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The Earliest Documented Rolex Submariner in Space, Spotted on NASA Astronaut Kenneth D. Cameron, 1995

Other watches than the Moonwatch found their way into space... but rarely a Rolex Sub.

| By Nick Gould | 4 min read |
First Rolex Submariner in Space - Kenneth D. Cameron Astronaut NASA - Rolex Submariner Date Red 1680 Space 1995

When it comes to watches in space, the first watch that instantly comes to mind is the Omega Speedmaster, which in July 1969 became the first watch on the Moon – hence its nickname “Moonwatch“. Many NASA astronauts in the Apollo programme wore Rolex GMT-Master watches, with some of these watches accompanying them to the Moon and back. Other brands which have flown into space include Breitling, with its 809 Cosmonaute on the wrist of Scott Carpenter when he flew the Mercury-Atlas 7 mission, as well as watches made by Bulova, Movado and Seiko. But today, we’ve spotted another watch…And it appears to be the earliest of its kind to be documented.

When it comes to more recent Space Shuttle missions, many NASA astronauts have been documented wearing modern versions of the GMT-Master and of the Submariner during their time in space. Up until now, the earliest known Rolex Sub in Space was spotted during a 1998 mission. What if I told you the earliest documented Submariner in space was a vintage model, and it was worn in the mid-1990s?

Kenneth D. Cameron, NASA Astronaut – photo credits: NASA

Before we talk about the watch, who are we talking about? Well, in the present case, the watch was spotted on Kenneth D. Cameron’s wrist. Cameron was born on 29 November 1949. Before joining NASA, he was a naval aviator and test pilot in the U.S Marine Corps. He also has a B.S. and an M.S. degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  He has logged over 4,000 hours flying-time in 48 different types of aircraft. Cameron was selected by NASA in 1984 and became an astronaut in 1985. He was the first NASA Director of Operations in Star City, Russia and worked closely with the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre to set up support systems for astronaut operations and training. During this time, Kenneth D. Cameron received Russian training in Soyuz and Mir spacecraft systems.

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Cameron flew on three Space Shuttle missions. On his first mission, STS-37 in 1991, he was the Pilot of Shuttle Atlantis. For his second mission in 1993, STS-56 on Shuttle Discovery, he was the Spacecraft Commander. For his third and final mission in 1995, STS-74, on Shuttle Atlantis to the Mir Space Station, he was once again the Spacecraft Commander. Cameron has logged over 561 hours in space.

STS-74 crew portrait, with Ken Cameron seated on the right side – photo credits: NASA

Now comes the story of the watch. When going through photos of the 1995 STS-74 mission, I spotted the familiar sight of a Rolex clasp on Cameron’s wrist.

Astronaut Kenneth D. Cameron, STS-74 Mission Commander, shakes hands with cosmonaut Yuriy P. Gidzenko, Mir-20 Commander, just prior to the undocking of the Space Shuttle Atlantis with Russia’s Mir Space Station in Earth-orbit – photo credits: NASA

In a second photo, it shows the watch dial side. It was clear that Cameron was wearing a Rolex Submariner; however, I initially thought he was sporting a Rolex Submariner Reference 5513.

Several crew members with a scroll they signed commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations (U.N.). In the frame (left to right) are Sergei V. Avdeyev, Kenneth D. Cameron, Yuriy P. Gidzenko, Thomas Reiter and Chris A. Hadfield – photo credits: NASA
A focus on Kenneth D. Cameron, with an easily recognizable Rolex Submariner – photo credits: NASA

And now, there’s the real deal, the “money shot”, which leaves no doubt about the identity of the watch. A photo taken with the watch in the foreground reveals that it is a vintage Rolex Submariner Date ref. 1680 “Red Sub”. This specific reference is nicknamed the “Red Sub” due to the word Submariner printed in red on the dial. Cameron is pictured on the aft flight deck of Atlantis with the Docking Module visible in the window. Holding his right wrist up to the camera, we get an awesome shot of his Rolex Submariner Date 1680 “Red Sub”.

Views of STS-74 crew activities during rendezvous and docking with the Mir space station. Clearly visible in the foreground and on Kenneth D. Cameron’s wrist, a Rolex Submariner Date 1680 in space – photo credits: NASA
Close-up of the watch, easily recognizable as a Rolex Submariner Date 1680 – photo credits: NASA

With the current status of research, Kenneth D. Cameron’s Submariner Date 1680 is the earliest-known Rolex Submariner to go into space, with 100% photographic proof and precedes the previously earliest-known Submariner in space by three years.

6 responses

  1. Cosmonaut Yuriy P. Gidzenko, Mir-20 Commander, is wearing something that looks like a pink Seiko. Is that plastic timepiece the The Earliest Documented G-Shock in Space?

  2. All very interesting, but can you please do a post on Cosmonaut Gidzenko’s pink watch?

  3. And the point is? If it’s not part of the official equipment issued, it’s meaningless, about as relevent as the underwear he was wearing.
    Still a great way to keep Rolex – who haven’t done anything new or exiting in years, and who apparently doesn’t want to sell watches – on the front pages.

  4. Was it a self winding watch and if so how did it work in a zero gravity environment?

  5. @Jez – all Submariners are automatic watches. But like most automatic watches, you can wind the movement by the crown manually.

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