Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Rolex and Motorsports

Rolex and Motorsports

Monday, September 28, 2020

Godspeed, John Glenn 1921-2016

The Complete History Of The Rolex GMT-Master

Rolex X-Files

The Right Stuff

...Rolex Super-Coolness...

Godspeed, John Glenn


The Rolex Go-To Man @ NASA

I originally published this article on December 8, 2016 and just updated it with many new images of John Glenn, some of which were discovered by Nick Gould as well as this superb first image which was sent in by Philip from MoonWatchUniverse that shows John Glenn wearing his Pepsi GMT-Master.

John Glenn in late 1966 (post-Gemini mission) or early 1967 (post-Apollo 1 fire). 

In the photo below we see a photo of John Glenn later in life wearing a yellow gold Rolex GMT-Master on a Jubilee bracelet.

John Glenn, the NASA Astronaut passed away today, leaving behind an amazing legacy. John Glenn will always be remembered as the first American to orbit earth, and he was the last of the original American Astronauts to pass away.

I have a fascinating Rolex History secret to share with you: 

John Glenn was the unofficial liaison at NASA who was responsible for getting many Astronauts and test pilots to wear Rolex watches. I have known about this fact for many years, but have never published this information. More on that later in this article. Let's first take a look at John Glenn's amazing career achievements.

John Glennwas born in Cambridge, Ohio on July 28, 1921. He attended Muskingham College from 1939 to 1942. He enlisted in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1942, and completed his flight training in 1943, and went on to become a U.S. Marine fighter pilot.

We see John Glenn in the photo below taken in 1943 in the cockpit of his F4U Corsair. This photo was taken during Glenn's flight training with WMO-155 in California. Glenn flew 59 combat missions during World War II. 

John Glenn is pictured below in 1943 in the middle of World War II with his wife Annie Glenn. Annie was John's childhood sweetheart, and they got married in 1943, and remained married until today, when he passed away.

John Glenn is pictured below in 1944 flying his F4U Corsair in formation with fellow U.S. Marine Corps pilots from Squadron VMO-155.

John Glenn went on to fly 90 combat missions in Korea. 63 of these missions involved Marine Fighter Squadron 311, along with 27 missions with the Fifth U.S. Air Force.

In all, John Glenn flew 149 missions during World War II and the Korean War. He received many awards including SIX Distinguished Flying Cross awards. After the Korean conflict ended, John Glenn attended test pilot school at the Naval Air Test Center in Maryland from 1954 through 1956. 

John Glenn is pictured above in 1957 receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross from the Secretary of the U.S. Navy, for his participation in 'Project Bullet', which resulted in Glenn's record breaking transcontinental flight. Specifically, Glenn broke and set a new supersonic speed record flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 23 minutes!!!

There were essentially three major NASA space programs, that were founded under U.S. President Eisenhower and perpetuated by JFK and LBJ, and those were Operation Mercury, Gemini and Apollo—all named after mythical Greek Gods.

The Original 7
NASA Mercury Astronaut Team
March 1, 1960 

John Glenn was chosen to be one of the original NASA Mercury 7 Astronauts, and he is pictured below with the other pilots who were chosen for the program. At the time he was the oldest member of the group.

Pictured above we see the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) group portrait of the 'Original Seven' astronauts from the Mercury program as they pose in front of an Air Force Jet, in Florida, in January 1963. From left, Scott Carpenter (1925-2013), Gordon Cooper (1927-2004), John Glenn (1921-2016), Gus Grissom (1926-1967), Wally Schirra (1923 -2007), Alan Shepherd (1923-1998), and Deke Slayton (1924-1993).”

The photo below taken April 8, 1959 shows the seven NASA Astronauts of the Mercury program: Walter M Schirra, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Alan B Shepard, Virgil Grissom and Gordon Cooper.”

America needed a hero for the space race and the found it in John Glenn. 

An obvious question is, what kind of watch was John Glenn wearing when he became the first American to orbit earth in his Friendship 7 spacecraft? My good pal, Sheldon Smith discovered the answer to this question back in 2006 when he took his son to visit the Space and Flight Museum in San Diego, California. 

