To infinity and beyond
As we recently enjoyed the anniversaries of the original Star Wars franchise, not to mention all getting a little excited about the filming of the new movie in the Abu Dhabi desert (no, you can’t be a Stormtrooper), we thought that now is as good a time as any to review watches that have gone intergalactic. But not the usual suspects of space, the unsung heroes.
While many consider the Omega Speedmaster Professional to be the first ‘official’ space watch – to the eternal chagrin of Yuri Gagarin and the FMWF Sturmanskie he wore whilst orbiting the earth in 1961 and Alexey Leonov and the Strela chronograph linked to his space walk in 1965 – there are other watches, equally masterful, that have been used in space exploration.
An obscured watch, that deserves to be reinstated among space watches, despite the fact that NASA never sanctioned it, is the Seiko 6139. The first automatic chronograph in space, it was worn by William Pouge on the Skylab 4 Mission on November 16, 1973. Though he was formally equipped with the Speedmaster, Pouge preferred to bring along the Seiko he’d used during his training before the mission. The original piece, which piqued the interest of many watch collectors and space geeks, was sold at auction in 2008 for $6,000 (it’s original price tag in 1972 was a mere $71).
German astronaut Reinhard Fuller wore a Sinn automatic chronograph 141 or 142 (the debate about the exact model number is still ongoing) with a Lemania caliber 5012 movement, on the eighth mission of the space shuttle Challenger (October 30, 1985). Sinn watches were also worn in 1992 on the space station Mir, the first modular space station and the largest artificial satellite orbiting the Earth until 2001, and in 1992 on Colombia Spacelab D2.
Though the Breitling Navitimer made only on one space outing – on the wrist of Scott Carpenter – during the Aurora 7 expedition on May 24, 1962, and was soon after called the ‘Cosmonaute’, it deserves a mention, as the Navitimers and Cosmonaute models have always been regarded as dependable tool watches among civilian and military pilots.
Finally, in 1994 Fortis produced a special automatic Chronograph, featuring the Lemania caliber 5100 movement, for the Soyuz TM19 mission (July 1, 1994) that had Russian cosmonauts Malenchenko and Musabayev travel to Mir. Soon after it became the official watch for the graduates of the Yuri Gargarin Cosmonaut Training Center.
Kunal Kapoor is founder of The Luxury Closet and a watch enthusiast, theluxurycloset.com