Last Updated on November 20, 2023 by Luis Cooper
One of the most common questions at Watches in Depth is what watches astronauts wear.
The answer might surprise you! Even though they work in space, they still need to follow safety protocols and choose reliable watches, even if they don’t look like them.
In fact, with their limited storage space on shuttles and space stations, astronauts often wear two watches instead of one, so they can switch them out and keep at least one running at all times.
A lot of these are the things we found out while researching this.
In this article, we will look at whether Astronauts Wear Watches.
The origins of the watch:
It’s commonly believed that early sailors created timepieces to tell the time in an era when clocks were nonexistent, but watches have been around much longer than you might think.
Though many experts believe humans began using primitive sundials as far back as 3200 B.C., it wasn’t until 14th century China that a man by the name of Zhang Shougui created what could be considered one of history’s first wristwatches.
His device was made of bronze and included several gears and clockwork, unlike what we see today.
Although his watch was never mass-produced, its existence proves that even with rudimentary technology, people still needed a way to keep track of time on long voyages across oceans and continents.
Even after Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, explorers relied heavily on mechanical instruments like these to accurately chart their journey and make sure they didn’t miss land or run aground.
And though Galileo Galilei helped create what some consider history’s first authentic pocket watch (about half an inch thick), he designed it for use aboard ships rather than on land.
Why were they initially invented?
Nobody in history has ever asked what watches astronauts wear.
That’s because they don’t wear them.
It wasn’t until 1969 that NASA thought to put a watch on an astronaut.
It was only then that we learned how valuable a timepiece could be when you were hurtling through space at 17,500 miles per hour and had no idea what time it was.
The answer: It doesn’t matter what time it is, so long as you know how much time you have left before your oxygen runs out, your spaceship explodes, or whatever else might go wrong up there in space.
Today, most of us would probably agree that knowing what time it is isn’t such a bad.
But what about those more specific questions—do astronauts need a watch? Or do they use their phones like everyone else? And what if they did want to wear a watch? What kind of watch would work best for them? Let’s find out.
Sure, if everything goes according to plan (which never happens), astronauts will live and die by their calendars, clocks, and wristwatches.
Whether they are part of a two-person team headed to Mars or a six-person crew going from one module in one section of their spacecraft to another module in another section, these men and women will track every minute with bated breath and anxiety coursing through their veins.
But what about when things don’t go according to plan?
What about when an astronaut is floating around on his own for some reason—for example, because he was separated from his ship during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere—and he has no idea what time it is?
Or what about those long stretches between launches when there is nothing much an astronaut can do but wait until it’s time for her next flight into space?
Would she want a watch then too? Let’s find out.
Astronauts wear watches while in space because they have to know what time it is.
That might seem like a silly thing to say, but think about it: If you knew that you had precisely 30 minutes left before your spaceship exploded or 30 minutes left before your oxygen ran out, wouldn’t you be able to focus better than if you didn’t know how much time you had left?
And what if you were floating around on your own and something went wrong with your ship, and there was no way for you to get back inside until help arrived?
Wouldn’t know what time it gave you some comfort?
It would let you know that things weren’t as bad as they seemed; after all, you could always wait just one more hour, and everything would be okay again.
How NASA uses them today:
Today, astronauts use a relatively new technology called GPS to navigate.
Before GPS, astronauts relied on computers and sextants to locate their exact location in space.
When we think of astronauts and how they navigate their way through space, we tend to imagine that they rely on maps or look at pictures taken by an Earth-bound telescope that indicates where everything is located.
However, modern-day NASA missions have taken astronaut navigation into space with GPS.
As you might know, GPS relies on satellites in orbit around our planet to determine your exact location on Earth.
While it’s not as accurate as traditional methods for determining your position (like a map), it’s beneficial when you’re trying to figure out where you are when you can’t see anything but stars surrounding you.
This means that today, astronauts still use watches to help them keep track of time and ensure they’re doing everything on schedule—but their watches do more than tell time.
They also include GPS tracking systems so that mission control knows precisely where each astronaut is.
This means that even if there were no clocks onboard spacecraft—which would be impossible anyway because spacecraft need to be able to measure time accurately—astronauts could still tell what time it was using their watches alone.
The first time a watch has been worn in space:
The first watch ever worn in space was a silver-plated Omega given to Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961.
It was attached to his spacesuit by a strap made of white cotton and shaped into a bracelet with two’ ears’ that fit over Gagarin’s suit sleeves.
He wore it for six hours during his historic flight aboard Vostok 1.
