Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute: A Watch With a Story

It’s the stories behind some wristwatches that draws enthusiasts. While I no longer collect watches with any great seriousness, it was the sixties Omega Speedmaster Professional, the watch that was worn on the Moon, that started my love for timepieces with history. But there was a Swiss watch, recently revived by Breitling, that was worn in space before the Omega.

Scott Carpenter’s Breitling Navitimer (left) and the new Limited Edition (right)

Breitling is a watch brand I’ve never owned, but have long admired from afar. They have revived the gorgeous old Navitimer Cosmonaute to mark the 60th anniversary of its journey aboard the Aurora 7 spacecraft on the wrist of astronaut Scott Carpenter. The classic Navitimer was designed as a pilot’s watch, with its inbuilt calculator, useful in the days long before on-board computers and navigation systems, so it was bound to appeal to an astronaut with a pilot’s training. 

New and old (Carpenter’s damaged watch centre) Breitling Navimtimer Cosmonaute

Breitling have described it as ‘the first Swiss watch in space’ – with the emphasis on the word ‘Swiss’. Yuri Gagarin is reputed to have worn a Soviet timepiece on his first trip into orbit in April 1961, so the Breitling wasn’t the first wristwatch in space. US astronaut Alan Shepard followed Gagarin a few weeks later (he’s believed not to have worn a watch). John Glenn travelled into orbit in February 1962 wearing a Heuer stopwatch (not strictly a wristwatch) strapped to his wrist. 

Scott Carpenter was launched on his Aurora 7 spacecraft on 24th May 1962 wearing, as claimed, the first Swiss wristwatch into orbit. He had requested the Breitling with a 24 hour bezel to replace the standard 12 hour bezel on the Navitimer. 

Scott Carpenter wears his Breitling Navitimer

Carpenter’s watch was was damaged by seawater after splashdown, but it still exists, corroded and unrestored, as a memento to this remarkable journey (see the pictures above). The new Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute is a homage to the original, but subtly updated with a platinum bezel and an open sapphire crystal caseback, engraved with the date of Carpenter’s mission “ONE OF 362” (the number of orbits on the flight and the number of watches available in this limited edition).

The new Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute is available on either a black alligator leather strap or a seven-row stainless-steel bracelet. Price: £8,700 on steel-bracelet and £8,400 on black alligator strap.

The Limited Edition Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute

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