Coinciding with the 60th anniversary of its journey aboard the Aurora 7 spacecraft, Breitling releases a modern take on the Navitimer Cosmonaute.
Back in the 1960s, Breitling’s Navitimer was a leading pilot’s watch. However, the world’s attention was rapidly advancing beyond air travel and into space exploration, and that meant a different kind of Space Race was quietly underway, one between watchmakers vying to be the first on astronauts’ wrists.
Breitling’s expertise in aviation watches shot the brand to the head of the pack. On 24 May 1962, Breitling officially claimed the title “first Swiss wristwatch in space” after astronaut Scott Carpenter orbited the Earth three times while wearing the Navitimer Cosmonaute during his Mercury-Atlas 7 mission. The watch had been Carpenter’s personal request, a variation on the iconic aviator’s watch he’d encountered in his flight days, but with a 24-hour dial to tell day from night in space.
Coinciding with the 60th anniversary of that mission, Breitling not only unveils Carpenter’s original Navitimer Cosmonaute, but has also launched a modern tribute to it. This special release is limited to 362 numbered pieces that recognize both the spacecraft’s circumnavigations of the Earth and the year the mission made history, marking a crucial step in manned spaceflight.
Five hours after launch, the Aurora 7 space capsule with Carpenter aboard splashed down safely in the Atlantic. The recovery operation lasted three hours, with the long exposure to seawater resulting in irreparable damage to Carpenter’s Cosmonaute. Breitling immediately replaced Carpenter’s watch, but that battered and corroded piece of space history remained in the Breitling archives—unrestored and widely unknown. Until now.
The Cosmonaute is a true Navitimer, meaning it has all the hallmarks of Breitling’s aviation icon: the circular slide rule for performing mathematical calculations, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association “wings” logo, and the trio of chronograph subdials. What separates the Cosmonaute from the rest of its family is its ability to tell 24-hour time. The Breitling Manufacture Caliber B02 was specifically designed for this task.
At first glance, the new Cosmonaute is a faithful reproduction of the original, made timeless with an all-black dial and black alligator strap or seven-row stainless-steel bracelet. On closer inspection, though, the elegantly proportioned 41 mm watch is packed with new features. One is its platinum bezel, a premium touch that makes this numbered edition even more of a collector’s piece.
Another is its open sapphire crystal caseback that provides a window on the B02 movement with its special bridge engravings to mark the occasion: the words “Carpenter,” “Aurora 7,” and “3 orbits around the Earth,” along with the name of the original group of seven astronauts chosen for NASA’s first human-crewed spaceflights, Mercury 7.
This new watch honors the aesthetics of the original Cosmonaute, with subtle updates that work almost imperceptibly to give it its modern-retro appeal. As a final tribute, the caseback is engraved with the date of Carpenter’s mission, “ONE OF 362,” and the phrase “First Swiss wristwatch in space.”
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