This watch is now part of an exhibit at Moscow’s Central Museum of Cosmonautics (Gagarin would later receive another Omega as a gift from Fidel Castro).
Later missions also included watches, but they were usually specially designed for use in space—and they were almost always digital models so they could be easily read while wearing gloves.
So four years later, on one of the most important dates in human history – July 21, 1969 – Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the moon’s surface for the first time and made Omega the most notable watch manufacturer worldwide.
In 1971, Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott used his Bulova lunar EVA wrist chronograph to make up for the stopwatch issued by NASA that stopped working on the Apollo 15 mission.
It sold for $1.6 million at auction in 2015.
What other types of watches do astronauts wear?
It’s common knowledge that astronauts in space are issued Omega Speedmasters as part of their official gear.
But, they also wear other types of watches on missions.
For example, Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott wore a Patek Philippe Aquanaut during his 1971 mission.
While not exactly designed for spacewalks, it did make it safely through his stay on the moon and back to Earth.
And more recently, astronaut Terry Virts wore an IWC Ingenieur Automatic during his six-month stay aboard ISS in 2015.
It was 1969, and Omega had made history by being one of three watch companies to supply timing equipment for NASA’s Apollo 11 mission.
The three watches used during Neil Armstrong’s historic moonwalk were two Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronographs (worn by Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins) and a Rolex GMT-Master (worn by Armstrong).
The Omega Speedmaster is most commonly associated with space exploration, but it was not the first watch to go into space.
It was, in fact, a Soviet brand, Sturmanskie, which made the journey first.
Its design, however, did not live up to NASA’s rigorous standards for durability and accuracy.
When NASA began their search for an official space watch in 1965, they tested more than 30 different models from 10 brands before deciding what watches astronauts wear.
So what is the reason that Buzz Aldrin wore an Omega Speedmaster?
Do Astronauts Wear Watches? The Answer Might Surprise You!
Many wonders why an astronaut like Buzz Aldrin would wear a watch with a winding crown.
As mentioned above, many astronauts don’t like to wear watches in space, but not for that reason.
They don’t have time to wind their watches while wearing them and do not need to keep track of time while floating in space.
It wasn’t a coincidence that Omega made it to the moon.
Omega watches have always been durable enough to travel in space, as is demonstrated by their existence in NASA’s archives from 1962.
They purchased several different brands of watches and tested how they handled zero gravity and pressurized rooms.
The Omega Speedmaster was the most resilient.
Previously, before Aldrin had the Omega on the moon, American astronaut, Ed White, wore a Speedmaster on the first American spacewalk.
He also wore it when he became one of three astronauts who died in an Apollo 1 fire during testing.
It’s no wonder that Buzz Aldrin wanted to wear his trusty watch when he landed on the moon as well.
One of our favorites is Fortis, who makes one of their watches specifically for Russian cosmonauts.
This watch has a 42mm case diameter and boasts a 24-hour, bidirectional rotating bezel.
It also features an exhibition case back and water resistance up to 330 feet (100 meters).
Its unique dial design inspired astronaut suits, and its black colorway is perfect for spacewalks or nights on Earth.
Since 1912, Fortis has been producing reliable and precise Swiss-made mechanical watches that have a chronograph function.
In addition to an incredibly durable, shock- and scratch-resistant body and face, the watch also features a chronograph and a tachymeter.
The B-42 will handle the international space station trip with ease.
Since the end of the Cold War, space travel has mainly become a cooperative effort of the world’s nations, one in which they all work together in tandem.
This means that Russian cosmonauts often wear watches made by their American counterparts and vice versa.
As such, there is no single watch that every astronaut wears; instead, it is up to each individual to choose what works best for them.
It might surprise you that astronauts, despite being some of the most daring explorers in human history, do not typically wear watches in space.
While there is an argument for wearing a watch while in flight, it’s not true that all astronauts are required to wear them at all times.
Understandably, most people wouldn’t have ever thought about whether or not astronauts wear watches—after all, it might seem like a relatively unimportant detail.
But on missions where accuracy matters and time counts, it’s no wonder why astronauts don’t choose to keep track of time using their wrists.
People may not have worn watches while on board a spacecraft.
They rely heavily on other time-keeping devices such as clocks and calendars.
Even if astronauts can get away without wearing a watch, chances are you probably can’t—especially if your job requires accurate timing and attention to detail.
For example, we’re sure your boss would frown upon arriving 10 minutes late to work every day because you forgot what time it was.
Do Astronauts Wear Watches? I hope we’ve answered your question.