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Found - Donn Eisele’s Apollo 7 Speedmaster

  1. gdupree

    gdupree Nov 16, 2017

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    Hey everyone,

    In the wake of the collectSPACE announcement on the recovery of Donn Eisele's stolen Speedmaster, S/N 34 used during the Apollo 7 mission, I wanted to directly share with you some of my perspective of the story about my role in its exciting recovery. I am humbled to have been a contributor in its discovery, and its return to its rightful place at the Smithsonian after it went missing from the museum in 1989.

    As stated to collectSPACE, I came to be aware of this watch through an incredibly serendipitous situation. A few months ago, I was browsing Ebay for Speedmasters, mostly for fun, when I came across a franken-speedy listed at a decent price. It was a total franken-watch, but it had many parts from a 145.022-74, many of which I was interested in as possible donor parts for my own -74. I was about to pass on it, but in a last-minute reconsideration I decided to message the seller to ask a few questions about it (really, it never hurts to ask!). The seller was very helpful, though not particularly knowledgeable on Speedmasters. During our conversation, I had mentioned that I was from Houston, and to my surprise he mentions that he would be in Houston the following day and would be happy to show me the watch. Through that, we exchanged contact information to coordinate the potential meet up, and began chatting through text about various other watches in our collections.

    It was then that the conversation shifted towards a particular watch that his friend obtained for $5,000 on a trip to Ecuador - a vintage Omega Speedmaster, which he tells me, "may have gone to the moon..." To be perfectly honest, when I read this I rolled my eyes and chuckled to myself a little bit. But being polite as I typically try to be, we continue our conversation when the seller promptly volunteers to send me some photos of it. A few moments later, four photos arrive at my phone. A quick swipe later, and my jaw hits the floor. Not only do I have a clear photo of the watch, but I have four clear photos from every angle of the watch (he needs to be a member here!). The photos I received are as follows:

    IMG_0055.JPG
    IMG_0052.JPG
    IMG_0053.JPG
    IMG_0051.JPG

    At this point, I'm taken aback by what I'm seeing, and immediately begin scouring the internet to find any information about this watch and its possible story. In a search, I find a decade old thread on collectSPACE.com about Donn's two Speedmasters - the NASA issued S/N 34, and non-issued S/N 38 - the latter of which was being sold at auction at the time (it sold for $204,000 in 2007), and the former which went missing while on loan from the Smithsonian in Ecuador in 1989.

    For the time-being, I drop the subject entirely with my new friend, not yet mentioning anything about what I suspect to be an invaluable missing artifact from Apollo 7. He, nor his friend who possesses the watch, appeared to have any clear idea of what they possessed, and myself having no clue what their intentions could be I chose to drop the subject until contacting the professionals. Instead, I set out to find and inform the appropriate personnel to speak with. After debating for several days, I decide to email Robert Pearlman, the owner of collectSPACE, and the individual who posted the aforementioned information on S/N 34. While proceeding very cautiously, Robert eventually puts me in touch with the appropriate personnel. Over the following months, I am able to work together with authorities to facilitate it’s retrieval.

    Thankfully, we can now happily say that it has been successfully recovered! Though I don’t have complete details of the nature of its return, I commend the possessor of the watch for apparently taking the correct action of handing it over to the authorities. Of course, my part in all of this was expendable to a degree, as any number of members here could have recognized and done what I have done. But, I am proud to have played my part. This watch had gone missing the very year of my birth, and understanding that it had already slipped away once, if not several times before my dealings with it, I am happy that information I was able to provide was able to lead to its legitimate recovery. My knowledge in identifying the watch is due in no small part to this forum.

    Now for the fun stuff. Here are some well-known photos of Donn with his Speedmasters preparing for launch, most certainly S/N 34, and perhaps its brethren S/N 38 (I’m going to guess S/N 34 is on the left wrist?)! It’s pretty incredible to think of the journey of this watch, and how many small coincidences led it from this photo, to showing up in my text messages. Any number of minuscule changes to this story could have easily resulted in the watch being undiscovered, or slipping away yet again for an indefinite period of time

    Donn.png

    Now that the story is told, we can do some discussing/speculating on the watch itself! It is sad to see that the hands were clearly replaced at some point over the years. Given that it was stolen in 1989 which was pre-luminova, we can be sure that these hands were replaced sometime during its missing years. I think that would also tend to imply that the watch found its way into the hands of a person who didn’t have any idea of what they possessed – unless the person knowingly replaced the hands on what is clearly an invaluable piece of space history. Another theory could be that the person who possessed the watch at the time knew that they needed to unload the watched quickly (say, for $5000), and decided to take the hands as a memento before they sold the watch to an less witting costumer. Though this seems farfetched on the surface, it possibly fits the narrative – why would only the hands be replaced, when it would appear that nothing else has been? Likewise, seeing the chrono isn't fully resetting to 0, it’s may be logical to guess that the movement has not been serviced, and just might be relatively unmolested. Too bad he didn't send me a movement shot (or perhaps thankfully, as it could have been catastrophic to have an unqualified person messing around in there)! The dial and lume plots seem to be in pretty decent shape, so I have a hard time imagining that the hands were so deteriorated that they had to be replaced. I think that the replaced hands could tell much more story than would appear on the surface. At the very least, it is an observation that piques my interest.

