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History of Timepieces New Horizons: Watches Built For Space

PlutoIn July 2016, after a long nine year journey, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) flew the New Horizons spacecraft by Pluto.  The United States agency released a teaser image on Instagram just before the close flyby happened.  The full framed image of Pluto, taken from 476,000 miles (766,000 kilometers) away shows the dwarf planet’s surface for the first time.

The close flyby happened just before 8am ET after traveling 3+ billion miles.  To help celebrate this great achievement in space exploration, take a look at some watches that are built for space or inspired by the extra-terrestrial.

Speedmaster Professional

The first watch to come to mind about space travel and exploration is typically the Omega Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch.”  The Omega is a sturdy built watch meant to hold up to some of the harshest conditions.

NASA tested many watches by putting them through vacuum chambers, excessive speed acceleration and stopping, baking them in ovens and then freezing them later.  All these tests put the Speedmaster through conditions it could experience in space.

While the manual wind watch was not originally designed for space exploration, it has been on all 6 lunar missions.  The watch reached the moon with Apollo 11 and walked the surface on the wrist of Buzz Aldrin.  As a result, the Speedmaster is one of Omega’s most iconic watches.

Omega Moon Watch

Watches In Space

There have been many watches featured on space missions, whether as official time keepers or as a secondary or tertiary watch chosen and worn by the astronaut themselves.

The watches have gone through space-specific tests to test durability against some of the harshest environments.  Some watches have been worn to space and still stopped working, making it important for the astronauts to wear more than one watch typically under their spacesuit rather than on the outside.

Strela

While the Omega was the first watch on the Moon, the Soviet made Strela was the first watch to perform a spacewalk.  On June 12, 1965, Alexi Leonov was the first person to leave his space capsule and performed a space walk.

The watch featured a 45-minute elapsed time totalizer and central chronograph hand.  It was chrome plated and stainless steel snap back.  There is some debate about which model Leonov wore but most believe it to be either a non-luminous Cyrillic marked watch or an early white-dialed luminous version.

The Strela was issued to Soviet cosmonauts for over 20 years.

alexi-leonov-strela-watch_RhYE7_48

Rolex 1675 GMT

The Rolex 1675 GMT was another watch developed at the time of the jet age and was perfect for pilots flying overseas.  The watch could track a second time zone, featured a colorful rotating bezel and an easy to read dial.

The 1675 replaced the 6542 in 1959 and wasn’t changed until 1980 when the movement added a quickset date function.  The 1675 was a favorite of Jack Swigert, an Apollo astronaut who wore it under his spacesuit on flights around the Moon on the almost-tragic Apollo 13 mission.

The watch has also been speculated to have been worn by Edgar Mitchell during his Moonwalk on the Apollo 14 mission.

Fortis B-42

More recently, Fortis Chronographs have been on the wrists of astronauts.  The Fortis Spacematic was worn by astronauts during training in the 1960s.  However, since 1994, Fortis B-42 Chronographs have been on over 12 space missions to the International Space Station and have been worn both inside and outside of the station.

Cosmonauts graduating from the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training center are found wearing a Fortis watch.  The Russian Federal Space Agency named Fortis the official timekeeper for all missions.

FORTIS-B42 Gear Patrol

About Emily Smith
Newbie to watches but a quick learner. She loves the history of watches and loves learning how they work. She prefers Rolex and Omega watches but is learning the history behind other brands. Her watch of choice right now is her vintage Omega Ladymatic that is a mere 19mm. She has her eye on a few others including the Plum dial Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm and a Patek Twenty ~4 (4910/10 A011). While she enjoys the look of vintage watches, she is excited to learn about new models and build her collection.

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