At the end of 1995 the astronaut community decided that there was a need for an updated purpose-designed astronauts’ watch. This was the genesis of what would become the Speedmaster X-33. After two years of extensive testing by astronauts, cosmonauts, and elite military pilots, the watch was shown to the public via a live broadcast from the Mir space station through Houston’s Mission Control.
The present watch is an exceptional Speedmaster X-33 previously owned by Russian cosmonaut Sergei Zalyotin, who wore it on missions to both the Mir and International Space Stations. To the best of our knowledge, this may be the only Speedmaster that has traveled to both of these space stations, making it a remarkable piece of horological and space history.
This Speedmaster X-33 includes an OMEGA warranty card that has postage cancellation stamps from both ISS and Mir on it. OMEGA's archives confirm this reference PIC 3990.50.006 watch was given as a gift originally and the OMEGA Museum officials believe it could thereby be assumed to have been provided to a cosmonaut. According to the consignor, Zalyotin stated the watch was given to him by the Russian Federal Space Agency in 2000.
Zalyotin's 73-day mission to Mir on Soyuz TM-30 in 2000 is historically significant because it was the first ever privately-funded manned mission to space, the first and only privately-funded spacewalk, and the last mission to visit Mir. Zalyotin also wore this watch as Commander for the Soyuz TMA-1 mission in 2002, which was the first flight of the TMA-class Soyuz spacecraft incorporating changes requested by NASA for servicing the International Space Station.
This Speedmaster X-33 is accompanied by its original booklet that includes a written note from Zalyotin in Russian, its original box, its original warranty card with stamps from both the Mir and International Space Stations, its original hangtag, its OMEGA strap and buckle, and a frame including two personalized signed photographs of Zalyotin presented to the gentleman who purchased the watch from him. One of the photographs shows Zalyotin wearing the watch in space on Mir. Separate photographs exist of Zalyotin wearing the watch on the International Space Station.
The translated message in the OMEGA booklet states:
"These watches have been with me in space twice:
Mir Space Station from April 6, 2000 to June 15, 2000
ISS from November 1, 2002 to November 9, 2002
Hero of Russia
Cosmonaut of Russia
Star City, November 23, 2002"
This Speedmaster X-33 is an exceptionally unique and historic find for collectors of OMEGA watches and space-flown equipment.
THE SPEEDMASTER X-33
The striking design of the X-33, the so-called Mars Watch, began in 1995. A very early prototype was produced with huge input from both American and European astronauts. They were able to identify those specifications that would be most helpful to them and in some cases absolutely necessary while navigating in space. In fact, the design of the X-33 was aided by a number of important individuals that understood what was required first hand, namely astronaut Tom Stafford who was the successful Commander of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project flight as well as two Gemini flights to name a few. Others were also responsible for its acclaimed design such as the United States Air Demonstration Squadron pilots of the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds. Such influence was of paramount importance so that this watch could meet industry standards and perfectly serve the venturous men who wore it.
The first design of 1995 had the name Flightmaster on the dial, with no indication of Speedmaster Professional or X-33 at this time. It housed the caliber ETA 990.431, had a standard decibel alarm, and was fitted with a blue anodized rotating bezel. The four screwed pushers were prominent on the case where a removable titanium bracelet was available. With big demand and interest, the following prototype was developed just one year later. This housed the caliber ETA E20.301 and had a double case back that allowed for a much louder alarm. It had a steel bezel and once again had four screwed pushers located on both sides of the case. These early designs evoked a somewhat less streamlined aesthetic to the X-33 model that was to follow.
In 1998 came the third example, now fully demonstrating the intention from OMEGA to reach perfection with this multifunctional and largely complicated timepiece. Designed to be used inside the space module, this watch had a more modern hybrid display that was bright enough to see in the obscurity of deep space. With an analogue display for hours, minutes and seconds, it also had a digital display for the various and extensive functions that this watch could provide. These included universal GMT time, a perpetual calendar, and a chronograph. Designed to be operated with gloves, the crown requires a push as opposed to the more conventional turning that allows for a more convenient way to use it in the limited capacity of a spacecraft. The dial carried the admirable designation of OMEGA Speedmaster Professional.
Over the five-year testing period, this watch had come to meet all of the specifications that the astronauts requested. Indeed, it was fight-qualified to be used on the next 100 missions of the NASA Space Shuttle program and was worn on this module from the beginning of 1998. It was also worn on the Russian Mir space station. Specifically, it was Russian cosmonaut Victor Afansiev who wore the X-33 aboard the Mir. During his career, Afansiev has remarkably logged over 2000 flight hours in more than 40 different aircrafts.
The X-33 from 1998 is now out of production for the general public, which makes it increasingly difficult to find. OMEGA still continues to produce watches with similar design features such as the Z-33 and the Skywalker X-33, but the original X-33 from the late 1990s showed OMEGA's innovative strengths and ability for diversification.
OMEGA officially launched the Speedmaster Professional X-33 in March 1998, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The unveiling was conducted with a live satellite uplink to the Russian Mir space station, which already had pre-release prototypes of the X-33 aboard for final testing. The X-33 derives its name from the code name of a new space shuttle planned by NASA at the beginning of the 1990s. It fulfilled all the specifications established in over five years of tests with American and European astronauts, including professional pilots.
The Mars Watch was designed with a multifunctional digital display. This was a concept that, although seeming like a departure for OMEGA, was actually something the company had been developing and improving upon since the 1980s. OMEGA had been making watches with similar qualifications, but without such sophisticated mission-specific functions of the X-33, for example, the Seamaster Multifunction had been made since 1986 using the caliber 1665 quartz multifunction movement.
The case is made of titanium, a light, ultra-resistant, and anti-allergenic material. With four pushers and a three-position crown, it is also equipped with a powerfully-lit dial and loud alarm function. The sound of a regular alarm would certainly be inaudible within the space shuttle and therefore OMEGA made one of an astounding 80 decibels as well presenting the digital display as larger and with more contrast.
In summer 2006 OMEGA announced that the Speedmaster Professional X-33 would be discontinued and only available to space agencies like NASA for space flight missions. It still remains available to military aviators under under the Military Pilot Program.