A new replica of the only privately-owned wristwatch worn on the moon's surface will soon go on sale for much less than the astronomical price tag that the historic timepiece sold for at a recent auction.
Bulova, the American watchmaker that made the unofficial — and by some accounts, "unauthorized" — backup watch that Apollo 15 commander David Scott wore on the third of his three moonwalks in 1971, has announced it will begin selling a modern edition of the astronaut's chronograph in January 2016.
"This is a historic moment," Gregory Thumm, president of Bulova, said, "not only for the collector community, but for Bulova Corporation as well." [Apollo Moon Landing Photos: A Lunar Legacy]
The re-edition moon watch, which borrows its overall look from the 45-year-old space artifact, will retail for $550. An unnamed Florida businessman bid on and won the original flown watch for a record $1.625 million in October, when it was offered by RR Auction of Boston on Scott's behalf.
Scott only wore the Bulova as a result of his NASA-issued Omega Speedmasterchronograph breaking while he was exploring the moon. As he readied to go outside for a third and last moonwalk on Aug. 2, 1971, he discovered that the crystal protecting his Omega's watch face had popped off and was lost.
As such, Scott retrieved his personal backup, a watch he later said no one but his supervisor and his two crewmates knew was aboard at the time, to wear for the remainder of the mission. Even Bulova was unaware that its timepiece, a prototype design that was never commercially produced until now, had flown to the moon.
After the mission, NASA described the Bulova watch as an "unauthorized timepiece" and withheld the brand's name to avoid commercialization of the watch. The agency retained ownership of the astronauts' Speedmaster chronographs, eventually transferring them to the Smithsonian, where the majority are now held today.
For four decades, Scott kept the Bulova chronograph (and its companion stopwatch) hidden away in a safety deposit box. In 1996, 25 years after the Apollo 15 mission returned to Earth, Scott mistakenly recalled in an interview that the pieces were made by Waltham, another U.S. watchmaker. It was not until the last few years when he went to retrieve the watches for sale did Scott rediscover they were made by Bulova.
Now, Bulova is commemorating its role in Apollo history by producing its first replica of Scott's moon-worn watch.
"Now reimagined for today's sensibility, the special edition replica is equal parts old-school-cool and modern style on the outside, and skilled-engineering savvy on the inside," Bulova stated.
Inspired by the original prototype, Bulova's special edition moon watch replica incorporates the company's Ultra High Frequency quartz movement for precision timekeeping, as well as super-luminous hands and a stainless steel case. The re-edition features a new calendar display, as well.
The Bulova special edition moon watch will come with two straps: a leather band and a Velcro strap modeled after the one Scott used to wear his Omega and Bulova watches while walking and driving on the moon. The original Velcro band was included with the moon-flown watch when it was auctioned.
The $1.625 million that Scott's Bulova sold for at auction is believed to be the most-ever paid for an astronaut-owned artifact. Bulova said its replica brings the watch in reach of ordinary "earth people."
"Its $550 MSRP doesn't shoot for the moon," the company stated.
See more photographs of the Bulova special edition moon watch chronograph replica at collectSPACE.