Hola queridos amigos de The Russian Watch Corner. Hoy tengo el placer de contar con la colaboración de mi amigo Lars Ivansen, eminente coleccionista de relojes soviéticos y autor de muy buenos y documentados artículos sobre la materia.
En esta entrega, Lars nos va enseñar y desgranar los misterios de uno de los relojes más icónicos de la era espacial: el Cosmonavigator.
Como bien indica su nombre, este reloj fue creado y diseñado por y para los cosmonautas y su historia formará parte para siempre en los anales de la conquista espacial.
Bien, sin más preámbulos, os dejo con este excelente artículo. Muchas gracias por vuestra atención.
Cosmonavigator. A True Space Watch.
I recently received this Cosmonavigator as a special gift from my friend Alex, who has contacts within the space industry.
It is a Russian watch/instrument specifically designed for use on-board space crafts in low Earth orbit (LEO), such as Salyut, MIR, or the International Space Station (ISS). It is in itself an unusual piece of engineering and design with a fascinating history, but what makes this particular example extra interesting is that it has flown on two actual space missions!
But more on that later – here is the watch in question.
The watch was designed by Vladimir A. Dzhanibekov, a cosmonaut and twice appointed Hero of the Soviet Union.
Dzhanibekov was born Vladimir Aleksandrovich Krysin, on 13 May 1942. In 1964, he married Liliya Munirovna Dzhanibekova, who was a descendant of Jani Beg, also called Djanibek Khan, the medieval ruler of the Golden Horde. As her father had no sons, Dzhanibekov took his wife’s family name in order to honour her ancestry and continue her line of descent, an unusual step for a husband in the Soviet Union.
In 1970, he was selected into the team of cosmonauts. Dzhanibekov made five flights: Soyuz 27, Soyuz 39, Soyuz T-6, Soyuz T-12, and Soyuz T-13. In all, he spent 145 days, 15 hours, and 56 minutes in space over these five missions.
Dzhanibekov got the idea for the design of the Cosmonavigator during a rescue mission to the Salyut-7 space station. That Salyut-7 rescue saw a classic bit of flying from Dzhanibekov and the flight engineer cosmonaut Viktor Savinykh. They had to dock the spacecraft to a tumbling station without the aid of a beacon, making use of a laser rangefinder, sharp eyes and razor-sharp reflexes.
The critical task of saving “the Dead Station” is regarded as one of the most dramatic flights in space history and is described in Viktor Savinykh’s book “Diaries From A Dead Station”, published in 1999. The story was also dramatized in the movie “Salyut-7” in 2017 and is available on Amazon.
The watch/instrument is intended to determinate the point on Earth over which he spacecraft is flying at the current moment of time. The following quote is from the homepage of Right Move, the retailer of the watch back then:
“It was September of 1985. Salyut-7 station… It is midnight in Moscow. It is also our local time. Maintenance work is going on… Ice age. The flood at the station has already passed. Viktor Savinykh is cosily sleeping in a sleeping-bag in front of me. The “deaf” circuits without communication with control are ringing.
I wonder where we are flying? I ask almost in my sleep. Above clouds, I assume…
Falling asleep, I idly think that it would be great to have a watch with a globe like the one on the central stand. Or, with a map on the dial. But to have it in my hand… and without the need to leave the warm sleeping bag to check… and getting back in again soon after thinking that I was right and we were actually over clouds and under the clouds were the waters of the Atlantic ocean… all right… water is there, where clouds are. Why our planet is called the Earth and not the Water? This was the way the idea of the “Cosmonavigator” was born.
It became possible to realize this project some 18 months later with practical help of my old friend Pavel P. Grankin, officer in reserve, who is head of the “Right Move” (Верный ход) company now. Financing was provided by the Centre of Exploitation of Land-based Space Infrastructure (TSENKI) of the Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos).”
The Cosmonavigator was made in a limited series of 350 pieces. The first pieces were presented to cosmonauts by Roskosmos before flight. Later, some of the remaining pieces were sold via the Right Move store. In 2003, the Cosmonavigator received a Watches of the Future award at the Russian Design competition.
Press Reports On The Cosmonavigator Watch
The following articles are no longer available online but are instead retrieved from local copies saved by enthusiasts. They were originally written in Russian and translated by Google. They came out quite decent and I have just made some minor grammar corrections afterwards.
The eleventh expedition to the ISS will take a Cosmonavigator watch designed by cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov.
Interview with Vladimir Aleksandrovich Dzhanibekov in the magazine “Behind the Wheel”, of 29th March, 2005, by ITAR-TASS correspondent Elena Zubtsova.
