menu was filled with fare inspired by the lunar landscape.
An audience of 280 made up of the cream of the crop of Houston society was present for the ride, but Clooney reminded the most important guests—Commander of Apollo 13, Captain (ret.) James A. Lovell, Lieutenant General (ret.) Thomas Stafford, and Captain (ret.) Gene Cernan—just how much their efforts meant, not only to a young Clooney and the citizens of the U.S., but to the rest of the world: “It was a huge part of the optimism of that period of time; we really believed that anything was possible. You gentleman are our inspiration to all of of us here and it’s an honor to be standing up here with you.”
Omega President Stephen Urquhart was also present for the gala event, and reflected on the importance that the story of Apollo 13 played for the brand: “For Omega it was an unbelievable story. It could have been a disaster but turned out fantastic and today it’s an incredible part of our heritage.” Unveiled at the gala were the several new Speedmaster watches, which represent the company’s dedication to watchmaking innovation and its history with the journey into space.
Members of the new collection include a new Speedmaster ‘57 and a stunningly radiant White Side of the Moon, its all-white face and band inspired by the lunar glow. Offered in a limited edition is the Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award, which commemorates the honor bestowed on Omega by NASA—the Silver Snoopy Award is given to those individuals or companies who have made a significant impact on safety for space efforts. Fewer than 2000 of these watches will be made and they will feature a replica of the medallion of the Silver Snoopy pin that is given to awardees: Omega was given theirs in 1970. The dial on the watch bears the phrase, “What could you do in 14 seconds?”—a reference to the tense 14 seconds that Apollo 13’s Speedmaster ticked off as the crew used their thrusters for the final correction into a safe trajectory that would bring them home. Also on offer this year are four new designs in the Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon series, which offer a combination of sleek looks and a ruggedness that will stand up to anything that your life’s adventures offer.
As a new generation looks beyond Earth’s orbit as a source of challenges and a chance to explore the boundaries of what is and what isn’t possible, Omega looks to build on this intrepid tradition that continues to inspire. For, as Clooney pointed out, a goal beyond the reaches of gravity is a thing that brings more out of us than we knew we had: “This [the race into space] was the thing that lifted us up. I hope we will continue to find ways to go back.”