A watch made from a space rocket… For two years, this idea gnawed away at me at all hours of the day and night - yet when I raised the subject afresh, my wife simply rolled her eyes.
Admittedly, it was absurd. But at some point, I’d come to be in possession of the knowledge about how one might go about acquiring rocket material for themselves.
In Kazakhstan: Located in the middle of the vast Kazakh Steppe, the Baikonur spaceport is where the rockets are launched and begin their three-stage journey into space. The first stage is triggered shortly after the launch. Normally, rockets are launched in an easterly direction from the east coast of the continent, so that the rocket stages fall safely into the sea. Not so in Kazakhstan, where the jettisoned rocket booster falls directly in the Steppe – albeit in a military exclusion zone under strict surveillance!
After lengthy investigations, I succeeded in locating a contact. What he told me sounded promising, so in April 2012, I set off to Kazakhstan with two friends. It was a journey into the unknown – and every day there brought new surprises.
Just as many people in Switzerland looked at me – still look at me – with incredulous expressions when I tell them of my idea, so the Kazakhs were perplexed to learn of our intentions. The idea that anyone would want to produce luxury Swiss watches from rocket material was one they simply could not wrap their heads around. No-one believed us. And since we weren’t quite sure of the legality of our endeavours to bring samples of recovered material back to Switzerland, it was difficult not to be wrong-footed by their mistrust.
I’ll never forget how one particular red-hoodied young man attached himself to us and refused to leave us alone. Even more remarkable was the fact that he spoke perfect German. He wanted to know everything about us, and peppered us with questions. My friends and I were overcome with a feeling of unease. He had to be a spy. Paranoia set in. That was it; we’d fallen into the clutches of the Russian secret service. When the boy walked away from us, we laughed out loud with the sheer sense of relief.