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Apollo 15 moon-travelling watch up for auction

A watch worn by Commander Dave Scott during the Apollo 15 moon mission is headed for auction later this month.

Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott wore the Bulova Chronograph for the famous Hadley Delta photograph. NASA

If you want to own a watch that has been to the moon with a NASA astronaut, your chances are pretty slim. Most of the watches worn during the Apollo missions were the standard NASA-issued Omega chronographs. Because they were government-issued, they were considered government property, and most are now housed in museums and other government institutions.

A watch worn by David Scott, commander of the Apollo 15 mission in 1971 and the seventh person to walk on the moon, is an exception. In the RR Auction Space and Aviation Auction taking place October 15 to October 22, you'll have a chance to own it for yourself.

The Apollo 15 mission was the first to use the Lunar Rover, and the crew was be able to travel farther than previous expeditions. As a result they had to be able to keep accurate time, to gauge how long they had travelled away from the landing site. In addition, if communications with Mission Control failed, an astronaut's timepiece was their only means of keeping track of the life support system's remaining resources.

In addition to his standard-issue Omega Speedmaster, Scott took with him a back-up watch. If the Omega failed, Scott reasoned, he would need another means of keeping accurate time. The watch he took with him was a personal Bulova Chronograph, model 88510, stowed safely in the Lunar Module.

Scott's prescience was to prove fortunate. During the second of the crew's Extra Vehicular Activities (EVAs) on August 1, 1971, the crew drilled for a core sample using the Lunar Surface Drill at Station 8, a site located 125 metres northwest of the Lunar Module. When he returned from the EVA, Scott noticed that his Omega Speedmaster was missing its Hesalite crystal.

Because he hadn't noticed when the crystal fell off, Scott couldn't identify the reason it had done so, although the heat, the pressure difference between the vacuum of space and the interior of the watch case, and hard scientific labour were almost definitely contributing factors.

The Bulova Chronograph did not return unscathed from its round trip to the moon. RR Auction

Whatever the cause, when Scott next stepped out of the Lunar Module, it was the Bulova Chronograph strapped to his wrist. It was while wearing the Bulova chronograph that he posed for the famous photograph in the Hadley Delta, in which he salutes the American flag. It was wearing the Bulova Chronograph that he conducted the famous feather-and-hammer experiment. And it was using the Bulova Chronograph that Scott concluded the Apollo 15 mission and returned to Earth.

The watch, which spent a total of 4 hours, 49 minutes and 50 seconds during EVAs in addition to time in lunar orbit, is a little worse for wear for its trip to the moon, with some scuffs and scratches, and dust from final splashdown. It comes with the original strap and extensive documentation provided by Scott.

"The Bulova Lunar EVA (Wrist) Chronograph and attached Velcro wrist strap...was worn by me on the lunar surface during the third EVA of Apollo 15, and then in lunar orbit and return to Earth...The primary use of the wrist chronograph on the surface of the Moon was to track...the elapsed time of consumables use (oxygen, water, and battery) in the Portable Life Support System (PLSS) backpack," Scott wrote in a five-page letter of authenticity that is included in the auction.

The watch comes with its original strap (left); its model number is engraved on the caseback (right). RR Auction

"As a backup to the standard issued Omega chronograph, I carried and used a Bulova chronograph on the lunar surface...this unique strap was...worn during...each of my three EVAs on the lunar surface."

In 2014, the rotational hand controller used by Scott to land the Lunar Module was sold at auction for $610,000. Scott's watch will start at a minimum bid of $50,000, but is expected to bring in a lot more. "I expect that the watch will sell for much more, somewhere between $750,000 - $1,000,000," said RR Auction's Bobby Livingston.

You can view the lot on the RR Auction website. Online bidding begins October 15.