The idea of producing a watch from real spacecraft materials emerged one warm April weekend during a jog in the woods, precisely at this location.
Over 2 years later, once the specific project idea had been developed, we travelled to Kazakhstan. Our aim was to collect materials from the Russian Soyuz rockets which we would then use to produce our watch cases. Everything we had at our disposal at that time was just a vague contact. The journey turned out to be one of the biggest adventures of our lives. We developed a taste for camel’s milk as a sign of Kazak hospitality and experienced some unforgettable moments in the vast steppe landscapes.
Following six months of negotiations and an additional trip to Kazakhstan, we succeeded in securing a deal and purchasing the much sought-after material – aluminium from the outer shell and steel from the steam turbine. We celebrated the successful deal with fresh fish from the nearby frozen river – and of course lots of vodka. Na zdorovie!
The Soyuz rockets are launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 45° 38’ N, 63° 19’ E. The rocket boosters are detached on the edge of the universe at a height of around 50 km and fall back down to earth. They land in a closely guarded military exclusion zone to which only a few metal collectors have access. They collect the parts, break them down and sort them.
The lorry reached the Swiss border in Thayngen following a 5,500 km journey and two serious breakdowns due to the extreme temperatures of down to minus 40°Celsius.
Since the driver from Belarus was unable to present the correct documents for the vehicle, the customs process took longer than anticipated. We were invited to an unforgettable lunch in Aliaksander’s driver’s cab where we enjoyed the best coleslaw we have ever eaten!
Once the imported rocket material had been analysed in detail and it had been established that it could be used to produce the watch cases, there was nothing stopping us from setting up the company. And so on 23 January 2013, WERENBACH AG was entered into the commercial register. The Werenbach vision: “To produce watches which are more inspiring and emotional than any others”.
We teamed up with a German university and metallurgist to develop two processes which can be used to prepare the material so that it is suitable for use in the watch cases. The new Werenbach alloys are called SRE-Stainless Steel (SRE for Soyuz Rocket Engine) and SBS-Aluminium (SBS for Soyuz Booster Shell).
Werenbach obtained its first workshop. An independent watch-maker announced that he would be prepared to share his kingdom with us and provide us with his expert craftsmanship.
Unbelievable: the first watch started ticking. The moment it struck its first second was magical. There were thousands of thoughts running through our heads – thousands of memories of good and bad moments and times when we had thought about giving up. Finally we were able to hold it in our hands with pride: the first watch made from a rocket which had flown up into space.
Since the process for preparing the rocket steel proved to be significantly more time-consuming than for aluminium, it was around 6 months before we had access to this basic material for producing the steel cases. Our first collection was finally complete in April 2014.
Urs Pedraita, aka Grizzly, carried out the ultimate hardness test with our watch in the fastest round-the-world trip on a motorbike. It took him 16 days, 12 hours and 19 minutes. We would like to congratulate him on a new world record!
And on his wrist throughout: his Werenbach. It was subject to some extreme conditions.
Up to 21 hours of vibration each day and sometimes, extreme damp due to heavy rainfall and high speeds (water pressure).
Andreas Mogensen purchased the watch with the number 18/70/2013 SREMC. He wore it as a personal item when he flew into space to the ISS in the Soyuz TMA-18M on 2 September. And so the first Werenbach watch was unofficially tested in space for 10 days! With success. Werenbach was bursting with pride.
The novel ‘Werenbachs Uhr’ was written by Patrick Hohmann in 2012 and 2013. It is based on the true story of the development of this watch brand and is the first literary adventure novel to be written about a watch. The novel is published by the Zürcher Bilgerverlag.
It is available via the following link.
The Earth Collection has been financed by an international crowdfunding project. Over 1200 persons have supported the project on Kickstarter.com. The project is among the three most funded crowdfunding projects in Switzerland of all time.