Much like its fine Swiss timepieces, Omega's salute to the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 moon mission was an evening of carefully orchestrated precision, drama and star power. Tuesday night, Omega brand ambassador and Hollywood astronaut George Clooney joined real life NASA heroes in the spotlight in Sugar Land in the Western Airways hangar that was transformed into an out-of-this-world setting.
Omega invited 290 guests, a mix of stars, top customers and media from across the country for the black-tie evening that included only a sprinkling of Houstonians. Before dinner they mingled over cocktails in a sleek, space odyssey style "capsule" with astronauts Gene Cernan, Jim Lovell and Tom Stafford. For many of the guests, this evening was as much about the incredible setting as about the remarkable men of the space program.
Pulling out the stops for the imaginative evening, Omega brought in Paris-based event planners Bureau Batek to transform the hangar into a remarkable party setting that flowed from the "space capsule" to a dramatic moonscape where dinner was served beneath starlit heavens. Just before the capsule doors opened to reveal the moon surface party scene, the capsule rumbled, fog rose from beneath the doors and dramatic music played as videos of the NASA countdown for lift-off of Apollo 13 filled flat screens around the capsule.
The dinner ambience was convincingly outer space as a vast video screen showed planets moving across the sky, a space station floating by, meteor showers, comets and an astronaut drifting in space a la Clooney's Gravity. Lengthy dinner tables were dressed with Omega watches, oscillating on "moon rocks" under glass domes.
"We kept this a big surprise. We wanted to make a big splash and we chose something a bit different which is this airfield."
President of Omega Stephen Urquhart in from Switzerland told CultureMap, "We wanted this platform to tell the story that most Americans don't even know. And we kept this a big surprise. We wanted to make a big splash and we chose something a bit different which is this airfield."
That story is of the moon landing that never happened ("Houston, we have a problem.") due to the explosion of an oxygen tank in the capsule. Lovell's Omega Speedmaster Apollo 13 played a crucial role in providing necessary timing for the crew's recovery of operations.
Lily Koppel, author of The Astronaut Wives Club, emceed the program that featured the astronauts, Clooney and Urquhart reminiscing about the space program and Apollo 13.
"I was born in 1961," Clooney said. "So it was a big part of my life and a big part of my growing up . . . It was a huge part of the optimism of a period of time when you really believed that anything was possible. Such a hopeful period of time. It's just the bravest thing I've ever seen in my life and I wish and I hope that we will find a way, I would really love for us not to abandon the program."
Ironically, Clooney's futuristic space film Tomorrowland opens later this week.
Stars flying in for the event included Stephanie Savage, writer and producer (Gossip Girl), and JoAnna Garcia Swisher and Yvonne Strahovski, who have leads in the new TV series The Astronaut Wives Club.
The space age theme included the Tang and grapefruit juice-infused vodka cocktail served in a Space Ration Hydropack.
Omega tapped A Fare Extraordinaire to provide the dinner, cocktails and hors d'eouvres, all of which featured a space age theme including the Tang and grapefruit juice-infused vodka cocktail served in a Space Ration Hydropack.
Guests included Western Airways chairman and CEO Keith Mosing and wife Alice. "This means a lot to me," Keith said, "I had a flight masters when in the military." Lynn Wyatt was another guest for whom the event had special meaning. She and Oscar Wyatt, a pilot throughout his career, were close friends with many of the NASA astronauts.
Houstonians in the mix included Omega fans Andrew Cordes and Brian Teichman plus Lucinda and Javier Loya, John and Becca Cason Thrash, Janet Gurwitch and Ron Franklin, Diane Lokey Farb, Ceron, Joyce Echols and Steve Wyatt, Elizabeth Petersen, Susie and Sanford Criner, Melissa and Michael Mithoff, Miya Shay, Jeff Gremillion, Carolyn Farb, Jennifer Roosth and Lance Avery Morgan.