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Watchmaker crowdfunds timepieces made from flown Soyuz metal

March 31, 2017

— As it turns out, there is more than one way to reuse a rocket.

Less than 24 hours after SpaceX achieved the first re-flight of a flown rocket first stage, a crowdfunding campaign has launched to land rocket parts on space enthusiasts' wrists.

The Earth Collection, a selection of limited edition watches made in part of metal recovered from a Russian rocket that launched a crew to the International Space Station, is now being offered through Kickstarter by Werenbach, a Zurich-based watch brand. Each timepiece has a dial cut directly from the outer shell of the Soyuz MS-02 rocket.

"We want to bring space travel closer to the people," said Patrick Hohmann, CEO and founder of Werenbach. "With watches made of space-borne rocket material and with the realization that comes from space — every astronaut who has observed Earth from space is aware of the relativity of our existence. He is spaceborn, just like the material of our watches — and our ideology."

Watches made of space rockets. Click to enlarge video in new pop-up window. (Werenbach)

Soyuz MS-02 lifted off on Oct. 19, 2016 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko, along with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough who are still aboard the space station as members of the Expedition 50 crew.

As the Soyuz FG rocket climbed to orbit, its side-mounted boosters and first stage dropped off and fell back to Earth, to the steppe of Kazakhstan. Hohmann personally traveled to the drop zone to retrieve the spent boosters used for the Werenbach timepieces.

The Earth Collection includes five different watch designs, primarily differing in the color of their dial. The styles reflect where on the rocket the flown metal was extracted.

Model 1 features a black anodized face that was cut from the inner surface of the spent booster. Model 2 has a bare metal dial presented in the condition that it was found after the launch, scratches and all.

Model 3 has a gray face fabricated from the rocket's outer surface. Model 4 has a lighter, off-white dial as a result of being cut from a fairing.

And Model 5, which is currently limited to just 100 pieces, features an orange-color dial recovered from the cladding of a rocket engine.

"This material will always be short," Werenbach writes on Kickstarter. "The rocket engine is the heaviest part of the rocket, this is why the booster strikes [the] ground with the orange material."

Models 2, 4 and 5 also feature a Launch Sequencer scale, an adjustable ring on the dial that wearers can use to track Soyuz rocket launches through their nine minute ascent to orbit.

Werenbach earlier made watches from the melted metal of a flown rocket engine. The Atelier Collection, still available for sale through the company's website, run 5,900 to 6,970 Swiss Francs (about $5,900 to $6,900). By choosing a less complex watch movement and increasing their production run, Werenbach was able to significantly reduce the prices for the Earth Collection.

The new timepieces are available on Kickstarter for 545 to 769 Swiss Francs (about $550 to $770). A limited number of "Early Bird" discounts are available to the project's early backers on Kickstarter.

For those who would like to support the project but do not desire a watch, Werenbach is also offering a key chain tag made from the Soyuz MS-02 flown rocket metal for only 60 Swiss Francs (about $60).

Within an hour of starting the campaign on Friday (March 31), Werenbach exceeded its funding goal of 40,000 Swiss Francs (about $39,949). The project runs through May 29. The Earth Collection watches are slated to ship in October, when they will also go on retail sale.

For more information, see the Werenbach website or Earth Collection Kickstarter project.


Werenbach's new Earth Collection timepieces are made out of the metal cut from the Soyuz MS-02 rocket that launched a crew to the International Space Station in October 2016. (Werenbach/NASA)

The color of the dial on Werenbach's watches is determined by the Soyuz rocket part from which the metal is cut. (Werenbach)

A worker extracts metal from a spent Soyuz rocket booster on the steppe of Kazakhstan in October 2016. (Werenbach)

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