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  Eisele's Speedmasters at Sotheby's

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Author Topic:   Eisele's Speedmasters at Sotheby's
John Youskauskas
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posted 05-30-2007 12:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Youskauskas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The upcoming "Important Watches" auction at Sotheby's features two Omega Speedmasters which belonged to Donn Eisele.

The first is his NASA issued (and flown on Apollo 7) steel Omega, serial number 38: http://www.sothebys.com/app/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=159366116

The other is his gold version that was gifted to him following the Apollo 11 mission: http://www.sothebys.com/app/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=159365971

Both come with several other flown and signed items, including beta patches and Robbin's medallions. The flown watch is one of the very few Speedmasters that managed to remain in private hands.

Good luck...

Edited by John Youskauskas

SRB
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posted 05-30-2007 03:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SRB   Click Here to Email SRB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought NASA owned all the flown Omega watches. Can anyone confirm (or correct) this?

Steve

Edited by SRB

Rick Mulheirn
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posted 05-30-2007 03:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is my understanding that the astronauts do not own their flown Speedmaster watches. But they have been granted indefinate loan by NASA..... until such time as they pass on I guess.

Regards,

Rick

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-30-2007 04:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Indeed, all flown Gemini- and Apollo-era Speedmasters are the property of the U.S. government, as entrusted to the Smithsonian Institution. That of course means one of two things:
  1. The consignment is in error and will (presumably) be pulled when brought to the attention of the Smithsonian; or,

  2. The watch consigned was not the model flown on Apollo 7.
According to the Smithsonian and NASA records I have here, Eisele wore Speedmaster S/N 34 on Apollo 7, and that in turn, it resides safely within the collection of the National Air and Space Museum.

The auction description identifies the watch being sold as S/N 38, which does not coincide with any of the flown watches.

Thus, this may be a case of mistaken identity.

The individual at the Smithsonian who could state definitively if the paperwork I have coincides with their inventory has already departed for the day, but I have left a message for her, referencing this thread.

Edited by Robert Pearlman

John Youskauskas
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posted 05-30-2007 05:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Youskauskas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert,

This raised an eyebrow with me too. I recall your list that you posted in connection with the Aldrin lawsuit a few years back. How accurate do you think the source of your information is?

I think alot of these records are lost to history, as they say. It may indeed be that Eisele believed it to be his flown watch, or the record may be flawed. If it is indeed a flown watch, it was probably pulled from the inventory and may have been flown previously (?)

Does your record show any flight history for #38?

It was mentioned during the Q&A at the Anders talk a few weeks ago that Gen Daley of NASM "sent a SWAT team" to the Naval Academy to procure the Apollo 8 flown watch. I didn't get the whole story, but it definitely hinted at the whole ownership question.

Very interested to hear what comes of this...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-30-2007 06:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The paperwork I have includes copies of the NASA transfer records from when the watches were delivered to the Smithsonian. They identify each watch by serial number, as well as by who wore it and on what mission.

Eisele's watch is identified as S/N 34 in two places.

Speedmaster S/N 38 does not appear. Watches that were not worn in flight are not listed. The documents do identify the flown watches that were not among the group given to the Smithsonian (S/N 38 is not among them).

John Youskauskas
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posted 05-30-2007 07:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Youskauskas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Robert!

Both of the watches offered are rare and historic, and no doubt will fetch a hefty sum. However, if I had the means to bid on such an item, I would certainly want to get the story straight.

Staying tuned...

John Youskauskas
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posted 05-31-2007 10:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Youskauskas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From this launch day photo, it looks like Eisele wore two...
http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/alsj/a410/ap7-68-H-933.jpg

So the possibility does exist that the one offered was flown. Confirming that it was #38 is another story, and the listing does not mention what kind of provenance it has.

Philip
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posted 05-31-2007 11:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nowadays, astronauts also get the Omega watches 'on loan' for the duration of their flight...
I guess some wear their personal as well from time to time

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-31-2007 03:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's what I've been able to learn:
  • Based on preliminary research, the Smithsonian has no record of receiving or expecting to receive Speedmaster S/N 38, nor have they documentation to show that S/N 38 flew on Apollo 7. At this time, it does not appear S/N 38 is Smithsonian property.

  • The movement and markings identified by Sotheby's match those of similar era NASA used/owned/flown watches.

