The first man to reach the deepest point of the ocean solo, pitted against the second man on the moon; ex-NASA astronaut against film director-turned National Geographic explorer. Both went to extreme lengths, both went to alien worlds, but the question is in this instance: does second out the shuttle mean second place here?
BUZZ ALDRIN He went to the moon. If you didn’t know that, you have some serious gaps in your knowledge that need to be filled. In 1969, the world heard the famous words ‘the Eagle has landed’ as we as a species first touched ground on the moon, and Buzz Aldrin followed mission commander Neil Armstrong outside. Conspiracy theories aside, it’s one of humanity’s biggest accomplishments.
JAMES CAMERON The Challenger Deep is terrifying. The deepest part of the Mariana trench, at nearly 11,000m down it’s a high-pressure nightmare – one that James Cameron decided to explore. By himself. He was the first person to see the kinds of life that form down there and help forward our scientific understanding of the ocean depths. He came back sane – so at least Cthulhu isn’t hiding in the dark.
BUZZ ALDRIN One small step for man, one giant PR leap for Omega. Of all the watches tested by NASA to withstand the vacuum of space, it was the now-legendary Speedmaster that made the cut. The original is still the best, with plastic rather than glass, but there have been so many versions since then that the Speedmaster is a brand unto itself. I mean, just check out #speedytuesday.
JAMES CAMERON Even though he wasn’t heading out into the crushing waters, Cameron still needed a watch that potentially could. Enter Rolex, with one of the coolest concept watches ever built, the Deep Sea Challenge. There’s only one and it’s in Rolex’s museum, which is a shame. The 52mm watch, with its insanely thick sapphire crystal is, put simply, awesome.
BUZZ ALDRIN Aside from punching conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrel (he deserved it) Aldrin’s played himself a surprising number of times on camera, including Transformers: Dark of the Moon and The Big Bang Theory. So yeah, he’s not picking up many points really there.
JAMES CAMERON He’s a sci-fi film genius. The director behind Aliens, Terminator 2 and the insanely successful Avatar, he’s committed some great space-faring tales to film. His sea-faring films have been pretty impressive too, like 1989’s The Abyss and the box-office juggernaut Titanic.
BUZZ ALDRIN How do you come down from space? Well… you don’t. To this day Buzz is a spokesperson for all things space, attending gala balls, fundraising parties, Trump’s White House and more. He also enjoys himself with his accumulated $12 million. A wristful of Speedmasters, vacations to Thailand (to the stunning Soneva Kiri) and a surprising amount of… female company, Mr Aldrin is certainly enjoying his retirement. Family lawsuits aside, of course.
JAMES CAMERON You can be sure that Cameron spends most of his time on a film set, even now, but by God does he have something to show for it. A sprawling mansion in Malibu, a residence in New Zealand, and a net worth of just under $2 billion, he puts the likes of Spielberg to shame. Throw in a few Harley Davidsons, a Corvette and his own personal helicopter, and Cameron blows Aldrin out of the DiCaprio-filled water.
He ticks all of our boxes when it comes to enjoying his money. That said, it doesn’t really matter where James goes, or how many times he rips-off Pocahontas and The Smurfs – he’s never going to beat this particular challenge. Buzz Aldrin went to the bloody moon! So what if he’s been living off that legacy for 40-odd years?