Let’s try something a little different here. Given that watch brands made specific models for specific scenarios—i.e. deep sea exploration, land exploration, or the type of exploration that takes place in the skies—what would a watch built for Mars exploration look like? What requirements would it have to have in order to be used on the red planet? Furthermore, what kind of functions would such a watch require? I’m not an astro-physicist nor am I an engineer, however I thought I could take a stab at conceptualizing (minus the imagery) what a Mars watch would look like. Lastly, I would share my thoughts on which brands would be the best candidates to make this watch.
The Elephant in the Room: The Omega X-33 Marstimer
Ok, I’m going to be honest here. While researching stuff about Mars and the most incredible watches that have been made thus far, I learned about the Omega X-33 Marstimer. Boo. As its name indicates, it is made for Mars exploration, which means Omega completely beat me to it. However, this shouldn’t preclude me (and you) to have a little fun here and take things a little further. Because (1) why not? and (2) perhaps you are not into the design of the Marstimer. But before we get further into this project, let’s briefly talk about the Marstimer and what it already does well—and what I shouldn’t have thought about myself.
The Marstimer is based on the Omega Speedmaster X-33 Skywalker which was developed in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) to equip its astronauts. The X-33 Marstimer has the same general appearance and dimensions as the Skywalker but comes with different functionalities. (To know everything about both models I recommend reading this article by Hodinkee.) The Marstimer can track the date and time on both Earth and Mars (the days on Mars are approximately 39 minutes and 35 seconds longer) and is equipped with a solar compass so that one can easily find true north on both globes.
This, in a tight nutshell, is what Omega created.
Going Further than Omega and the Marstimer
To build a different kind of Mars exploration watch, we’re going to look at this project from two different angles. First, what life on Mars would look like and how that would impact the functionality of a watch. Second, what would such a watch look like from a design perspective?
My non-scientific research on Mars came up with the following key pieces of information: Mars receives half as much sunlight as Earth does; Mars’ current magnetic field is 43 times weaker than Earth’s magnetic field; the surface of Mars is covered by dirt rich in iron oxide, in other words, rust; Mars’ surface temperatures vary more dramatically than those on earth, from -143 °C (-225.4 °F) in the winter to 35 °C (95 °F) in the summer. This means that our Mars watch should come with the following specifications: a very legible dial and plenty of lume for those numerous dark days, a case that will be tightly sealed to prevent dust ingress, a case and bracelet ultra resistant to oxidation, and a movement that can withstand extreme temperatures.
I wouldn’t be able to tell you how to make any of the above happen from an engineering standpoint, but I would think that making a Cerakote case, 3D blocks of lume for the indices, very large hands, a thick rubber strap, and a monochromatic dial would be a good start. This way one would have an ultra legible watch that would be tightly protected against rust, dust, and that would be comfortable to wear. (Of course, I couldn’t imagine how big this watch would have to be, but given that the Marstimer has a case of “only” 45mm in diameter, we can hope that our Mars exploration watch wouldn’t be bigger than a World War II pilot’s watch.
I recommend reading this article to know more about the differences and similarities between Earth and Mars.
What Brands to Build a Mars Watch?
Obviously, my first pick would be Omega given that they already made a Mars exploration watch. I would also think that Rolex should be given a chance to make one so that they can compete with Omega in a different category than deep sea exploration. Another brand that comes to mind would be Fortis, which has developed watches for cosmonauts in the past. Looking at smaller brands I would include Yema which developed the Zero G Spacegraf in honor of the 10th French astronaut to go to space.
If I had the capacity to create renders I would have been more than happy to make one of our Mars exploration timepiece. And although I kept things short and simple—so that I wouldn’t say anything that would be profoundly wrong—I hope that at least you had a little bit of fun here. As humans reach further into space and deeper into Earth’s history, we might want to think about the types of watches that would equip those who would be put in charge of these kinds of missions. Having humans roam on the surface of Mars is not something that will happen anytime soon, but like Omega, we can already prepare ourselves by building a watch that would survive Mars’ extreme conditions and be easy to read and use all at the same time.Featured image: www.news.uci.edu