The Russian-American crew of the 11th expedition to the ISS will wear flight special orbital-space-navigator watches developed by cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov. The head of the Federal Space Agency, Anatoly Perminov, handed the watch to Sergey Krikalev and NASA astronaut John Phillips, as well as European astronaut Roberto Vittori, flying on a visiting mission to the ISS.
“This wrist instrument allows astronauts to determine which point above the Earth they are at any time.”, said the inventor, who himself flew into space five times and spent a total of 145 days in orbit.
The principle of operation of the device is simple and original. The watch dial has a 24-hour scale divided into 16 sectors, in line with the number of orbits that the station makes per day around the Earth, explained Dzhanibekov. “Based on the map at the Mission Control Centre showing the orbit grid, I marked all the continents and oceans with different colours and transferred these markings to the dial.”, he said.
“Russia, alongside CIS countries and Europe are marked in red, Asia is yellow, Africa is black, Oceania is green, South America is orange, and North America is dark blue. Ocean spaces are painted in blue. According to Dzhanibekov, the space navigator was commissioned by the Russian space department from one of the domestic watch plants. The watch is mechanical and requires manual winding every day, but in the future we plan to improve the design and make them electronic.”, said the inventor, although he added that according to the experience from space flights, electronic devices in space can sometimes fail.
For the crew, watches from Fortis were also ordered specially from Switzerland, and were the official astronaut-issued chronographs. “These were unique copies, issued only to the 11th expedition visiting mission crew.”, according to the Russian Space Agency. ISS-11 commander Krikalev had an exclusive version made with a titanium by the Swiss manufacturer. The watch kits also include two straps and special small screwdrivers for winding the watches.
New time of Vladimir Dzhanibekov.
Article in the magazine “Behind the Wheel”, of 8th April, 2007 29th March 2005, by Leonid Klimanovich.
Cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov’s watch? That’s right. Readers participating in our contests have a chance to win this collectible device for measuring time. And not only time: Vladimir Dzhanibekov’s versatile know-how and hobbies made it possible to look at watches from a completely different perspective. The legendary astronaut himself told us what the watch is and what it is intended for.
GZR: Vladimir Alexandrovich, tell us how the idea of creating the Cosmonavigator watch came about?
V.A.: If you look at the projection of the trajectory of a spacecraft flying above the Earth, it looks like a sinusoid (a sine wave), and each subsequent revolution is somewhat offset from the previous one. The period of orbit for the spacecraft, that is, the time during which it makes a whole revolution around our planet, is approximately 90 minutes. Based on these data and knowing the initial time, it is possible to calculate over what part of the Earth the spacecraft is located at any given time. The idea of this watch is that, looking at the dial, you could immediately determine where the spaceship is now. To do this, I came up with a special bezel with sectors painted in different colours, representing continents: Europe and Russia – red, Asia – yellow, Africa – black, Oceania – green, North America – dark blue, South America – orange, and the oceans and the seas are blue.
GZR: But doesn’t the orbit period depend on the flight altitude?
VA.: Of course, the Cosmonavigator also has a certain error for this reason. We give the crews of spaceships the watch before flying, but this is more like a souvenir, which the cosmonauts then, for example, give to their friends. Nevertheless, their families can now follow where they are flying now, and even in the Mission Control Centre, staff can use the watch, so to speak, as a first approximation. There are thoughts to create a more accurate device that could be adjusted depending on the duration of the flight, and it would work very accurately. But this is not an easy task for watchmakers, it turns out to be a complex and expensive mechanism, and such things should only be done for a specific customer who is happy to pay for all this.
GZR: And the astronauts? (Editor’s note: it has been near impossible to edit this segment as we do not fully understand it.)
V.A.: Also, of course, gets. Especially unpleasant when this particle flies through the eye. The feeling is that close to the eye, notice, open, the flash worked – after that, at least half a minute you see nothing. Imagine going to bed, and then you have a few flashes in the eyes. And you won’t fall asleep without a pill. It happens that if a particle flies especially “successfully” through the brain, all short-term memory is erased. That is, what happened yesterday, you remember, and what you did today – you completely forgot. Therefore, you need to record everything, keep diaries, recording what is happening.
GZR: Since we have switched to health, tell us about the biorhythm watch.
