Louis Moinet Spacewalker: Spectacularly Highlighting First Human Spacewalk By Alexey Leonov
Imagine this: it’s 1965 and you are a brave explorer just moments away from making history as the first human to venture into the void of space.
You have absolutely no idea if you will survive the next 12 minutes. You watch your Extravehicular Activity (EVA) airlock, basically a cloth-covered balloon, inflate and extend away from your spherical capsule out into space, praying it won’t pop during the EVA egress.
You then climb through the tight quarters to the end, where you will exit into the vacuum outside. You take a deep breath and open the outside airlock. Your suit holds, and you float into the vast empty expanse.
After a few moments of absolute awe, you notice it’s getting hot and your temperature is rising faster than the cooling unit in your spacesuit can manage, all while the suit is beginning to balloon up itself. It gets so big and rigid that you can’t move arms and legs, not that it matters since your hands and feet have pretty much fallen out of your gloves and boots anyway.
The suit is too big to maneuver back into the airlock, and you are approaching an internal body temperature that could cause heatstroke. What to do?
You vent your suit’s atmosphere (and your oxygen supply) into space to deflate your suit, risking decompression sickness while trying to simply return to the safety (hopefully) of your capsule. Your entire body is drenching with sweat, it’s pooling in your suit, and you are trying to maneuver delicately without tearing a hole in your suit or passing out from the drop in air pressure.
Miraculously, and in large part thanks to your extensive training, you make it back inside the capsule, safe from the suffocating vacuum outside.
These are just a few of the hardships endured by Alexey Leonov as he became the first man in history to perform a spacewalk, nudging the former Soviet Union into a temporary lead in the space race. His craft, the Voskhod-2, may have been more complicated but less advanced than the U.S. Gemini SC4, but it served admirably. A test flight three days before Leonov’s flight had ended in an explosion, so there was no guarantee of success. Yet Leonov went anyway.
This bravery, as well as the incredible feat, marks Leonov as an important pioneer in space exploration, so it was only a matter of time before he inspired a modern astronomical timepiece.
For one of the leaders in out-of-this-world timepieces, Louis Moinet, the time had come to honor Leonov’s historic event.
At Baselworld 2018 Louis Moinet released the Spacewalker, a stunning limited edition highlighting the artistic creativity so often displayed by the brand inspired by its admiration for the universe beyond the earth.
Art and symbolism
The Spacewalker is first and foremost an artistic tribute to a great moment in astronautic history.
Louis Moinet sometimes includes a fragment or layer of a rare material in its watches, be it a stone, meteorite, fossil, or something else unique.
Yet other times, the design direction is driven not by a specific material but by a visual goal, and the Spacewalker is the most recent example of this.
The majority of the dial depicts vibrantly glowing gas nebula clouds created with a still-secret artistic process (after inspecting high-resolution photos, I feel it may be a specialized digital printing application) and is divided down the center with a pair of unbalanced openings. The dial surface displays an image that is usually captured with something like the Hubble telescope, yet now lives on your wrist.
But those center openings are really where the piece shows its essence.
The smaller opening on the bottom is where one reads the time, and a transparent sapphire crystal subdial offers a view in to the mechanics driving the Spacewalker. The styling is mild, subdued, and classic, which is very smart considering the decorative elements it is surrounded by.
The larger dial opening on top is a different story, and represents the main symbol tying the watch to Leonov and his 1965 mission.
The highlight of the Spacewalker is the large flying tourbillon at 12 o’clock, its window occupying nearly one-third of the dial. The tourbillon itself is fairly straightforward, but it rotates off center with a counterweight arm capped by a large, round, multifaceted diamond.
The tourbillon and the diamond orbit each other, just like Leonov and his craft, the Voskhod-2. The tourbillon represents his spacecraft and the small diamond is Leonov, a nod to his code name Almaz-2 during the mission.
Almaz (алмаз) means “diamond” in Russian, so the choice of counterweight wasn’t really a choice at all.
Behind the pirouette of mechanics and jewels is mounted one of the favorites for astronomical watches in recent years: a thin sheet of aventurine, which always looks like a starry sky wherever it is used (see Aventurine: Sparkling, Glittering, Mysterious, And Placing A Galaxy Of Stars On Your Wrist).
