A New Year's Treat

Waaaay back in July of 2011, Alex posted about a mystery watch known only by a single image; the Apollo 14 watch (see thread here: http://www.thehourlounge.com/en/vacheron-constantin-discussions/vacheron-constantins-most-mysterious-watch-apollo-14-585646)

A New Year's Treat

Aside from the attention this unique and mysterious watch received here, it was also reported on various watch sites like Hodinkee, and even space interest sites as well.  Still, nothing further was learned to answer the obvious questions about the watch itself and its provenance in relation to the Apollo mission.

A New Year's Treat

So it was with great surprise and even greater interest that I received pictures some weeks ago from the present owner of an Apollo 14 watch!  Thankfully, they were kind enough to consent to sharing here in the Lounge.

A New Year's Treat

A New Year's Treat

More pictures later (hope you enjoy my B&W effects), but first we need to catch-up on some history angel.

Wikipedia has copious info so I leave it to your initiative to search it out.  Suffice to say that the Apollo 14 mission launched on January 31, 1971, and landed on the moon on February 5th.  The crew consisted of (left to right) Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell, Mission Commander Alan Shepard, and Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa.

A New Year's Treat

The mission is famous for some well-publicized antics of the crew, such as Shepard hitting a couple of golf balls and Mitchell throwing a javelin, and other not-so-well-known antics of the back-up crew.  They lifted-off on February 6th and were back on terra firma February 9.

A New Year's Treat

The oval-shaped insignia on the face of this watch was designed for the mission by Kennedy Space Center graphics artist Jean Beaulieu.  It was used on patches and pins for crew and support personnel.

A New Year's Treat

A New Year's Treat

Many were also carried to the moon as souvenirs, which prompted one of the great capers of the mission.  Apparently the back-up crew created a spoof version of the mission patch featuring an altered Wyle E. Coyote (representing the astronauts) heading to the moon while the Road Runner (back-up crew) has already landed.  These were liberally salted throughout the craft to be discovered with every door  and cupboard opened devil.

A New Year's Treat

So without further ado, lets examine the back of the watch.

A New Year's Treat

This photo answers several outstanding questions.  The watch was presented by the Citizens of Geneva to Alan Shepard to commemorate the lunar landing.  One can assume similar pieces were created for Mitchell and Roosa.  Search this site for the Eisenhower watch as another example of these fine citizens honoring a significant event.

Mission Commander Alan Shepard was the oldest astronaut in the space program and the only member of the original Mercury Seven to reach the moon.  It was a bit of a miracle as he'd fought an inner-ear disease which kept him out of active participation for 5 years.  Still, his 15 minutes of fame as America's first man in space in 1961 (literally, 15 minutes was the total of his space time) certainly had some influence with NASA.  They say his landing was the most accurate of all the lunar missions, and his six iron the longest hit in human history wink.  Shepard retired in 1974 and tried his hand at business while also organizing the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.  He published a book in 1994 titled; Moon Shot The Inside Story, along with Deke Slayton.  Sadly, he died of cancer in 1998 at the age of 74.  A life lived well!

Stay tuned for Part II



01/01/2016 - 01:12
01/01/2016 - 01:34
01/01/2016 - 17:23
01/02/2016 - 13:16
01/02/2016 - 22:54
01/03/2016 - 20:27
01/05/2016 - 10:41
01/05/2016 - 17:48
01/05/2016 - 19:38
01/06/2016 - 12:45
01/04/2016 - 02:34
01/04/2016 - 23:52
Part II
01/01/2016 - 01:34

Sorry for the continuation but I was unable to upload additional pics to the original post, so this is a work-around.

The watch itself appears to be a Reference 6406, and I suspect the caliber 1003 beats within.  At present the owner does not have the capacity to open the watch so we await his visit to a watchsmith for those crucial interior photos.

  A New Year's Treat  Magnifcation reveals an enamelled dial heart.   A New Year's Treat  A New Year's Treat  It is still on the original strap and buckle!  A New Year's Treat  A New Year's Treat  A New Year's Treat Happy New Year smiley 
Thanks Dean! A really great piece of history
01/01/2016 - 02:54

 And so well spun by our brother of the north. 

Happy New Year to all,


Very Cool Dean! A great New Year's gift for the Loungers!
01/01/2016 - 15:38

Thanks and Happy New Year to all.

A treat indeed...
01/04/2016 - 21:25

Dean, many thanks for an interesting article. Thoroughly enjoyed every word.

As always, much appreciated.


