Ryan Gosling's Omega Speedmaster in 'First Man' Is A Piece of History
He is something of an icon for his easy, grown-up style, and actor Ryan Gosling is also no slouch when it comes to the watches he wears. His reputation for choosing discretion over oomph, and conversation pieces over the predictable, make him of particular interest to watch fans.
In a world where Hollywood icons are paid big bucks to ambassador new watches, Gosling plows his own quietly knowledgeable furrow with a personal vintage watch collection that includes Patek Philippe Calatravas and a striking Jaeger LeCoultre Memovox. In January 2017, at the Golden Globes, Gosling not only set hearts aflutter but got the watch nerds hot under the collar when he stepped up to claim his award for La La Land in a white tux with an eye-catching old Rolex peeping from his cuff.
In the world of vintage watches, where provenance means value, authenticity is paramount. So it was a game-changing moment in horology that kept our friends at Hodinkee up all night in an effort to ID the watch before their competitors. In the end, Hodinkee’s editors plumped for two near identical 1950s Air Kings: references 5500 and 6552.
Authenticity also plays a huge role in the creation of Damian Chazelle’s First Man, which opens in theaters Friday. It portrays the 1960s Space Race, culminating on July 21 1969 with Neil Armstrong (played by Gosling) setting foot on the moon. The race galvanized the nation and the wider world with its cocktail of courage and technology at the very edge of science. For watch nerds, however, there is an equally compelling back story in the adoption by Nasa, for the Apollo crew, of the Omega Speedmaster Professional, a chronograph first created in 1957 not for the Space Race but for race car drivers.
NASA required that every piece of equipment on the Apollo spacecraft be certified for use, which meant rigorous testing. Of the watches submitted by three watch brands for scrutiny late in 1964, only the Speedmaster passed all 10 tests before being officially passed for use in March 1965. The Speedmaster was of course intended only as a mechanical back-up to the array of onboard computers. But when, months later in 1970, a short-circuit struck Apollo XIII, the only way back to earth was analog. To time the thrusts of the Lunar Module’s descent engine (to maneuver it into a viable splashdown trajectory), the crew used their Speedmasters' chronograph function, sealing its rightful place in horology's hall of fame.
Fittingly, the team on First Man played it strictly by the book, and, aided by the boffins at Omega’s headquarters in Bienne, Switzerland, set out to equip the cast in period-correct Speedmasters. Production began in the summer of 2017, and throughout the filming schedule it used Omega archive watches and specially made replicas, all consistent with the timeframe of the movie. More than 10 period-specific Speedys, in two different references, were made for Gosling and the Apollo 11 team. The reason for the two references is that the ST 105.003 (the very same model that NASA tested in 1964) and the ST 105.012 were both worn by Armstrong first in training and then for the actual Moon mission.
According to Raynald Aeschlimann, Omega’s President, the NASA contract has been an invaluable asset ever since to the company’s image. “It’s a relationship built on trust,” he says. “From the start, they knew they had a timepiece that could be relied on in the most extreme conditions. And since then, we’ve been there beside them for some truly historical moments. For example, the perilous Apollo 13 mission and the famous Apollo-Soyuz handshake. We know each other so well now and we’ve established great trust and understanding."
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.