Proving that Automatic Watches Work in Outer-Space

This is the story of Towson Watch Company’s STS-99 Chronometer. A watch that put American watchmaking back on the map, stamping itself in history as one of the first automatic watches worn in outer-space.

In the year 1999, it was believed that an automatic watch wouldn’t work in space. At the time, mostly quartz or manual-wound pieces had accompanied astronauts in spaceflight. But this idea that “automatic watches don’t work in outer space” was nothing more than a fallacy promoted by brands that didn’t manufacture automatic movements.

Spaceflight became a medium for luxury watch brands to promote their products. The space-watch is one of the most textbook examples of product placement that exists to date. Up until 1999, most of the prominent brands didn’t have automatic movements in their catalog that could be purchased by consumers, so... “why promote them in space? So let’s just say automatic watches don’t work up there instead, shall we?”

But an automatic rotor, indeed, does spin in zero gravity. It’s not gravity that spins the rotor, it’s the net force of the arm’s motion that accelerates the smaller objects subject to that force. But this had to be proven by a watch company, and surely not by one of the mainstream Swiss consumer brands that created the fallacy of automatic watches in space.

Free from the constraints of mass-production and distribution, an indie watchmaker like Towson Watch Company would have to be responsible for revealing such a misunderstanding. And yes, we saw the marketing opportunity, which is why I’m still telling you about it today. But this is why independent companies like us exist…to reveal the fallacies that live within the market. It’s our job to show collectors what they are missing, and where value truly lies. 

Please visit Hodinkee to see the full archive of space watches. 

The legacy of our STS-99 Chronometer lives on today in our Mission Chronograph Collection, which you can find exclusively at or select retailers.



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