The New Breitling Navitimer Astronaut and the Incredible Story Behind It
Not one, but two Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute watches have just been unveiled. First up is an actual 60s-year-old watch, on public display for the first time: the first Swiss wristwatch (wowzers) to go into space, a Navitimer specially modified by astronaut Scott Carpenter. Second, the new Breitling Navitimer B02 Chronograph 41 Astronaut Limited Edition – a little wordy – is a nod to Carpenter’s 24th Mercury-Atlas 7 mission worn by astronauts who orbited the Earth three times. A modern tribute to lap time wear. May 1962. Exactly 60 years ago.
As Breitling fans know, almost every year since Georges Kern took over as CEO, the Grenchen-based watchmaker has released a “heritage” edition watch , for pure fan service. Highly limited editions, this collection includes a reissue of the legendary Navitimer 806, as well as a trio of AVI 765 (a favorite of Breitling historian and consultant Fred Mandelbaum). This year, Breitling marks another important brand milestone around the 1962 Cosmonaute, the 60th anniversary of another legendary reference watch with two unique characteristics: First, it is recognized by Breitling collectors as the first Swiss watch in space. The Discount replica watches, and secondly, its unique 24-hour time display, was at the special request of Carpenter himself.
Why display 24 hours in space? On a 5-hour space mission?
That’s not to say he can track AM/PM times any more safely and conveniently. Space missions revolve around many complex elements, and redundancy is certainly one of them. Requires 24 hours to be displayed on the Navitimer so that it is redundant with the on-board clock – for obvious reasons it shows the time in what Americans call “Military Time” and what we Europeans call “Time”. If onboard timekeeping is interrupted, the watch will still display the time in a manner that allows seamless communication with mission control.
At the launch of the new Navitimer Cosmonaute, astronaut and Breitling Pioneer Squad member Scott Kelly candidly shared a detail. The time between the consignment of the watch and its delivery by the watchmaker under the direction of Willy Breitling was tight. Carpenter’s daughter, Kris Stoever, recalled that on March 15, the first flight was assigned, and the request to Breitling was still on NASA’s letterhead in March. Due to time constraints, the request was only submitted to Breitling shortly before the flight, sometime in May. Breitling — a company dabbled in aviation watches (Navitimer had been around for 10 years at the time) — complied quickly and excitedly and sent the watches (essentially prototypes) in haste. Scott Carpenter loves his new watch so much, as his daughter said at the launch,
That’s true even if Carpenter’s first 24-hour Navitimer Cosmonaute lived a brilliant but short life.
After returning to Earth, the watch was exposed to seawater while Carpenter floated somewhere in the ocean waiting to be recovered from his capsule. The automatic return system designed to guide him to a specific location failed on the way back, and Carpenter is now using manual controls, over 250 nautical miles (450 kilometers) – considering he was descending at 7.9 kilometers per second at some point, Not bad. For a full 49 minutes, the rescue team didn’t know where the capsule and Carpenter were. With the system not working properly, the capsule capsized on landing and the astronauts were forced to escape and make a U-turn. During this process, watches exposed to salty sea water, especially their dials and movements, were severely corroded. It has been the private collection of the Breitling family for 60 years and has just been revealed, for the first time since a journey into space – and into the ocean. Carpenter saw the damage and sent the watch back to Breitling, who sent him a brand new watch, which is still owned by the Carpenter family today.
But wait, why not the first watch to go into space? Well, this was more of a space race issue than a simple watchmaker issue: the lesser known Russian “Strela” held the distinction, but pilots and space pioneers in the western world didn’t end up wearing them universally, so We are here.
A few more words about the first Swiss watch to go into space. Breitling recalls: “On May 24, 1962, five hours after launch, the Aurora 7 capsule carrying Carpenter landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean. The recovery operation lasted three hours and prolonged exposure to seawater caused Carpenter’s Cosmonaute Damage beyond repair. Breitling promptly replaced Carpenter’s watch, but that worn, corroded piece of space history remains in the Breitling family archives – unrestored and widely known. That is, to this day.”
Interestingly, 60 years on, the Navitimer, including every piece in the recently overhauled collection (hands-on here), is still largely unsuitable for water exposure. Breitling was candid about telling us at the time that the rotating bezel made a major effort to be water resistant, but because of the way it had to interact with the inner flange ring, water resistance could only be achieved by significantly increasing the thickness – that’s not Breitling Hope this pilot watch is the way to go. So, Navitimer, including this Breitling Navitimer Astronaut 2022 Limited Edition.
So no, neither the Navitimer nor the Navitimer Cosmonaute has turned into a water-resistant chronograph – if you want one of these, get a Chronomat, Superocean Heritage, Avenger, Premier or Endurance Pro – pretty much any other Breitling. But if you want a watch with a rotating slide rule and want it to be called a Navitimer, you’re better off wearing a pilot suit instead of a wetsuit, which is fine.
Thankfully, the new model, PB02301A1B1P1 (or PB02301A1B1A1 if you want to use it on a bracelet) isn’t just another reissue of the Cosmonaute – it’s definitely a luxury take on one of the earliest known dedicated watches Way Astronaut, a watch that pays homage to its fans with a hand-wound 24-hour display movement and chronograph, stainless steel case and platinum bezel (a tribute to Mandelbaum). Of course, a far cry from refereeing in terms of material and movement. The 809 worn by John Glenn in his groundbreaking Earth orbit in 1962, but just as strong in its proper, pure astronaut vibe.
The case of the new Breitling Navi Chronograph Astronaut Limited Edition measures 41mm and is just 13mm thick – thanks to the hand-wound-only B02 movement, which does away with the automatic winding system it was based on, the B01. The impressive combination of power reserve and frequency retention of 70 hours and 4 Hz, column wheel and vertical clutch – all four cornerstones of modern chronograph movements – are also here. With lugs measuring 47.09mm, the Navitimer Cosmonaute fits beautifully not only with the original, but with the changing trends in the larger watch trend.
On the wrist, the Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute made me come up with an alternative space-themed term for “tabletop diving,” a phrase, if you’re new to watches, for those of us who wear over-engineered dives Table people come to the office, but it never works out as intended. Am I a desk freak (I’m sorry) rocking a 24 hour dial and didn’t you know that Scott Carpenter asked for his space mission? I have no idea. All I know is that if I’m in the market for a Navitimer, I’d really like to try and buy one of the 362 pieces of the brand new Navitimer Cosmonaute Limited Edition. Its rarity and platinum bezel are very alluring. On the other hand, there are some dazzlingly beautiful new renditions of the “regular” and very fresh Navitimer, which costs a lot less — $1,800 — and is probably easier to read than the somewhat cramped and busy 24-hour dial. 41mm watch.