  • The Smithsonian's records show receiving S/N 34 as Eisele's flown Apollo 7 Speedmaster. Unfortunately, S/N 34 went missing while on loan in Ecuador in 1989 and was never recovered.
I am waiting a return call from Sotheby's and expect to talk again with the Smithsonian tomorrow.

omegaman
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posted 05-31-2007 09:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for omegaman   Click Here to Email omegaman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In looking at the caseback of this Speedmaster, it appears that the part number SEB12100039-002 is different that those that I have seen on other verified as flown Speedmasters (Sheppard's at Kansas Cosmosphere, Stafford's at the Omega Museum, and Dick Gordon's also at the Omega Museum). All other Speedmasters that I have seen have the following on the caseback "P/N SEB 12100039-002" in a smaller and not as deeply engraved as the Eisle Speedmaster. Is it possible that this one is a fake using a Serial Number (S/N 38) that was either destroyed during testing or in daily use and never flown or given to the Smithsonian?

John Youskauskas
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posted 06-01-2007 11:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Youskauskas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Welcome to the site, Omegaman...

Here is a pic of Al Shepard's Speedmaster worn on Apollo 14, with no "P/N" before the "SEB" serial number.
http://home.xnet.com/~cmaddox/Sheppard50.jpg

And one of Ron Evan's, with the "P/N", but engraved in smaller letters. Evans apparently added additional hand engraving to indicate that the watch was flown on 17.
http://home.xnet.com/~cmaddox/Evans50.jpg

I don't think the style of the engraving on the back is any indication that the watch is a fake. It is listed as coming from the estate of Eisele, it just does not indicate what type of "proof", for lack of a better term, that the estate is providing that the watch was flown on 7.

Hopefully Robert has some further information for us.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-01-2007 11:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I spoke with Sotheby's this morning, explained the situation and asked two specifics questions:
  • Do they possess paperwork documenting the transfer of the watch from NASA to Eisele and/or his family?

  • Do they possess provenance to demonstrate that Speedmaster Professional S/N 38 flew on Apollo 7?
Sotheby's has promised a response to both questions, which I will share when received.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-01-2007 06:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I spoke this afternoon with Aaron Rich, head of Sotheby’s Watch Department in New York, who shared the following:
  • Speedmaster Professional S/N 38 was consigned directly by Eisele's wife, Susan to the auction; the watch was described by Susan as having been worn by Eisele every day following the mission until his passing in 1987.

  • To date, Sotheby's has not been contacted by either the Smithsonian or NASA to express any concerns about the auction. As of today, they are planning to proceed with the lot's sale.

  • Sotheby's does not currently have paperwork to show that the watch was released by NASA (if indeed it was NASA property) nor do they have documentation to show it flew on Apollo 7. The lot description is primarily based upon Susan Eisele's understanding of the watch's status.
Rich said Sotheby's will research the questions presented by collectSPACE on behalf of our readers and will keep us updated about what they learn.

John Youskauskas
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posted 06-05-2007 12:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Youskauskas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert,

Any update from Sotheby's?

I noticed that the Smithsonian has updated its collection database with many more photos of the Speedmasters in their care. It includes a shot of the caseback of Collins' watch with yet another "SEB" number and no "P/N".

Edited by John Youskauskas

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-27-2007 10:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to Sotheby's website, Eisele's Omega Speedmaster, S/N 38 was sold on June 13 for $204,000 (including the buyer's premium). The last conversation I had with Sotheby's indicated that their legal department was in touch with NASA and/or Smithsonian about the sale, thus one or both organizations had no objection to the auction proceeding.

John Youskauskas
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posted 06-29-2007 12:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Youskauskas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow! Thanks for the info Robert...that is an incredible price to pay for the watch, considering that it wasn't nearly as desirable as Ed White's or a lunar flown model. That's enough $$$ to buy a ticket on Spaceship Two!

I would hope that the winner bidder (Omega?) intends to display the item and not stash it away.

Do you happen to know what White's GT-4 watch sold for some years back?

spaceflori
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posted 06-29-2007 11:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceflori   Click Here to Email spaceflori     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I seem to remember that Ed White's Omega sold at about $30,000 then - I believe it was bought by the Omega museum in Switzerland then.

Not 100% sure, but I seem to remember talking to a guy at the Superior auction that was from the museum or acting on behalf of the museum.

Now 30k sounds like a steal !

Florian

mensclub10@aol.com
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posted 06-30-2007 08:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mensclub10@aol.com   Click Here to Email mensclub10@aol.com     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have a beautiful pocket watch my wife bought me for my birthday back in 1979. Cost was approx. $50.00. Accepting offers above $100,000


Dave

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