Why is Snoopy on an Omega Speedmaster?
At the mention of Omega particularly in the pop culture world, we would often associate the Swiss luxury watchmaker to notable prestige, such as James Bond, and its celebrity ambassadors like George Clooney and Eddie Redmayne. Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip character Snoopy would be the last thing that comes to mind, as famous as it were in its heydays in the 1960s.
However, little did most of us know, Omega’s heritage is very much intertwined with the beloved beagle when it comes to the watch brand’s Speedmaster series, and its history with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s Apollo space programs. After all, Omega has bragging rights as the first watch worn on the moon in 1969, when Neil Armstrong and his team crossed the history-defining threshold—a milestone that Omega celebrates today with the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional, and just last year, its 50th anniversary with the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary edition.
This year, as Omega celebrates 50 years of being the honorable recipient of the illustrious Silver Snoopy Award—a 925 sterling silver pin that has become one of the highest honors for those in the aerospace industry, we unravel the history of how Snoopy got caught up in the whole business of space exploration in the first place; and how Omega came to receive the illustrious Silver Snoopy Award for its vital support during the Apollo 13 mission, which leads to Omega’s latest commemorative timepiece—the Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary Edition.
Snoopy, the NASA Astronaut
In January 1967, NASA’s Apollo space program experienced its first major tragedy, when the Apollo 1 command module caught fire during a ground test ahead of its mission to the moon, killing three of the 32 astronauts assigned to the program.
After the fire, NASA was caught between a (lunar) rock and a hard place; after all, the program was set up during a time of social unrest in the 1960s, and the public questioned then the use of American funds for space research, when many working class citizens struggled with marginalization in the country.
Tasked to create a new safety program for its employees to help prevent future incidents, as well as create awareness among the public, the Public Affairs Director for the Manned Spacecraft Center (now known as the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center) at the time Al Chop had the smarts to recruit the beloved beagle as NASA’s safety mascot. A popular figure among the public in Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts, who better than Snoopy to act as a safety “watchdog”, but also representing total mission success—keeping things light in serious situations?
The collaboration was formalized through the Space Act Agreement, and by March 1968, Snoopy was a full-fledged astronaut—another one of Snoopy’s fantasy identities, besides The Flying Ace during WWI, in Schulz’s comic strips that captured public excitement about America’s adventures into space, establishing Snoopy as a symbol of space exploration during the Apollo era.
Snoopy was very much present during the Apollo 10 mission, a “test drive” mission to orbit around the moon 31 times two months prior to Apollo 11’s moon landing mission; apparently, there was also a lunar module named Snoopy, and a command module named after Snoopy’s owner Charlie Brown on board the Apollo 10 mission. While Snoopy, the lunar module, was “lost in space”, he stands today a 5-foot tall statue at the Kennedy Space Center, commemorating his involvement in the mission.
NASA and Snoopy’s collaboration naturally evolved into the Silver Snoopy Award, presented by the NASA astronauts themselves to people or companies that have contributed significantly to “the success of human space flight missions.” Designed by Schulz, the 925 sterling silver award pin depicts Snoopy in a spacesuit and his famous Flying Ace scarf from his wartime days. Between 1968 and 2016, the highly esteemed honor was given to almost 15,000 people, personally recognized by the flight crews as their own recognition of excellence in the aerospace industry—one of its recipients being Omega.
“The Silver Snoopy Award has been given to no more than 1% of eligible recipients.”
(From left) Two days after its launch from Earth, Apollo 13 hit a snag when an oxygen tank exploded on board the craft; On October 5, 1970, Omega received the Silver Snoopy Award from Astronaut and Commander of Apollo 10 Thomas P. Stafford (right); Apollo 13 astronaut James Lovell and his team were forced into the Lunar Module, which was not built to support so many people for such a long time.
The Silver Snoopy Award Honors Omega
Omega has been an invaluable support to NASA since 1965, with the Speedmaster’s pledge in “flight qualified for all manned space missions”. The chronograph was entrusted subsequently throughout some of NASA’s most important hours, and even became the first watch worn on the moon in 1969. However, it wasn’t until the Apollo 13 mission in 1970 that Omega’s critical precision was best represented.
Following Apollo 11’s first moon landing achievement, Apollo 13’s primary mission objectives were to inspect, survey and sample selenological materials in the preselected Fra Mauro Formation (a formation of highlands on the near side of the moon). The seventh Apollo mission to the moon launched from the Kennedy Space Center on April 11 in 1970, but hit a snag two days in, when an oxygen tank exploded on board the craft.
