Sunday, November 26, 2023

Frank Borman NASA Astronaut A Look Back @ Apollo 8

Frank Borman pictured above wearing his Rolex Pepsi GMT-Master on March 5, 1968 at Grumman's Lunar Module Factory during the announcement for the unmanned Apollo 6, which would be launched a month later. It's hard to see, but it appears Borman's GMT-Master features his West Point emblem printed on the dial next to the 9 marker. (Photo appears courtesy of NASA)

...Rolex Coolness...

Frank Borman

NASA Astronaut

Belongs to the Ages


To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

When it comes to Rolex Coolness, it doesn't get much more interesting than exploring the amazing achievements of test pilots and NASA Astronauts and the role they played in taking mankind to the moon and returning safely to earth. This story is filled with fascinating anecdotal insight and a heaping helping of The Right Stuff...

I would like to begin this article by thanking Philip from MoonWatchUniverse and Nick Gould for their invaluable contributions to this amazing article. I don't like writing obituaries, as it always sad to see people of amazing lifetime achievement step back into infinity. That being said, the upside is their passing often causes me to dig deeper on sharing their story, which is the case with Frank Borman.

Frank Frederick Borman II was born on March 14, 1928 and passed away earlier this month on November 7 2023, at age 95, making him the longest living NASA veteran astronaut.  Borman graduated from West Point in 1950 and went on to become a NASA Astronaut, United States Air Force (ASAF) colonel, test pilot, as well as an aeronautical engineer that was the commander of Apollo 8. Apollo 8 was the first mission to circumvent the Moon. He went on to become a successful businessman.

Frank Borman was chosen as a member of NASA's Astronaut Group 2, which was also commonly referred to as "The Next Nine" as well as "The New Nine". Their selection was formally announced on September 17, 1962 and this group augmented the Mercury Seven. 

In the two photos above we see Frank Borman wearing his Rolex as he stands in front of his future Apollo 8 team member, James Lovell, as well as being next to Neil Armstrong who was on the Apollo 11 crew that was the first to land and walk on the moon. We see them posing in front of models that show the Mercury, Apollo and Gemini command modules.

The photo above of Frank Borman above was from a post flight press conference for Gemini 7, which he flew aboard. 

Borman is pictured above in September of 1962 during a medical examination during NASA Astronaut Group 2 Selection and notice he is wearing a Rolex. I haven't been able to identify the exact Rolex model Borman is wearing in the photos above, but it looks like an Oyster Perpetual from the detail I can see.

In Late 1962 NASA planned to utilize less gas-guzzling jet aircraft for exclusive use by astronauts as spaceflight readiness aircraft and for pilot proficiency training. The Northrop T-38 Talon was chosen as seen below, so astronauts could avoid travel on commercial airlines while visiting NASA bases and subcontractors around USA. Frank Borman in light blue flight suit seen leaving a NASA T-38 Talon.

Pepsi GMT-Master

Frank Borman II was a United States Air Force (ASAF) test pilot and was selected by NASA in 1962, and went on to fly on Gemini VI in December of 1965. He went on to be the commander of Apollo 8, which flew in December of 1968.

If we punch-in and take a closer look we see Frank Borman in August of 1967 inside the Apollo Command Module simulator located at the training facility, Building 5, at the Manned Spacecraft Center located in Houston, Texas and he is wearing his Pepsi GMT-Master on his wrist. 

In 1967, Frank Borman Borman was the only astronaut selected for the AS-204 Accident Review Board to investigate the cause of the fire and see what could be done to make the Apollo program safer! Frank Borman is documented as having worn his Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master since at least the summer of 1966 and apparently it had a special military crest logo on it!

In the photo below, we again see Frank Boarman wearing his Rolex GMT-Master. 

Careful examination of Frank Borman's Pepsi GMT-Master reveals a U.S. Military Academy West Point logo next to the 9 marker as seen below. It's likely Borman received his Pepsi GMT-Master [Reference 1675], with crown guards as a gift from West Point.

It was very common for NASA Astronauts to wear Pepsi GMT-Master models, including Wally Schirra who was the commander of Apollo 7. I would go so far as to say if Omega was the official watch of NASA, the Pepsi GMT-Master was the personal choice of the Astronauts.

