Thursday 23 April 2009 – OMEGA is basing a worldwide campaign for its iconic Speedmaster chronograph watches around a photograph of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The use of Kennedy’s image was arranged in cooperation with the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation which administers the rights to the late president’s name and image.
The connection between the Speedmaster and Kennedy is a natural one. It was during his thousand days in office that America’s first manned space flights took place. On the final two missions in the Mercury program, Wally Schirra and Gordon Cooper wore OMEGA Speedmasters on their spaceflights (Friendship 7 and Faith 7 respectively).
In fact, prior to Cooper’s launch on May 15th, 1963, the Speedmaster became the only watch ever to be approved by NASA for use on all of its manned flights. The popular chronograph has been part of every NASA manned mission since, including the six lunar landings.
President Kennedy was instrumental in promoting America’s lunar landing program. On May 25, 1961 in an address to the Joint Session of Congress, he first mentioned the importance of going to the Moon, saying, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him back safely to the earth.”
The president reiterated the point in a speech at Rice University on the 12th of September, 1962 when he proclaimed, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
While Kennedy would not be alive when it happened, a little more than eight years after he first voiced the challenge, Apollo 11 would land on the Moon and at 2:56 GMT on the 21st of July, 1969, Neil Armstrong would step onto the lunar surface. The American historian Arthur Schlesinger said of the mission, “The 20th century will be remembered, when all else is forgotten, as the century when man burst his terrestrial bonds.” “And,” as OMEGA president Stephen Urquhart has pointed out, “he did it wearing a Speedmaster.”