    I, for one, am surprised that this watch was still in Ecuador. With it being stolen there, I would think move #1 would be to get this watch far away from the scene of the crime. While my understanding is that it was bought in Ecuador, I have not been told when it was obtained - however I got the impression that there was some degree of recency to the purchase. Perhaps in time we will come to know more about the nature and details of its purchase.

    http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-111617a-apollo7-astronaut-stolen-watch-recovered.html
     
    Emeister, watch3s, Noddyman and 80 others like this.
  2. scbr215

    scbr215 Nov 16, 2017

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    Awesome and well done! For what it’s worth, I certainly appreciate your efforts in helping return the watch to a place where (technically) everyone can enjoy it :)
     
    noelekal likes this.
  3. watchcollect

    watchcollect Nov 16, 2017

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    Holly crap! That is just an amazing story! Thank you
     
    watch3s likes this.
  4. jakeh417

    jakeh417 Nov 16, 2017

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    Great assist gdupree! You have lived out one of my dreams. Help find a lost NASA Speedmaster and return it to the Smithsonian. :D:thumbsup:
     
    propervinyl likes this.
  5. ConElPueblo

    ConElPueblo Nov 16, 2017

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    Bravo!!

    BRAVO!!!
     
  6. Kringkily

    Kringkily Omega Collector Nov 16, 2017

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    Thank you from the bottom if all us space geeks to have restored what rightfully belongs to be enjoyed by all the patrons of the Smithsonian
     
    propervinyl likes this.
  7. ryanbk

    ryanbk Nov 16, 2017

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    Fabulous! Thank you
     
  8. kippyk

    kippyk Nov 16, 2017

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    Wow..amazing!
     
  9. Dgercp

    Dgercp Nov 16, 2017

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    I love OF! Fantastic story and thank you for bringing this back where it so belongs.
     
    noelekal likes this.
  10. MaiLollo

    MaiLollo Nov 16, 2017

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    One of the best Speedmaster stories of 2017 without a doubt
     
    noelekal likes this.
  11. Jones in LA

    Jones in LA Mmm... must have shiny things... Nov 16, 2017

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    Outstanding, Mr. DuPree!
     
  12. COYI

    COYI Nov 16, 2017

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    What a wonderful story.
    Well done gdupree!
     
  13. Basset Hound

    Basset Hound Nov 16, 2017

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    What a great story. Well spotted.
     
  14. kkt

    kkt Nov 16, 2017

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    Wow. The Smithsonian ought to let you put it on for a few seconds, as a thank-you!
     
    watch3s, Marku, wkimmd and 2 others like this.
  15. jhross98

    jhross98 Nov 16, 2017

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    A story like this becomes part of the speedmaster canon forever... Amazing
     
  16. pennsyl936

    pennsyl936 Nov 16, 2017

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    Nice work!
     
  17. gdupree

    gdupree Nov 16, 2017

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    You're right. Having been such a fanatic of these missions, it's honoring. In a sense I don't feel comfortable taking too much credit for this, as I hope that it could only have been a matter of time before it was found with such reckless flaunting of it, however it appears that it had briefly surfaced earlier this year and subsequently disappeared. I'm glad that I wasn't another who had it slip past. There is certainly a lot yet to sort out with this story.
     
  18. Seaborg

    Seaborg Nov 16, 2017

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    You are now a real hero who took part into the whole story of space missions.

    RESPECT :thumbsup:
     
    KstateSkier and noelekal like this.
  19. TLIGuy

    TLIGuy Nov 16, 2017

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    Well done @gdupree and your roll in the recovery of the watch. What a fantastic story and great ending to a 28+ year old mystery.

    Not only the hands but looking at the picture you posted, and the one Robert shared, it appears that the Omega raised logo might be missing as well. It looks like the glue residue that holds the logo in place is still intact on the dial surface but the AML gone.

    I guess now we will all look at the Peruvian Speedmasters a bit more closely.
     
    wkimmd likes this.
  20. Nathan1967

    Nathan1967 Nov 16, 2017

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    A brilliant heartwarming story and the discovery that we have our very own Supersleuth in the OF ranks!

    Good Job @gdupree