Sheldon discovered Glenn had worn a Heuer pocket watch that had long been buried in the Smithsonian Institution!?!! Sheldon's finding were published in The International Watch Magazine and you can learn more by visiting his article on Minus4Plus6. Also, I completed a podcast with Sheldon Smith back in 2008, where we discussed his findings.

In the photo below we see the NASA Flight Director, Christopher Kraft, who oversaw John Glenn's historical flight. Christopher Kraft is wearing a Rolex Datejust in the photo below. Kraft went on to become the Director of The Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Kraft is considered to be the man most responsible in architecting NASA's Mission Control Center.

The photo below shows NASA Mercury Astronaut John Glenn as he flies through space in his Friendship 7 spacecraft at 17,500 MPH, while in a state of weightlessness.

We see John Glenn pictured below with U.S. President Kennedy at Cape Canaveral on February 23, 1962. JFK honored NASA Astronaut John Glenn during a reception and presentation commemorating John Glenn's achievements with the Mercury-Atlas-6 Mission, AKA Friendship 7.

The photo below shows NASA Mercury Astronaut John Glenn in 1976 after he was elected to be a U.S. Senator, and notice he is wearing his Rolex GMT-Master under his French Cuff. Also, note he wore it backwards, so the dial wrests on his wrist. This makes Rolex Spotting challenging...As previously mentioned, I have knows for many years that he wore a Rolex but trying to find photos that make a positive ID have been really, really challenging.

I first learned about John Glenn and Rolex back in 2008 from T. Walker Lloyd, who was a DEEP-SEA Diver and went on to become a Rolex U.S.A. executive for 25 years. T. Walker Lloyd told me he met John Glenn on an long airplane flight, when they sat next to each other. "T" as his close friends called him told me he and Glenn had a great conversation about Rolex and that John Glenn was really impressed with the reliability, precision and build quality of the Rolex Professional Sport Watches.

T. Walker Lloyd being an avid sportsman, DEAP-SEA Diver and former U.S. Marine, agreed and said he was certain Rolex would be happy to provide NASA Astronauts and Test Pilots with any Rolex equipment they needed. Thus the relationship between Rolex and NASA began in earnest. Basically, John Glenn was the goto guy at NASA to provide Rolex watches for all the Test Pilots and Astronauts.

I became friends with T. Walker Lloyd and spent many hour interviewing him back in 2008, and I published 3 details podcast interviews, which are fascinating. Rolex has a code-of-silence, just like many other companies, whereby employees do not speak on-the-record to the press. Instead, these large companies have press representatives that answer questions on paper.

Rolex's Conquest Of Time & Space

So let's talk about The Rolex and The Right Stuff. In 1983 A movie was released named The Right Stuff, which was originally published by Tom Wolfe in 1979. The movie was about Navy, Air Force and Marine test pilots that participated in aeronautical research at Edward's Air Force Base in California. The book and movie revolved around the seven military pilots that were selected to participate in Project Mercury, which represented the first manned spaceflight in the United States. The movie also featured Chuck Yeager's figure.

As previously mentioned, John Glenn was the conduit between Rolex and NASA, and in the photos below we see many of the NASA Astronauts and Test Pilots that wore Rolex Watches. Before we take a look at them, we must take a look at their hero, Chuck Yeager.

Chuck Yeager

No discussion of The Right Stuff would be complete without the Dean of test-pilots, General Chuck Yeager. Chuck Yeager was the first man on earth to break the sound barrier in 1947, and of course he was wearing his trusted Rolex as seen in the photo below.

Chuck Yeager is pictured below wearing his Rolex Submariner.

Notice the number on the tail of Chuck Yeager's is 6062, which is the same Reference Number as my favorite Rolex Moonphase [Reference 6062].

The photo above is cropped from the photo below which is mind-boggling if you click on it and check out the detail. It was taken in 1947 and is a photo of Chuck Yeager haulin' in his X-1.

In October 1947, at Edwards Air Force Test Center, Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager forever changed history, when he was the first pilot to fly faster than the Speed of Sound.

Chic Rolex Mercury Sheiks

Mohave Desert Survival Training

Below we see what appear to be 7 Sheiks, but what is really going on is we see The Original 7 Mercury NASA Astronauts during survival training in the Mohave Desert. 

