You’ve likely been hearing and reading a lot about this year’s 50th anniversary of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, and if you’re a watch aficionado (that’s why you’re here, right?) that means you’ve also been reading and hearing a lot about Omega, maker of the first watch worn on the moon — hopefully much of it directly from your trusty WatchTime team. However, there is another Swiss watch manufacturer — much younger and of less historical renown than Omega — that has also embraced the moon landing and its cultural significance in a very direct and personal way to produce a very noteworthy new collection of limited edition timepieces. That manufacturer is RJ, formerly known as Romain Jerome, and the watch series is the Arraw 6919 — bearer of RJ’s first in-house movement with (appropriately) a patented moon-phase mechanism as well as an industry-first case material incorporating recovered steel from the Apollo 11 spacecraft.
The Arraw collection (pronounced “Arrow”) was established as the flagship of the revamped, streamlined RJ line, which debuted under the leadership of CEO and veteran Hublot executive Marco Tedeschi, who joined the company in 2018. According to Tedeschi, Arraw is positioned as the stage for the brand to introduce new in-house movements, a departure from the previous Romain Jerome strategy of relying on outsourced movements and concentrating instead on unusual case materials and unconventional aesthetics. “The idea with Arraw is to integrate future manufacture movements,” Tedeschi told WatchTime, “but our strategy is not about creating, say, another chronograph because there are already very good chronograph movements on the market and there’s no added value for RJ to create its own. So we’d rather do small and eventually larger complications that are different from what we can purchase from suppliers.”
The 6919 models — in titanium, rose gold, and ceramic cases, each version limited to 100 pieces — offer both an original, mechanical complication and an intriguing new material that carries forward the historical “space” theme originally established in its “Moon Dust DNA” models circa 2009, which incorporated actual lunar dust particles in its dial and metal from various spacecraft in its case. The talking point here is an astronomically derived, three-dimensional moon-phase indicator, set and operated entirely via the crown, which makes a full 360º rotation every month. “The idea was to create something simple yet different, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and to do something involving the moon to mark the 10th anniversary of the Moon Dust DNA,” says Tedeschi. “The moon is the natural satellite of the earth, so we wanted to create something that displays that on the dial. The mechanism, fully designed and produced in-house, has a moon that makes a turn around the dial every 29.5 days; basically you’ll have the full moon at 12 o’clock, the new moon at 6 o’clock, and so on.” The new movement that debuts in the Arraw 6919 (the numerical designation apparently refers to the years that bookend the moon landing anniversary, 1969 and 2019) is the self-winding Caliber RJ-2180, which melds a Sellita base with RJ’s proprietary in-house moon-phase module (Tedeschi says that only 300 were made, so whether or not the brand continues to make this particular complication once all three 100-piece limited editions are sold out is unclear), and whose date mechanism is visible under the transparent sapphire dial. The shape of the bidirectional rotor is inspired by the Saturn V rocket and the movement stores a power reserve of approximately 38 hours.
The eye-catching lunar complication is not the only link to the moon landing, nor even the most direct one. The Arraw 6919’s 45-mm case is topped by a grid-like bezel (inspired by the Apollo 11 command module and made of black PVD-treated titanium, 18k rose gold, or grade 5 titanium, depending on the model) with an insert made of a new, proprietary material that incorporates a lightweight, high-grade resin with Apollo 11 steel. “This is the first material created and produced by RJ,” Tedeschi reveals. “It’s a composite made of an acrylic glass and flakes of actual spacecraft steel from Apollo 11 that we purchased at auctions — pieces that have been to the moon and back.” In addition to the composite bezels, each case features the four stylized rubber “bumpers” that are a hallmark of the Arraw collection, a screw-locked crown with rubber insert that ensures a water resistance of 100 meters, and the vertically satin-brushed and polished lugs with inset screws that activate RJ’s interchangeable strap system, allowing the wearer to swap out the provided black polyamide/rubber inlay strap by pressing on the screws simultaneously. The distinctive RJ skeletonized hands and the hour appliqués are treated with luminous material.
With the release of the Arraw 6919, and other pop-cultural collaboration pieces like the Joker and Two-Face Batman-villain watches (covered in detail here), RJ’s new leader feels the brand is poised for growth in the notoriously competitive and crowded U.S. luxury watch market. And while the iconic Omega Speedmaster will always have its moon-landing connection, and its status as NASA’s officially certified space mission watch, Tedeschi points out, “Even though we [RJ] don’t have an official association, we are the only watch on the market with actual materials from the Apollo 11 mission. We see a huge potential for growth for the brand.’
Prices are $22,700 in titanium, $25,100 in ceramic and $43,100 in gold.