It was 35 years ago today -
(3 June 1965 - 3 June 2000)
Written by Chuck Maddox  (
on 3 June, 2000, certain rights reserved.
Last Revised: 13 December, 2007, 22:02 GMT
Gemini 4 Mission Patch
Edward H. White, II
Edward H. White, II
It was 35 years ago today that Edward H. White II opened his hatch on the Gemini 4 Spacecraft and began a 22 minute spacewalk, the first spacewalk by an American. Strapped to the outside of his EVA Spacesuit was an Omega Speedmaster Chronograph, the first wristwatch worn into outer space.
I realize that there may be some contention on this point. However, no one had previously worn a watch outside of a Spacecraft while in orbit, (exposed to the harsh temperatures and vacuum of outer space) prior to White's walk. (See the Time Line I have prepared below...)
Montage of space related items...
Click for an enlarged version of this picture...

Above: The author's copy of "A Time Capsule" book, a Gemini 4 Mission patch, the Author's Omega Speedmaster ST105.003, and a Fisher Space Pen.

Note: The Gemini 4 mission  patch was not actually worn on the Gemini 4 mission, but was a commemorative patch designed after the mission. For more information on mission patches please check out this page. Special thanks to Robert Pearlman for clearification on this point and the link.

Upon being told it was time for him to return to the capsule Mission Control and the whole world listening in on the open audio channel heard him sigh, "It's the saddest moment of my life.". The Gemini 4 mission had started the previous day and would end on 7 June 1965 after a flight lasting over 4 days, and 62 orbits, three times the length of the longest previous American space flight.
Later, upon seeing the pictures in and on the cover of Life magazine, Omega realized that White was wearing a Speedmaster prompting them to re-christen the Omega Speedmaster as the "Omega Speedmaster Professional" shortly thereafter...
Ed White II during his space walk with Gemini 4 reflected in is visor...
I'd like to take the opportunity on this, the 35th anniversary of Ed White's space walk to personally thank the Astronauts, support personnel and they're families for their efforts and sacrifices in regard to the Space program.
I am confident that Ed White would have been proud and amazed at the achievements that Manned spaceflight made in the 10 years following his spacewalk, However, I believe he would be disappointed and saddened at how little we have progressed in the past 25 years... It is my belief that we should do more to explore space and support the efforts of those working towards those ends.

-- Chuck Maddox (

Ed White during Gemini 4 Space Walk...
Photo Source: NASA History Website.

Wristwatches in Space - A Time Line (through Gemini 4):

1961 April 12: Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space and the first to orbit, while wearing a Soviet State-Mandated Sturmanskije watch. Sources differ about the watch... The "Time in Space" IWW magazine article reports that Gagarin wore a Sturmanskije chronograph, while this Poljot site (scroll to the bottom), and the RusGoods site claims that he didn't. While the case for the non-chrono is compelling, I note what the IWW article states as I don't know for sure which one he actually wore. Howard Webb who hails from the UK recently contacted me with additional insights on the topic and he states that Mr. Gagarin wore a Rodina time only watch. Howard has also picked up an example of the same model as Gagarin's which is pictured at right. Please visit Howard's site to read more on this watch and to view enlargements of these photographs. Other Soviet Cosmonauts have been quoted as wearing Sekonda Chronographs.

Pictures courtesy Howard Webb

The Russian-made watches were reliable and accurate, although Russian cosmonauts reportedly later coveted the Omega Speedmaster worn by their American rivals.

1962 May 24: Scott Carpenter wore the first Swiss made watch aboard a spacecraft when he wore a Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaut while piloting his Aurora 7 spacecraft for 3 orbits around the earth. He was the fourth American in space. Note: The first three American astronauts were given the option to wear a watch and either declined to do so or the watches that they wore were not recorded). John Glenn declined to wear a watch, and Alan Sheppard and Virgil (Gus) Grissom have since passed away.
1962 October 3: Wally Schirra wore an Omega Speedmaster on his Sigma 7 flight which completed 6 orbits of the earth. This was the first spaceflight for the Speedmaster. There has been an Omega Speedmaster aboard every American Spaceflight ever since...