Pictured above from Left to right are NASA Mercury Astronauts, Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Walter Shirra and Donald Slayton. At least four of these Mercury Astronauts wore Rolex watches. In the photo above we see Alan Shepard wearing his Rolex GMT-Master. Also, I have previously documented Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, and Walter Shirra wearing Rolex watches.

Scott Carpenter

Aurora 7

Below we see NASA Mercury Astronaut, Scott Carpenter.

John Glenn became best friends with fellow NASA Astronaut and Project Mercury Astronaut Scott Carpenter. I interviewed Scott Carpenter back in 2008 about his Rolex history, which was absolutely fascinating.

 "The Rolex Submariner & Rolex SEA-DWELLER have a cachet that is unmatched by any other watch. The Rolex brand is the most highly respected in my book. The Rolex Submariner was the preferred diving watch for U.S. NAVY SEALAB Divers." –Scott Carpenter

From Conquering Outer Space 
To Conquering Inner Space

U.S. Navy SEA-LAB Aquanauts: Bob Barth, Wilbur Eaton & Scott Carpenter
Team 1 Preparing To Dive Down To SEA-LAB 2 Habitat [August 28, 1965]

Wally Schirra

Mercury Sigma 7

Below we see NASA Mercury Astronaut, Wally Schirra. He was the fifth Mercury Astronaut to fly, in his Sigma 7, which achieved six orbits around earth. Wally Schirra then flew on Gemini 6A with Tom Stafford. Next he flew on the Apollo 7 mission.

In the photo below we see Wally Schirra on April 17, 1967, testifying before a House investigation subcommittee in a probe on the fire that occurred aboard Apollo I, in which three NASA Astronauts died. Wally Schirra is pictured below in between Donald Slayton and Alan Shepard. If you look closely Wally Schirra is wearing his Pepsi GMT-Master.

Below we see a photo of Wally Schirra four decades after the photo above was taken and he is still wearing his Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master. 

The Fastest Man That Ever Flew

Below we see Rolex Barrier Breakers, U. S. Air Force Test-Pilot & NASA Astronaut, William J. "Pete" Knight

William J. "Pete" Knight is pictured above and below in front of his X-15 Spaceship. Notice I said Spaceship and not airplane. The X-15 looks like an airplane, but airplanes can't leave the Earth's atmosphere like an X-15 could.

The Hypersonic X-15 Experimental Spacecrafts were made by a U.S. Company named North American, and they were rocket-powered aircraft. The X-Series began with the Bell X-1 that Chuck Yeager flew in 1947, and ended up with the X-15.

In the photo below we see William J. 'Pete' Knight's special X-15a he flew into the record books when he set the all-time speed record for level flight. A record that he holds to this day. On a clear winter day, on October 3, 1967, Pete Knight's X-15a took off from Edwards Air Force Base, attached to a B-52 Bomber. He hit Mach 6.7, and returned safely to earth.

Pete Knight's special X-15a had special 'abatement' white tiles on it, as they could withstand extreme heat. These tiles famously ended up being used on the Space Shuttle many years later to protect it as it returned into the atmosphere of earth at super-high speeds. As a matter of fact, the first Space Shuttle named Columbia landed at Edwards Air-Force Base on April 12, 1981.

Pete Knight is pictured below wearing his Pepsi GMT-Master he wore when he set the all-time speed record for level flight at Mach 6.7. 

The photo above is of Pete Knights actual GMT-Master watch he wore when he flew his X-15 at Mach 6.7. 

Rolex on Apollo 11

Below we see NASA Astronaut, Michael Collins, who was part of the Apollo 11 Mission, which was the first NASA mission to land men on the moon, and return them safely to earth. In the photos below we see Command Module Pilot Michael Collins just before he left for the moon, and he is wearing his trusted Rolex Turn-O-Graph. 

The Rolex Turn-O-Graph Michael Collins is wearing looks remarkably similar to the Rolex Submariner, but its slightly smaller.

...The Rolex President...
U.S. President: Lyndon Johnson
Apollo 11 Lift-off

In this next photo we see U.S. President Lyndon Johnson wearing his trademark yellow gold "Rolex President" Day-Date as he watches Apollo 11 take-off for the moon on July 16, 1969 at 9:32am EDT. U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew is pictured on Johnson's right and Lady Bird is on his left.

