In May of 1962, Scott Carpenter became the sixth human in space when he lifted off aboard Aurora 7, the fourth crewed flight of Project Mercury. Carpenter would circle the earth three times, spending nearly five hours in zero-gravity before re-entering the earth’s atmosphere and splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean off Puerto Rico. After his splash-down, which due to piloting error landed him 250 miles off-course, Carpenter bobbed in the ocean for three hours awaiting rescue. Despite not being waterproof, his watch ran faithfully until he was safely on his way home.
The Breitling Navitimer, with its trademark circular slide rule for performing in-flight calculations, has been around since 1954, and by the time of Carpenter’s mission it was regarded as one of the best pilot watches available. Breitling’s reputation as a maker of cutting-edge flight instruments, as well as the Navitimer’s robust construction and reliable Swiss movement, helped the Cosmonaute to become the first Swiss wrist-worn chronograph in space. For his trip aboard the Mercury-Atlas 7 spacecraft, Carpenter wore the Navitimer Cosmonaute, a variation on the Navitimer with a 24-hour dial to distinguish day from night in the darkness of space — his personal request.
In May 2022, exactly 60 years after Carpenter’s historic flight, Breitling re-released this iconic model as an exclusive limited-edition, complete with all of its original design elements, plus a few discreet modern touches. It also, for the first time, revealed Carpenter’s original Cosmonaute, a watch that now resides in the Breitling family’s private collection. “When we introduced the redesigned Navitimer earlier this year, a question on everybody’s lips was, ‘What about the Cosmonaute?’” said Georges Kern, CEO of Breitling, who appeared alongside former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, members of the Carpenter family, and Gregory Breitling at the watch’s launch in Zurich.
Alongside Carpenter’s original Cosmonaute — which remains in unrestored condition after being damaged by saltwater — the new 2022 model, limited to 362 pieces and commemorating the 60th anniversary of Aurora 7, shines all the more brightly. While the new Cosmonaute pays faithful tribute to the aesthetics of the original in its 24-hour dial, circular slide rule and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association “wings” logo, its platinum bezel, and open sapphire crystal caseback identify this as a modern luxury timepiece from a top-tier watchmaker. While the movement inside the original Cosmonaute was cutting-edge for its time, the mechanical hand-wound Breitling manufacture B02 movement inside the new version is improved in every way, from its 70-hour power reserve to its date window at six.
Other details speak more directly to the watch’s history, principally the words Carpenter, Mercury 7, Three orbits around the earth and a replica uniform badge from the rocket’s space capsule engraved on the calibre bridges. The caseback itself is also engraved with the mission date, the edition of 362 pieces and the words, “First Swiss wristwatch in space,” marking the new Breitling Cosmonaute as a true piece of spacefaring history. ($13,100)