An avid watch collector has discovered that the Seiko 6139 was the first automatic chronograph in space – confirmed by the astronaut that wore it.
David Bruno identified the space mission (Skylab 4) online and was able to track down the astronaut, Col. William Pogue.
Bruno wrote a letter to Pogue, asking about the watch he wore on the mission. He explained that it was widely believe that the Sinn model 142 was the first automatic chronograph in space, but had heard claims Pogue’s Seiko had been even earlier.
“I’ve read a transcript where you mention your ‘trusty old Seiko’ but you don’t mention the model number, whether it was an automatic … or if it was a chronograph,” Bruno wrote. He asked for any details the astronaut could recall, and included a picture of a Seiko 6139.
Pogue wrote a handwritten reply in the margin of Bruno’s letter, saying that he still had the watch in a safe deposit box. He revealed that it was automatic, had a stopwatch feature, and looked very similar to the picture Bruno had provided.
“The Seiko launched in Nov ’73 and came back with me on 8 Feb ’74,” Pogue wrote. “I used it for years in favour of my Rolex which I got in 1957-58 when I flew with the Thunderbirds.”
Pogue also sent a selection of photographs and a copy of the watch’s original sales receipt.
Col. Pogue sent a second letter that revealed he did not have permission to carry the Seiko on the misssion, but that they had not received the NASA Omega watches until late in their training: “I had been using the Seiko for well over six months (perhaps over a year) and had found it very handy for timing engine burns in the simulator … Hence, I did not make any attempt to get official permission or approval to carry the Seiko on the mission.”
Col. Pogue also confirmed that the self-winding mechanism worked fine in zero gravity, saying: “I don’t remember having to use any extra arm motions to back up the self-winding feature.”
David Bruno has shared all the documents from Col. William Pogue at http://sinn142.fateback.com/pogue.html.