On July 29-30, Spink will be offering a Rodina wristwatch worn by Soviet cosmonaut Yuriy Gagarin estimated at £25,000-35,000 as part of its regular orders, decorations and medals summer auction. He was the pilot of the historic Vostock I Space Expedition – the first manned mission to space.
Vostock I was the first spaceflight of the Vostok programme. Its Vostok 3KA space capsule was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 12, 1961.
Lasting one hour, 48 minutes and completing a single orbit of the earth, Gagarin wrote himself into the history books after parachuting to the earth having ejected his capsule at around 7km altitude.
The watch is catalogued as ‘22 jewels, sweeping second hand, 38mm including crown, stainless steel, Russian characters on face, with engraved inscription to the reverse, metal bracelet, generally very fine, housed in its distressed Poljot, First Watch Factory, Moscow case of issue’.
In 1993 it was sold at Sotheby’s New York in a Space Exploration Auction when it made $25,875. The watch was offered together with original lot ticket, envelope and letter of attribution (in Russian) – which states it was “given to Yuriy A Gagarin as a gift from the Commander of the Airforces, Marshal Vershinin after the glorious flight of spaceship Vostok-1”.
On the back of the watch is engraved text about the occasion. Gagarin wore the watch most of the time. Until 1993 the watch was safely kept in the family.
Gagarin was killed on a routine training flight in a MiG-15UTI on March 27, 1968.
Spacewalk makes history
The second watch on offer at Spink was actually worn in space: The NII Chasprom wristwatch of Pavel Belyayev on the Voskhod 2 Space Expedition, 18-19 March 18-19, 1965 – on which occasion he was captain for the first spacewalk in history. Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made the first exit in open space.
Leonov left the spacecraft in a specialised spacesuit to conduct a 12-minute spacewalk. The expedition lasted one day, two hours, two minutes, 17 seconds and included 17 orbits of the earth.
Now estimated at £8000-10,000, this watch was also sold at that Sotheby’s New York auction in 1993, for $5750. It is offered together with the original lot ticket, envelope and letter of attribution (in Russian) – which reads: “I, Tatjana Filipovna Beljaeva, offer to the auction house this special edition watch, with 24 hours display, Type NII.”
These watches were made in limited edition in the Moscow factory for watches, by special order for the Soviet cosmonauts. The letter added: “Watch No.020 belonged to my husband – the cosmonaut Pavel Ivanovitch Beljaev, capitan of the space ship Vozhod – 2.”
It is catalogued as featuring '24hr dial, sweep hand seconds, date calendar, 46mm including crown, stainless steel, mechanical movement, leather strap, generally very fine condition'.
Belyayev died on January 10, 1970, after surgery.
Marcus Budgen, head of medals at Spink, said: “The wristwatch worn by Pavel Belyayev is an outstanding item. Given its immaculate provenance, we can be certain it was this watch that went to space on that heroic mission in March 1965.”