Captain’s watch tells story of moon explorers and Middle East royalty

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Gardiner Houlgate
The estimate suggests the Apollo Omega Speedmaster watch could fetch between £10,000 and £15,000

A SPECIAL watch gifted by the team of astronauts who made the first moon landing has been put up for auction by a former pilot from Christchurch.

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How it came to be in the hands of Robin White (77) is a fascinating tale featuring helicopters, space explorers and Middle East royalty.

Mr White has promised to treat his wife to a cruise if the Omega Speedmaster sells when it goes under the hammer at Wiltshire auctioneers Gardiner Houlgate tomorrow (Wednesday). It could fetch up to £15,000.

The story dates back to the late 1960s, when former military pilot Mr White worked for Bristow Helicopters and was based in Iran training Iranian military personnel to fly helicopters.

Gardiner Houlgate
Robin White, now in his 70s, formerly was a military helicopter pilot

Princess Fatemeh Pahlavi came under his tutelage and presented him with the watch after making her first solo flight.

It was in her possession since, after making the moon landing in 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts visited Iran among 23 countries during what was called the Giant Leap goodwill tour.

They presented the Omega to the Shah of Iran in 1969 and he re-gifted it to the princess, his half-sister. She gave it to Mr White as a thank you when he helped her make history as the first Iranian woman to fly a helicopter.

Princess Pahlavi gifted the watch to Mr White as a thank you

Mr White retired from flying in 1998 due to an eye problem. He said: “The Omega is much venerated but hasn’t been seen by many people. It holds lots of good memories for me but I thought it would be jolly nice if it was worth something.”

It was not the only incredible experience Mr White had in Iran. His exploits evacuating Bristow Helicopters’ fleet of aircraft from Iran when the Shah was overthrown in 1979 are featured in author James Clavell’s 1986 novel Whirlwind.

Gardiner Houlgate
Documents and memorabilia owned by Mr White prove the watch’s authenticity

David Hare, director and auctioneer at Gardiner Houlgate, said: “It’s in lovely condition and having been associated with the moon astronaut, Shah of Iran and The Princess Fatemeh, we anticipate it could fetch as much as £15,000.

“It’s an amazing conducive story – like something out of an adventure book.”

Further information is available at www.gardinerhoulgate.co.uk.

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