Houston, We've Had A Problem! 

Rolex on Apollo 13

Below we see Apollo 13 NASA Astronaut, Jack Swigert wearing his Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master. Jack Swigert is the NASA Astronaut who famously said, "Houston, we've had a problem."

Failure Is Not An Option!

In the photo below we see NASA Mission Control Director, Gene Kranz pictured with the cigar in his mouth. I originally thought he was wearing a Rolex Datejust on a Jubilee bracelet, but it turns out he was wearing a Seiko Sport Diver (Reference 6119-8460).

James Lovell
Apollo 8 & 13

I discovered that NASA Apollo Astronaut James Lovell, who flew on Apollo 8 and Apollo 13 wore a Pepsi GMT-Master. In December of 1968, Apollo 8 became the first manned NASA Apollo mission to leave Earth's orbit, to circle the moon, then return safely to Earth. If you look a the photo below you see Jams Lovell wearing his Pepsi GMT-Master.

The more recent photo below was taken at the Kennedy Space Center and shows James Lovell still wearing his Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master. This means he has been sporting his Rolex for close to 50 years.

Rolex on Apollo 14

All 3 NASA Apollo 14 Moon Mission astronauts wore Rolex GMT Pepsi watches. In the first two photos below you can see Alan Shepard sporting his GMT on a black strap. Alan Shepard was also one of the Original 7 Mercury Mission NASA Astronauts and he was the first American Astronaut to leave the Earth's atmosphere in a rocket.

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 next two image we see Apollo 14 Mission team member Dr. Edgar Mitchell preparing his two Rolex GMT Master's just before he prepares to board the Saturn Rocket to go to the Moon. Dr. Edgar Mitchell confirmed that he wore his Rolex GMT on the longest moonwalk in history.

In the Apollo 14 Launch Day video below we see Dr. Edgar Mitchell putting on his two Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master watches, and we also see Ronald Evans of Apollo 17, who served as the backup team for Apollo 17 wearing his Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master. Also, it appears Alan Sheppard is also wearing his Rolex GMT-Master during the steak and eggs breakfast before his team left for the Moon.

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 Stuart Roosa (left), Al Shepard (center) and Ed Mitchell (right) in the mobile quarantine 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.

In the photo below we see Dr. Edgar Mitchell clearly wearing his Rolex GMT Master. 

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. This directly confirms that he wore his Rolex GMT Pepsi to the moon and back.

The two photos below show NASA Apollo 14 Astronaut, Stuart Roosa wearing Rolex watches. In the top photo we see what is clearly a Jubilee bracelet, and in the photo below it, we see him wearing his Rolex GMT-Master.

Rolex on Apollo 17

I was the first historian to document the fact Ronald Evans wore his GMT which I found in this photo in the NASA archives and published many years ago. Ronald Evans was on the backup crew for Apollo 14 and you see him in the photo below on the far right wearing his Pepsi Rolex GMT Master which is for sale in the Heritage Auction Galleries sale on October 8, 2009. In this photo we see the Apollo 14 crew during their Steak and Eggs breakfast before they take off for the moon.

In the Steak and Eggs breakfast photo above taken on January 31, 1971, we see Dr. Edgar Mitchell located on the far left. An hour or so later we see him in the picture below as he prepares to board the Apollo 14 Mission to go to the Moon. Notice he is setting the time on his two Pepsi Rolex GMT Master watches.

In the photo below we see the Prime Crew of Apollo 17 posing in front of the Saturn Rocket that would soon take them safely to the Moon and back. We see Eugene Cernan sitting on the lunar probe with Harrison Schmitt pictured next to Ronald Evans.

This is an extremely profound story that ads another huge piece of the puzzle to the Rolex Moon Watch Mystery. Before we go in to the details of this mystery let's examine this historic Rolex Moon Watch. 

It was worn by United States NASA Apollo Commander Ronald Evans on Apollo 17 which was the last manned Moon Mission. Commander Ronald "Ron" Evans is pictured below in his official NASA Apollo 17 portrait standing in front of a Moon Globe. 

