Monday, July 23, 2012

Apollo 14 Rolex Story...

Apollo 14
Rolex Moon Watches
Pepsi Rolex GMT Master

In the story I wrote the day before yesterday we saw photos of Jack Swigert wearing his Rolex GMT along with a presentation piece that confirmed he wore a Rolex when he went to the moon aboard Apollo XIII. Last month we saw Michael Collins from Apollo 11 wearing a Rolex Turn-O-Graph.

I have heard for years that Omega was the official Moon watch. I am not so certain exactly what official means, and if Omega was the official Moon Watch then I think it would be safe to say that Rolex was the "Unofficial Moon Watch."

If we examine the photo below of the three NASA Astronauts that flew to the Moon on board Apollo 14, we see they are all wearing Omega Speedmaster's on the "Outside" of their space suits, not on their wrist. Essentially, they used the Omega Chronograph as a stopwatch.

Let's start by familiarizing ourselves with the crew of the Apollo 14 which was the third manned space mission to land on the Moon, touching down February 5, 1971. From left to right in the photo above are Stuart Roosa (Command Module Pilot), Alan Shepard (Commander) and Edgar Mitchell (Lunar Module Pilot).

Here is where it starts to get really interesting. If you examine Alan Shepard in the photo above, he appears to be wearing a Pepsi Rolex GMT Master on a NATO strap. In Photoshop I zoomed in really deep on his wrist and can see Red & blue on his bezel and the size and shape are consistent with a GMT. It is definitely too small to be an Omega Speedmaster.

In this next photo we see Alan Shepard (light blue shirt) and Ed Mitchell (cap) on a geology field trip, at Craters of the Moon, Idaho on August 22, 1969. Notice that Ed Mitchell is wearing his trademark Pepsi Rolex GMT on his left wrist.

In the image below, the watch really looks to me to be a GMT Master on a NATO strap.

The photo above is of Al Shepard (blue short-sleeve shirt) taken on November 9, 1970.

Next we switch over to Edgar Mitchell's Rolex GMT Master. One obvious question is why is Edgar Mitchell adjusting and winding two Rolex GMT's (as seen in the photo below) just before he boards Apollo 14 to go to the Moon? The answer comes from the photo above that was taken in July of 1970 when Edgar Mitchell (mustard yellow t-shirt) and Alan Shepard (purple shirt) were practicing in the simulator. Notice in the photo above that Edgar Mitchell is wearing what appears to be a Rolex GMT on each wrist.

Tip: Click on all images in this story to see much better detail

My best guess is that one GMT was for keeping time on earth at Cape Canaveral as well as Greenwich Mean Time and the other was for measuring some performance characteristic or local time on the Rocket Ship. Also, Edgar Mitchell was well aware of the challenges that Jack Swigert encountered in the previous Apollo XIII mission and knew that his Rolex GMT was a life saver. Maybe he wore two watches for redundancy?

According to NASA this photo (KSC-71P-88) of Ed Mitchell was taken on January 31, 1971 as Ed Mitchell suited up on launch date just before they took off for the Moon. The official NASA caption for this image reads "Ed Mitchell adjusts his watch. 31 January 1971."

It is crystal clear to anybody that the watch NASA officially refers to as Ed Mitchell's watch is a Rolex GMT, which in my mind means that NASA is officially confirming the Rolex to be a Moon Watch!!!!!!

I have not rested my case yet...

These images of the Apollo 14 during take-off toward the heavens are spectacular. Click on them to see all the glorious detail!!!

Alan Shepard on the Moon above.

This next NASA photo is of the NASA Apollo 14 Lunar Module parked on the Moon surface which delivered Dr. Edgar Mitchell and Alan Shepard to the moon surface and returned them to the Service Module.

