Accompanied with Fain & Co. 8 November 1997 auction catalogue and original sales tag bearing lot number 245. Furthermore delivered with a hand-written letter confirming that the present watch belonged to R. Walter Cunningham, astronaut on Apollo VII and an official picture of him from the NASA.
1966 , This lot incorporates three features that most appeal to a Rolex Daytona collector, the looks, the condition and its historical importance.
Not only experienced collectors, but novices as well can recognize at first glance the beauty and freshness of the Paul Newman dial mounted on this timepiece: the luminous markers are unspoiled; the nearly 50-years-old Rolex Cosmograph and Daytona designations seem to have been printed moments ago; the red outer minute track is immaculate. It is a prime example of an early dial, sporting the "sing-a-song" T SWISS T designation and the "rounded" Singer punch on the back. The bezel is graduated at 300 which is the correct version for this serial number. Compared to the bezel with the 275 intermediate marking and continuous graduation, its simpler design gives a more sober and masculine look. Lastly, it features the highly rare and sought after "71" bracelet.
Its interest to scholars stems from the fact that it is one of the earliest serial numbers on which a Paul Newman dial has ever been seen. The 1.475.765 serial number indicates that the case was manufactured in late 1966. Rolex started to mount Paul Newman dials on Daytonas in 1967. Half a century ago, the manufacturing process was much slower than today. It was quite common for a case to sit in the company's workshop for several months before the dial was mounted and the watch was launched into the market. In all likeliness, this is what happened with this timepiece.
Its importance to collectors is further enhanced by the fact that it once belonged to the famous NASA astronaut Walter Cunningham. This historical timepiece was successfully sold at auction in 1997, accompanied, as it is today, by a notarised letter written by Cunningham's brother stating that the astronaut had the watch on his wrist while in space. This statement, however, can be challenged and has not been confirmed by Mr. Cunningham himself. It is well documented that NASA performed a selection process for their official timekeepers from 1963 to 1965, and Omega was the brand chosen by the space agency for their cosmic missions. One can reasonably assume that some staff members, including Walter Cunningham - maybe simply out of personal curiosity - tried different watches over the years, possibly even wearing them during professional training and tests.
Ronnie Walter "Walt" Cunningham was born in Lowa on 16th March 1932. He joined the navy in 1951 and served in the Marines as a fighter pilot from 1953 to 1956. From 1956 until 1975 he served in the Marine Corps Reserve Program. His adventure with NASA began in 1963, when he was selected as astronaut. His experience in space starts on 11th October 1968. He is the pilot of the lunar module of Apollo 7, the first successful manned mission of the Apollo program.
Apollo 7 was a mission designed to test a multitude of new systems and technical features, such as the completely redesigned Command System. Due to the tragic outcome of Apollo 1, many new solutions had been adopted for this nearly 11 days long earth-orbital mission. Some of the highlights of Apollo 7 include a simulated lunar module rendezvous and the testing of the SPS (Service Propulsion System), the engine designed to move the space vehicle in and out of the lunar orbit, which was fired eight times during the mission with remarkably precise results.
Apollo 7 was a complete success. After this experience, Cunningham worked in a management role for Skylab, NASA's first space station, and retired from the Agency in 1971.
In 1974 he graduated from Harvard, and went on to become a successful businessman and investor. In 1977, he published "The All-American Boys", a book telling the story of his astronaut days.
NASA awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal in 2008 for his work on the Apollo 7 mission, and today he is a radio personality and public speaker.