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Buzz Aldrin and Speedmaster in the LEM

Space and watches...

Since the earliest days of space exploration, astronauts and watches have been closely linked in the public imagination.

The highly technical, specification obsessive, gadget laden environment in which space exploration happens make the watches worn on space missions seem more exciting, and space and watch enthusiasts aspire to owning a genuine "astronaut watch". Many of the watches are high specificiation and high quality, and their manufacturers often reference and glamourise their achievements in space in marketing materials.

The Omega speedmaster, like the one Buzz Aldrin (pictured left) wore during the Apollo 11 moon mission is the most famous, but many other watches have been used by astronauts on space missions.

 
poljot strela

The first watch worn in space

When, on June 12, 1965, Cosmonaut Alexi Leonov left the safety of his spacecraft to become the first astronaut ever to make a space walk, he was wearing the same watch that many cosmonauts would use on missions.

The watch was the Strela. It would be the first watch worn in open space, outside a spaceship. This was a mechanical two register chronograph with a 45 minute totaliser and a continuously running second hand.

The watch was branded as Poljot, Sekonda, or even simply Strela, and came in various designs and face colours. It is believed Leonov wore a white faced Strela for his historic spacewalk.

Issued in the 1950's to Russian pilots, this became the watch issued to cosmonauts for 20 years, until it was retired in 1979. It is the Russian speedmaster!

The Omega Speedmaster

Speedmaster - the Moon Watch

The Omega Speedmaster was one of the manual wind watches NASA tested for use in space. They assumed, wrongly that an automatic watch would not wind itself in space, though the automatic Chronograph watch would not enter mass-production until 1969 anyway.

The Speedmaster was the only watch to pass the tests - surviving extreme heat, cold, fog, shock, water and many other arduous trials.

Apollo astronauts wore speedmasters, and during the disastrous Apollo 13 mission the crew relied on a speedmaster to time a critical engine burn that helped them return safely home after their spacecraft suffered an explosion on the way to the moon.

In the 1970's the speedmaster was re-certified by NASA for Space shuttle missions, and remains the only watch NASA certifies for space walks.

Breitling Cosmonaute and Scott Carpenter

Before Omega

Scott Carpenter contacted Breitling after being selected by NASA as one of the first seven Mercury Astronauts.

He suggested a 24 hour navitimer model, which was subsequently developed, and when he flew his Mercury 7 mission, he was wearing just such a watch.

Breitling made much of the space connection in their advertising, but they did not mention that the non-waterproof watch was damaged by submersion in seawater as Carpenter was being recovered from his spacecraft

Fortis the official cosmonauts space watch

Fortis official cosmonauts space watch

In 1994, after two years of testing and preparation by the Yuri Gagarin Russian State Scientific-Research Test Center of Cosmonauts Training in Star City, Fortis watches became official issue for cosmonauts.

The EUROMIR I crew was the first to wear the Fortis, and since then FORTIS Sets have been presented to all Russian cosmonauts of the Gagarin Center.

They have been used in space flight and even worn during extravehicular activities.

 
Sinn model 142 The Bulova Astronaut Omega Speedmaster X-33

Astronauts often choose a 2nd watch of their own to wear in space. The Sinn 142 chronograph was worn on many spaceflights as a personal timepiece choice by astronauts. Pictured is a recent reissue.

Its 1st visit to space was on a Space Shuttle Challenger mission in 1985.

Despite being named astronaut, this model was never NASA approved. American made Bulova watches were tested by NASA for space use but did not meet their criteria. The model was popular with off-duty Astronauts, and was worn on at least one Gemini mission alongside an officially issued Omega speedmaster.

The speedmaster X-33 was a joint development between Omega and NASA to update the space watch concept. This quartz watch offered greater accuracy and complex timing functions.
It was not a sales success and was discontinued. It has been worn many times in space.

 

The definitive space watch!

Speedmaster professional moon watch

The iconic speedmaster continues to be marketed by Omega as the moon watch. The space theme is evident in many print ads and even in jewellers windows. There have been many special editions marking missions and anniversaries, the most recent being an Apollo 11 40th anniversary item.

 
Chinese Tyconaut watch Seiko 6139 worn on Skylab mission Gagarin's watch

Fiyta watch, chinese made, and as worn by Tyconaut Lt.Col.Yang Li Wei, crew member for China's first space mission. It is Chinese made, and is not available at present outside China.

The Seiko 6139 automatic chronograph is believed to be the first automatic (self-winding) watch worn in space. It was worn in 1973 by William Pogue on an eighty four day Skylab mission.

When Gagarin made his historic first space flight he was wearing a mechanical Sturmanskie watch. This type of watch was issued to new graduates of the prestigious Orenberg Flight School.

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