When the Spacewalker is held up to the light, the thin slice of aventurine becomes translucent and glows behind the tourbillon. This is actually a popular feature on watches in 2018: dials with translucent (but not transparent) sections to create artwork that glows. Another example is Jaquet Droz’s Petite Heure Minute Smalta Clara.
In this case the application was extremely fitting as a way to highlight the outer-space awe of Leonov’s spacewalk.
Mechanics as tribute
But the aventurine isn’t the hero element in this piece; it truly is the stunning tourbillon and diamond orbiting each other while surrounded by stars and nebula clouds.
The mechanical dance is a perfect allegory to the 12 minutes and 9 seconds that Leonov spent adrift in space, the first human ever to be alone in the cosmos, which was incredible as well as in a sense fundamentally simple. The Soviet Union was known to be no-nonsense, and it rarely made things more complex than they needed to be. This led to extreme risk as the safety margin was fairly slim.
The delicate tourbillon, which is visibly nothing more than a couple dozen parts, appears fragile among the simulated vastness on the dial. But even more, the diamond tethered thinly to the tourbillon cage represents the tenuous moments spent by Leonov floating, attached only by a small life-support line. To be so incredibly exposed and so minimally attached to safety cannot be overemphasized: his short time in space would be a harrowing experience for anyone.
And I feel the epic nature of this event is on display in the Louis Moinet Spacewalker.
Moving to the rear of the watch, the adventure is laid bare: the beautiful and very clean movement mirrors the functional technology of the Voskhod-2 that made the incredible sights possible. The bridges are designed in a way that showcases the hidden architecture of what drives the “mission” on the front.
For a flying tourbillon displaying only the time, the mechanics aren’t overly complicated, but have an elegant simplicity (as simple as any watch of this caliber can be) that doesn’t seek to muddy up a perfectly simple goal: allow that diamond to orbit the tourbillon among the stars.
The watch is available in four limited editions, two of which feature completely hand-engraved cases that feature rather striking geometric lines reminiscent of light rays or shooting stars seen in the night sky. It definitely isn’t the usual style of case engraving, but I think it fits right in with the unique inspiration.
Overall, the appeal of this piece is beauty with a backstory that inspires fascination.
Every watch by Louis Moinet makes some sort of statement, and with the numerous limited editions featuring crazy materials from all over the planet and across the galaxy, it is awesome to see one highlighting a great human accomplishment.
This timepiece also illustrates how the sometimes brutal space race of the 1960s can be a fantastic backdrop for a storyteller to weave a mechanical tale. Louis Moinet is a brand that attempts to tell such stories, and the Spacewalker is a ridiculously cool example that succeeded in getting this nerd writer to learn even more about two topics I already love: horology and space exploration.
Maybe it will inspire you?
Now, let’s launch into the breakdown!
- Wowza Factor * 9.44 Space can make me excited, and seeing a nebula cradling a flying tourbillon is pretty exciting!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 94.4 » 925.748m/s2 Since it depicts the glowing night sky (sort of) it definitely has the power to keep me up till the wee hours of the morning appreciating its beauty!
- M.G.R. * 62.1 The movement quality found throughout Louis Moinet’s work is always excellent, and this flying tourbillon is another great example!
- Added-Functionitis * N/A While a visual analogy to a historic event is really awesome, it still is a time-only watch. There will be no need for Gotta-HAVE-That cream for any interstellar swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 9.44 Smashing your elbow into the corner of a table! That funny bone, oh that funny bone! It never was very funny. But I will gladly smash my ulnar nerve repeatedly if it meant getting a Spacewalker to wear on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * 12 minutes and 9 seconds! That is how long Alexey Leonov spent floating in space, and it also is exactly how long it takes to fall head over heels for the Spacewalker. Now, should we have chicken or fish?
- Awesome Total * 960 Multiply the number of pieces that will be made overall (60), by the caliber number (48) and then divide by the frequency of the balance in Hz (3) and you are left with one out-of-this-world awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.louismoinet.com/collection-spacewalker.
Quick Facts Louis Moinet Spacewalker
Case: 47.4 x 16.9 mm, pink or white gold
Movement: manual winding Caliber LM48 with one-minute satellite tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 12 pieces hand-engraved in pink and white gold, 18 pieces without engraving in pink and white gold
You might also enjoy, Aventurine: Sparkling, Glittering, Mysterious, And Placing A Galaxy Of Stars On Your Wrist).
Also published on Medium.