Pictured above, NASA Apollo 7 Astronaut, Wally Schirra wearing his Pepsi GMT-Master

Back in October of 2020, Nick Gould pointed out an article published on that featured an interview with Wally Schirra back in 2007 by Chuck Maddox, in which Schirra revealed he received his Rolex GMT-Master from the Naval Academy Alumni in 1965. Schirra told Chuck that his GMT-Master featured the same logo as James Lovell, from the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association, but Schirra's dial was redone at some point and the logo was lost to antiquity. 

The image above is from James Dowling's book and shows the "ROLEX AND NASA" wall at Rolex headquarters from Dowling's book, which I believe was taken many years ago, and it has autographed photos from Borman, Lovell and Schirra made out to Rolex. Also, if you look closely at the frame located at the top of the photo you will see a photo of Apollo 13, along with NASA Astronaut, Jack Swigert's Pepsi GMT-Master which he wore to the moon on that mission, along with a signed card made out to Rene-Paul Jeanneret, who was the director of marketing at Rolex back then.

American Hero

Frank Borman is considered to be a great American hero, as he went on to become the CEO of Eastern Airlines, and when he learned Flight 401 which was scheduled to fly from New York JFK to Miami had crashed, he surprised everybody when he hired a helicopter and rushed to the crash site to personally help in the rescue effort. 

Frank Borman when he was the CEO of Eastern Airlines wearing his two tone Rolex Datejust

Frank Borman began his career as a U.S. Air-Force fighter pilot from 1951-1953. From 1957 until 1960 he served as an assistant professor of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics at West Point. From 1960 to 1962 he served as a test pilot for the United State Air Force. Borman had an amazing career as an Astronaut, and went on to become the CEO of Eastern Airlines.

The photo above and below show the Apollo 8 mission Astronauts before the departed for the moon. Notice in the photo below that James Lovell, who is pictured on the far right is wearing his Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master. It is interesting to note that at least two of the Apollo 8 Astronauts personally wear Rolex watches. Apollo 8 crew members Bill Anders and Frank Borman are pictured below on the left wearing their MA-1 flight jackets, which became the standard issue for the U.S. Air Force and Navy Pilots, and ground crew. These flight jackets were designed to be worn in temperatures of 15 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and featured a knitted wool collar with matching cuffs. 

The photo below was taken on October 1968, of the Apollo 8 astronauts during water egress training. Note James Lovell who was an aviator and test pilot in the U.S. Navy is conversely wearing the precursor to the MA-1 Flight Jacket, which is known as a G-1 Flight Jacket. Lovell's old-school G-1 leather 'Bomber" Jacket features a Mouton fur collar. Although in the US Air Force leather jackets have been replaced by the Nomex MA-1 since the design interfered with the proper use of a parachute harness, the G-1 is still in use today. Lovell’s 1960s G-1 is currently on display in the museum of Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.


Man's First Journey To The Moon

The Apollo 8 NASA mission was profound as it was mankind's first manned attempt to actually fly to the moon, and return safely to earth. Pictured below is the an illustration of the Apollo 8 Lunar Orbital Plan Profile.

The NASA photo below shows the primary and backup crew for Apollo 8, and was taken at the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A, in front of the Saturn V Rocket on the launchpad. 

The photo above shows the Apollo 8 prime crew standing in the back row, and we see (from left to right): Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders. The Apollo 8 backup crew is pictured in the front row, which consisted of (from left to right) Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Fred Haise.

This is Ground Control to Major Tom

You've really made the grade

And the internet wants to know whose watch you wore

In the photo above we see James Lovell on the far left wearing his Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master standing with Apollo 8 crew mission members, Bill Anders and Frank Borman in front of their Apollo 8 Rocket. Frank Boarman is pictured wearing a classic Omega Speedmaster Chronograph, which is very cool.

I was checking out a post on the, which was titled, "Hidden gems from the NASA photo archive", and I came across a post from TLIGuy, who posted the photo below, that said "And here is the same watch some 40+ years later." 

The photo below shows a recent photo of James Lovell's Pepsi Rolex GMT-MASTER close-up, and notice it has an unusual U.S. NAVY Academy Crest logo next to the 9 O'Clock rectangular marker:

The image of James Lovell below is from Apollo 8 and shows him wearing the same Rolex more than a half century ago...