V.A.: It has long been known that all human organs live by a certain rhythm, with active and passive phases. This is established in ancient Chinese medicine. And, interestingly, even if a person moves, for example, from Russia to America and lives there for many years, their biorhythm practically does not shift, well, for a maximum of one hour. But what will happen if we break away from these earthly rhythms, now that lunar and Martian expeditions are being prepared? Nobody knows. Anyway, it’s not yet clear what these changes in activity will mean for our organs, and how we will need to adjust our lifestyle to these new biorhythms. There is very little information on this subject. It turns out that for several thousand years, humanity has not advanced very far in this matter. Probably, because no one thought about it especially hard. So, it occurred to me to make a watch that would indicate which organ is active, and which one is passive, at set times. Maybe this kind of souvenir just prompts someone to seriously address the issue of human biorhythms, and it will be useful. In summary, it is a riddle, a puzzle, a reason for reflection. Well, the watch, of course.
GZR: Vladimir Alexandrovich, I can’t help but ask myself about the automotive topic: what do cosmonauts, people who have moved faster in space than anyone else, think about cars and roads?
V.A.: You know, I like to repeat that the road is not space. In the sense that, in my opinion, there are even more dangers on it. I have changed cars many times in my life, all domestic. Now I drive a Niva. Of course, there are complaints about ergonomics and comfort. Last year, I almost got heat stroke in traffic. It’s good that I always carry a supply of water with me, this saved me. Now I’m thinking of changing the Niva to a foreign car that is more comfortable. I will pick up a small SUV. I like this class of cars most of all because of their versatility and the convenience of getting in and out; I do not need to bend as much. As for the dangers, I, for example, at the wheel of a car and at the controls of an airplane have had thirteen accidents and incidents. About one of them, when a Kamaz flattened my “Zhiguli” almost into a cake, having covered it with the trailer, and it was even written about in the magazine “At the wheel”. All flights into space were more or less uneventful. So, I would like to urge all those moving around in vehicles to take road safety very seriously and carefully, the road will not forgive a careless and frivolous attitude.
Technical Details Of The Watch
Made by special order in the Chistopol Watch Factory “Vostok”
Precision 2423 caliber
Power reserve: 38 hours
Functions: hour, minute, second
Diameter: 24 mm
Height: 3,95 mm
Frequency: 19,800 beats per hour (bph)
Average service time: 15 years
Size: 42 x 42 x 12 mm
Material: stainless steel
Waterproof: 3 ATM
Additional crown for turning the navigation hand
Weight: 190 g
Guarantee: 24 months
Supplied with box with the inventor’s patent.
The watch is fitted with a 24-hour movement with a navigation hand. A spacecraft in low Earth orbit (LEO) makes 16 circuits around the Earth at a 200 km height per day, assuming a circular orbit, with an orbital period of 90 minutes. During this time, the Earth turns, so the start of next circuit begins at new coordinates.
The first circuit is defined by the geographic coordinates of the launch site for the spacecraft and mission.
The next circuits repeat the first one with a change in the number over the equator 1-2-3…14-15-16… and 1-2-3… again, and so on, forming a beautiful pattern of the spacecraft trajectory on the flat surface of the map.
The Cosmonavigator watch is designed for orbits with planes inclined 51º to the Earth’s equator, the working orbits of the Salyut space stations, as well as Mir and the operating International Space Station. They also match the planes of the Soyuz docked spaceships and soon the Falcon 9 missions.
Navigation accuracy depends on the orbital period. If the height increase, the time to complete an orbit will increase too. Therefore, the watch is provided with an option to simply (and regularly) correct the sector position hand relative to the hour hand.
The mission of the Soyuz TMA-5 spacecraft to the International Space Station in the fall of 2004, was originally intended to be a routine exchange of a rescue vehicle on-board the outpost. The so-called “taxi crew” would fly Soyuz TMA-5 to the station, spend a week on-board and then parachute back to Earth inside the re-entry capsule of the previous Soyuz TMA-4 spacecraft. However, the Columbia accident in February 2003 and resulting grounding of the Shuttle fleet left Russia as a main “caretaker” of the ISS and the Soyuz spacecraft as the only vehicle capable of rotating crews on-board the outpost. The Soyuz TMA-5 mission was therefore assigned to deliver the 10th long-duration crew to the ISS. It would be the fifth Russian vehicle used for such purpose in the ISS programme, the fourth since the loss of the Shuttle and ninth spacecraft from the Soyuz family launched toward the ISS.
The commander of the mission was Salizhan Shakirovich Sharipov (RKA), born on 24th August, 1964 and a Kyrgyzstani cosmonaut. He was accompanied by the flight engineers Leroy Chiao (NASA), Yuri Shargin (RKA) and Roberto Vittori (ESA).
Sharipov took the Cosmonavigator to the ISS in honour of the Salyut-7 historic rescue mission and as a sign of respect for Vladimir Dzhanibekov, commander of the mission and watch inventor. To commemorate this event, he also took copies of Dzhanibekov’s artwork devoted to the Salyut-7 mission. It belongs to a set of seven pieces showing the Salyut-7 story. Below, we show an example that can be seen on the wall on-board ISS with a Sputnik model floating in front.
