So, everyone knows the story about Corrigan's in Houston. Two guys walk into local watch dealer Corrigan's, furtively buy a few chronographs, walk out, and then take them back to NASA, where they're subjected to 200° F temperatures and 40 G shocks and only the Speedmaster comes out of it keeping time, and ends up flown up on Mercury and eventually Apollo. No one knows anything about it at Omega until they see Ed White in June 1965 floating a few hundred miles above Cape Canaveral, wearing a Speedmaster outside of his G4C suit.
Here's the official version: OMEGA Watches: Press Kit Text
There's an interesting document on page 600 of A Journey Through Time that's a bit hard to read, but you can make out most of the text with a fair bit of image processing. It's a quote request sent in 1964 to Norman M. Morris Corp, which was the exclusive agent for Omega in the United States for two (or maybe 12 - see below) chronograph watches. This is probably the order referred to in the above Omega press release, but to preserve a good story, they're vague enough to make this order sound as anonymous as those guys at Corrigan's.
Here's what I can make out:It's either 12 Speedmasters, or if it's the same document as Omega mentions, it might just be a generic message indicating 12 watches total from six manufacturers, so 2 Speedmasters. In any case, $82.50 each, which seems about right for the mid-1960s.Request for Quotations | THIS IS NOT AN ORDER
NASA Manned Spacecraft Center
Gemini 4 Flight Support Procurement Office
Houston, Texas 77058
October 21, 1964
Omega Watch Co
40 Norman M. Morris Corp
375 Park Ave
New York, N.Y.
[Can we get *unintelligable*]
NASA-Manned Spacecraft Center
Houston, Texas 77058
1. High Quality Chronograph, in accordance with the attached specification, without bands
Unit price: 82.50
A. Quantities to be purchased:
It is the intent of the Government to procure two (2) each chronographs from six (6) different manufacturers for test and evaluation purposes. In the event that sufficient responsive quotations are not received, the Government reserves the right to award all or any part of the total requirement as may be in the best interests of the Government.
B. Source of Origin
The source of origin of the item quoted, in which more than 50$ of the cost of all its components or end items are mined, produced, or manufactured outside the U.S. is Switzerland (source of origin)
C. Final Inspection, Acceptance, and F.O.B. Point
Required on or before October 21, 1964.
The NASA will accept quotations from your local dealers.
So, with regards to the Corrigan's story, we can probably conclude that one of these statements is true:
1. NASA agents purchased some number of watches from Corrigan's, but whether due to the need for a larger sample to test or to compare random retail watches with dealer-supplied watches without any special obfuscation, more were needed for the tests.
2. The Corrigan's watches or these watches were used for a different set of evaluations or not used.
3. The Corrigan's story is not true and all the watches were ordered in fall of 1964.
This would seem to cast down on the oft-repeated statement that Omega did not know about the Speedmaster's role in the space program until Ed White's Gemini 4 EVA. That is: 1. NASA is contacting Omega directly here, or close enough. 2.NASA certainly ordered a fair number more Speedmasters to equip its astronauts for training and use, eventually many dozens. 3. It probably did not do this in secret.
So, at best Omega probably had a pretty good idea prior to June 1965 that their watches were being used for space by NASA, if they did not already know. The big advertising push really gets off the ground after Gemini makes all the magazine covers, and there doesn't seem to be anything before it. Maybe they just wanted to be sure. Or maybe they just wanted to wait for better visuals?
What do you guys think?