December 23, 2021
When the Omega Speedmaster was chosen by NASA for Gemini and Apollo missions it became the focus of arguably the greatest tool watch story of all time. Much has already been written about the selection process which ultimately led Speedmasters to accompany men with “the right stuff” as they explored The Sea of Tranquillity or Hadley Apennines. There are some truly amazing images of Omegas in space, such as Ed White’s 1965 Gemini 4 spacewalk, and a precious few of the lesser known Bulova which made a one-off appearance during Apollo 15. There is considerable similarity of function between the two “moonwalker” watches however one thing that was identical was their deployment on a super-size NASA issue Velcro strap.
If you look closely at NASA images from Project Gemini to Skylab, you can clearly see the Velcro straps standing against the suits worn by astronauts. Strap colours varied through the history of manned space flight from white, to olive to black but the general design has always been the same and based on a series of numbers which have become famous in the watch world – SEB12100030-202- the original NASA drawing number which appeared stamped on almost all of the operational straps. The original drawings are available online to view and typify the huge level of detail that went into everything issued to astronauts.
Technical Drawing for Apollo Skylab Watchband - Image Credit NASA
None of the straps used on missions were supplied by Omega. Archived NASA paperwork referencing the order of the watches clearly states that the bands would be constructed “in house”, initially by NASA’s Flight Crew Integration Division. Nevertheless, Omega and American Velcro Inc. were consulted and did collaborate during manufacture. Post Apollo, into the Skylab era, NASA outsourced such activity to Boeing Aerospace Operations who made the last batch of Omega straps.
If you are a space flight enthusiast and lucky enough to own a Speedmaster or a Bulova (or both) you will no doubt have scoured the internet seeking a close copy of the original NASA Velcro strap. There are a few available ranging hugely in price and quality.
At ZULUDIVER we have wanted to develop an authentic Moonwatch strap for some time and we are delighted to announce that the ZULUDIVER LUNAR STRAP is now a reality.
We have undertaken extensive research studying original NASA blueprints and numerous vintage photographs of astronauts to get our product suitably accurate yet functional for daily use.
As you would expect from ZULUDIVER we have not compromised on quality with the strap being made from high strength slanted nylon made by a unique shuttleless weaving process which offers superior friction resistance and colour retention. The military grade non-fray hook and loop fastening system is hypoallergenic and will work in temperatures as low as -30 degrees. It should securely open and close more than 5000 times. The matt, corrosion resistant, steel loop is embossed with the ZULUDIVER name.
We recommend that the strap should be worn with the short end attached to the upper lugs of the case and the long end lower for ease of fastening but it can be worn either way. The original NASA strap was exceptionally long at 56cm (22 inches) as it had to fasten around the bulky outer sleeve of a space suit. This required astronauts having to wind the strap several times around their wrist when wearing their watches with normal flights suits in the capsule. In the interests of comfort and practicality, we have decided not to follow this exact detail and have instead opted to cut our strap to a more practical 25cm (8 inches). This size folds uniformly back onto the hook and loop system without excess material.
ZULUDIVER is proud to present a contemporary accurate representation of the original strap worn by NASA (and Russian) astronauts throughout the Space Program. Whatever your model of space homage watch, be it Seiko, Sinn, Fortis, X-33 or a classic Speedmaster, when you fit this strap to your watch it radically changes the appearance and takes you instantly to a place of adventures most of us can only dream of.
About the Author: Richard Brown
About the Author: Richard Brown
I truly believe one of the best partners in exploration and adventure is a fine watch. Over 30 years of collecting, my fascination with the technical capabilities of both vintage and modern timepieces has never abated and it is a privilege to be able to share this passion through writing.More Articles by Richard Brown