According to the Archives of Vacheron Constantin, the present watch was completed in July, 1971, and is one of only three examples ever produced.
It is a mystery that puzzled Vacheron Constantin and watch collectors for half a decade: What is the story behind the Vacheron Constantin watch with Apollo 14 insignia on the dial that is shown in a photograph found in the archives of Vacheron Constantin? After years of search, Christie’s is proud to offer a watch that has been the subject of serious inquiry and curiosity: the Vacheron Constantin “Apollo 14 for Edgar Mitchell” reference 6351.
Painted in miniature on the dial is the insignia of Apollo 14 featuring the last names of the crew: Alan Shepard, Jr., commander; Stuart Roosa, command module pilot; and Edgar Mitchell, lunar module pilot. The insignia includes their names on the border surrounding a representation of Earth and the Moon, with a gold star approaching the Moon from Earth. This star symbol, which has a three-pronged trail similar to a comet, lives on today as the symbol of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut corps. Astronauts who have not yet flown in space wear silver pins while those who have flown in space wear gold pins.
Inside is the ultrathin caliber 1003, which was introduced by Vacheron Constantin in 1955 and was the world's thinnest hand-wound mechanical wristwatch movement for over 50 years. The caliber 1003 is still used by Vacheron Constantin today and is considered one of the company's most iconic, innovative, and important movements.
The box and engraved inscription on the case back tells the rest of the story, although we unfortunately do not possess all the details regarding the presentation of the watch. Inside the Vacheron Constantin box, it states:
“In the name of some Geneva citizens for
Edgar D. MITCHELL
Lunar Module Pilot APOLLO 14”
On the outside of the case back of the watch is engraved:
“5.2.71 PRESENCE AMERICAINE SUR LA LUNE
EDGAR D. MITCHELL
The exact circumstances of how and why Edgar Mitchell received this gift are not specifically known. Recently, the same Vacheron Constantin reference 6351 with Apollo 14 dial and matching engraving on the back made for Alan Shepard was revealed to the world. That one had case serial 451’041, which is two before the present Mitchell watch with case serial 451’043. It, therefore, seems possible that case serial 451’042 may have been the watch presented to Stuart Roosa.
Swiss citizens have frequently given distinguished visitors with Vacheron Constantin wristwatches. A group of Swiss citizens presented world leader attendees of the 1955 Geneva Summit, including President Dwight Eisenhower of the United States and Prime Minister Edgar Faure of France, with gold Vacheron Constantin watches.
Furthermore, Mitchell brought a Swiss flag with him on the Apollo 14 mission and Mitchell seems to have had a long affinity for Switzerland. Mitchell later presented a major speech to the Rotary International Convention in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1973 and he last visited Switzerland in July 2014 when he gave speeches in Bern and Geneva.
The present owner received this watch along with a number of other notable items from a family member of Edgar Mitchell. The watch has remained in its original box for decades since the present owner received it.
For collectors of Vacheron Constantin watches and space-related horology, this watch can certainly be considered a tremendous discovery worthy of great excitement.
Edgar Dean Mitchell
Astronaut Edgar “Ed” Mitchell was born in September 1930 in Hereford, Texas. With a keen interest in science and engineering, he went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in industrial management from Carnegie Mellon University in 1952. Shortly thereafter, Mitchell joined the United States Navy and became a naval aviator, eventually reaching the rank of Captain. During his time on active duty Mitchell earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics before earning of a Doctor of Science degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964.
In 1966, Captain Mitchell was selected as an astronaut and seconded from the Navy to NASA. He was part of the support crew for Apollo 9 before serving as backup Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 10. He then served as Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 14.
Mitchell’s time in space had a profound effect on his worldview. Mitchell was quoted as saying about the experience of seeing Earth from the Moon, “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics looks so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’”
Mitchell received a number of awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, NASA, Distinguished Service Medal, and induction into the International Space Hall of Fame and United States Astronaut Hall of Fame. He also received four honorary doctorates.
Mitchell passed away on February 4, 2016.
Apollo 14 was the third mission to land on the Moon and the eighth manned mission in the Apollo program of the United States. The mission launched January 31, 1971. Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell landed on the Moon on February 5 while Stuart Roosa remained in the Command Module in lunar orbit. Shepard and Mitchell spend over 33 hours on the Moon with over 9 hours of total time of “extravehicular activity” (EVA) outside of the lunar module, colloquially known as “moon walks”. They collected over 94 pounds of Moon rocks and conducted several experiments. Notably, Shepard hit two golf balls on the lunar surface while Mitchell threw a lunar scoop handle like a javelin.
One notable legacy of Apollo 14 were the approximately 500 hundred seeds brought along on the mission by Stuart Roosa and later planted around the United States, including at the White House, as well as in Brazil and Italy. They are known as “Moon trees” and live on as a legacy of Apollo 14.