It doesn’t happen very often that a Speedmaster Professional that was actually issued to NASA surfaces, and it almost never happens that an issued and flown Speedmaster appears. This is for several good reasons. One of these is that all NASA-issued Speedmasters are government, not personal, property. Among the most famous of all Speedmasters is the one worn by astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface, during the Apollo 11 mission; that watch was, as all Speedmaster fans know, stolen in 1970 while en route to the Smithsonian. However, we’ve just read on CollectSpace.com that a long-lost flown and issued Speedmaster has surfaced – one which was worn, along with Speedy he owned personally, by astronaut Donn Eisele, who was Command Module pilot on Apollo 7. Apollo 7 was the very first manned Apollo mission to achieve orbit. (The ill-fated Apollo 1 mission would have been, but tragically, astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee were killed when a fire swept through their spacecraft on the launchpad, during a test of its electrical systems, in January of 1967).
The Apollo 7 crew did not go to the Moon; the mission was instead a shakedown orbital mission to test all the systems on board the Saturn 1b booster and the Command Module with an actual crew. The crew consisted of Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and R. Walter Cunningham, who were respectively Commander, Command Module Pilot, and Lunar Module pilot. Eisele’s personal Speedmaster was auctioned at Sothebys in 2007 for $204,000.
Eisele’s Speedmaster was part of a loan of space artifacts to the Instituto Geográfico Militar in Ecuador where it was stolen from its display case in 1989. Then, last September, a man named Garron DuPree (who plays bass, believe it or not, for a band called Eisley) saw what looked to him like Eisele’s issued Speedmaster on Ebay. After some negotiations, the watch was surrendered to the FBI in Houston, Texas, and is now back in the Smithsonian. You can read the whole, very interesting story, right here on CollectSpace.com.
All images courtesy NASA archives.