Omega London Gala Marks 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon LandingBy Ken Kessler
Appropriately, Omega’s celebration in London at the iconic Television Centre in White City for the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing was truly star-studded. Omega’s crucial role in humankind’s greatest achievement was the supplying of the Speedmaster chronograph worn by the astronauts. The presence of retired NASA engineer Jim Ragan provided the 100-plus guests with a direct connection to the team of over 400,000 individuals who made the mission a success.
Among the VIP guests were models Lara Stone, Doina Ciobanu and Richard Biedul actors Riz Ahmed, Dan Stevens, Josh Whitehouse, Douglas Booth, Alfie Allen, Laurence Fox, Jack Fox, Malachi Kirby and Tom York, musician George Barnett, socialite Pixie Geldof and Professor Kevin Fong were captivated by Ragan’s account of the procedure by which NASA chose the Speedmaster. Introduced by VP of Omega, Jean-Pascal Perret, Ragan recounted the process of choosing a timepiece for space missions, which started five years before the moon landing.
During Ragan’s 36-year career as an aerospace engineer at NASA, he was responsible for the selecting, testing and preparing hardware for the Apollo, Skylab and ASTP Programs, and served as senior aerospace engineer and manager in support of the space shuttle programme. He told of how NASA went in search of the one watch it could rely on for all manned flight missions. After several brands submitted timepieces for the punishing tests, it was only the Omega Speedmaster which survived. This resulted in it earning the honour of ‘Flight Qualified for all Manned Space Missions’ in 1965, and it continued to be the chosen watch of NASA for all Gemini and Apollo missions.
Televised in 33 countries worldwide, and observed by one million spectators from beaches and highways, the Apollo 11 Saturn V was launched into Space on the 16th July, 1969, from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. It landed on the lunar surface on 20 July 1969, its three astronauts Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin each officially equipped with an Omega Speedmaster.
Honouring the legendary chronograph, known affectionately as simply the ‘Moonwatch’, Omega created a space-themed event with live art choreography of astronaut actors, complex light installations and a bass-heavy, ear-busting soundtrack by DJ Dan Lywood. The guests enjoyed an immersive experience suggestive of space travel at the reception with dinner preceded by a smoke-fuelled countdown before entering the vast room where guests dined beneath a 4.5-meter suspended moon.