The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Alaska Project was the limited edition Speedmaster watch model that Omega introduced at Baselworld 2008. It happens to have one of the most interesting “limited-edition stories” among the modern limited-edition Omega Speedmaster Moonwatches, in my opinion, and it happens to look really cool. I’ll readily admit that my purchase of this watch began with an initial interest when it first debuted, but I didn’t get it until several years later. Lucky for me, I was able to get the last unsold new one here in the US that Omega had. I’ve heard that recently The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Alaska Project has become a collectors’ favorite, with prices incrementally increasing at auction.
Omega still produces Speedmaster Moonwatch models very much like those that went to the moon during the Apollo missions on the wrists of NASA stronauts in the 1960s. What started as a racing watch in the 1950s became the astronaut/space pilot watch after the success of the NASA missions. Think about it, in the years after the moon landing, who didn’t want to wear the same watch as that worn by the guys who went to the moon?
The success of the Omega Speedmaster isn’t just because of history, but also because of its dedication to being a tool watch first, and a “nice watch” second. This isn’t all function and no style, but it works wonderfully as a utilitarian object that just happens to look sexy in the process. Reams have been written about why the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch is a must-have for most modern watch lovers, and I won’t seek to reiterate the love and passion that has been thus far communicated for years all over the internet and in watch publications. All I can do is add my own thoughts and experience with Omega Speedmaster watch models.
Omega made the 2008 Speedmaster Moonwatch Alaska Project as a “re-issue” of essentially a few very obscure Omega watches from the past. These are the original Omega Speedmaster Alaska Project watch from 1969/1970 and the later Speedmaster Alaska Project II watch that came a bit later. The 2008 model combines elements from these both. The coolest among these original Alaska Project watches were produced as five prototype watches at the request of NASA who wanted an even beefier timepiece for use in space. NASA was also planning a (never to be realized) mission to the dark side of the moon where temperatures are much cooler.
Therein came the “Alaska Project” name, because much of Alaska is very cold. The watch was developed with an optional red aluminum housing that was meant to offer the watch additional shielding from high and low temperature extremes (as the story goes). According to Omega, the case “shield” offers temperature resistance up to 260 degrees Celsius and down to -148 degrees Celsius. Aluminum apparently has a high thermal retention, so it doesn’t heat up or cool down very quickly. I think that is more important than its actual insulating capacity. The red color was also chosen for specific reason – related to either ambient radiation or protection against sunlight.
For the original Alaska Project watches, Omega developed a pusher system in the aluminum doughnut housing which allowed for the chronograph to be operated with it on. Perhaps the most amazing element of the 2008 Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Alaska Project limited edition watch was that is actually came with specially made aluminum outer-casings that you could wear with the watch (that I sometimes do). This was a very rare addition to a limited edition Omega watch, in that there was a specially designed accessory to go with it aside from the watch case, straps, and tools.
As you know, these watches never went to space because NASA did not engage in the planned missions to the dark side of the moon, but Omega was eager not to have the entire project be a write-off. So what Omega did was take lessons from the Alaska Project and build them into the “improved” Speedmaster Mk II which was released shortly thereafter. Omega introduced a re-issue of the Speedmaster Mark II back in 2014, and ironically, that is another modern Speedmaster watch that is part of my collection.