Comparably less significant than Armstrong’s message upon his first step on the moon’s surface, the infamous “Houston, we’ve had a problem here” was transmitted back to Earth, and the three-man crew—consisting of astronauts James Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise, was forced into the Lunar Module. Due to the fact that the module was not built to support so many people for such a long time, the crew had to shut down almost all power on board the module to conserve energy, rendering the digital timers obsolete.
An aborted mission drifted off its intended course, Apollo 13 would eventually re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at the wrong angle, and if not timed correctly, the module would bounce back into space with no chance of recovery. Without their digital timers, the astronauts had to readjust the course of the craft manually through a required burn of the engine for an exact 14 seconds. During a time when there was simply no room for error, Omega’s mechanical excellence was called for, as the astronauts used their Speedmaster chronographs to time the 14-second burn.
“Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”
Much to everyone’s relief, the maneuver back to Earth was carried out perfectly, and on April 17, Apollo 13 achieved a splashdown in the South Pacific Ocean, Southeast of American Samoa and 6.5km from the recovery ship USS Iwo Jima. To this day, Apollo 13 held the record for the highest absolute altitude attained by a crewed spacecraft at pericynthion in the Guinness Book of World Records: 400,171km from Earth.
Upon their return, President Richard Nixon awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Apollo 13 Mission Operations Team, whereas on October 5, Omega received its Silver Snoopy Award in recognition of its overall contributions to NASA, including during the remarkable Apollo 13 mission. Fellow astronaut and Commander of Apollo 10 Thomas P. Stafford presented the unique 925 sterling silver pin, together with a Manned Flight Awareness certificate signed by Lovell, Swigert and Haise.
“The commemorative timepiece combines the incredible Snoopy tribute with watchmaking art, taking the Omega Speedmaster to new realms of design.”
Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary timepiece
Last year, Omega commemorated Apollo 11’s successful moon landing in 1969, which also made it the first watch worn on the moon, with the release of the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary.
This year, the brand has much to celebrate still, when it was awarded the prestigious Silver Snoopy Award 50 years ago—an award that has been given to no more than 1% of eligible recipients, proving just how rare and special it is, for Omega’s unique contributions to space exploration, and the Speedmaster’s vital support during the rescue of Apollo 13.
As part of the Moonwatch Anniversary Series alongside its predecessor, the Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary timepiece has been created in the occasion’s honor, which combines the incredible Snoopy tribute with watchmaking art, taking the Omega Speedmaster to new realms of design.
The favorite household beagle created by Charles M. Schulz plays a prominent role within the timepiece: upon an embossed silver medallion on the blue subdial at 9 o’clock, Snoopy is shown wearing his famous spacesuit, in the exact style of the Silver Snoopy Award pin that NASA astronauts award to the recipients. The silver dial is laser-engraved with Ag925, paired with two more blue subdials, and blue PVD angle-shaped hour markers and hands.
On the caseback, Snoopy has gone into orbit, thanks to his animated black and white Command and Service Module (CSM) on a magical hand. When the chronograph seconds hand is in use, Snoopy takes a trip around the mysterious far side of the moon—just like the Apollo 13 crew, depicted on the sapphire crystal using a unique micro-structured metallization.
In the distance, a vision of our home is included: the Earth disc rotates once per minute, in sync with the watch’s small seconds hand—a symbol of the Earth’s precise rotation, where the iconic quote “Eyes on the Stars” is displayed across the black universe. Furthermore, The NAIAD LOCK keeps all caseback engravings in the correct, upright position, including the date in 1970 that Omega received the Silver Snoopy Award, and a commemoration to the imperiled Apollo 13 mission that same year.
Omega’s superb attention to detail can be seen on the blue nylon fabric strap, inspired by the 4th generation Speedmaster style, the first watch worn on the moon in 1969. Attached to the 42mm stainless steel case, it matches the other blue elements of the watch, whereas embossed on the lining is the trajectory of the Apollo 13 mission. The tachymeter scale, on the other hand, showcases the iconic “Dot over Ninety” in white enamel on a blue ceramic [ZrO2] bezel ring.
The Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary watch is driven by the Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 3861; a ground-breaking movement that has taken the legendary Moonwatch calibre to new standards of excellence, with its anti-magnetic innovation, and Master Chronometer certification from the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS).
The timepiece comes with Omega’s full 5-year warranty, in its own Apollo 13 presentation box that is loaded with a microfibre cleaning cloth, a brochure, and a magnifying glass for eager fans and watch collectors to spend hours pouring over the commemorative timepiece.