As Gemini IV entered orbit, the astronauts communicated with Mission Control in Houston through a voice-operated switch (known as VOX) in their microphones. This marked the first time that that technology was used. The astronauts chatted amiably with Houston as the spacecraft entered orbit, with Ed White’s “big baritone voice booming in” to give updates on the mission’s progress.
Ed White was one of the New Nine, the group of astronauts selected to succeed the original astronauts from Mercury 7. In a class that included Neil Armstrong of Apollo 11 and James A. Lovell of Apollo 13, NASA ranked White as one of the best. During Gemini IV he was the star of the show, as he geared up to become the first American astronaut to walk in space.
For four days the spacecraft circled the Earth, attempting to rendezvous in orbit with the Titan II rocket that had carried it into space. White was supposed to attempt his EVA on the second day. But after the attempts to rendezvous with Titan failed, it was pushed to the third.
As the spacecraft flew over Canarvon, Australia, the cabin was depressurized. When it flew over Hawaii, White pulled the handle of his hatch. Nothing happened.
Fortunately, Command Pilot James McDivitt had witnessed something similar in a vacuum chamber test. With his help, White managed to shove the hatch open. Tethered to the spacecraft, he floated into space—and into history.
Using a zip gun, White floated fifteen feet out of the spacecraft. He pitched, yawed, and rolled. All the while, McDivitt took photos of him with a 70mm Hasselblad camera.
“Hey, Ed, smile,” McDivitt told White as White maneuvered to the windscreen of the spacecraft.
It wasn’t until McDivitt’s photos were developed that Omega realized that White wore an Omega Speedmaster strapped on the outside of his spacesuit.
This would mark the start of a long relationship between Omega and the Administration, with all manned space missions to follow utilizing the watch.
But the importance of early Speedmasters, like the Reference 105.003-65 White wore, cannot be understated. Possessing a slimmer profile than its progeny, with straight lugs and no crown guards, “Ed Whites” like the one we offer here are collectible examples of a historically-important watch. This one boasts a dial with a handsome patina; though the lume has dropped from the minute and hour hands, we’ve elected to keep it as-is in order to preserve the character of the watch.
For many collectors and enthusiasts, Ed White Speedmasters carry a kind of holy quality that can't truly be quantified. Unlike the “Moon Watches” that astronauts like Buzz Aldrin would carry to the surface of the Moon, the 105.003 has come to represent Ed White's legacy. It’s the legacy of a man who led NASA and the country into space, and who gave his life in service of that dream at 36 years old on Launch Pad 34 at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station.