Ronald Ellwin Evans Jr., was born on November 10, 1933 and passed away on April 7, 1990. He achieved the Boy Scouts Of America's second highest rank of Life Scout. and recieved a Bachelor Of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Kansas in 1956. In 1964 he earned a Master Of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

Evans went on to become a U.S. Navy pilot flying an F-8 Crusader aircraft from the very USS Ticonderoga that would pick him up from splashdown in the Pacific after his successful Apollo 17 Moon Mission.

Commander Evans retired from the U.S. Navy as a Captain and was one of the only 24 people to ever fly to the Moon. 

In the close-up Photo below we see NASA Apollo 17 Astronaut Commander Ronald Evans 1968 Pepsi Rolex GMT Master [Reference 1675, Caliber 1580, Serial Number 2448718] that spent time on the lunar surface.

This major piece of the Rolex Moon Watch history puzzle answers many question and at the same time brings to light more fascinating questions. 

As we see evidenced in the photo below, when Commander Evans returned from the Moon he proudly hand-engraved the provenance on the back of this Pepsi Rolex GMT Master. He inscribed "FLOWN ON APOLLO XVII 6-19 DEC 72 ON MOON 11-17 DEC RON EVANS." Apparently Commander Evans hand engraved this without removing the Rolex Oyster bracelet.

Part of the provenance includes this letter from Jan Evans (Commander Evans wife) that documents the Rolex was worn to the moons lunar surface and that is has been in the family collection all these years.

The Last Man On The Moon

Apollo 17 Mission Commander Eugene A. Cernan is pictured below in his official NASA Apollo 17 portrait. Eugene Cernan flew in the Gemini IX mission as well as on Apollo 10 and as part of Apollo 17 would be the last man to walk on the Moon.

This next image of Eugene "Gene" Andrew Cernan is very interesting because he is wearing a Pepsi Rolex GMT Master on the outside of his space suit on a velcro strap!?! This photo just ads to the Rolex Moon Watch Mystery because the obvious question is if Omega was the official watch of NASA then what is an Apollo astronaut doing wearing a Rolex on the outside of his space suit!?!

The Saturn Rocket that would take the Apollo 17 prime crew to the moon is pictured below on its launch pad.

Apollo 17 was the first mission to be launched at night.

In this next photo we see NASA Apollo 17 Commander Ronald Evans with Gene Cernan as they head to the moon. It is fascinating to think the watch in this auction was likely on Ronald Evans wrist when this photo was taken.

The Blue Marble

As the Apollo 17 Mission sped away from Earth on December 7, 1972 to the Moon Ronald Evans took this very famous photo of the Earth known as "The Blue Marble." Antarctica is pictured on the bottom and we see the eastern coastline of Africa and the Island of Madagascar as well as the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Arabian Peninsula.

Apollo 17 was the last of seven manned lunar landing missions. The photo below was taken by Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt of Apollo 17 Commander Gene Cernan as he he adjusts the U.S. Flag on the lunar surface on December 12, 1972. Notice the Earth in the background looking the way the Moon looks from Earth.

The scientific objectives of Apollo 17 included geological surveying as well as sampling materials and surface features in the Taurus-Littrow region of the Moon. This included exploring atmospheric composition experiments that included Lunar ejecta and meteorites.

Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt is pictured below examining a large Moon boulder.

In the photo below we see the Lunar Rover vehicle which was deployed as part of the Apollo 17 Moon mission. 

The Apollo 17 Moon Mission was the longest Apollo mission in history lasting 504 hours. This was also the longest lunar surface stay time at 75 hours that resulted in the astronauts collecting 257 pounds (117 kilograms) of lunar samples (Moon Rocks) that utilized the Marshall Space Flight Center developed Lunar Rover which is pictured above.

Ronald Evans Lunar Mapping Photography

As Gene Cernan and Harris Schmitt explored the lunar surface, Ronald Evans stayed busy on the Command-Service Module named America taking photos of the lunar surface. In this first photo of Ronald Evan taken on Sunday, December 17, 1972, he is retrieving a film canister from the exterior of the spacecraft before returning to earth.

During Apollo 15, 16 and 17 the mission teams photographed approximately 20% of the Moon's surface which in the years to come provided invaluable for scientist on Earth.

This next iconic Moon photo of NASA Apollo Astronaut lunar module Challenger pilot Harrison H. Schmitt was taken by Gene Cernan.

