All About The Omega FOIS (An ICONIC Speedmaster Model!)
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All about the Omega FOIS

All About The Omega FOIS (An ICONIC Speedmaster Model!)

There are many beautiful, luxurious, and expertly engineered timepieces on the market today, but few have reached icon status the way the Omega Speedmaster has. Of course, the “Moonwatch” is probably the most widely known Speedmaster, but before we walked on the moon, we had to first get into orbit. 

The Speedmaster CK2998-4 (some call it the pre-moon watch), which was first made in 1959, wasn’t specifically designed for outer space exploration, and yet it would become the First Omega in Space or FOIS as it’s been dubbed by collectors and fans. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the remarkable history of the Speedmaster, what it was originally intended for, and how it became associated with space. We’ll also probe its history with NASA and one of the giants of space exploration that wore it on his wrist. 

We’ll also consider the modern 2012 version released by Omega, reference 311., and compare it to the original. Further, we’ll look at some of the Limited Editions also developed to celebrate the original. 

Whether you’re among the elite few collectors that are in the market for the original or you’re considering a modern tribute, we’ve done the research, and we’ll cover all the information you need, from the storied history of this timepiece to all the details that matter. 

About the Omega Speedmaster

In the 1950s, outer space might have occupied the imaginations of nerds, comic book and movie lovers, but the car was king, not the rocket. The 1950s represented a peacetime for the West, coming off the heels of the Second World War and a time of prosperity for America.

The automobile represented freedom for teens and adults alike. American cars were especially the king. The 1950s saw the first of sports cars like the Corvette and everything from late-night drag races organized by teens and twenty-somethings to professional races, in the predecessor to NASCAR. 

The original Speedmaster was first released in 1957, and the model CK2998-4, which was the first worn in space, wasn’t designed for space exploration at all. It was originally a three-register chronograph that included a tachymeter. Tachymeters are used to measure the speed of an object in motion, such as a car. The Speedmaster was a tool watch often used as a fancy stopwatch in auto races. 

Omega’s Wider NASA Connection

In the 1950s, NASA was looking for a watch partner that could create a product with the right tools that astronauts needed, which would have the precision required and be durable enough to withstand the rigors of space exploration.

Even watch companies like Hamilton had a pocket watch concept they were trying to develop for NASA. In the end, Omega won their trust, and it was the Speedmaster specifically that proved to have the right stuff.

NASA put Omega, and all the hopeful contenders, through an exhaustive testing and certification process. These tests included pressure fluctuations, vacuum conditions, extreme temperatures, and vibrations. In the end, it was Omega’s Speedmaster that passed. 

The Speedmaster was not only worn by astronaut Schirra’s first time in space, but a Speedmaster was on the wrists of all the NASA astronauts for the Apollo moon landing missions and would become the first watch worn on the moon. 

To honor Omega’s contribution to space exploration, NASA gave Omega the Silver Snoopy Award, which honors those individuals and organizations that have made a significant contribution to flight missions and safety. 

In fact, it was especially reflective of a safety incident on the Apollo 13 mission where an oxygen tank exploded, putting everyone in danger. The astronauts used their Speedmasters to time engine burns, helping them return safely back to Earth. Omega even released their “Snoopy watch” in 2003 to celebrate the award.

The Original Omega FOIS

The Omega CK2998-4 was first released in the fall of 1959. It featured a timeless design with its stainless steel case, black dial, and fixed tachymeter bezel, paired with a brown leather strap. Powering the timepiece was the Omega caliber 321. The watch was both sporty and elegant. 

The model was given the nickname FOIS, which stands for “First Omega in Space.” This is in reference to the fact that Omega Speedmaster model CK2998-4 was astronaut Walter “Wally” Schirra’s personal timepiece and the one he wore in space on his 1962 Mercury-Atlas 8 mission. 

The association with this historical event made this watch a symbol of the enduring human spirit and our commitment to space exploration. As a result, this model has become popular among collectors.

What’s The Modern Version of the Omega FOIS?

The FOIS 311.32.4030.01.001 is more of a numbered homage to the CK2998 worn by Schirra on his 1962 mission rather than a reissue. There are some departures from the original, though most are welcomed upgrades. The original featured a caliber 321 movement, but the 2012 version is powered by its successor, the Omega caliber 1861. The 1861 is a cam-actuated manual wind chronograph movement, unlike the 321’s column wheel. 

In layman’s language, the cam-actuated chronograph is the more budget-conscious option and is not considered as intricate and complex as a column wheel. This might be an issue for some collectors, but for everyday buyers, it shouldn’t be much of an issue. 

The 2012 FOIS replaces the vintage plexi crystal with a sapphire crystal. This is a nice upgrade to the scratch resistance and overall durability of the timepiece. Where Omega comes up short, in my opinion, is with the leather strap. It looks and feels cheap. However, that’s an easy fix, as one can add a superior aftermarket strap. 