1963 May 15: Gordon Cooper flight-tested both an Omega Speedmaster and a Bulova Accutron Astronaut (First American watch in space) during his 22 orbit Faith 7 flight. Cooper would later write "The Omega Speedmaster was selected by the Mercury Astronauts as a chronograph... it won over all the competition by a wide margin".
1964 September 21: Donald "Deke" Slayton, director of flight crew operations, outlined specifications for a flight crew chronograph in a letter drafted on this date. As a result six waterproof, shock-proof, anti-magnetic chronographs were purchased from a Houston Jewelers (Rolex, Longines, and Omega were the manufacturers of these chronographs). The end result was the adoption of the Omega Speedmaster as the offical flight crew watch for American space missions.
1965 March 18: Alexei Leonov performs the first spacewalk during the Soviet Voskhod 2 mission. It is unknown, but assumed that while Leonov probably wore a timepiece similar to the one that Gagarin wore in 1961 inside his spacesuit, none of the photographs or movies taken of Leonov's spacewalk show a watch worn outside of the spacesuit. Note: Leonov later would be a member of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Flight (ASTP) and wore an Omega Flightmaster at the very least during the ramp up to the ASTP...
1965 June 3: Ed White becomes the first American to walk in space with an Omega Speedmaster ST105.003 (c.321) velcro-strapped to the outside of his EVA suit during Gemini 4. The Omega Speedmaster becomes the first watch to be worn into outer space. The photograph on the cover of Life magazine made the Speedmaster instantly recognizable. “Omega didn't even know that NASA was using the watch until they saw that photo” -- James Lovell, Gemini 7 & 12, and Apollo 8 & 13.
Ed White during Gemini 4 Space Walk...
Photo Source: NASA History Website. Click for a slightly larger view...
Ed White's Speedmaster
The first watch worn into  space...
The First watch worn in to space... Edward H. White II's NASA Issued Speedmaster (ST105.003)
Edward White III's letter...

  • Book: "A Time Capsule Omega Speedmaster - The Story of the first watch in Outer Space" Editied & Written by Kesaharu Imai,
  • Magazine Article: Time in Space by Steven J. Lundin (International Wristwatch Number 40),
  • Alex Iatskovski for his insights and informational links on Sturmanskije watches with regard to Yuri Gagarin,
  • Howard Webb for his insights, contributions and permissions for the information contained in the Yuri Gagarin passage,
  • The Air Force Assocation Website,
  • The Space Place Website,
  • Craig Joseph Poff was kind enough to provide the scan of Edward White II's NASA Issue Speedmaster and the Edward H. White III letter authenticating the watch...
  • Numerious TZ Classics (117, 306, 373, 441, 667*, in particular...)
  • Robert Pearlman for clarifing the background of the Gemini 4 mission patch.
  • And of course the NASA History Website
  • Finally the web search engine Ask Jeeves was exceedingly helpful.

* TZ Classic 667 states that " Speedmasters were strapped on both crews of the American and Russian crew"... This appears to be in error as Alexei Leonov is pictured in "Time Capsule" book wearing his Flightmaster during this mission. While doing research on an article on the Omega Flightmaster, I located additional phorographs of Leonov wearing his Flightmaster. While it is possible that Leonov also wore a Speedmaster I tend to believe the photographs are correct...

Statement of rights retained and permissions granted...

Permission is granted for Damon, Derek Ziglar or RJ to include within the FAQ's they are writing as long as credit (and a link to this article) is given and the acknolegement section (immediately above is included. Permission for personal, educational or non-commercial use is granted. The author retains all other rights not specifically mentioned here... For all other use please contact the author.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and knowing me should be taken with a grain or two of salt...