Close Encounters of the Watch Kind



Recently, I received the oddest email request from a reader from Santiago, the Republic of Chile who came across Quartzimodo’s Time Journal. In case Chile doesn’t ring a bell,  it’s a beautiful mountainous country in South America with a super-long coastline stretching over 6,400 kilometers facing the Pacific Ocean. 🙂

Mr Patricio Abusleme, a journalist who is perhaps attached to the  Pontificia Catholic University of Chile wrote to me asking me if I could identify an unknown digital watch worn by a Chilean Army corporal who was allegedly to have been abducted by a UFO way back in 1977 while on guard duty in the cold Andes foothills.

There is an interesting story behind this watch and if you’re a fan of the X-Files series, conspiracy theories or UFOs or plain curious you might want to follow the rest of this post. 🙂


The event that took place in 1977

Flash back to the night of April 25th, 1977. A group of Chilean Army soldiers were on routine guard duty in the chilly hills near the border with Bolivia and Peru when they noticed a strange white light hovering above nearby hills in the wee hours of the morning.

Corporal Armando Valdés Garrido, who was the highest ranked of the enlisted men decided to investigate the sighting and set out with eight of his men to check out this odd happening.


As they neared the mysterious light source, Corporal Valdés decided to step forward and take matters into his own hands.

"In the name of God, identify yourself!", the frightened corporal shouted. Getting no response, the soldier approached and then disappeared into the light, to the shock of his five comrades.

They searched for a few minutes when Valdés mysteriously dropped to the ground seemingly out of nowhere. He was incoherent, and in his few unaccounted-for minutes, the clean shaven Valdés had sprouted a beard.


Excerpt from The Chile Information Project website

Corporal Valdés was wearing a digital watch at the time he was allegedly to have been abducted and returned to the same place only minutes later. The watch that he had was inexplicably frozen at exactly 4:30 a.m (at the time the UFO encounter took place) and the calendar had also advanced to April 30th, five days forward.



valdes04 abduction1

Top: File photo of Corp Armando Valdés and an artist’s impression of UFO close encounter (borrowed pics)


All the men, including Corporal Valdés were clean shaven at the time and it appeared that he had grown a beard over five days. It was like he had traveled in a different space-time dimension for five days and had returned only fifteen minutes later. So, what was fifteen minutes on Earth to his fellow men was five days to Corporal Valdés. After all, time a is relative unit of measurement.

We understand the concept of time zones on Earth, for example Tokyo is +9 hours’ offset to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). I’m not sure when Man finally reaches Mars and sets up a colony there (remember Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall movie in 1990?) how would time be measured?

Will people base their time on Earth (GMT, for example) or develop watches and clocks that correspond to Mars’ native rotational speed?

After all, the Earth makes one complete revolution on its axis in 24 hours (one Earth day) and orbits the Sun in 365 days (one Earth year) but the other planets in our solar system have different spin rates and solar orbital periods. One day on Mars is exactly 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35.244 secs. A Martian year is exactly 1 year, 320 days and 18.2 hours (almost two Earth years).

I suppose developing such a watch suited for Martian time would be easier for quartz watches (all it takes is to reprogram the watch’s timing logic) but mechanical watches would probably pose a headache for watch companies. 🙂

What really happens to time when you travel at the speed of light, which in vacuum is almost 300,000 meters/sec? Or many times faster than the speed of light? Does time, relative to Earth retard or advance when traveling at these speeds?

When someday, Man invents an interstellar spacecraft capable of attaining light speeds (at 1x light speed, it takes 4.3 years to reach the closest star to our solar system, the Alpha Centauri), would one year’s time aboard the vessel equate to one year’s period on Earth?

Was it possible that the aliens that took Corporal Valdés kept him for five days but somehow were able to return him at 4:45 a.m.? More importantly, was time accelerated from Valdés perspective in the fifteen minutes he disappeared? The five-day calendar indication on his watch? What about the beard that he grew when he was returned?

As much as I like reading on subjects like the Bermuda Triangle, quantum physics, UFO encounters, time travel and extraterrestrial beings I’m not going to ramble further about unexplained mysteries. 🙂



Corporal Valdés’ mystery watch

According to eyewitnesses, Corporal Valdés’ watch didn’t turn off but its digital display was stopped at 4:30 a.m. The newspaper that ran the story reported that hours later, Valdés and his military commanders examined the watch and set the time normally.

Patricio sent me three black and white photos that were taken two weeks after Corporal Valdés encounter with the extraterrestrial object. For some unknown reason, he wore the watch on his left wrist upside-down when he was photographed.


Valdes' watch Valdes' watch

Above: Photos of Valdés digital watch, photographed 2 weeks after his alien encounter


The whereabouts of Corp Valdés’ digital watch is unknown as Valdés himself couldn’t remember what had happened to it. Patricio had interviewed Armando Valdés former colleagues and not one could recall the exact brand or model of the watch. One said that the brand was “Akron" while others vaguely described it as a “Cornavin" make.

In 2005 Patricio sought opinions from an Internet watch forum and those who responded were of the consensus that Valdés wore a Seiko LC quartz chronograph, which was about right for the era. Some respondents suggested the Seiko models 0634-5000/5001/5019. He was initially puzzled how a simple Chilean Army corporal could have afforded such an expensive timepiece in his time but later theorized that his detachment had better pay than

Patricio asked me if there had been fake Seiko digital watches back in 1977. I don’t suppose there were counterfeit Seiko LC watches back then although third party manufacturers had been producing generic branded digital watches in the late 70s.

Well, I’m not that versed with vintage digital Seikos as there’s not much interest in collecting them compared to mechanical and quartz analog models amongst Seiko enthusiasts. Therefore, historical data on vintage Seiko digital watches are harder to find.

However, I browsed my personal watch photo collection and came across this Seiko M159-5000 digital watch that resembles Corporal Valdés’ original watch.

Seiko made several models with the push buttons on the fascia of the watch but the photos suggest a Seiko LC model with a black plastic fascia surrounding the digital display.




Above: A photo of a Seiko Quartz M159-8000 which I presume is the exact model that belonged to Valdés.

Of course, I could be wrong. Seiko made dozens of vintage digital models back then and without access to Seiko’s back catalogs it’s difficult to pinpoint Corporal Armando Valdés exact model. If you have a better idea of the mystery Seiko watch question, kindly post your comments and views at the bottom of this page.

As for the alleged UFO abduction of Corporal Valdés and the strange phenomenon of his watch frozen at 4:30 a.m., I’ll leave it up to your vivid imagination. 🙂

The rest of the whole interesting story can be found here for your reading pleasure, written by Patricio Abusleme’s colleague Diego Zúñiga.




Lastly but not least, I’d like to thank Patricio Abulseme for his kind permission to allow me to repost this interesting article in Quartzimodo’s Time Journal. 🙂



Did you enjoy this post? Why not leave a comment below and continue the conversation, or subscribe to my feed and get articles like this delivered automatically to your feed reader.



what an interesting story 🙂

i’he enjoyed reading it:)

Hi Dima,

Glad you enjoyed it. It’s the strangest watch related article I’ve posted so far! 🙂

great story! love reading stuff like that…hahaha! and nice to get a message from S. America!

FWIT i believe!!! hahaha

Thanks Thian! 🙂

Glad you enjoyed the out-of-this-world article I posted. I asked for Mr Abulseme’s permission to post this strange story and he graciously allowed me to.

“The truth is OUT THERE, for sure!” 🙂



Thanks for good post

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