Thursday, July 30, 2009

One of only two Rolexes known to have landed on the moon, and Heritage has it...

July 30, 2009
Posted by Noah

You know, I just happen to be in the market for a new watch...

In my humble estimation, it doesn't get a whole lot cooler than this. An Apollo 17 Lunar Module Flown Rolex GMT-Master Chronometer, directly from the personal collection of Mission Command Module Pilot Ron Evans, will be part of our Oct. 8 Signature® Space Exploration Memorabilia Auction. Nobody does Space Exploration memorabilia better than Heritage and - as if you needed proof - the firm has done it again.

"We’ve done a tremendous amount of research on the subject," said Michael Riley, Chief Historian and Senior Cataloger at Heritage, "and we can confidently say that this is the only one of two Rolex watches known to have ever made it to the moon's surface to come up for auction."

There is nothing that can set the modern imagination alight like space travel, and little that inspires more awe in humans than the original Mercury and Apollo astronauts. America's "Right Stuff" pioneered space flight in the 1960s and actually spent time on the surface of the moon, the closest humans have ever come to personally exploring a distant world. As such, anything associated with the nation's space program, especially anything that was actually with the astronauts on the lunar terrain, brings a premium from space collectors.

In the evolving hierarchy of Space Exploration collecting, astronauts' timepieces have proven among the most sought after. It's widely known that the Omega Speedmaster Pro was the only watch approved by NASA for use on the Apollo moon flights, leading to its being called the "Moonwatch." Several astronauts, however, preferred their own timepieces, such as the Evans' present example. It already has significant value simply because it's a Rolex. Factor in its provenance, who it belonged to and where it's been, then it becomes not just a great watch, but one of historical import, as well.

"Many students and collectors of space-flown timepieces are aware that Jack Swigert carried and/or wore a Rolex on the ill-fated Apollo 13 flight, which never landed on the moon," said Riley. "Our research has turned up only one other Rolex, worn by Edgar Mitchell on Apollo 14, that can claim to have landed on the lunar surface."

Dr. Mitchell himself reported that he did indeed wear his Rolex in the lunar module during Apollo 14, but the whereabouts of the Rolex are unknown as of now, so this watch – with its unimpeachable provenance – carries a special distinction. Interestingly, but on another note, Dave Scott actually took his personal Waltham watch with him to the moon on Apollo 15.

This handsome, all-original, 1968-era Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master was Apollo 17 Astronaut Ron Evans' personal watch. He placed it into his Personal Preference Kit (PPK), which was taken to the moon by his crewmates Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt aboard the Lunar Module Challenger while he orbited the moon in the Command Module America. It remained on the moon for approximately 75 hours on what is, up to this day, the last manned lunar landing mission.
After Evans' return to Earth he certified the watch by engraving the pertinent facts, along with his name, along the outside edge of the back of the watch with an electric engraving tool. He wrote: "FLOWN ON APOLLO XVII 6-19 DEC 72 ON MOON 11-17[?] DEC RON EVANS."

Apparently Commander Evans didn't remove the stainless steel band to accomplish this as the "writing" is a bit rough and shaky. The apparent '7' in the 'ON MOON' phrase was certainly intended by him to be a '4' but, being directly below the band's attachment to the watch, and due to the size of the portable engraving machine, the number was not clearly engraved.

There is no doubt – due to photographic evidence, authentication and a letter of certification from Ron Evans' wife, Jan Evans – that this watch belonged to Commander Evans, and that he took it with him on Apollo 17.

Like I said, it doesn't get a whole lot cooler than this...

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