Apollo 14
Lunar Module Moon Lift-Off
February 6, 1971 18:48:42 UT
Lunar Module Pilot: Dr. Edgar Mitchell
Rolex GMT-Master

The following three photos show Dr. Edgar Mitchell and Alan Shepard as they take-off from the Moon surface to return to the Apollo 14 Command/Service Module in the Grumman-made Lunar Lander module named "Antares." During their moonwalk, Dr. Edgar Mitchell set the all-time record for the longest moonwalk at 9 hours and 17 minutes.

In this first image, we see Alan Shepard putting on his oxygen mask and if you study his facial expression you see a bit of trepidation. After all, he has just experienced the most euphoric experience of his life and he is likely exhausted phyically and mentally–kind of like the way you feel after a full-day of great skiing or snowboarding. He likely realizes if the Lunar Lander does not take-off, they would be stranded on the moon and die.

In the next photo we see Dr. Edgar Mitchell as he prepares the 33,000 pound (15,264kg) Lunar Module (LM) for takeoff–since he was the Lunar Module pilot. We see Dr. Edgar Mitchell wearing his Pepsi GMT Master on his right wrist and we get a clear view of his Rolex Oyster bracelet. He is wearing an Omega Speedmaster Chronograph on a velcro NASA Spec Black Nylon Strap on his left wrist.

In the past, Dr. Edgar Mitchell recalled that he wore his Pepsi Rolex GMT Master on the moonwalk, but there has never been any photographic proof to confirm this fact–until today!!!!

This next photo shows Dr. Edgar Mitchell and Alan Shepard very enthusiastically shaking hands in a euphoric and jubilant moment of exultation as they succesfully take-off in the Lunar Module to return to the Service Module from the moon surface!!!!

Pictured below is Stu Roosa (left), Al Shepard (center) and Ed Mitchell (right) in the isolation van. Roosa is using a the microphone to talk to bystanders on February 9, 1971. Ed Mitchell is wearing his Rolex GMT on his right wrist in both the photo above and below.

Ed Mitchell is pictured below during a 15 day quarantine in the MSC Lunar Receiving Laboratory at the Lyndon Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas, holding a sample collection as he shows them to NASA management during a post-mission debrief with geologists on February 18, 1971. Ed is wearing his trademark Stainless Steel Pepsi Rolex GMT Master.

To Learn more about the Rolex Moon Watches please visit the "Rolex Achievement Page" and scroll down to "Rolex's Moon and Space Conquest."


Captain Harlock said...

Hello there!

You write: NASA Astronaut, John Swigert also wore his Rolex GMT Master when he flew to the Moon on Apollo 13. More than one Rolex GMT Master has been to the moon and back.

Well... I guess I'll just rest my case by reminding you of the following two FACTS:

a) The Apollo 13 mission did NOT land on the moon, but - as you will know - had to be aborted.
As such, Mr. Swigert was no moon-walker, and his GMT-Master has not walked the moon either.

b) NASA specified a CHRONOGRAPH as
one of its requirements for the astronaut watches, and thus the GMT-Master (for as great a watch it is - and I do own 2 and love them both) was ruled out from being a "true" Moonwatch.

(Oh, and as for the performance of Rolex's chronograph - presumably a Valjoux equipped Daytona - in the first rounds of NASA's own tests... the published results - by NASA - speak for themselves!)

There's no need to rewrite history here... It is well known, that NASA allows (and allowed) its astronauts to also wear a watch of their choice along with the Speedmaster. So it does not change a thing if we see pix of astronauts wearing all kinds of watches. It is not an uncovered conspiracy theory, but just normal reality (and a known one at that)!

But when it comes to Extra Vehicular activities, the Speedmaster was (up to a point) the only watch certified to be worn outside a spacecraft, and it still is one of the select few.

It is no secret and no conspiracy that no Rolex has entered said list of NASA certified watches that NASA allows to be worn outside the spacecraft!

This is recorded history! Everything else is pure speculation!

And just for the records: I do like my Daytona and my two GMT-Masters a lot, so there's no bias here.

Just the plain facts.

With best regards


1969Speedy said...

