Mankind’s fascination with the unknown and the spirit of discovery has led us to explore and uncover the unthinkable. Whether it is diving deep into the seas, crossing dangerous waters, walking in space, traversing mountains or glaciers or even taking part in a car race, there is a thrill and a sense of adventure associated with the word “mission”.
Ever wondered why people take watches on a mission and what it means for watch brands? Watches have immense potential since time and information related to timing is very critical. Knowing the penchant of accuracy that runs through watchmakers, well made timepieces can be reliable companions. It also sets a good base to build on the collection, especially for future timepieces. Moreover, it gives credibility to the brand and adds to its history.
Watches have accompanied people on their varied missions. Take Rolex for example; the first watch company to create a water resistant wristwatch in 1926. The watch in question was the famous “Oyster” that could withstand a pressure of 100m. In 1927 a Rolex Oyster crossed the english Channel, worn by Mercedes Gleitze, a young english swimmer. The swim lasted for 10 hours and the watch remained in perfect working order at the end of it!
The Chronometre Geophysic (manufactured in 1958) by Jaeger- LeCoultre is another watch that can boast of being on a mission. It was the perfect present for the first man to have headed an expedition beneath the north Pole, since this exceptional instrument had been designed to withstand magnetic fields of upto 600 gauss and to maintain its phenomenal precision in all circumstances.
In 1962, NASA astronaut Walter Schirra used the Omega Speedmaster in space during the Mercury Sigma 7 mission. In 1964 NASA decided to put out a tender on chronograph watches for their Apollo astronauts and declared the Speedmaster as the official watch for all manned space flights. even during the famous Apollo XI mission in 1969, when the first men set foot on the Moon, all three astronauts wore the Omega Speedmaster Professional on their wrists. 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.
Seiko takes the credit for designing the first Automatic Chronograph for Space. The watch was often referred to as “The Pogue” and carried the Seiko 6139, automatic chronograph movement. William Pogue wore it in 1973 on an eighty-four day Skylab mission.
Another remarkable Seiko creation that was worn to space was the SEIKO Spring Drive Spacewalk. First presented at Baselworld 2008, this watch was first used in October 2008 when private space adventurer, Richard Garriott, took it into space on his mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It had been custom designed and built with Richard’s mission in mind and designed to withstand extreme temperatures, pressures and radiation conditions involved in an extra-vehicular Activity (eVA), or spacewalk. The watch had the Spring Drive Chronograph 5R86 movement and was built in a high-intensity titanium case. It performed flawlessly throughout Richard’s 12-day flight in space.
Subsequently, in December 2008, two Spring Drive Spacewalk watches were worn by a Russian cosmonaut throughout a 5-hour-38-minute eVA. During the eVA, both the time of day and chronograph functions worked perfectly, even when worn on the outside of the space suit. On returning to earth, the watches were studied, assessed and tested at Seiko’s epson facility, and their perfect performance during the eVA was independently verified.
Wartimes have been occasions where watches have played key roles. Officine Panerai is known historically for the design of the Radiomir. ever since its creation in 1916, it has transformed in look and function to meet the updated and ever changing requirements of the navy. Created mainly for underwater exploits, the watch always stood true to its purpose.
The horological world knows the story of how a watch saved a life. The watch in question is the Breitling emergency that was able to broadcast a distress signal by a man stuck in the wilderness along Susitna River in the heart of the infamous Alaska Range. It was because of this built-in homing signal in the watch that he was saved. The timepiece was designed with a micro- transmitter broadcasting on the 121.5 MHz aircraft emergency frequency. unscrewing a protective cap and extending a short antenna activates the transmitter.
The use of watches in sports and more so for adventure sports is also very common. Whether it is the creation of the Reverso by Jaeger-LeCoultre for the game of Polo or the use of chronographs for timing, watches have been with sportsmen as well. Racing is another popular sport that has a deep link with watches. Brands like Rolex and TAG Heuer have forged deep ties with the game.
Extreme sports are also missions in themselves. edox, a brand that has a penchant for extreme sports, including timekeeping partnerships with the Dakar Rally and the extreme Sailing Series, embarked on a partnership with Christian ‘The Iceman’ Redl in 2011, spawning the Iceman Limited edition series of watches. Redl is known for less conventional world record attempts, such as distance swimming under ice on a single breath.
The latest result of the partnership is the Hydro Sub north Pole, which has a sliding crown protector to prevent ice build-up on the crown.
This watch was worn in Redl’s 2015 expedition to free-dive at the north Pole. The mission saw him trek an estimated 100km over ice from northern Canada to the geographic north Pole, before he became the first person to free-dive there. The expedition is the first of three, with similar attempts to happen at the north and South Magnetic Poles in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
As long as men have the quest to explore, uncover secrets that the world hides and indulge in some adventure, their will always be a fitting timepiece to accompany them on their mission!