January 29, 2016
— A watch that was used to keep time for 120,516 minutes on board two space stations is now up for auction.
Christie's Digital Sales division is offering the rare Omega Speedmaster Professional X-33 chronograph that Russian cosmonaut Sergei Zalyotin wore aboard both the Russian space station Mir and the International Space Station. The analog watch with its unique digital face display opened for online bidding on Thursday (Jan. 28) at $10,000. The sale closes on Feb. 9.
"To the best of our knowledge, this [watch] may be the only Speedmaster that traveled to both of these space stations, making it a remarkable piece of horological [study of time] and space history," Christie's watch experts wrote.
Zalyotin used the timepiece on missions that marked both firsts and lasts in space.
Russian cosmonaut Sergei Zalyotin's Omega Speedmaster was in space for 83 days, 16 hours and 36 minutes. (Christie's)
The cosmonaut's first launch, aboard Russia's Soyuz TM-30 spacecraft, was as the commander of the 28th and final expedition to the Mir station, from April 4 through June 15, 2000. The 73-day mission marked the first privately-funded spaceflight in history.
MirCorp, a former commercial space company, underwrote Zalyotin's and his crewmate Alexander Kaleri's Mir mission with the goal of refurbishing the 15-year-old orbital outpost for private use. A lack of funding however, ultimately led to the Mir space station being purposely destroyed during its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere in March 2001.
Zalyotin also wore the watch as commander of the 11-day Soyuz TMA-1 flight to the International Space Station, from Oct. 30 to Nov. 10, 2002. The mission marked the first use of Russia's TMA-class Soyuz, which incorporated changes requested by NASA for servicing the space station.
The Speedmaster's sale includes an Omega warranty card that has postal cancellation stamps from on board both the Mir and International Space Station, attesting to its use on the two orbital complexes.
Cosmonaut Sergei Zalyotin, seen wearing his Omega Speedmaster X-33 (inset), aboard the International Space Station. (NASA)
Zalyotin also inscribed an Omega booklet, writing that the same watch had (translated from Russian), "been with me in space twice."
The Omega Speedmaster is perhaps better known as the chronograph NASA issued to its Apollo astronauts to wear on the moon. Development of the X-33 model began in the mid-1990s after the astronaut community decided that an updated design was needed for use in space.
After two years of testing by astronauts, cosmonauts and military pilots, the X-33 was revealed to the public during a live broadcast from the Mir station in 1998. Also called the "Mars Watch," the X-33 derived its name from a prototype reusable launch vehicle that was under development at the time.
The X-33 featured a titanium case, a powerfully-lit dial and loud alarm. A regular alarm would be inaudible as a result of the equipment noises on the space station, so the X-33 was designed to sound at 80 decibels.
Inscribed photo of Sergei Zalyotin showing him wearing the X-33 chronograph aboard the Russian space station Mir. (Christie's)
In 2006, Omega discontinued public sales of the X-33 and made it available only to space agencies and the military. It is still worn by the crew on the International Space Station.
(A new model X-33, the Skywalker, was introduced in 2014 for use by European Space Agency astronauts and offered for public sale.)
Omega's records confirm the X-33 now being auctioned by Christie's was originally presented as a gift, which officials at the Swiss-watchmaker's museum believe could "thereby be assumed to have been provided to a cosmonaut." The consignor stated that Zalyotin was given the watch by the Russian federal space agency in 2000.
In addition to the watch itself, the stamped warranty card and Zalyotin's inscribed booklet, the sale includes the box the X-33 originally came in and two framed photos Zalyotin signed and personalized for the gentleman who purchased the watch from him. One of the two photos shows Zalyotin wearing the watch on the Mir space station.
For more information or to bid, see Christie's Rare Omega Watches online auction.