You see dead people? That's amazing if you saw him on June 22, 2008 since Jack Swigert has been dead for 26 years now. Learn your history before making false claims.

Jake Ehrlich said...

Hi Petros,

You are correct. I did say that more than one Rolex GMT Master has been to the moon and back. As a matter of fact, I am working on bringing my readers more stories on even more Rolex Moon GMTs.

I know that the Apollo 13 mission did not land on the moon, and I know that Jack Swigert did not walk on the moon. I do know he flew to the moon with it and that when they reached the Moon orbit he was taking close-up photos of the moon, which in my mind qualifies for having gone to the moon.

You refer to NASA "published results" regarding their testing of watches for the Moon missions, can you please site your source because I have not been able to find this document, and I would love to learn more about it so I can share it with my readers.

I respectfully disagree with you, without being disagreeable, on the fact that history does not need to be rewritten. I never knew until recently that Rolex Oysters went to the Moon and I think it is a glaring omission in the history of Moon watches. I also find the subject and photos of the NASA Astronauts to be absolutely fascinating and highly inspirational.

I actually get a kick out of seeing people I admire like Martin Luther King, and Dwight Eisenhower wearing Rolex watches. Same thing with the NASA Astronauts, X15 Pilots and Chuck Yeager.

You see, I have been crazy about Rolex design ever since I first bought a Rolex Submariner more than a quarter century ago.

Thank you for sharing your perspective with me and I look forward to hearing back from you on "List of NASA certified watches."

Warmest regards,
Jake Ehrlich

Jake Ehrlich said...

Hi Petros,

On the issue of the story about Jack Swigert wearing his watch on the article you are referring to, I stand corrected. My title and introduction were confusing and I fixed them to be 100% precise. You see, I could never understand why Rolex watches were never flown to the Moon and when I first discovered the photo of Swigert wearing his GMT Master, I had NO idea who he was, and I did not know the story of Apollo 13 because it happened when I was four years old, and I had not seen the movie.

After I saw the photo of him, I started focusing on trying to learn more about who he was and I wandered into the Apollo 14 NASA Archives first, which is why I wrote the Apollo 14 Story first. Then after I found all the information and photos on Apollo 14, I found all the information on Apollo 13 and wrote that article.

On of my favorite things about writing my Rolex History Blog is that it is a superb history lesson for me. As a matter of fact, before I started my Rolex History Blog less than three months ago, I knew nothing about Moon watches at all.

The reason, I missed the detail you caught was more than likely because in the month of June, I posted 356 different posts on my blog and I was so focused on moving forward, that I missed these small details, but I sincerely thank you for bringing them to my attention so I could fix them.

And yes you are right about me being able to see dead people. Especially dead people who wore Rolex watches. As a Matter of fact, I can see Elvis right now and he is wearing a Rolex ;-) Seriously!!!

Once again, thank you very much for sharing all your constructive criticism with me. I appreciate it very much.

Warmest regards,

Jake Ehrlich

Kelly said...

"I have heard for years that Omega was the official Moon watch. I am not so certain exactly what official means, ..."

In 1962 NASA began the search for a wristwatch that could be worn by the Gemini and Apollo astronauts. NASA purchased chronographs over-the-counter at a Houston jewelry store for space flight qualification testing. Here are the tests that NASA performed on the chronographs:

* Baking up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit
* Freezing down to zero degrees Fahrenheit
* Soaking at 95% humidity
* Oxidizing (pure oxygen is very reactive and will break chemical compounds down)
* Jolting in six different directions at 40-g and a 7.25-g takeoff simulation
* Decompressing
* Vibrating at up to 2000 Hz
* Blasting with sound at 130 db

The final candidates were an Omega Speedmaster Professional, Rolex, and Longines. The Longines failed the testing because it popped its crystal on two occasions. The Rolex failed the testing after stopping twice from humidity and once during the high temperature test, when the seconds hand warped, binding against the other hands. The Omega Speedmaster was the only chronograph that qualified for space flight.

