Worn by astronaut Scott Carpenter in 1962, this historic watch laid the foundation for the next space-friendly Swiss watch
May 26, 2022: On the 60th anniversary of its journey aboard the Aurora 7 spacecraft, the mythic Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute watch with the 24-hour dial is set to lift off once again in a new release that pays tribute to the historic mission. To mark the occasion, Breitling also offered the first-ever public viewing of the original Cosmonaute since 1962.
While Russia and USA were at war to see who could reign supremacy over space first, Swiss watch brands were at war to see which of them would travel first to space as well!
On May 24, 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 Mr. 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.
Astronaut Scott Carpenter wearing the Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute - shortly before the takeoff.
On the 60th anniversary of that mission, Breitling unveiled Mr. Carpenter’s original Navitimer Cosmonaute (which was hidden from public view after the mission). On May 24,1962, five hours after launch, the Aurora 7 space capsule with Mr. 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 Mr. Carpenter’s Cosmonaute. As can be seen, the watch is illegible. Breitling immediately replaced Mr. Carpenter’s watch, but the original, corroded piece of space history remained in the Breitling family archives—unrestored.
At the viewing of the original 1962 Cosmonaute, another Cosmonaute, once owned by astronaut John Glenn and acquired at auction in 2019 by Gregory Breitling, was also displayed.
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 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.
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.” The watch is limited to 362 pieces to mark the number of orbits the watch took in space, and the year of the mission.
While other watch brands have claims to space firsts, only Breitling can call itself the “first Swiss wristwatch in space.” The only other Swiss timepiece to have reached orbit previously was a pocket stopwatch by Heuer (as Tag Heuer was called then) equipped with a strap. The Cosmonaute, meanwhile—a wristwatch worn in space and designed according to an astronaut’s specifications—was kept precisely to those specs when it became available for purchase in 1962.