In this next photo that Harris Schmitt took of Gene Cernan surrounded by the lunar rover and American flag the Apollo team was just beginning their third and final excursion of the moon surface.

Harrison Schmitt took the photo below on December 13, 1972 of Apollo 17 Astronaut and Mission Commander Eugene A. Cernan as he salutes the deployed United States flag on the lunar surface during Extravehicular Activity (EVA).

Eugene Cernan's last words as he left the Moon were:

"As I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come–but we believe not too long into the future–I'd like to just [say] what I believe history will record–that America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."

A plaque left on the ladder of the descent stage of Challenger reads: 

"Here Man completed his first explorations of the moon. December 1972 AD. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind."

The Apollo 17 capsule splashed down on December 19, 1972 and the U.S. Navy SH-3A Sea King helicopter combat support squadron HC-1 Pacific Fleet Angels were sent from the deck of the USS Ticonderoga (CVS-14) to recover the Astronauts as pictured below.

NASA's Apollo missions and conquest of the Moon were nothing short of amazing. They captivated the hearts and minds of all humanity. Despite the U.S. setting out to beat the Russians to the Moon, it was ultimately, as Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong put it: "One small step for man. One giant step for mankind."

What conclusion can we draw regarding the Rolex Moon Watches!?!? It is difficult to say. I will leave it to you to draw your own conclusion. As I have said before, if the Omega Speedmaster was the official NASA watch then the Pepsi Rolex GMT Master was the official watch of many of the NASA Astronauts.

I think I might start referring to the Pepsi Rolex GMT Master as The Rolex Moon Watch ;-))))))))))))

Rolex's Unofficial & Official Conquest of Space

Rolex's official role in the NASA space race is very interesting. Much has been written about NASA and the process they went through to figure out what watches the NASA Astronauts should use. For many years, there was a apocryphal story put forth that posited that NASA representatives went to a watch store in Houston, Texas and bought a bunch of watches for testing, and ultimately chose Omega. This story is not true, and thanks to the amazing work of Omega Museum Manager, Mr. Petros Protopapas, we now know the truth. Mr. Protopapas recently, in the summer of 2016 divulged his revelations that finally put together many of the pieces of the official NASA watch story

Mr. Protopapas recently collaborated with Mr. James Ragan, who was the NASA engineer responsible for testing commercial equipment including watches and cameras for NASA in the 1960s to separate the fact from the fiction on Omega's involvement with NASA. Omega is building a new museum that will open in 2017, and will showcase all their findings from working with NASA in Houston, Texas as well as The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C..

The letter below is fascinating as it shows how Rolex submitted chronographs for testing to NASA in late 1964.

From the letter above, it appears Rolex was originally not so jazzed-up to support NASA Astronauts. I believe it was not until Rolex executive, T. Walker Lloyd sat on a long airplane ride next to John Glenn, that Rolex got excited about becoming part of the space race.

On a side note, some people have assumed that since I am obviously the President of the Rolex Fan Club, that I must dislike Omega. For the record, this is not true. Quite the contrary... I genuinely appreciated and respect Omega's role in the NASA program and I love the Omega SpeedMaster.

Rolex obviously became very excited by the space race, and by America's attempt to put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth. As a result Rolex created a new model named the 'Rolex Space-Dweller', which is pictured below.

I was recently chatting with my old pal, Erik Ku, who owns and runs as well as The Vintage Rolex Forum, about the history of The Space-Dweller. Eric showed me the trademark registration document below that shows Rolex's trademark registration was submitted on April 11, 1968, and granted on April 19, 1973. Rolex specifically states that their first use of the term SPACE-DWELLER in commerce was on July 7, 1967.

To the best of my knowledge no Astronauts actually wore this watch, and obviously the obvious choice of Rolex for Test Pilots and was the Pepsi GMT-Master. My best guess is they liked the Pepsi as it had the red and blue bezel insert, which looked kind of like the American Flag.