Indeed a great gift and a great story, greatly told
01/01/2016 - 17:02

Thanks for this. Interesting, a 1971 with no "&". Must not have had the dial ready made and laying around then, eh?

Also, I really did appreciate the black and white effects. Really puts one in the spirit of 1971. Lastly, it is great that the person still had the original strap and buckle. What a great find.

Those "Wild Wild West" days of space exploration are sorely missed. 

Seems Shepard preferred his Speedmaster
01/01/2016 - 17:32

At least the photos of him in civilian clothes almost always reveal the space-worn Speedy on his wrist.  Wish I could find a picture showing him with a dress watch, maybe even the VC.

Seems Shepard preferred his Speedmaster

Another curious aspect of this story is the connection between Geneva and the Apollo space program.  Seems the canton's high-tech industry continues to honor this relationship even today through an organization called Swiss Apollo, which features on its board the last surviving Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell.  FWIW, Mitchell since his return from the moon has been the most outspoken of all astronauts in his belief in extraterrestrial beings and their visitations to Earth.

Seems Shepard preferred his Speedmaster

Great surprising post Dean
01/01/2016 - 17:23

I was aware of sputnik model, but not this one.

I hope VC will propose new "stellar" offers in the future.

What a great entry to start 2016.

I wish you all the Best for you and your family.



The Sputnik is awesome!
01/03/2016 - 17:55


Unique theme and haute complication, indeed we can always do with more "out-there" designs.  Also recall the Ferrari Mercator.

The Sputnik is awesome!

Love it and I expect to have chance to see one in real ;-))
01/04/2016 - 10:07

Here is "my sputnik" likewink

a focus on


Thanks Dean.


My friend, don't be shy
01/04/2016 - 23:42

We need to gaze on that beauty once again heart.  Such a clever embellishment, I love it yes.

My friend, don't be shy

a sunday closer shot, taken by a friend
01/05/2016 - 07:33

a sunday closer shot taken by a friend


Love it ++++ wink with all its many changes every time.

Thanks for reminding your photo.



VC and Wile E Coyote - 2 degrees of separation
01/02/2016 - 11:40

And here was me thinking there would have to be minimum 5 degrees of separation between VC and Wile E Coyote...lesser 'maisons'have folded under such circumstances wink

What an amazing find Dean !
01/02/2016 - 13:16

Never thought VC had a relationship with space pioneers, fantastic infos, love those research !I have also a space pioneer watch, one of the very first to go to space, but no not the speedmaster, before it and specially conceived for the purpose: the Breitling 809 Cosmonaute.

Scott Carpenter had a similar one (or this one maybe ^^ ) , the 4th Astronaut and  6th man to go to space.During the Mercury Programm, mission Aurora 7 in 1962.

Here while walking on the moon cheeky

What an amazing find Dean !

Space watches are an entire genre
01/03/2016 - 18:04

Superb example heart.  At the pinnacle were those watches worn in space, which command huge auction prices regardless of condition.  I share your collecting ethic for commercial versions of space models at the time they were used by the astronauts, sometimes anonymously and only know years later.  Homage or commemoratives fall somewhat below this strata IMHO.  Presentation watches are another, albeit related, category intended to publicize the giver more than the receiver and I suspect that some were have never worn by the inductees.  The nice aspect of the VC Apollo 14 presentation watch is the piece stands on its own merits, as any Vacheron Constantin would, but with the beautiful enamel dial taking it over the top. 

A delicious treat indeed!
01/02/2016 - 22:54

This is a great discovery and how generous of the owner to agree to share his watch.  How thin this piece is!  What a great way to start 2016.  Thank you, Dean.



Tick-Talk thanks for this awesome piece of history. I am huge fan of the
01/03/2016 - 06:25

Apollo space missions and to know that VC has a small link with it - via this watch - makes it all the more interesting.

A few years ago, image of this watch popped up but nothing was known. This information you have dug up is awesome.

If anyone is interested in reading books on the Apollo Moon Missions, do let me know. I am a die hard fan. :-)

Perhaps we could prevail upon your research
01/03/2016 - 18:06

to locate any reference to the actual presentation of the VC's to the astronauts?  This would complete the circle of my story smiley

Amazing story
01/03/2016 - 20:27

Thanks Dan for another great post. Amazing story, may I say, much less the watch? devil

How we sure are the dial is enameled? It looks simply printed and badly also, see for instance the contour of the insignia depicted in the dial, it's thicker on the left and thinner on the right.