In 1972, ten years after the Speedmaster was flight qualified by NASA, another series of tests were conducted. Again the Speedmaster was selected by NASA to be worn by the astronauts.

That's why the Omega Speedmaster Professional was the "official" moon watch selected by NASA.

Jake Ehrlich said...

Hi Kelly,

Thanks for posting. I have actually read what you posted, but I am trying to find the actual Official NASA test criteria and Official NASA test documents that prove this to be true.

Do you or anybody have a link to this from NASA?

Thank you very much,

Jake Ehrlich

SuinBruin said...

I have no difficulty believing that Rolex watches have been worn by astronauts to the moon and back. But have they been worn on the moon in EVAs? That is extremely doubtful, and here's why. All the shots of Rolexes you show are on steel bracelets. Thus, the watches cannot be worn on the outside of a space suit. Only the extended velcro bands used with the Omega Speedmasters work on the arms of the space suit. It's conceivable that an astronaut could swap out the bands while in the LEM gearing up for the EVA, but very, very doubtful. It would require him to remove the steel bracelet (with a tool) and swap out the velcro band... something that would take time when every second is being counted and monitored by Mission Control. An astronaut is not going to take five or ten minutes to swap out his watch to a non-NASA approved timepiece during one of the most controlled, dangerous, and expensive space walks of all time. There's just no way. Can you imagine the radio calls from Mission Control wanting to know what's going on while he fumbles to change the watch on his velcro band? Didn't happen.

Now, could an astronaut wear a personal watch like a Rolex on his arm within his space suit? Sure he could. But it would be absolutely useless to him, because he couldn't read it. Also, if the watch case, crystal, or band broke for some reason, it would represent a hazard, as it could tear the suit lining or the cooling garment worn under the suit, or have fragments get sucked into the suit's environmental control system, which would be very, very bad. So why wear the watch in this scenario?

Further, if we assume that a Rolex was worn within the suit, it's not all that impressive an accomplishment, as the suit is a pressurized and temperature-controlled environment. It is not at all like being exposed to the vacuum and extreme temperatures (hot and cold) of space. Plus, again, the watch would be useless to the astronaut during the EVA, so we couldn't even really say that a Rolex was "used" on the moon.

What this all means is that the Omega Speedmaster is the only watch that can be verified as having been worn on the moon in the vacuum of space.

Jake Ehrlich said...

Hi SuinBruin,

Very well said!!!

In a way you take the argument to its logical and existential limit and you conclude that none of this really matters anyway.

I have some really interesting leads I am following up on that seem to contradict your very intelligent argument. I am not being coy or sarcastic when I say that your argument is superb and you may well be correct. Only time will tell...

As soon as I learn more and get to the bottom of all this I will share it with my readers. I have already debunked some commonly held myths which I hope to be reporting on in the next few weeks regarding the Moon watches.

All I can say, is stay tuned and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Thank you for sharing your brilliant insight and perspective.

Warmest regards,

Jake Ehrlich

Captain Harlock said...

Hi there & hello Jake!

For a first - and very authoritative - reading about how the NASA watch-tests came to be, and on how
the Speedmaster became what it is (in watch-making history), I recommend the following article. It was published by the NAWCC and
so I hope you'll know that it is
un-biased and truthful. A pdf version of it can be found here:

Then, take a read through anything by the great Mr. Chuck Maddox. As
an example, I'm offering you this
one for a quick read:

And now for some pix...

The original Apollo 13 crew (before Ken Mattingly was replaced by John L. Swigert). Look at their


And here's one of Mr. Swigert that
clearly shows the Speedmaster just
prior to launch.

Further reading can be found here:

There are numerous books on the
history of watchmaking and watches
in general that detail NASA's
watch selection, the following
tests etc.

Just do a google-search on the
subject and you will find a lot of information.

