Travelling to space has long been a dream only accessible to trained astronauts and a few scientists. Recently though, the concept of civilian space flights has become a reality, with two successful attempts by the CEOs of Virgin and Amazon. Slated to launch on 15 September 2021, Inspiration4 is the latest initiative of this kind and will be the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit. Not only an impressive technical achievement, but this odyssey also has a mission to raise funds for and promote the lifesaving work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. And to make sure that the crew keeps track of the time on Earth while admiring the Blue Planet from above, IWC has created four dedicated watches that will travel into space before being auctioned for charity.
Named “Inspiration4” in recognition of the diverse, four-person crew’s mission to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and send a humanitarian message of possibility, the multi-day journey to low-Earth orbit represents a new era for human spaceflight and exploration. The mission is the brainchild of Jared Isaacman, a 38-year-old entrepreneur and accomplished pilot who will also serve as Commander. The mission is set to launch in September from the historical Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft will orbit the planet at an altitude of approximately 357 miles (575 kilometres) and a speed of more than 17,500 miles per hour (27,360kph). After the multi-day journey, the crew will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere for a soft water landing off the coast of Florida.
At the heart of Inspiration4 is a unique crew. Isaacman occupies the Leadership mission seat and serves as Commander. He is the founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments and an accomplished commercial and military pilot who holds several aviation world records. The mission seat representing Hope was awarded to Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and a pediatric cancer survivor. Dr Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old entrepreneur and trained pilot, earned the mission seat representing Prosperity as the winning entrant in a business competition. Finally, the Generosity mission seat will be occupied by Christopher Sembroski. The 41-year-old aerospace industry employee and United States Air Force veteran contributed to a fundraising campaign that offered an Inspiration4 seat to one lucky donor.
The crew is currently undergoing commercial astronaut training at SpaceX, focusing on orbital mechanics, operating in microgravity, zero gravity, and other forms of stress testing. In addition, they will receive emergency preparedness training, complete spacecraft ingress and egress exercises and take part in partial and full-mission simulations.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Inspiration4”
As often with such space exploration programs, there are watches involved – we’ve seen you, Jeff… And for Inspiration4, the mission to provide timekeeping to the crew members goes to IWC, which has created pilot’s watches (don’t ask, they won’t be available) specifically for the occasion. These four watches, one per crew member, will later be auctioned as part of the mission’s aim to raise funds for and promote the work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital once they are back from space.
Under the reference IW389110 is a rather surprising and very different take on the classic ceramic chronograph of IWC. The case, which still measures 44.5mm in diameter, is made of white ceramic – a mix of zirconium oxide and other metallic oxides, to give it resistance and colour. The crown and pushers are stainless steel. Other than colours and materials, traditional features of the IWC Pilot’s Watches are respected, such as the soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields and crystal secured against displacement caused by drops in air pressure. The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition Inspiration4 is worn on a white rubber strap with a white leather inlay and closed by a folding clasp.
The other specificity of these four references IW389110 is the dial, with its dark blue colour and pad-printed stars all over its surface. Indexes and hands are typical of IWC’s pilot watches and the small seconds counter at 6 o’clock displays the mission’s patch. Inside is the manufacture calibre IWC 69380, an automatic chronograph movement with column wheel and day-date function.
Last but not least, the titanium casebacks are engraved with a special decoration featuring the name and mission value represented by the respective crew members – Leadership, Hope, Generosity and Prosperity. One thing is for sure; these watches will certainly look good in the ultra-modern Space X capsule.