Bringing Back Neil Armstrong’s Personal Watch: the Wolbrook Skindiver WT

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If you listened to our recent podcast looking back on 2019 (or if you’ve been paying attention to the watch world even a little bit over the last year) you know that interest in space watches has reached a fever pitch. The golden anniversary of the moon landing was cause not just for Omega, makers of the iconic Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch,” to debut a series of special editions, but plenty of other brands got in on the act as well. Now, proving the rule that interest in space exploration, astronauts, and the watches that tie them together knows no bounds, we bring you news of Wolbrook, an historic brand resurrected through Kickstarter, and their Skindiver WT, a watch with a Neil Armstrong connection, and a pretty interesting story in its own right.


Wolbrook Skindiver WT

  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Dial: Black 
  • Dimensions: 40 x 13 x 48mm 
  • Crystal: Hesalite/Sapphire   
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters 
  • Crown: Screw down         
  • Movement: Seiko VH31, Miyota 8215
  • Strap/bracelet: Leather  
  • Price: $166 (Mecaquartz), $467 (Miyota)
  • Reference Number: n/a
  • Expected Release: July 2020 

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Let’s start at the beginning, since Wolbrook, unless you’re a particular type of watch obsessive, is not exactly a household name. The brand has its origins in the late 1940s, and had some success producing sports watches (their big marketing gimmick involved displaying the watches in a case filled with water) through the 70s. Then the quartz crisis hit, and like so many other brands, Wolbrook was just unable to compete. 

At some point during their heyday, however, Neil Armstrong, then a test pilot, purchased a Skindiver WT (signed by “Douglas,” Wolbrook’s sister brand) as his personal watch. Armstrong’s watch sold at auction in May 2019, immediately becoming its own sort of NASA related collectible. Now, with the help of a well funded Kickstarter campaign, Wolbrook is back, and you can own a fairly accurate facsimile of the original timepiece. 

So, what is the Wolbrook Skindiver WT? The WT stands for “World Timer,” and although the watch’s bezel acts as a city disc, there isn’t a world timing movement ticking away inside, so any global timetelling is going to be of the “lazy man” variety. The skindiver aesthetic is likely familiar to many readers – these are essentially slender, highly water resistant sports watches, that were quite popular in the 60s and 70s. Because of their size and general lack of dive watch bulk, they make for a somewhat elegant casual watch that can stand up to all manner of water related activities. 

Three versions of the Skindiver WT will be available, all with the same case, and roughly the same dial layout and characteristics (big broad hands, large Arabics at the cardinal positions, and plenty of lume). At the low end of the pricing scale is a Mecaquartz powered version (the only Skindiver WT without a date at 3:00). We see a lot of Mecaquartz chronographs, but this is a time only variant of the movement that mimics the sweep of a mechanical seconds hand, but with quartz timekeeping.

Mecaquartz vs Automatic.
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Moving up the ladder are the Skindiver WT Automatic and Skindiver WT Professional. The Professional is essentially a recreation of Armstrong’s watch, and uses a hesalite crystal, and signed “Douglas” on the dial. The Automatic is set apart with its vintage toned lume and use of a sapphire crystal, as well as being signed “Wolbrook.” Both watches feature roulette date wheel (a nice vintage inspired touch) and are rated to 100 meters of water resistance. Additionally, watches in the Skindiver WT collection will be produced in a variety of colorways, with dials in white or black, bezels in brushed stainless steel or black PVD, and a number of different strap styles (including a period correct bund style, shown below). Stretch goals for Wolbrook’s Kickstarter campaign include black PVD coated cases and blue and red bezel options, as well. 

NASA enthusiasts who are also vintage watch nuts are likely to enjoy the looks of the Skindiver WT, even if the connection to the space program is a bit thin. Neil Armstrong is indeed verified to have owned an original Skindiver WT, but unlike the Speedmaster, it lacks a lengthy association with him. Still, this new iteration of Wolbrook essentially exists for the purpose of paying tribute to Armstrong (each watch features a caseback honoring some aspect of his career), which has an appeal in and of itself. The affection for him, and his life’s work, seems genuine. Wolbrook on Kickstarter

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.
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