NASA Apollo 8 Astronaut, James Lovell wearing his Pepsi GMT-Master on his right wrist

I was always really curious to try and figure out what the really interesting patch was on Lovell's bomber jacket, so I asked Philip and he confirmed the patch is from James Lovell's JIG which was the 1956 U.S. NAVY Night Fighter "Batgirl" Jet Team Squadron which reads "NOX MEA AUXILIATRIX EST" which means "Night is my Ally". Patch image appears courtesy of Lunar Replicas.

Apollo 14

Dr. Edgar Mitchell is pictured above and below as he prepares the settings on two of his Rolex GMT-Master models, as he prepares to fly to the moon aboard Apollo 14. Dr. Edgar Mitchell said he wore his Rolex GMT-Master watches on his wrists during his moonwalk, which was the longest moonwalk in history. 

An interesting point from TLIGuy's post said: 

"One of my favorite email exchanges about watches was with Ed Mitchell. I asked him a question about the Speedmaster and he said: 'I don't know about that, but I think most of us were wearing Rolex watches.'"

Dr. Edgar Mitchell is pictured below on the far right, with his fellow Apollo 14 members, Alan Sheppard pictured in the center, and Stuart Roosa, pictured on the left.

Dr. Edgar Mitchell is standing on the left, with Apollo 14 crewmate, Alan Sheppard standing between him and Stuart Roosa. The Apollo 14 prime crew astronauts are standing in front of the Saturn V Rocket (AS-509) Vehicle on Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. Notice Alan Shepard is wearing a Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master. 

Alan Sheppard is pictured below, wearing his Rolex GMT-Master. Alan Shepard was one of the Original 7 Mercury Astronauts, who went on to become an Apollo Astronaut.

The photo below shows the Apollo 8 team after they are suited-up and on their way to the Saturn rocket to leave for the moon.

The Apollo 8 capsule is pictured below, which is on a Saturn 5 rocket, which was the height of a 35 story office building. It carried a million gallons of rocket fuel and was the largest rocket ever devised.

Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to actually travel to and see the moon up close with their own eyes. They were also the first to see the dark side of the moon with their own eyes.

Apollo 8 crew members were the first to witness an Earthrise. Of course they didn't land and walk on the moon, but William Anders who was the Lunar Module Pilot took the "Earth Marble" [NASA Photo Reference: AS8-14-2383] photo below which was titled, "Earthrise". The famous photo was taken with on December 24, 1968 with a highly modified 70MM Hassleblad 500EL, electric drive camera that used customized Kodak Ektachrome film.

The dialog from the Apollo 8 astronauts at the time this photo was taken was as follows:

Anders: Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! There's the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!

Borman: Hey, don't take that, it's not scheduled. (joking)

Anders: (laughs) You got a color film, Jim?
            Hand me that roll of color quick, would you...

Lovell: Oh man, that's great!

If you want to learn more about Rolex History @ NASA, I recommend checking out my Rolex X-Files named, "The Right Stuff, Godspeed, John Glenn."

Below is a video of Frank Borman that shows him flying and showing off a restored 1943 Northrop Flying Wing, and if you look closely toward the end of the video you see him wearing his Rolex Datejust.


Below is a fascinating list of NASA Astronauts & Test Pilots I have discovered and documented wearing Rolex watches over the past decade:
  • Chuck Yeager of Edwards Air Force Base was first to break sound barrier in 1947 while wearing a Rolex Perpetual Oyster.
  • William Knight of Edwards Air Force Base Fastest manned flight of Mach 6.7 (4,250 Miles Per Hour ins X-15 which is nearly 7 times the speed of sound) in 1967.
  • John Glenn of Mercury 7.
  • Scott Carpenter of Mercury 7.
  • Walter Schirra of Mercury 8, Gemini 6A & Apollo 7.
  • Frank Borman of Gemini 7 and Apollo 8.
  • Michael Collins of Gemini 10 & Apollo 11.
  • Jack Swigert of Apollo 13 (Wore to Moon).
  • James Lovell was a U.S. Navy Test Pilot and went onto NASA to participate in Gemini 7, Gemini 12, Apollo 8 & Apollo 13 (Pictured Above).
  • Stuart Roosa of Apollo 14 (Wore to Moon).
  • Dr. Edgar Mitchell of Apollo 14 (Wore to Moon).
  • Alan Sheppard of Mercury 3 & Apollo 14 (Worn On Cape Canaveral & Possibly To The Moon).
  • Ronald Evans of Apollo 17 (Wore to Moon).
  • Eugene Cernan of Gemini 9A, Apollo 10 & Apollo 17 (Worn Outside Space Suit and Possible To The Moon).
  • Dr. Leroy Chaio (Wore on 3 Space Shuttle Missions and while Commander of the International Space Station Expedition 10).

