If you’re an astrophile, there’s a timepiece heading to auction that can lessen the degrees of separation between you and outer space. Meet the Apollo 14 Ocean Recovery GMT, a Rolex that was worn by Navy Capt. Thomas Francis Finley Jr. during the recovery of Apollo 14 astronauts after they’d landed on the moon in 1971.
Finley was wearing the watch when he was a co-pilot on the helicopter sent to retrieve the Apollo 14 astronauts—including Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell—after they splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Feb. 9, 1971. Apollo 14 was the third U.S. crewed mission to land on the moon. Finley transported the astronauts to the an aircraft carrier, then days later to American Samoa.
Finley, who served in the Navy for 28 years, had purchased the watch in 1969 at Artland Watch Co. in Hong Kong while on shore leave during the Vietnam War. He’d needed a replacement for his field watch, which had flooded. Unfamiliar with the watch market, Finley opted for a Rolex based on the advice of fellow service members. For all these years, he preserved the watch’s original box and papers, and they are included in its sale.
The Rolex also comes with some items Finley acquired during his service, including the flight jacket he wore throughout his career, an aviator’s flight logbook detailing the Apollo 14 recovery, a schedule from that day outlining Finley’s role, a document about the Navy divers who helped retrieve the astronauts from the ocean, and a piece of gold foil “skin” from the Kitty Hawk spacecraft.
Top: Tom Finley’s flight jacket and Rolex GMT-Master 1675, both circa 1967–68, are in a Nov. 10–14 auction. (Photos courtesy of Bob’s Watches)
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