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When Buzz Aldrin
set foot on the moon in July, 1969, he wore a manual-wind Omega Speedmaster Professional watch — the chronograph tested and approved by NASA for use in the Apollo missions, since known as the “Moonwatch." You can see it in the photo of Aldrin taken by Neil Armstrong (who left
Speedmaster onboard the Lunar Module) in the Sea of Tranquility: it's strapped to Aldrin's right wrist.
Today you can get a new Moonwatch for a lot of money ($5,350 from Omega) or a vintage one for even more (a recent Sotheby’s auction devoted to old Speedmasters totaled $1.2 million in sales, with one 1969 yellow-gold model going for $68,750.)
If you’re a specific kind of watch geek, though, when you look at that Aldrin photo and other Apollo-program images your eye might slip away from the Speedmaster and toward something much stranger: the velcro straps the astronauts are wearing the Speedmasters on. Those straps were produced in several different colors and types, the most eye-catching of which was a special 21.5-inch version, cut extra long to wrap all the way around the bulky arms of spacesuits — as Aldrin did with his during his moonwalk. (There was also a 11.5-inch “short” version intended for non-spacesuit wear.)
Companies have put out commemorative reproductions of these velcro straps, over time, without paying a close eye to aesthetics or accuracy. Several years ago, one particular watch geek — a Manchester-based Speedmaster obsessive named Phil Kisloff, who posted to message-boards under the name Kizzi — decided to learn as much about the original straps as he could. He discovered that Omega didn’t actually produce them at first. Instead, NASA did, in-house. And what’s more, he found, the Apollo archives included detailed blueprints.
Kisloff got his hands on the blueprints and began producing and selling his own exacting reproductions. Each one was slavishly faithful to the NASA originals, down to every last millimeter of period-appropriate fabric (including Grosgrain, nylon and, as Kisloff puts it, “No longer commercially available nylon hook tape #80 from ‘American Velcro Inc.’”)
Under the name Kizzi Precision Flightgear, Kisloff now sells different versions through a tiny web store, at seb12100030.com. (That ungainly URL is a reference to the model number NASA gave the strap.) Kizzi is a tiny operation, meaning that when stock sells out — which happens often — you have to wait for Kisloff to get around to replenishing it.
Kizzi’s moon-straps start at about $68 dollars (a clear win over the ugly, low-fidelity ones Omega sells for $250) and they’ve got a bluntly utilitarian, subtly retro charm. The long version in white is a conversation starter. The short army-green ones look like a rough-and-ready take on a NATO strap. Either is unique, with or without a Moonwatch.
Available at seb12100030.com