Speaking of Astronauts and Rolex, I am working on a book that goes into great detail on the entire history of Rolex's conquest of Space, as we see pictured below:

Rolex Zietgiest


Life Imitating Art

Just for the heck of it, let's get in the Rolex Time Machine and go back to 1968, and have a look around. One of the first things we would notice is the analog to the NASA Apollo Missions, which would be the original Star Trek TV show.

Space: The Final Frontier

These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

In December of 1968, while Captain Kirk was boldly exploring strange new worlds, the crew of Apollo 8 really was 'boldly going where no man had gone before."

Every time I watch the opening credits from the original Star Trek TV Series, is totally Deja Vu's me out!!!


Assignment Earth

Episode #55, 1968

Episode #55 begins with the Starship Enterprise traveling through the time-space continuum back to 1968 to conduct a mission as part of an earth history research program. All of a sudden, a man who is trying to beam to earth gets beamed onto the Enterprise transport station by mistake. He introduces himself to Captian Kirk as 'Gary Seven' (played by actor Robert Lansing, who looked a lot like Steve McQueen).

Gary Seven's human ancestors were abducted from Earth around 4000BC and taken to an invisible cloaked planet named System Zeta Gamma 357. Gary comes back to Earth in 1968 on a mission to try and save Earth from nuclear destruction. 

Gary Seven travels with his companion pussy cat named Isis and as you can see in the photo below when Captain Kirk first encounters Gary Seven in the transport room, Gary Seven is wearing a Rolex GMT Master Pepsi, which is the same model that NASA Apollo 8 Astronaut, Jim Lovell was wearing back in 1968.

Star Trek producer, Gene Roddenberry considered creating a spin-off show that was based upon the Gary 7 character, who is pictured below wearing his Rolex GMT-Master with a young Teri Garr. In an ironic twist of fate, Star Trek would canceled after the 1969 season, as was NASA's Apollo program several years later in 1972. I believe the consensus in retrospect was that both Star Trek and Apollo should have both gone on longer.

Reality Is Stranger Than Science Fiction

So here is where thins get bizzaro interesting. In 1972, as NASA was ending the Apollo missions, it began preparing for it's next chapter, which was that of the Space Shuttles. Pictured below is the very first Space Shuttle which was conceived in 1972, and of course it was named 'Enterprise'.

In the photo below from 1976 we see most of the original Star Trek TV series actors, with Gene Roddenberry at NASA checking out the NASA 'Enterprise Space Shuttle.'

Speaking of Star Trek, William Shatner who played Captain Kirk is pictured above and below wearing his Rolex Submariner.

Since we are on the subject, and since I have been daisy-chaining all over the place, I thought I would point out that Chris Pine, who is the current Captain Kirk, and is pictured above on the right side, as well as below, also personally wears a Rolex Submariner.

Update: Alan from Hong Kong just wrote in and shared this expert from a 1969 publication named, "Microtecnic, Volume 23:

"Everyday wrist watch for the men who reached for the moon Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders took their wristwatches with them to the moon, it is reported. Not by forgetfulness prior to entering their capsule. The fact is one of the few pieces of equipment not made specifically for the various flights of the NASA space program are the astronauts's production-line Omega Speedmasters that are worn on each wrist outside the space-suit."

So this basically means that Frank Borman and James Lovell wore their own personal watches to the moon, as did so many other NASA Astronauts. Which naturally begs the question of wether or not any of the Apollo 8 Astronauts wore their Rolex watches to the moon?