In the meantime I'll try to find
more historic links and I'll give
you quotes from many authoritative books later on.

There's a wonderful book called "A Time Capsule" that was first published in Japan that details the history of NASA's selection in extreme details. It features many many scanned pages from the NASA archives of the time, and it sure is amazing to read through said book's pages while looking at the official NASA documents presented there!

That's all for now, but I'll try to come back with more...

With best regards


Captain Harlock said...

Hello again!

I'm sorry, but I forgot the link to
the picture of Mr. Swigert and his
Speedmaster prior to launch. Here it

All the best


Speedmaster said...

Interesting post, thanks.

Charlie said...

Jake, I have read this posting with great interest, as I (like you) have been fascinated with Rolex, Omega and how BOTH watches have been used by NASA astronauts. You present some excellent information and compelling photographs. Personally, I think the connection between the unofficial (yet very real) use of Rolex watches in space is clearly documented. However, Omega enthusiasts have one real claim to fame -- and one hook to hang their hats on -- space. So, let's give them a nod of the head and allow them to be the space masters. Rolex owns pretty much every other category -- and when it came time (pun intended) to get Apollo XIII home, the astronauts (specifically Jack Swigert) had the right stuff - a Rolex GMT Master. :-)

Old Aeronaut said...

Actually Jake, the 2 photos of Shepard and Mitchell donning O2 masks inside the spacecraft while sporting their watches WERE NOT taken within the LM after a surface EVA... The 2 photos where taken of them in the CM. I'd recognize the interior, the couches and the windows anywhere. Roosa must have taken the shot while laying on the CM floor by the docking tunnel. I am however uncertain as to when this event took place - before the landing or after the return to orbit... My guess is when the 2 spacecraft were in transit to the moon after they first docked - just before the LM extraction from the S-4B booster. The LM was vented to the vacuum of space during launch. The astronauts had to pressurized the LM in flight from the CM through a bleed valve in the docking tunnel - so they could enter for the first time and throw the switch to blow the release bolts in order to release it from the S-4B. This event would have temporarily dropped the CM cabin pressure which could cause the men to suffer from hypoxia - hence the O2 masked...

Another point is that I also find it highly improbable that the Mitchell or Shepard where changing watch bands - from steel to Velcro to wear outside their suits during EVA's... I have a hard enough time playing with those damn little spring-loaded pins on my workbench here on earth. Could you imagine if one of those pins shot off an lodged itself in a critical piece of equipment in the spacecraft...

Now... Although I am an Omega owner, and I do believe that are grasping for straws in the idea that a Rolex was used during an EVA... Consider this: It is possible that Al and Ed left their GMT's aboard the unpressurized LM while they were out strolling about Cone Crater. In theory, the lack of atmosphere in the LM would cause the temperature to drop (rapidly) to a chilly ~ -200F... Now, any watch that could take those temps and keep ticking is nothing to "shake a stick at"...
As far as I know, to date - only four watches were employed during EVA's on the moon and in flight: Omega Speedmaster (cal 321), Fortis Cosmonaute Chronograph, Dave Scott's Waltham (on his 3rd EVA-after his speedmaster's crystal popped off), and Leonov's Strela.
Keep in mind that there is doubt that the Speedmaster Pro's with calibers 861 and 1861 (which I own) has ever made it outside any spacecraft ... So don't feel too bad about things. The GMT is a great watch and was absolutely used in spaceflight - just not outside...

Jake Ehrlich said...

Hi Old Aeronaut,

Thanks for sharing your perspective. Dr. Edgar Mitchell said he wore his Rolex GMT-Master UNDER his spacesuit, on his wrist, when he took the longest spacewalk recorded in history.


Tony Ramsden said...

The most interesting part of all this is that the astronauts not only owned and wore Rolex's while on earth, but felt the need to take them with them into space. The fact that they weren't NASA's official watch means little when you consider that the men who relied on good reliable timekeeping took their private Rolex watches with them.