Introduction

“Basho,” he said, handing me a fresh drink, “you know your watches, right?”

“Sure,” I answered.

“Well, I need a good watch.” He paused, swilled his glass and then looked at me. “If you could have any watch, just one, which one would you pick?”

That was a very good question, one I have been asked many times. And as always, the answer is that “it depends on the man”.

I considered the man in front of me; my wife’s cousin. He was a youngish man in his late twenties and a successful executive CEO. I smiled, as, in fact, he was one of those people who it is quite hard to believe actually exists outside of a James Bond casino scene.  He was very handsome (an ex-model for Aquascutum) and had that English noble adventurer look down pat. In his spare time, when not running his company, he snowboarded and rode speedboats. He had been incredibly expensively educated, all the while remaining a lot of fun to be around. An elegant ladies man and yet a total “lad” with it.

What to recommend?

I took a sip of my glass and considered my surroundings. I was on holiday in a cottage rented by my father-in-law for his closest family. I had just served up an enormous steak dinner, enough for 10 adults, and was now sipping a glass of scotch from the good doctor’s (another guest) private cask, we were waiting to set up for a games evening. Nothing much to help with watch statements amongst the men here, as I was wearing something by Christopher Ward and my father-in-law didn’t wear a watch at all ever, which – given the man – was as strong a watch statement as I have ever heard; but, not much help.

So, I thought about work. Many of the people in my office wore watches. Indeed, you get the more junior employees usually wearing fashion brands and perhaps the odd Apple watch. Then Managers and Senior Managers will normally have something suitable for the office, something elegant and aspiring as those in that position want to demonstrate. A Tag Heuer maybe? Then up to Directors, and well, here you get “serious” with smart Omegas, and plenty of Rolex choices. Then finally, once one has scaled Mount Olympus and spoken to the Oracle to become a Partner, well, then the sky is the limit. One guy wears a particularly impressive and bold Hublot and I see lots of oh-so-subtle Pateks hiding under the cuffs of handmade shirts.

This was the right world for my relative here; but, where to place him without insulting him? What watch is suitable for someone who was either constantly on a jet plane or, within minutes of leaving the office, would be bounding up a mountain, sitting on a beach or skipping onto a jetty? What could keep up with him? Then I realised who he reminded me of: a special and rare type of person, and one just as smartly adventurous as he.

“Come on -” he said, snapping me back from this consideration, “I thought you knew watches?”

Do I know watches?

“Omega Moonwatch Professional,” I said, reaching behind me for my iPad and booting up the Omega website. “It is the watch that astronauts wear into space and onto the moon.” I handed him the tablet. “It would be perfect for you.”

A few watches have been on the moon and, since we stopped going to that quite dusty rock, an even larger selection have been into space. But they all have something in common: they are the choice for Astronauts. So, what is an astronaut like? The first Americans into space, and especially those who walked on the moon, were truly the best of the best. Given the gene pool the US has to choose from that is really saying something. Much is made of making it to the moon, but the more impressive feat was for me the fact that they didn’t slam straight into it.

You see, when attempting their landing the computers, if one could call them that – big punch card programmed monstrosities, made a mistake. The landing point selected was no good. In fact, it would have forced an abort. So, Neil Armstrong switched the lander to manual and flew it over the nearest hill. He had only a few seconds of thrust left at this point. You can hear it clearly in the video of the landing. There is this voice in the background counting down. That is the seconds of burn he has left and he had to leave enough to, you know, launch back into space. Without a bead of sweat, while the world held its breath, this incredible pilot crested the hill, span the lander and planted it perfectly into the dust. OMEGA must have been gutted that Neil didn’t wear his OMEGA on the surface of the moon, but it was for the greatest of reasons; part of the timing module in the lander had broken and Neal was timing the mission by leaving his OMEGA in the capsule running its chronograph.

Think on that, it wasn’t on his wrist to look good, although it does, it was a proper tool and had a job to do. In many respects that this “back up device” was selected for this task without hesitation was a larger endorsement for OMEGA than merely gracing Neil’s wrist. Of course, Buzz, ever the watch guy, wore his.

OMEGA had won a victory for the wristwatch, beaten the competition – none of which survived the NASA tests – and actually been used on the mission. No wonder they keep the classic Moonwatch model in their inventory.

NASA put the Moonwatch through a bonkers level of tests to qualify for space missions. Of course, a modern Casio G-Shock could pass all of these, but I contend that this was in the 1950’s and – speaking as a very happy owner of one of the top “Mr G” models – G-shocks are not exactly elegant.