The case back displays Omega’s seahorse emblem, as did the original, a little tip of the hat to Omega’s connection with the sea. The caseback also includes a textured backdrop with an inscription at the top reading, The First Omega in Space, and the date of October 3, 1962, listed at the bottom (in reference to Schirra’s mission). Overall, the FOIS maintains a vintage feel with some nice modern enhancements.

The stainless steel case measures 39.7mm and, when paired with a strap, is not overbearing on the wrist. Like the original, it has a black dial with the applied Omega logo at the top, three registers, and a tachymeter scale. The alpha-shaped hour and minute hands also match the style of the original. 

What Are The CK2998 Limited Editions All About?

In 2016, Omega released the CK2998 Limited Edition, of which there are 2,998 in circulation. While the design paid tribute to the original, it made some notable departures. The stainless steel case measures 37.5mm, as the FOIS does, and sits on the wrist at 14.37mm thick.

Where the timepiece departs from the FOIS is the color scheme, displaying a silver-white dial with three blue registers, a blue outer rim, and a tachymeter. The blue-lined alpha-style hour and minute hands are paired with a handsome lollipop-style second hand.

The timepiece is powered by the caliber 1861 movement, the same as the FOIS. The watch is paired with a navy alligator leather strap with contrasting white stitching and a silver tang buckle. The design is a good balance between sporty and dressy. 

In 2018, Omega released another version of the CK2998 Limited Edition with the same vintage vibes and specs as the 2016 model. However, this one displays an entirely different color scheme and some different options. The panda-style dial is silver with three black registers.

The hour and minute hands are gray, the second hand is red, and the subdials feature white hands. There are dark gray indices, a black outer rim, and a bezel with a pulsometer. The pulsometer scale replaces the tachymeter on the bezel of the 2016 model.

Omega actually offers a choice of four different bezels with a tachymeter, pulsometer, decimal, or telemeter. Some have speculated that this might suggest future editions could be on the drawing boards. The timepiece is fitted with a black perforated leather strap with a silver tang buckle. 

Is The Omega FOIS Still Available?

Unfortunately, as of 2021, Omega has discontinued production on the FOIS. As a result, some collectors have been eyeing this watch as a potential “collector’s item”, especially given its popularity and surge in demand. While the watch isn’t a limited edition, it is a numbered timepiece, making each caseback unique.

Little details like that can increase a watch’s desirability. Because of these market conditions, the price of the FOIS has been rising steadily. Given its discontinued status, the watch will need to be purchased on the pre-owned market. Be sure to go through a reputable dealer when making your purchase to ensure authenticity.

The FOIS is a great way for the average collector to own a piece of history and get a fine Omega timepiece that one will be comfortable wearing, given its modern upgrades and durability, while still experiencing all those vintage vibes. The Limited Edition models will also need to be purchased on the pre-owned market. 

Basic Pre-Owned Buyers Guide

Pricing for timepieces on the pre-owned market can fluctuate, and it can be difficult to predict which models will become popular and which ones will ultimately be less desirable to the watch-buying public. There’s also the concern over quality. 

It’s important to consider how well the vintage watch you’re considering has been maintained. Has it been repaired with the proper replacement parts by authorized watchmakers? Does it have its original papers? Of course, the newer the watch model, as with the FOIS or the CK2998 Limited Editions, some of those concerns aren’t as critical as they would be with purchasing an original 1959 CK2998. 

It’s also important to remember that vintage watches aren’t made with the same materials as modern watches and, therefore, are more delicate. Their dials are often protected by plexi crystal, which can scratch and crack far easier than sapphire. The bracelets aren’t always made to the same standards as modern, high-end bracelets made with superior tools and equipment.

The same goes for the movements. Even if a watch had some water resistance when it was produced, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to swim or shower with today. 

When purchasing a pre-owned timepiece, vintage or not, it’s important to go through a reputable dealer. Buying from an authorized retailer and jeweler with a good reputation is worth any additional money you might have to spend. We hope you’ll consider us at Exquisite Timepieces for your watch-buying needs. We have experts standing by to answer your questions and assist in your search. 

Parting Thoughts

The original 1959 Omega Speedmaster CK2998-4 is an iconic watch with a special place in history, given its connection with astronaut Walter Schirra. Schirra was a remarkable figure who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1945 and briefly served at sea in WWII.

He became a fighter pilot and flew 90 combat missions in the Korean War. Later he would be the first astronaut to go into space three times. He also joined Walter Cronkite to co-anchor for all seven NASA moon landing missions. 

Few collectors will own an original CK2998, but fortunately, the FOIS is far more attainable, as are the Limited Editions, while still managing to capture the adventurous spirit of Schirra and those historical moments in space exploration. 

About Exquisite Timepieces

Established in 1998, Exquisite Timepieces is your one-stop shop for all things luxury watches! We are an authorized dealer for 60+ luxury watch brands including Omega, Hublot, Seiko, & Longines! We are proud to showcase one of the world’s largest pre-owned watch collections, including renowned brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe. Check out our brand new watch arrivals here and popular pre-owned listings here.

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