Timeline : Mission Collection

The evolution of Towson's "Space Chronograph" over 25 years.

2000: STS-99 Mission Chronometer

NASA Commander Gerhard Thiele wanted an American-made chronograph for his journey around Earth on the Endeavour spacecraft in 2000. The STS-99 Space Mission mapped the earth’s surface from the south of Greenland to the northern edge of the Antarctic lasting six months. It was the first space mission of the new millennium, making the TWC Mission Chronometer the first mechanical watch of the 2000’s worn in outer space and the last ever worn on a NASA solo-craft space mission.

The high-grade Caliber 7750 automatic movement made for this project was built and regulated in the TWC workshop by TWC Co-Founder George Thomas, to later obtain COSC certification in Switzerland. The construction and components followed standard ETA/Valjoux requirements. 

Making, assembling, and servicing a triple-chronograph complication-set was deemed an impossibility for any American watchmaker at the time by most. Modifying one of these into a COSC-certified workhorse that loses less than two seconds a day was only the trade of Swiss watchmaker... right?

To make this commissioned project even more historically relevant, Commander Thiele requested an automatic chronograph for his mission. While space watches had certainly become “the thing” in the industry during the decades prior, it was believed that an automatic watch wouldn't work in space. "The zero gravity environment prevents the rotor from spinning freely..."

But this fallacy is why the commander sought after an American Brand for his request. Swiss brands had put dozens of chronographs in space already, but not a single one was automatic. Commander Thiele went to his friend, Hartwig Balke, who had once told him that "an automatic watch surely CAN work in space."

Hartwig and George completed eight certified chronometers for this project, two having served as faithful companions to the astronauts aboard the Endeavor aircraft in outer space for six months. And indeed...the rotors spun freely on the wrists of those astronauts. Proving that an automatic watch works in outer space.

After the first eight chronographs were made for the STS-99 space mission, two of which now lie on display at the NWAC museum, Hartwig and George celebrated their achievement with a limited series of 25 commemorative “replica” timepieces. The silver or black dials shared the exact same specifications as the original chronographs made for the astronauts. They featured the TWC initials and chronometer rating at the 6 o’clock sub-dial. Like the timepieces made initially, the 25 units that were made-to-order directly from TWC featured custom Benzinger rotors, skeletonized and filled with gold. COSC certification was included with these timepieces.

STS-99 Chronometer worn by NASA astronaut. (2000)

2005: The TWC MISSION Chronograph

Due to the success of the first 25 chronographs, the founders paired up with a variety of local retailers to launch their first TWC collection. They would follow the same design language as the former limited collection, but sign the caseback and modify the guilloche-style as well as the case finishes to obtain a more premium look. This time, the TWC-initial dial in silver or black didn’t feature the chronometer rating. Due to the standardization reached in-house and the benefits of holding onto movements for longer for increased refinement, Towson Watch Company deemed the long COSC certification process unnecessary. The 100 total timepieces featured no reference model engraving on the back, but were engraved with the brand, region of manufacturer “USA” and serial number. They were sold at upscale retailers between 2005 and 2007.

TWC Chronograph with silver dial, silver tachymeter and blued-steel hands. (2005-2007)
Exhibition back of Towson's first 100 Custom Chronographs

2010: Mission M250

As the brand grew with the release of other collections featuring the TWC shield logo, the STS-99 Mission Chronograph became the basis for Towson’s signature chronograph collection going forward. Again, the same design language would be respected, but this time the dial would incorporate Towson’s shield. The M250 featured a 40mm steel case with a mirror-finish bezel and satin-finish sides. Roman numerals and painted scales were replaced with more formal and contemporary elements. The guilloche-style dial now contained rhodium hour-markers and spade-shaped hands. It was available in silver or black exclusively at our authorized retailers or the TWC website. Limited to 100 timepieces, each having an engraved exhibition caseback with the M250 reference number, serial number, ROF, brand signature and depth rating. Customized with silver or black tachymeter, rhodium-plated or rose gold-plated hands, and a leather strap.

Series One Mission M250-B black tachymeter with rhodium hands. (2010)
Series One Mission M250-B silver tachymeter with gold hands. (2010-2013)
Series One Mission M250-S with silver tachymeter and rhodium-plated hands. (2010)

2015: Mission Moon MM250

The Towson watchmakers had officially mastered the caliber 7750 chronograph and it was time to move to the next level and incorporate the 7751 into the Mission Collection. Once again, the same design language would follow in the first collection of 100 MM250 Mission Moon timepieces. Guilloche-style dial, plated spade-shaped hands and a high-polish 40mm case with free-standing chronograph pushers. Now featuring an outer date-calendar operated by a central moon-tipped hand. Three windows measuring the moonphase, month and the day could be reset using the external pusher on the left side of the case and the quickset crown. The MM250 adopted a new color with the copper/salmon variant, 25 of which were made into the individually-numbered Mission Moon cases.

Series One MM250-SC copper Mission Moon (2015)
Series One MM250-S silver Mission Moon (2015)
Series One MM250-B Mission Moon (2015)

2020: Mission M250-2

In 2020, the M250 was reintroduced with the new model reference M250-2. The signature chronograph now features a 42mm steel case with crown guards and a satin-finished mid-section & bezel with polished lugs. The most significant changes from the previous edition are found throughout the case and its general shape, with subtle modifications made to the dial’s detailing and display. The sapphire crystal exhibition caseback is engraved with the series two M250-2 reference number, serial number (No.001-100), Towson MD, USA and the 5 ATM depth rating. Available in a silver or black dial with silver or black tachymeter and rhodium-plated or rose gold-plated hands. 

Caliber 7750 movement see through exhibition back on M250-2.
Crown-guards on the Series Two Mission M250-2.

2022: Mission Moon MM250-2

The latest adoption to the collection has been the Series Two Mission Moon MM250-2. Like its sister M250, not many changes outside of the case and general shape were made here. The TWC shield is no longer hand-painted and the engine-turning on the sub-dials is a bit more intricate, but the case and finishing is the main differentiating attraction here. It shares the same structural adjustments as the M250-2, now encapsulated in a 42mm brushed case with crown-guards and anti-reflex sapphire crystal. Like the former series, a day-corrector on the left side of the case eases operation of the 7751 movement, which is now more clearly seen through the skeleton rotor. Limited to 100 individually-numbered MM250-2 timepieces, available in a silver or black dial. Custom options include black or silver tachymeter, rhodium-plated or rose gold-plated spade-shaped hands, and leather strap. 

Series Two Mission Moon MM250-B2 (2022)
Skeleton rotor on Series Two Mission Moon MM250-2
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