At the beginning of October, Alexander Gerst became the first German astronaut to take command of the ISS. Thus, the geophysicist adds a valuable chapter to the long history of German spaceflight. The rocket which delivered him off-world is now being upcycled and used to commemorate this historic moment through the wearable. Werenbach founder Patrick Hohmann recovered the Soyuz MS-09 material personally from a military exclusion zone in the heart of Kazakhstan shortly after its launch and now, months later has used it to craft these high-quality wristwatches.
German space history in a Swiss wristwatch
Rockets fly into space in three distinct stages. At the beginning of each stage, parts of the rocket are blasted off and fall back to Earth. Unlike all other modern launches, where the rockets ignite over the sea, the Soyuz rockets – those that exclusively take astronauts to the ISS – are done over land at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Here, the various stages detach and fall amongst the vast expanse of the Kazakh Steppe’s military-run exclusion zones, where they are salvaged by authorized metal collectors. Patrick Hohmann has managed to be one of the few outsiders in the world to have gained access to these restricted areas, hunting down the boosters together with the Kazakh scrap collectors, to give these rockets a second life. “The feeling of standing next to a still-glowing and smoking rocket engine is indescribable – finding the rockets feels like a conquest in itself”, says Hohmann. He selects the parts on site, choosing panels from where to cut that will become the faces and material for different watches before arranging the long process of transport to Werenbach’s studio in Zurich, Switzerland. Since the material is recovered directly after the launch of the rockets, each can always be assigned to the correct mission they were a part of. This is how a standard timepiece becomes a piece of astronautical history. In this case, of German spaceflight history.
Something new on Earth: space on your wrist (thanks to a clever microchip)
The material from Alexander Gerst’s Soyuz MS-09 has been integrated into two of the three existing collections available from Werenbach. The watches from the MACH33 Collection that feature MS-09 material also house an extra bonus inside: an integrated chip that allows the wearer to connect via smartphone directly into the live stream of Earth from the ISS. This allows for an experience like that of the astronauts aboard in real time; an experience out of this world. From seeing Earth in a new way to watching an entire day pass in just 45 minutes – sunrise to sunset – the wearer has a constant reminder of how far mankind has come and how beautiful the world can be seen from a view few others have ever shared.
The wider collections – now also for those on narrower budgets
The price range for the latest collections ranges between 400 and 2000 Euros so that every Gerst (or space) fan can find a watch right for them.
The LEONOV Collection: The watches of the Leonov collection are high-quality mechanical watches in which the entire dials were cut directly from the rocket itself. The surfaces are untreated and original, meaning scratches, marks and burns from the journey towards space can clearly be seen on each face and meaning no two are alike. Further customisation, including selecting the exact face of the watch, can be done by customers through the BTO Editions online.
The MACH33 Collection: In the models of the MACH33 Collection, the rocket material lies at the heart of the face, incorporated as a plate into the dial. Aside from the integrated chip that connects to the ISS’s live stream, other special features include a high-quality monocoque housing (milled from one piece) and sporty or classical watch styles to chose from.
The watches of the Leonov Collection are designed and made in the Zurich studio while those of the MACH33 are designed and made in both Zurich and in cooperation with an international production network that spans multiple countries.
Werenbach is a Swiss start-up company that was founded in 2012 from the wild idea of building a watch made from the material of a space rocket. From this idea, three completely unique watch collections (as well as a novel “Werenbachs Uhr, Bilgerverlag, Zürich”) were born. Werenbach has gained international attention thanks to two hugely successful crowdfunding projects funded by fans on Kickstarter, but founder Patrick Hohmann has always had another mission in mind: with his watches, he does not just want to sell timepieces, he wants to share a vision. The same vision as that of the astronauts of the ISS:
“Every astronaut looking at Earth from space sees its beauty and realizes how small it is compared to the universe. They recognize that there are no limits when it comes to space, only those we place on ourselves on Earth” explains Hohmann. “This realization can change the way you think; change the way you see your world and how you act upon it. This is what we have come to call “Spaceborn” – our ideology born in space. It lives in the material of our watches and we hope, in the minds of those that wear them”.