Watches in Space: We Asked Three Astronauts What Watches They’ll Bring with Them to the ISS

When an American, an Italian and a Russian are launched to the International Space Station this spring, they’ll be carrying with them some of our most advanced technology. And a bunch of watches.

Astronauts Randy Bresnik and Paolo Nespoli and cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy spoke about their upcoming mission during a press conference from the Johnson Space Center in Houston this past Wednesday. They discussed the importance of research aboard the orbiting laboratory, about learning exciting new things from experiments to be conducted, and so forth. For space nerds, watching the Q & A is a great way to spend one hour.

But as a watch nerd, what I wanted to know was, “what watch will you be bringing into space and why?” So I asked them.

(The above video is the entire conference. For the relevant section, click here.)

Bresnik, a NASA astronaut, flew aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station in 2009. Bresnik said he planned to wear the same Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 that he wore on that mission in 2009. Though Bresnik couldn’t remember which version of the X-33 he owns, it appears in pictures to be the second generation, which makes sense since Omega decided to make the second generation only available to active-duty astronauts and military flight crews for a period of time.

Bresnik Omega X-33
Randy Bresnik wearing his second generation X-33.

The titanium watch features both an analog and digital time display. It boasts numerous functions including an alarm, chronograph, day-date, and a 24-hour GMT, all driven by a precision quartz  multi-function movement.

“It was a gift from my wife, thank you,” Bresnik said then smiled. “This time—don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret—I got one for my son. He’s 10 years old. My hope is that when he graduates from high school, I can give it to him as a gift having a few millions miles on it.”

Speedmaster X-33 Gen 1 Gen 2
Left to right: Generation 1 and Generation 2

Nespoli, an Italian astronaut and engineer with the European Space Agency, said he’s found it very difficult tracking time while in space. That’s why he wears three watches.

Soyuz TMA Training
Paolo Nespoli wearing a Tissot T-Touch.

“One here, one here and one attached there,” Nespoli said pointing to his wrists and to what looks like his upper thigh. “Because I needed to keep track of so many times—what time is it in Italy, what time is it in the United States, what time it is on the Space Station. And they keep changing the time, by the way, so I would get totally confused.”

Nespoli never went into detail during the press conference about which watches he actually wears, at one point gesturing toward his wrist at what appears to be a PVD chronograph without mentioning the exact make and model. Photos of Nespoli from previous missions show him wearing different watches. One has him wearing what appears to be a black watch made by Avio Milano. The watch has three sub-dials, a tachymeter and large numbers at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. Other photos show him wearing a Tissot T-Touch, which features an analog and digital display.

Paolo Nespoli conference
Nespoli gesturing toward his mystery watch.

“I’m still looking around,” Nespoli said. “I will bring up in space several watches this time just to play with them. I would like to have my own.” That said, Nespoli explained that astronauts can’t just bring whatever they want. “I would love to bring up one of those modern watches where you have a link with a computer, different types of batteries. But you have all sorts of safety issues with that. So, I will experiment a little bit.”

Finally, Nespoli revealed he is planning on having one watch personalized with his name engraved on it that he will bring up in space to “give it a run.”

“It’s a secret, but I should give one [to] my wife—but don’t tell her,” he joked.

Ryazanskiy x-33 conference
Ryazanskiy with another X-33.

Finally, Ryazanskiy, a Russian cosmonaut, made his first spaceflight aboard the Soyuz TMA-10M for Expeditions 37 and 38. He was in space for six months from September 2013 until March 2014. Ryazanskiy said cosmonauts also wear Omegas in space, showing off his X-33, which he can also be seen wearing on previous missions.  Ryazanskiy“Really, I don’t care,” Ryazanskiy said with a laugh. “It just needs to work properly.”

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Christian discovered his love for watches around the same time he discovered he could make a living as a writer. An award-winning journalist, Christian has covered everything from presidential campaigns to princess tea parties. Now, he's combining his passion for vintage watches with his passion for writing. Christian lives and works out of central Pennsylvania.