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Watches worn in space

Hannah Goldstone takes a look at watches that have ventured into space and beyond.

5 min read

The historic launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon capsule on top, left earth on May 30. The astronauts inside the spacecraft, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley made their way to the International Space Station.

Falcon 9 Crew Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley sporting the Omega X33
Falcon 9 Crew Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley sporting the Omega X33

The historic launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon capsule on top, left earth on May 30. The astronauts inside the spacecraft, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley made their way to the International Space Station.

The NASA astronauts can be seen clad in their Omega X-33 watches on this latest mission. Behnken and Hurley will likely keep them on for the 19-hour journey to ISS strapped to the outside of the futuristic flight suits or The Starman suits, as they've been called.

Omega watches have become synonymous with space travel. Just look at the Omega Speedmaster, Buzz Aldrin wore during the Apollo 11 moon mission - now the most famous watch worn in space.

Let's take a look at more "astronaut watches" that have been worn outside of the earth's atmosphere.

Enjoy!

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The First Swiss Stopwatch in Space

The 50th anniversary, TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 SpaceX chronograph.
The 50th anniversary, TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 SpaceX chronograph.

TAG Heuer will go down in history for having manufactured the first Swiss stopwatch that made it into space. In February 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the planet on the famous Friendship 7 mission. In 2012, to commemorate the 50th anniversary, TAG Heuer created the Carrera Calibre 1887 SpaceX chronograph, which would later become Elon Musk's go-to wristwatch!

The First Swiss Wristwatch in Space

Astronaut Scott Carpenter wearing his Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute.
Astronaut Scott Carpenter wearing his Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute.

In May of the same year (1962), astronaut Scott Carpenter travelled into space. He wore a Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute timepiece on his wrist during this mission, making the Breitling the first Swiss wristwatch ever in space. Carpenter did recommend the watch to NASA; however, the watch's retreat to earth was not as positive as its departure. The watch wasn't waterproof, and it was damaged by seawater during the landing in the Atlantic Ocean.

Falcon 9 Crew Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley sporting the Omega X33
Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet Air Forces pilot who became the first human to travel into outer space.

The First Watches Worn by Soviet Pilots

You may recognize Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet Air Forces pilot who became the first human to travel into outer space. On his first trip to space in 1961, Gagarin wore the Sturmanskie. At the time, getting your hands on a Sturmanskie timepiece was near impossible. He got it as a gift when he graduated from the Chkalov Air Force Pilot School.

Cosmonaut, Alexei Leonov in 1965, took the first-ever spacewalk wearing his Strela watch, making it the first watch to be worn in open space.

The First Watch on the Moon

Arguably the most famous watch worn in space is the Omega Speedmaster 145.012, which was worn by arguably the most famous astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, in 1969.

On July 21, 1969, The Apollo 11 mission carrying Buzz landed on the moon. As you know, Buzz wasn't the first man on the moon; that was, of course, none other than the legend Neil Armstrong. But, Armstrong's timepiece didn't make it! His watch broke on the mission.

The Speedmaster remains the only watch certified by Nasa for EVA (extra-vehicular activity).
The Speedmaster remains the only watch certified by Nasa for EVA (extra-vehicular activity).

The Omega Speedmaster has become one of the most desirable watches for space travellers. It was used during the March 1965 mission on Gemini 3 and again in June 1965, for Gemini 4.

The Watch That Spent the Longest Time In Space

In the 1970s, William R Pogue wore a Seiko 6139 during Skylab 4, from November 16, 1973, to February 8, 1974. At the time, Pouge's Seiko 6139, nicknamed the 'Pouge,' held the record for spending the longest time in orbit.

First Rolex Watches in Space

Apollo crew members were all about the Rolex GMT Masters in the early 70s. The ones who couldn't get enough? Jack Swigert wore his watch under his spacesuit in 1675. James Lovell , on Apollo 13 in 1970, Ed Mitchell , on Apollo 14 in January 1971 and Ron Evans , on Apollo 17 in 1972.

The 1970's Rolex GMT Master.
The 1970's Rolex GMT Master.

G-Shock DW-5600, DW-5900, DW-6900, and the G-Shock Master G-9000.

In 1986 Bill Nelson chose to wear the Casio G shock DW 5600 on the space shuttle as did John Creighton in 1990. Due to its durability, NASA has deemed the G Shock suitable for space flight. It has a ten-year battery life and is water-resistant. The DW stands for digital water-resistant.

Bill Nelson chose to wear the Casio G shock DW 5600 on the space shuttle, in 1990.
Bill Nelson chose to wear the Casio G shock DW 5600 on the space shuttle, in 1990.

it became popular especially amongst shuttle astronauts as the clear screen, ability to display multiple times and stopwatch enabled accurate timing in experiments.

Whatever the future holds for space travel, or even living in space, timekeeping will continue to play an important and necessary part of space exploration. As technology advances, 1 watch will be able to do the job of many instruments. But, will they be able to cross over to the consumer market and shine brightly like the Omega Speedmaster 145.012?

The Omega Speedmaster X-33 was discontinued, but with a Space X Crew member wearing this velcro strapped watch, maybe it is time for a revival?

Alternatively, will the G-Shock be the watch of choice? It might not be the best-looking watch; functionality and practicality over the physicality and sentimentality of an Omega, Tag or Rolex perhaps?

Does nostalgia play an important role in choosing the right timepiece for a space mission? Would Mr Aldrin still choose his Omega ‘Moonwatch’ if he was thrust into space again?


Hannah Goldstone is the content writter at Repairs By Post. Repairs By Post is the UK's leading online watch repair super center. Need a watch repair? Open a repair ticket