The man who makes Swiss watches from fallen rockets

Werenbach watches are made from the material of real-life space rockets, recovered post-launch in Kazakhstan
Last Updated 31 October 2020, 06:55 IST

Kazakhstan is a land of adventure. For Patrick Hohmann, the adventure is of a different kind: he scouts the trans-continental Central Asian country for fallen off Russian Soyuz rockets – and make Swiss watches out of it.

A space enthusiast, Hohmann, who is the founder of Swiss watch company Werenbach, said that the passion started nearly a decade ago. “Initially we sold 30 watches a year…in 2017, we sold 3,000 watches a year,” said Patrick.

Speaking to an Indian audience from Zurich via video-conferencing during a talk hosted by Space Geeks, Hohmann said: “My mission is simple…I want to bring space on Earth.”

The talk was hosted by Space Geeks co-founder Chintamani Pai.

The Werenbach watches are made from the material of real-life space rockets, recovered post-launch in Kazakhstan and subjected to an elaborate treatment process in preparation for watch production.

The Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is a spaceport that is leased to Russia and is managed jointly by the Roscosmos State Corporation and the Russian Aerospace Forces.

Hohmann hunts for space debris mainly in the Kazakh Steppe eco-region of the Palearctic temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome. “We have local contacts,” he said.

“All the materials used to make the watches have been to the edge of space and back,” said Patrick who started his talk with an exciting eye-catching video of Warenbach showing the Russian Soyuz rocket taking off from Kazakhstan and explaining how he got inspired to embark on an adventurous visit to a zone near the rocket launch area to find rocket debris.

“All this was not an easy task as paperwork was needed to ensure safe transport of the rocket debris back to Switzerland,” he said.

The struggle for Patrick continued in Switzerland as well. As the founder, he faced a lot of challenges to secure investment to materialise his dream of crafting these unique wrist watches.

The outer shell and power turbine of the legendary Soyuz rockets were chosen as the starting material and converted to watch-suitable alloys as part of a specially developed material treatment process. Since this was the first time that watch casings had been produced from rocket material, the alloys were named in honour of their origins: SBS aluminium (Soyuz booster shell) and SRE stainless steel (Soyuz rocket engine). A university, a metallurgy specialist and six other partners were involved in the treatment process.

Finally, in 2013 it was through a crowdfunding campaign by which Patrick Hohmann founded a public limited company, Werenbach, in Zurich, Switzerland to sell his luxurious wrist watches.

Patrick’s vision for his endeavour is that his wrist watches bearing the name “spaceborn” are historical in every aspect as the material from which they are crafted have travelled to the edge of space and back.

Patrick believes that once you are in Space, it changes one’s perspective as one can not realise the borders on Earth and that makes us realise how insignificant we are on a universal scale.

Today, Werenbach watches are sold all over the world and around 7,000 units have been sold.

Patrick said he is excited about bringing his brand to India and it will be a privilege for him to associate with Indian space agency ISRO for creating special wrist watches to brand their space missions and rockets.

(Published 31 October 2020, 06:08 IST)

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