Sharipov took some cool pictures of the watch/instrument in zero gravity.
After 193 days in the station, the 10th expedition crew returned to earth on 24th April, 2005, after a soft landing in Kazakhstan, alongside the Italian Roberto Vittori who had flown up with the 11th expedition crew on Soyuz TMA-6.
A few weeks after the landing, Sharipov signed documents certifying that the watch indeed took part in the Soyuz TMA-5/ISS-10 mission.
The mission of the Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft had a goal of delivering and returning the 13th long-duration crew to the International Space Station. The launch was scheduled for 30th March, 2006 (the launch had been originally scheduled for 22nd March, 2006).
The 13th expedition crew consisted of ISS commander Pavel Vinogradov, from Russia, and Flight Engineer and Science Officer Jeffrey Williams, from the USA. On-board Soyuz TMA-8, they were joined by the first Brazilian astronaut, Marcos Pontes, who was expected to return to Earth with the 12th expedition crew after around a week on the station.
On 2nd June, 2006, Pavel Vinogradov and Jeff Williams conducted a 6-hour 31-minute spacewalk out of the Pirs docking compartment to repair a vent for the station’s oxygen-producing Elektron unit, retrieval of experiment results and replacement of a camera on the orbiting laboratory rail car system.
Vinogradov also had some fun with the Cosmonavigator on-board the ISS. Note the picture of Yuri Gagarin in the background in the image below.
The Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft undocked from the ISS on 29th September, 2006, at 01:53 Moscow Summer Time. On-board were Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams, both from the 13th expedition, and American businesswoman Anousheh Ansari, who arrived to the ISS on 20th September, 2006, on-board Soyuz TMA-9, as a space tourist. The spacecraft successfully touched down at 05:13 Moscow Time in the predetermined region 87 kilometers north of town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan. The watch, however, was not on-board on the Soyuz return flight. It returned to Earth on-board the space shuttle Atlantis with the STS-115 crew, alongside other cargo that was destined for US soil.
Shortly after the landing of Soyuz TMA-8, Pavel Vinogradov posed with his watches and signed the certificates, just like Sharipov had done two years earlier.
In addition to the actual watch, I also received some documents and photos. These included the signed instruction manual with official stamps from the Soyus TMA-5 mission and the ISS, and the certificate signed by by Sharipov, Vinogradov, and Dzhanibekov (see translation below)
FEDERAL SPACE AGENCY
Ground Operations Centre
Watch company “Right Move”
NAVIGATION CLOCK INSTRUMENT
The device-watch “Cosmonavigator” created by order of the Ground Operations Centre for Space Infrastructure of the Federal Space Agency. The author of the idea and design is the pilot-cosmonaut Vladimir DZHANIBEKOV. Watch devices made by the Russian watch company “Right Move”. Limited edition of 350 copies. V. DZHANIBEKOV
Lastly, it also includes certificates of authenticity that the watch had flown in two missions, as shown below.
The original Cosmonavigator has been sold out for many years, but there is another version available, although with an unclear origin. It is marked as Slava Spetsnaz Collection Designer Series and features a Miyota 6М17 caliber quartz movement. I don’t know if it has any relation at all to Dzhanibekov who designed the original version, or if it is merely a homage that was just “inspired” by the original design. It is available from smirs.com as of the time of writing. The 12-hour movement makes one wonder however, if it has any practical use as a space flight instrument.
Watches related to space flights have always enjoyed special interest from collectors around the world and the Cosmonavigator is no exception. What sets it apart though is that while many of the watches used in space over the years were standard of-the-shelf products that happened to be popular at the time (or issued to pilots by the air force), the Cosmonavigator is one of the very few watches that was actually designed specifically for the purpose of space flight.
In my opinion, the Cosmonavigator is interesting both as a watch/instrument and a piece of history. Not only does it look nice, it has fascinating stories behind it – from the first idea of the design that Dzhanibekov got on the dramatic Salyut-7 rescue mission, to the flights on-board Soyuz TMA-5 and TMA-8, the International Space Station, and finally the Space Shuttle Atlantis, always in the good hands of renowned Russian cosmonauts.
So, there we are – I hope you enjoyed this rather winding journey through history lane of space travels.
A big thanks to Alex Panchenko who made this project possible. He provided not only the watch, but also many of the photos and valuable knowledge about the background stories. You can marvel at his extensive collection of Soviet/Russian aviation and space collectibles at his website: USSR-AIRSPACE, Cosmonaut and Aviation collectibles.