Throwback Thursday: Omega Speedmaster Professional ‘Alaska II’ Project Watch
The Omega Speedmaster is celebrating its 60th birthday this year. A milestone for a watch that will forever be known as the Moonwatch. Although this Alaska Project II never went to the moon, it is one of the most desirable Speedmasters out there. Despite its white dial and name, it had nothing to do with the US state but was, in fact, a code name that Omega used for the project. The goal of the ALASKA project was to create the perfect space watch. The project started before the moon landing of the Apollo 11, and Omega developed different prototypes which were sent to NASA for testing. After the Apollo 17 had come back from the moon, the remaining missions were canceled. This also temporarily stopped the ALASKA project at Omega, reason why the watches from this era were known as ALASKA I.
The Speedmaster that we have here is an ALASKA II because in 1971 Omega continued the project. While the ALASKA I watches were mainly unlike any other watch Omega produced, the ALASKA II watches followed the existing Speedmaster line quite carefully.
This ALASKA II is powered by Omega’s famous caliber 861, a manual wind chronograph, which is protected by an anti-magnetic inner case. It has the crown and pushers are placed between the crown guards who have been integrated into the design of the case. Although this watch is fitted with a seemingly ordinary Tachymeter bezel, there is something special about it. Only a few months in 1970 did Omega produced bezels which included “220” on the scale. Of course, this was soon rectified, making these bezels one of the rarest.
The focus of this Speedmaster ALASKA II was to protect it from the extreme heat that you can encounter in outer space. For that reason, the dial was white instead of the usual black, so it would reflect light and therefore heat. The dial was coated with a zinc oxide, which is highly resistant to solar radiation. This also made this ALASKA II watch, the very first Speedmaster to be fitted with a white dial.
To protect the watch, even more, Omega created a red anodized aluminum case that you can fit over the watch and serves as a protective heat shield. Omega would later on also create this cover for the limited edition that they based on this watch. Omega only made three prototypes with a red anodized aluminum case, making this Speedmaster extremely rare.
While this is one of the most purpose developed Speedmasters, it is not all business. The design is beautiful and surprisingly timeless. While the Speedmaster is 60 years old, this ALASKA II version is celebrating its 47th birthday this year. Time has been most certainly kind on this particular version, but that is also because it went from Omega to NASA, and then from NASA back to Omega, who kept this model in their museum until 2007 when it was sold in the Omegamania auction. It resided in private collections ever since, without a doubt as a treasured piece of its owner.