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We've written before of the Omega Speedmaster's connection to racing and to NASA, of its role in Buzz Aldrin's historic Moonwalk. But the Speedy's association with NASA predates the Moon Landing, going all the way back to the first ever spacewalk undertaken by an American astronaut. In 1965, during the Gemini IV mission, astronaut Ed White shoved open the hatch of his spacecraft and floated into history.
The Space Race was already fraught with tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union - the goal in the early years was to see who could keep a man in space the longest. The Soviets had already achieved a five-day manned spaceflight with the Vostok 5 in 1963. But the who's who at NASA pushed for Gemini IV to top the Soviets’ record. Moreover, they made provisions for an American space walk, a feat that would demonstrate to the world, and more importantly the Kremlin, America's readiness to put a man on the Moon.
Lieutenant Colonel Edward Higgins White, former US Air Force aviator and test pilot, was considered by the top brass at NASA to be among the best pilots in the agency, and in 1962 he was selected as one of six astronauts in the Astronaut Group 2, and in 1965 he was selected to pilot Gemini IV.
But even in the days leading up to launch, word was spreading that NASA had reservations about whether LTC White would undertake the dangerous EVA.
Concern heightened when, after the launch, when White and his Command Pilot James McDivitt were given the order to prepare for the EVA, conditions nearly proved too perilous for the spacewalk to take place. And when White and McDivitt depressurized the cabin a faulty hatch nearly derailed the entire mission.
The hatch would have to be forced open, but once done, there was a risk that it wouldn't properly seal again. White and McDivitt went on, forcing the hatch open and—tethered to the spacecraft—floated out into the vacuum of space. White became the first American astronaut to venture beyond the confines of his spacecraft.
Navigating with the aid of an oxygen-powered Hand-Held Maneuvering Unit (which the astronauts called a zip gun), White maneuvered around the spacecraft while McDivitt took pictures. However, he used up more oxygen during his EVA than Mission Control was comfortable with, so after 20 minutes, McDivitt—speaking with Gus Grissom in Houston—urged White to come back in.
White finally agreed, saying, “I’m coming back in, and it’s the saddest moment of my life.”
Strapped to the exterior of Ed White’s spacesuit was an Omega Speedmaster Reference 105.003-65. This early "Pre-Professional" Speedmaster has a slimmer profile than its progeny, with straight lugs and no crown guards. One subtle elegant touch is the pie-pan dial with applied Omega logo reminiscent of the dial on the Constellation. The hands are batons rather than the dauphine hands used in previous references.
This particular watch has a handsome dial which has taken on a lovely patina. The case is honest, with a signed crown and the distinctive Speedmaster hippocampus case back, the D090 bezel showing signs of loving use. Complete with inner and outer box, a ref. 1035 bracelet, and an Extract from the Archives of Omega, it is a veritable time capsule.
The importance of early Speedmasters on the collector market cannot be understated. Although models such as the 105.003 command significantly higher values than their 145.012/145.022 descendants, they still remain a tremendous value. But for many collectors and enthusiasts, Ed White Speedmasters carry a kind of holy quality that defy predilections for ROI or speculation. Unlike the moon watches that would come later, the 105.003 has come to represent Ed White's legacy - the legacy of a man that helped lead NASA and the country into space and who gave his life in service of that dream at 36 years old on Launch Pad 34 at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station.
Stainless steel case is approximately 39mm (excluding crown and pushers). Ref. 105.003-65. Caliber .321. Circa mid-1960s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in excellent condition with only minimal signs of wear and no major blemishes or signs of over-polishing. Dial is in excellent condition with minimal signs of wear. "Dot over 90" bezel is in very good condition with a small dent and some minimal flaking at 11:00. Flat-foot Omega crown. Signed case back has some light tool marks but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes 19mm Reference 1035 Omega bracelet. Bracelet is in excellent condition; elastic links are also in very sound condition.
Also includes two 19mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle, Omega box and Extract from the Archives of Omega.