Russian astronaut Watch

March 20, 2017
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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.

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!

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.

Before Omega

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