There’s a certain rugged allure to watches that have gone to space, most notably Omega‘s enduringly popular Speedmaster Professional. Although astronauts have also sported numerous timepieces by other brands on their journeys beyond Earth, what we don’t often hear about are tourbillon watches — with their delicate rotating regulators — making these challenging trips. Not that there haven’t been any: Last December, Japanese billionaire and private space tourist Yusaku Maezawa wore his Richard Mille RM 27-02 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal while onboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Now, Jacob & Co, Bucherer BLUE (the Swiss retailer’s platform for innovative collaborations) and Sotheby’s have sent the first triple-axis tourbillon into space. The suitably space-themed, one-off Jacob & Co Astronomia Tourbillon Bucherer BLUE was on the wrist of Israeli impact investor and philanthropist Eytan Stibbe during the Rakia mission launched on April 8.
A special iteration of Jacob & Co’s Astronomia Tourbillon, the Bucherer Blue edition features a dark blue background dotted with stars. Against this backdrop are the model’s four key elements — dial, tourbillon cage, a diamond representing the moon, and a lacquered magnesium globe. These elements are held on four arms that make a complete rotation on a central axis every 20 minutes.
Led by Stibbe, a former fighter pilot, the research mission saw private space infrastructure developer Axiom Space launch a four-person team to and from the ISS. The AX-1 flight was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and returned off the Florida coast on April 25.
The mission, and the Astronomia Tourbillon Bucherer BLUE, were in space for 17 days 1 hour and 37 minutes. During this time, the crew circled the Earth 273 times at an altitude of more than 400km, at a speed of nearly 17,500 mph (28,263 km/h).
One would hardly fault the watch even if its timekeeping had gone a bit wonky during the journey (we’ve had watches lose good time for a lot less reason), but according to Stibbe, notes the press release, the timepiece continued to “accurately display the time during the launch and return to Earth, enduring extremely high G-forces and also micro-gravity while in space”.
That’s not the end of an exciting journey for this one-off horological creation. The Astronomia Tourbillon Bucherer BLUE will be on show on a public exhibition tour in New York City, commencing at the Bucherer 1888 TimeMachine from July 11 to 17. Thereafter, it will be showcased at Sotheby’s New York galleries from July 21 to 25. This leads up to a single-lot dedicated live auction on July 26, where the timepiece will be on offer with no reserve, with bidding starting at US$1 (S$1.39) and proceeds to be donated to charity.
While only one person will get to own that timepiece, Jacob & Co is giving others — well, 18 others, at least — a chance to be part of this horological history. Created to celebrate the growing role of the private sector in space exploration, the 18-piece EpicX Bucherer BLUE Edition is a manually wound skeleton model in a 44mm black DLC titanium case. On the front, a bridge features a space rocket design, while the titanium caseback features an engraving of an astronaut. It’s only available for sale in the US at Bucherer, but geography certainly won’t stop one from acquiring a timepiece celebrating humanity’s final frontier.