On a side note, if you are a reader of Jake's Rolex World, you probably know I specialize in busting false myths that have been perpetuated over the years about Rolex, and I would like to take this opportunity to attempt to bust another myth that is likely not true. Many people say that Rolex developed the Space-Dweller as a result of a 1963 or 1965 visit fro Japan by the Mercury Astronauts. You might find things written on the web that say things like: 

"One of the rarest and most highly sought after Rolex watches is the Rolex Space Dweller. The Rolex Space Dweller was originally inspired by a 1963 visit to Japan by astronauts of Project Mercury. Project Mercury was the United States’ first man-in-space program. The Mercury astronauts were a huge hit with the crowds in Japan. Rolex chose to capitalize on their popularity by introducing a special edition of the Explorer for the Japanese market, naming it the Space Dweller. The Space Dweller was released shortly after the astronauts’ visit, though it was produced on a trial basis and was only available to the Japanese market, though no one seems to know why Japan was specifically chosen."

For whatever it is worth, I don't believe this to be true. At best it seems like glorified speculation to me, and obviously the Rolex trademark registration document seen above completely refutes this timeframe. Also, I have never been able to find any evidence that the Mercury Astronauts toured Japan—ever!?!! So if the Space-Dweller was not released in the Japanese market, where was it released? That remains a Rolex Mystery, that I hope to solve in the future :-)

Stan Barrett
More Right Stuff

I mentioned The Right Stuff Book written by Tom Wolfe in 1979, which became a movie in 1983. Ironically, in 1979, when The Right Stuff was published, there was one man, who would add his own chapter to the tail end of The Right Stuff, and that is my great pal, Stan Barrett.

The photo below shows Stan Barrett with his Budweiser Rocket standing next to Colonel Grazier with his F-15 parked behind them. Colonel Grazier helped facilitate all the events at Edwards Air Force Base for The Budweiser Rocket Team. 

In the photo below we see Colonel Grazier on the left along with Chuck Yeager, Stan Barrett and Pete Knight, inspecting the cockpit of the Budweiser Rocket. If you look closely you will notice Pete Knight is wearing the Pepsi GMT-Master he wore when he set the all-time speed record for level flight when he flew his X-15 at Mach 6.7 in 1967—also at Edwards Air Force Base.

If you think about it, it makes sense that Stan Barrett ended up at Edwards Air Force Base, as it is the home of Supersonic Speed, beginning with Chuck Yeager, and continuing through the X-15 program, and as previously mentioned it is even the place the first Space Shuttle Columbia landed. Speaking of Chuck Yeager—Chuck was like a cat with catnip during the entire Budweiser Rocket Car program, and he was hyper-engaged in work with Stan to assist him in breaking the same record he broke a quarter-century earlier at Edwards Air Force Base.

Stan Barrett shared a fascinating story about Chuck Yeager with me. Stan said he was talking with Chuck, and that Chuck kept freaking out talking about how amazed he was with Stan attempting to become the first man to break the land-speed record of driving at the speed of sound. So Stan said to Chuck, "Really, it's not that much different than the record you broke 28 years ago, in 1947." Chuck responded and said, "Well, that's not exactly true. What you are doing is a lot scarier. After all, I had LOTS of airspace below me if something went wrong."

The photo below shows Stan Barrett's Budweiser Rocket at the exact moment he was driving it at supersonic speed, past Mach 1 at Edwards Air Force Base. 

If you think about it, it makes sense that Stan Barrett ended up at Edwards Air Force Base, as it is the home of Supersonic Speed. Stan Barrett is pictured below just before he set the land speed record by driving past the speed of sound, and notice he is also wearing his Pepsi GMT-Master, along with a Rolex Daytona that his best pal, Paul Newman gave him to wear as a good luck charm for the record-breaking attempt.

Ironically, the K-Swiss shoes Stan Barrett were wearing when he was the first to drive past the speed of sound is on display in the Bally Museum in Switzerland, side by side with John Glenn's boots he wore when he was the first to orbit earth.

One More Thing

In 1998, John Glenn became the oldest NASA Astronaut to travel into space, when he flew from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, in the Space Shuttle on a 7 day mission.

John Glenn's Last Letter

In an ironic twist of fate, Amazon and Blue Origin founder, Jeff Bezos received the letter seen below on, December 8, 2016—the same day that John Glenn passed away. The words are deeply profound, and I can't help but wonder if future generations of test pilots and Astronauts will wear Rolex watches. Who knows, maybe Rolex will one day bring back the Space-Dweller!?!!