I've been a fan of the Speedmasters for quite a long time and owned some very special models too, then my interests moved on, towards different typologies, nothing has left of that period of mine. I have this now just because it has an interesting story to tell and it makes me smile, I find it funny:


Amazing story

I'm still fascinated by the story of the quest for the space though. The Sputnik is really something.

As per the watches worn on the moon/during space missions, it's known many astronauts were used to wear different watches but I have no knowledge of someone wearing a Vacheron Constantin.

Thanks again for the post.





Err, mistype. Dean, sorry! [nt]
01/03/2016 - 20:59
"How are we sure the dial is enameled?"
01/04/2016 - 23:33

Those close-ups were offered to create discussion so thank-you for asking smiley.   I was hanging back to see if anyone from the SIHH enamel classes would jump in but, if not, I can only say that it helps to have seen and participated in the process.  This "technique genevoise" style of free-hand painted enamel produces less precise results than machine printed dials.  Recall that crushed pigment is suspended in oil, which is evaporated away through intense heat while vitrifying the enamel.  This process occurs over and over again as each element of the design is hand-applied with fine brushes, even a single hair, then baked into permanence.  At any step disaster could strike!  So the effect of tiny grains of color spilling out from the edges is exactly what I'd expect to see, rather than the knife-sharp edges of silk-screen or pad printing, or the fine dot-matrix of a forgery.  Airbrush art comes to mind, but on a much finer scale.  Although the subject of the Apollo dial is based on industrial graphic art, no less skill was required than for a miniature Rembrandt.

Here is Mrs TT doing her assignment at SIHH 2015:

And here are some practice dials by the real artists:


I know both
01/05/2016 - 10:41

the technique and the process, thanks, it goes back to Limoges and Jean Foquet, who learnt this technique by Antonio di Pietro Averlino, aka il Filarete.

Geneve has its merits too, whit J Toutin, Petitot, all the Huad and the artists who followed (first to come to my mind are Liotard and Richter) , so I have no problem to call this technique: "genevoise".

That said, probably due to the pictures, it's hard for me to find the elegance and the exquisiteness of such a technique on the apollo dial and, honestly, I wouldn't say it's enamelled. A picture of its back would help.

Of course, I have no doubts the dial is enamelled since you wrote that and you had access to the right sources, if not even saw the watch live :-)

Still the dial looks poor and below any possible average; sure the subject doesn't help either :-P

Sorry, I thought
01/05/2016 - 17:48

you were asking a question blush.  By all means, have your doubts and thanks for the list of names, although I can't promise to check them all out.  I haven't had the watch in hand, only the photos shared here.  What would you learn from a picture of the back?

No need at all
01/05/2016 - 19:38

I was actually asking, simply thinking you had the chance to see the watch live. Nevertheless I have no doubts the dial is enamelled if your sources say so.

Forget about those names, they belong to the history of art, maybe, being your interests for Swiss history wider than simple watchmaking, you may find interesting the story of Fritz Courvoisier, watchmaker, famous enameller and revolutionist also.

The back of the dial would show perhaps the s.c. contre-émail, that is the first couche the enameller applies to the back of the dial.


Thanks for this great tip!
01/06/2016 - 01:25

 I will have to dig deeper into the story of Fritz Courvoisier, watchmaker and revolutionary!  We stumbled around Neuchatel for days but I entirely missed his monument in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

You're welcome :-)
01/06/2016 - 12:45

I knew you would be interested cheeky

Re: A New Year's Treat
01/04/2016 - 02:34

Fascinating article Dean!

While researching something else for an upcoming article, I came across this photo that Paul Boutros took on his first visit to the VC Manufacture, just before the opening of the NYC Boutique in 2011.

I'm not sure but I think that's Hugh des Pins who was CEO of VC's North America operations at the time. The display was to emphasize the relationship that VC had with America.

 A New Year's Treat

I wonder Joseph
01/04/2016 - 23:52

that must be the same photo shoot as featured on Hodinkee in July 2011, my second picture.  This is great background and suggests the "why" behind the revelation of this mystery watch by connecting it with the American Heritage campaign.  Many thanks smiley

was away with horrendous internet access and just got back to discover this amazing beauty!! Thanks Dean
01/04/2016 - 11:23
LOL, poor internet connection can only mean
01/04/2016 - 23:58

you were way up on a ski hill or fell through an open manhole surprise.  Although with your dedication neither occurrence would keep you away for long, I certainly hope it was the former!  Cheers and best wishes my friend, countdown has begun to SIHH 2016....

was up in the mountains and my iPhone died on me on my 1st day and didn't
01/05/2016 - 17:59

have any other device to connect with!