When I bought my Omega Speedmaster X-33 many moons ago, it was a shoe-in for the first watch to Mars – at the time it was the only watch qualified for missions to Mars. Jean-Claude Biver – the Lazarus of the watchmaking industry – has partnered up with China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (CNSA) to put an end to that reign. The Red Planet for the Red Country… Seems natural! And TAG Heuer will be part of the show.
The race to go further, faster and be first has taken on a new venue: Space – the final frontier (just now 14 undiscovered species of fish groan in unison). There was the first watch worn around the world. The first watch worn in outer-space. The first watch worn on the moon… Plenty of watches have been worn on missions to the space stations that orbit or have orbited the world. TAG Heuer isn’t new in the context of watches worn outer-space. Remember that John Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth in 1962, on Mercury-Atlas 6. And Glenn wore a classical Heuer stopwatch, converted into a wristwatch with an elastic strap. However, Omega came in the market for space watches, a fact that came to a pinnacle in 1969, when the Speedmaster landed on the Moon.
John Glenn, Mercury Mission – Heuer Stopwatch used by Glenn
Even recently, something unofficial (well, at least, not officially echoed by Omega) came, thanks to the power of Big Brother (a.k.a social medias). As first related by Hodinkee, Buzz Aldrin showed on his Twitter account the first sketches of what could be the “Omega MarsWatch”. #GYATM (“Get your ass to Mars”) he said. So, on the left corner we’ll have USA and Omega, and on the right corner… It will be China and TAG Heuer.
Buzz Aldrin during Rio 2016, while designing what could be Omega MarsWatch
On August 23rd, the People’s Republic of China announced that their timekeeping partner for their 2020 mission to land a rover on Mars would be none other than TAG Heuer. There to celebrate the occasion was the ever ebullient Jean-Claude Biver; TAG’s CEO and the President of the watchmaking division of LVMH. Mr. Biver stood next to Liu Jizhing and Zhang Rongqiao to inaugurate the global (shouldn’t this be inter-galactic?) solicitation campaign for logos for the upcoming Mars mission. The money-shot of the event was the unveiling of the exterior design of the rover.
On JCB’s wrist was a replica of the original reference 2915A chronograph worn by John Glenn in 1962 on his historic 4-hour, 55-minute and 30-second step INTO space and back. Clearly, getting to Mars with a Rover and full raft of scientific equipment is going to take a “little while” longer than 5 hours. I just checked Flightaware.com and the estimated time for a journey to Mars is roughly 150-300 days to complete the 54.6 million kilometer trip (unless you have to make a connection through Liberty Airport in Newark, NJ… then you can almost certainly count on a delay of 3 to 4 months). To this end, the Rover itself is solar powered – so reckon that the R&D department at TAG Heuer are working on a similar power source for their mission timekeepers.
I am very excited to see such vigor for exploring our next-nearest neighbor in the universe. Heaven knows that at the rate the polar cap is melting and new lakes are appearing on the surface of Antarctica, we’re going to need a new place to live pretty soon! And I’m very happy to know that thanks to the cooperation between the Chinese Space Agency and LVMH, there will be luxury goods to buy when we get there.