I spend a lot of time researching stuff online. So much time that my wife at some point told me to get a life on my own, or cut back. So now a part of my daily routine is to go through auction catalogues and online auctions during my lunch break.
Sometimes when I feel I have a good grasp on what is on the market I just browse random online auctions.
Usually I find nothing interesting. But sometimes I find that one special piece. That piece that doesn’t really fit the collection but that ties it together in a way. Together with the history. This will be one of those stories.
The Dutch online auction site Catawiki is infamous for fakes, reproductions, frankens and overpriced watches. Their auctioneers really have no clue or control, and it is a sellers market. After a couple of incidents with them I even wonder if their auctioneers are real people. Consider yourself warned.
However it was on Catawiki that I struck gold. The nick psmolders was selling a collection of seemingly original NASA pictures. After some research, facebook stalking and visits to space flight forums, I found Piet Smolders. He is a respected international author and journalist in his field. He is also famous amongst space flight collectors for having one of the largest collections of original NASA pictures.
His entire collection of pictures was out on Catawiki but there was only one that I wanted. This picture tie together watch collecting, space travel and cartoons. Odd but true. This image is essential to the connection between Omega Speedmaster and NASA. Now I just had to fight off the NASA collectors and the Snoopy collectors.
Omega Speedmaster and NASA
The shared history between Omega Speedmaster and NASAs spaceflight programme is well documented, but still speculated on. Officially NASA was looking for extremely reliable timepieces and as a government agency they had to obtain a so-called Request for Proposal from the different manufactures. In 1964 they asked 10 manufactures, and only four responded. That was Omega, Rolex, Longines and Hamilton. Hamilton responded with a pocket watch (God only knows). So three watches remained in the competition; The Omega Speedmaster ST105.003, Rolex Cosmograph ref 6238 and Longines Wittnauer.
In this video Jim Ragan, the test engineer of the Speedmaster watches with NASA, tells the tale in his own words.
NASA and Snoopy
Back in 1968 Snoopy was a popular character in the daily newspaper comic strips. In these strips he could often be seen flying his make believe airplane. Sitting on top of his doghouse with his Flying Ace hat and scarf.
NASA approached cartoonist Charles Schulz for permission to use Snoopy as their safety mascot after an accident during the early days of the Apollo program.
Schulz agreed and in one of the first sketches Schulz published of Snoopy he was daydreaming about space in his fishbowl helmet. It was really a perfect match.
That same year NASA established the “Silver Snoopy Award”. The Snoopy icon was turned into a silver lapel pin and awarded to astronauts “for outstanding efforts that contribute to the success of human space flight missions“.
Now that Silver Snoopy was also brought into the Omega Speedmaster in 2015. Read my review of that watch here.
On the 18th of May 1969, Apollo 10 astronauts Thomas Stafford, Gene Cernan and John Young travelled from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida all the way to the moon. All aspects of an actual crewed lunar landing was to take place. Except for the landing of course. They were going to separate a landing module from the command module and orbit the moon for eight hours. They were also going in close to the moon’s surface to search for a landing site for the next Apollo 11 lunar landing.
The crew selected Snoopy as their mission mascot. Charlie Brown was selected as the name for their command module and Snoopy for their landing module.
Now the picture shows Apollo 10 commander Thomas Stafford pat the nose on their Snoopy mascot. On his left wrist you can clearly see the Omega Speedmaster he wore on the mission. Jayme Flowers is the woman in the picture holding the mascot as the crew walks along the hallway to the waiting transfer bus.
Collecting odd stuff
You see why I needed to have these pictures?
Collecting sure is fun.This picture may not be for every watch collector out there, but I like these odd objects. And I love getting my hands on rare and original objects that is directly or indirectly connected to the history of watches. I know my man cave will be looking good with this one framed up and ready to tell the story of my Omega Speedmaster.