An astronaut’s bespoke request for an American-made timepiece led to the official launch of the TWC brand in 1998.
It was Commander Thiele of NASA’s STS-99 space mission who saw the potential in what an American firm could offer in regard to making bespoke watches with purpose. He specifically wanted a tool watch with distinct professionalism that would accompany him on his journey through outer space. The guidelines called for a combination of “Swiss accuracy and German craftsmanship.” Hartwig Balke and George Thomas were two of the only watchmakers in America at the time capable of producing such quality.
Nonetheless, the request wasn’t born out of patriotism, it was vested in a true desire to work with the watchmaker and play a role in the making process. This was something that Commander Thiele believed an American firm could uniquely provide him with - an instrument made just for him and his mission. Commander Thiele recognized our founder’s ability to make a personal yet regulated instrument and selected them as the makers of his space watch, establishing a foundation for a new era of horological achievements in America that would continue to this day.
In the years prior to Commander Thiele’s request, Hartwig and George perfected their craft in a shared workshop standardizing a handmade approach to watchmaking. The workshop was what you would imagine finding in an alpine village - a wonder of organization, precision and miniaturization amongst the array of vintage lathes, miniscule tools and screws. Every instrument used in the TWC workshop is operated by the watchmaker’s hand.
At the time of the commander’s request, the TWC collections hadn’t yet come to fruition, but the two watchmakers were becoming known for their personalized approach to the craft. They catered to bespoke requests from local clientele, working almost exclusively with precious materials and grand-complications. Taking the finest components from around the world and translating them into one-of-a-kind masterpieces. Today, the Master’s Collection tells the story of these origins. The collection hosts watches born purely out of the desire of Towson’s watchmakers to make them. Frosted silver dials, skeletonized movements, and hand-guilloche that illuminate the most intrinsic values of our appreciation for high-horology.
As more people began to recognize the unique work our founding watchmakers were engaging in, notable enthusiasts and professionals alike found a larger merit to what was happening - mechanical watchmaking here in the United States, pushing innovation forward and breaking status-quo in its respective arena. It was a scene of craft artisans quietly turning their expertise into bespoke watches for local clientele. The commander had a raw desire for a custom-tailored horological experience. It was intriguing that independent firms could make the watches they want to make, choose how to make them, and avoid the limitations of mass-branding.
The STS-99 was the first space mission of the new millennium. The Endeavor shuttle spent months mapping the earth’s surface from the south of Greenland to the northern edge of the Antarctic. Despite the digital instruments aboard the spacecraft, the astronauts wanted an accurate and reliable mechanical timepiece. The timepieces that TWC built for the mission were certified chronometers, serving as faithful companions to the commander and his fellow mates in outer space. This made Towson’s Mission STS-99 Chronograph the first mechanical watch of the 2000’s worn in outer space, and even the last worn on a solo NASA spacecraft mission.
Triple chronograph display of engine-turned sub-dials on a black base plate. A minute counter at 12 o’clock, sweep-second at 9 o’clock and an hour-counter at 6 o’clock allow uncluttered functional use. Included was a black tachymeter and date-window at 3 o’clock. The central minute, hour and chronograph hands were painted in white, aligning with the white accents and numerals on the dial.