In March of 1965, horological history was made when NASA’s Qualification Test Procedures program decided that the Omega Speedmaster would be the watch that would accompany American astronauts on their journey to the moon. After displaying its reliability and durability over the course of the first moon mission, the iconic Speedmaster went on to be used by astronauts worldwide for decades to come, until 1995, when it was decided that a purpose-designed update was due.
After a series of prototypes were tested and developed in cooperation with a number of astronauts and pilots, and the watch had proven itself in multiple respects, Omega officially launched the Speedmaster Professional X-33 ‘Mars Watch’ in 1998 through a live satellite presentation of the watch aboard the Russian Mir space station. Since then, the X-33 has gone on to be selected by many professionals for use in demanding environments.
In conjunction with the launch of Christie’s Rare Omega Watches online auction, which includes a well-travelled space-flown example of the X-33, we take a closer look at the backstory of this famed and functional timepiece.
OMEGA Speedmaster X-33, Ref. PIC.3990.50.006 previously owned by Russian cosmonaut Sergei Zalyotin, who wore it on missions to both the Mir and International Space Stations. Estimate $10,000 - $20,000.
A large part of the X-33’s appeal for collectors is the fact that it was designed for professional use. In order to ensure that the watch would be able to perform to such standards, Omega called upon highly accomplished professionals such as Commander Tom Stafford (Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Apollo 10, and Project Gemini) and noteworthy figures from squadrons like the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds to provide thoughtful input.
With their help, a series of prototypes of the X-33 were created over the course of three years, and were tested by Russian cosmonauts including Victor Afansiev, and NASA astronaut Richard Linnehan, to name just two. This team effort to develop the X-33 makes the watch all the more exciting, in that it is the product of the brightest minds in aerospace engineering, watchmaking, and space travel all working together.
When working on the X-33, a range of details were incorporated into the prototypes and eventually the final watch to ensure maximum functionality and ease of use when piloting an aircraft — or even working aboard the International Space Station.
First, Omega made sure to include an 80-decibel alarm within the watch, because a standard-decibel alarm might not be heard while in the confinement of the space shuttle. Additionally, an advanced crown system was implemented that needed only to be pushed to operate the X-33’s functions when wearing large gloves, along with a brightly illuminated digital display that would allow astronauts to keep track of how much time has elapsed since the beginning of a mission (up to 999 days) and perform several calculations if needed.
All of this went to show that the X-33 was not simply just another well-made Omega, but a bona fide tool watch, ready to take on the harshest of conditions. For this reason, X-33s are still used by astronauts to this day.
OMEGA Speedmaster X-33, Ref. PIC.3990.50.006 previously owned by Russian cosmonaut Sergei Zalyotin; lot includes OMEGA Presentation Box, Outer Box, Hang Tag, Operating Instructions, International Warranty Card, and Framed Photographs of Cosmonaut including one where he is wearing the X-33. Estimate $10,000-$20,000.
An otherworldly backstory
After the X-33 had passed the prototype stage and was in general production as the latest Omega offering, it was not uncommon to see more and more astronauts and cosmonauts with a trusty X-33 upon their wrist. Because of this, we now occasionally see pieces that have provenance that is quite literally out of this world.
For example, the current example on offer in Christie’s Rare Omega Watches online auction is a remarkable Speedmaster that was owned by Russian cosmonaut Sergei Zalyotin and accompanied him on historically significant missions to the Mir space station and International Space Station. This important watch will generate excitement among collectors of Omega watches and space-flown artifacts.
Visit Christie’s Rare Omega Watches online auction now through 9 February to bid on a fine selection of Omega timepieces including the Speedmaster X-33 previously owned by Sergei Zalyotin.