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Watches in Space

5 Watches That Have Been to Space: Beyond the Stars

Watches in space might be one of the most marvels in the watchmaking industry. More than just Omega Speedmaster, explore other watches here!
May 10, 2024

Watches have a long history of being loyal companions for humans going to the most unexpected places on the planet. Watches in space are among other timepieces that have gone on expeditions, such as the Marianas Trench expedition, Mount Everest, and both poles of our Earth. 

Since the dawn of human space exploration, watches have played a crucial role in ensuring accurate timekeeping and providing vital data to astronauts. Timepieces that have ventured into the vastness of space are not only remarkable in their design and functionality, but they symbolize our relentless pursuit of exploration and human achievement.

In fact, there is a number of watches worn by astronauts during their missions in space. In that case, the name Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch is undoubtedly the most popular one. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of watches that have boldly gone where few timepieces have gone before – space.

How Watches in Space Started

Speaking of the first watch in space, we’re definitely talking about the first space mission in the world. It was not worn by a human. Instead, a Soviet-made POBEDA 34-K was strapped to a Russian dog’s leg named Chernushka during a Sputnik 9 mission in March 1961.

As for the first manned space mission, Yuri Gagarin was the first person to go for a complete orbit around the Earth. She was aboard the Vostok 1 capsule on April 1961. Unfortunately, there isn’t confirmed information about the watch that Gagarin wore.

Therefore, the first human-worn watch in space is confirmed to be the one used by the US astronaut, John Glenn. He wore a Heuer 2915A stopwatch on a mission to orbit the Earth in 1962. A few months later, another American astronaut also went to space in 1962, Scott Carpenter, wearing a 24-hour custom Breitling Navitimer.

As a matter of fact, none of the previous watches in space have gone through proper testing for outer space use. It was later in 1964 when NASA called out for watch manufacturers to make wrist-worn chronographs

Rolex, Longines, Omega, and Hamilton are manufacturers that submitted their watches for testing. However, only Omega managed to undergo every test and earn a title from NASA as “flight-qualified for all manned space missions.”

Afterward, it accompanied NASA astronauts starting in 1965 during the Gemini program and attained the distinction of being the inaugural timepiece worn on the moon when Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface as part of the Apollo 11 mission on July 21, 1969.

Read also: 5 Best Travel Watches to Wear in 2023

A List of Compelling Watches in Space

Now that you know how the story of watches in space started, let’s take a look at some of the compelling timepieces that have accompanied astronauts on their space mission.

Omega Speedmaster

No discussion about space watches would be complete without mentioning the legendary Omega Speedmaster. Chosen by NASA in 1965 for their manned space missions, the Speedmaster became an integral part of the Apollo program and earned the title of the “Moonwatch.” 

On July 21, 1969, the Speedmaster made history as Buzz Aldrin wore it when he stepped onto the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission, forever cementing its place in horological and space exploration history.

Fortis Cosmonauts Chronograph

As the official timepiece of the Russian space program, the Fortis Official Cosmonauts Chronograph has accompanied numerous cosmonauts on their missions since 1994. 

Designed in collaboration with Russian astronauts, this watch exemplifies the robustness and precision required for space travel. With features like a chronograph function, tachymeter scale, and luminescent hands, it ensures accuracy and legibility in the demanding conditions of outer space.

Glycine Airman

During the early 1950s, Pan-Am issued a request to watchmakers for a timepiece capable of simultaneously tracking two time zones. 

Two watch brands successfully answered this call. Rolex introduced the GMT-Master in 1954 (which will be discussed further), while Glycine had already responded a year earlier with the Airman. 

The Airman was the world’s first watch to incorporate a rotating 24-hour bezel for tracking a second-time zone. It quickly gained popularity among pilots and became a favorite of Charles (Pete) Conrad, a test pilot who would later become an astronaut. 

Conrad proudly wore his Glycine Airman during both the Gemini 5 mission in August 1965 and the Gemini 11 mission in September 1966.

Read also: On Hand: Glycine Airman “The Chief” Collection Review

Seiko 6139-6005 “Pogue”

Seiko’s chronograph from the 1970s, characterized by its golden dial and Pepsi bezel, stands out as one of the most unique timepieces to have ever ventured beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Astronaut William Pogue, a member of NASA, possessed one of these watches and held such confidence in its reliability that he decided to bring it along on the Skylab 4 mission in 1973, even without official NASA authorization. 

Throughout the 84-day mission, Pogue relied on the Seiko watch for timing duties, particularly after the crystal of his Speedmaster detached unexpectedly. 

Thanks to Pogue’s choice, the 6139 model earned the distinction of being the first automatic chronograph to journey into space. In the years that followed, this timepiece became informally known by Pogue’s name, further solidifying its association with his remarkable mission.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 SpaceX

To celebrate the milestone of John Glenn’s groundbreaking achievement as the first American in space, TAG Heuer collaborated with SpaceX in 2012. 

Their joint effort resulted in a limited-edition chronograph that paid tribute to the Heuer stopwatch carried by Glenn during his historic mission. 

The watch not only served as a wearable and reasonably precise replica of the initial Swiss timepiece to venture into space, but it also held significance beyond mere homage. 

This remarkable timepiece etched its own place in history by undergoing testing aboard SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, marking the capsule’s unprecedented visit to the International Space Station (ISS) in May 2012.

Final Thought

Watches in space represent the pinnacle of engineering, reliability, and precision. Each timepiece carries a unique story of exploration and accomplishment. 

These space watches not only withstand the rigors of the space environment but also serve as trusted companions to astronauts, providing them with accurate timekeeping, essential functionality, and a reminder of human ingenuity. 

They symbolize the extraordinary feats of human exploration and the relentless pursuit of pushing boundaries.

Read also: Hesalite vs. Sapphire: Comparing Crystal of Omega Moonwatch

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