The year is 1959, and the Americans are choosing which astronaut to send to space for the NASA Mercury Program supposed to develop manned flights. Of the seven astronauts in the running, Scott Carpenter was picked maybe for being a NASA pilot with experience in the Korean War. Scott had a Breitling 12-hour watch but as he explained in his autobiography "For Spacious Skies," nowhere on the dial did it read 8 pm. Therefore, since he knew in space, he would lose the sense of time, he contacted Breitling to make a 24-hour version. Consequently, in 1961, Breitling introduced the 24-hour Navitimer complete with AOPO (Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association) wings logo and reference number 806.
Since Scott's space mission inspired it, Breitling registered the watch with the Swiss Office of Intellectual Property in June 1961 as "Cosmonaute." Scott Carpenter got his Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute on May 21, 1962, and three days later, the watch became the first Breitling to go to space. Unfortunately, upon landing back on earth, that watch's whereabouts remained unknown when it was taken for repair. Luckily, many more models have continued to be made and if you are looking to have your own, here is a complete buying guide detailing the features, their benefits and drawbacks.
According to OnTheDash, after Scott spent almost five hours in space, he landed in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, it was about 250 miles away from the expected landing point, and the U.S. Navy search team took an hour to find him. All this while, Scott's hand was submerged in water, causing extensive damage to the watch; thus, it had to be returned to Breitling for repairs.
At first, all other Cosmonautes were not waterproof but having already seen the damage that water can cause to the timepieces, Breitling made the rest of the watches water-resistant. Usually, the big case models are water-resistant up to 50m while the Cosmonaute II models are 30m waterproof. 30m means that it can only survive a splash of water; therefore, you can rest assured that washing your hands while wearing your watch will not damage it. It is crucial to clarify this because most people think "water-resistant to 30m" means that you can swim 30m below sea level with the watch on your wrist without damaging it.
Should the watch accidentally be in the water for some time, but the inside is not severely affected, you can let it dry on a sunny spot or by the lamp. However, be careful not to damage the watch further with heat. Of course, the suitable old method of putting wet appliances in desiccants such as rice can still be effective but always place the case-back side down to facilitate gravity to pull out the moisture. If the damage is so extensive that drying it is not an option, then just like Scott, taking it for repair as soon as possible to an expert watchmaker might save you the cost of buying a new one.
The power reserve is the energy stored in the watch's mainspring and the Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute provides you with 70 hours of power. This feature in itself is one reason you might be tempted to buy the timepiece. However, The Watch Index reveals that the watch does not have a power reserve indicator as one of its complications. Power reserve indicators are important because they show how much power the watch has left, ensuring that you are not stranded without any sense of time. Power reserve indicators also enable the wearer to know when the timepiece needs winding.
The timepieces can be either mechanical (manually wound) or automatic (self-winding). Manually wound means that you will have to wind them by hand or whichever tool you prefer. Such mechanical movements also mean that the watch does not have a rotor; thus, you will find the watch is much lighter than a self-winding watch. The main advantage of having a mechanical watch is that you do not need to keep replacing the battery; once it stops ticking, kick it back to life by winding it. Besides, the second-hand does not make much noise ticking compared to self-winding watches; the ticking sound can be annoying, especially when you require total silence.
All the same, you should not ignore the regular times you have to keep winding; most mechanical watches require winding in every two days. While some wearers cannot wait for this vital task, others find it a bother. Moreover, you should note that the more you keep turning the crown when winding the mainspring, the more the seal of the crown is subjected to wear. Another thing about mechanical watches is that they are not too accurate. As a result, your Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute will have to be tuned-up after every five to ten years to ensure it keeps telling the correct time.
The automatic Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute models are of recent production. Choosing such a watch will save you the headache of frequently manually winding it. However, this advantage is if you wear it every day to keep it activated; skipping to wear it for 36-72 hours will still mean that you have to wind it either manually or with an automatic winder. If accuracy is of utmost importance, go for the model with automatic movements. Although they lose up to eight seconds per day, they still are far much more accurate than the mechanical movement watches. Like the manually wound timepieces, self-winding watches still need to be serviced and oiled after five years.
Scott Carpenter's main reason for preferring a 24-hour watch is because upon landing in space, he would be unable to distinguish between night and day. Although we are used to adding "am" or "pm" depending on the time, sometimes, it is impossible to tell the difference. For instance, when you are working in a consistently dark room; thus, the watch becomes a necessity. You might also be drawn to it if you are in the military where time is read in the 24-hours format. Or if you are a frequent traveler because your flights will always be in this format. Besides, most countries also prefer using it. Other careers, like in the aviation and navy, also necessitate having a 24-hour watch. Additionally, if you are a 24-hour watch enthusiast, the Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute will appeal to you.
Although some 24-hour dials are numbered 1-12 twice making it hard to distinguish between midnight and noon, the watch saves you this headache. It is numbered 1-24 thus you automatically can tell where the "AM" and "PM" hours are. With the 1-24 hour calibration, it also means that your watch will only make one revolution.
Don Indiano explains that Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute watches come in three types of bracelets: metal, leather and rubber. The metal can be either stainless steel, gold or two-tone but most of the watches are usually stainless steel. One of the main advantages of the stainless steel bracelet is that they are durable because they are not likely to break. Besides, they have a high-end look that will complement your executive wear. Also, they do not stretch after frequent wear, neither do they stain, sweat or stink.
Unfortunately, if you prefer a lightweight watch, then one with a stainless steel band is not for you because they tend to be quite heavy. Also if you have hairy arms, you should take care not to get the hairs caught up between the spaces in the band. Stainless steel may not be prone to stains, but it will lose its shine with time and dirt can accumulate in the corners of the clasps thus ensure that you clean yours regularly for that sleek appearance. Furthermore, being that stainless is a metal, it can be extremely cold or hot to the touch depending on the weather. So if you are sensitive to temperature, maybe you should consider the other two options of leather and rubber.
Leather straps are great if you mostly dress in formal wear because then you can match it with your shoes or belt. The straps are available in different hues and textures, making it possible to choose one that best suits your needs. They are lightweight, sit well on the wrist and also do not get cold or hot, making them ideal for wearing during whichever weather conditions. Should the straps become worn out, you can easily replace them. The risk of becoming undone and falling off without your knowledge is slim because you fit the watch tightly using the buckle.
However, it is not perfect; that hue you might be interested in will fade with time although the vintage look will still be appealing. Also, if drenched in sweat or water, it will have a bad smell, so it is not ideal during hot weather. Another reason to avoid exposing it to water and sweat is that they will cause the straps to wear out faster.
Rubber, on the other hand, is excellent for anyone looking for variety because it is available in different styles and colors. With rubber, you will never have to worry about the strap being damaged by water since it is waterproof. Rubber straps are durable lasting for between 18 months to 2 years, maintaining them is easy since all you need is warm water, dish soap and a clean rag. They are lightweight, making them perfect for leading an active lifestyle, but you should not wear them during hot weather because they will cause the wrist to sweat thus become sticky. Rubber straps also do not give you that edge you may want when dressed in your formal wear
As displayed by the different prices on Chron24, Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute watches are quite expensive with a range of between $3,000 and $15,000. However, some sellers have not indicted the prices and "on request" which can have one presuming that the price is exorbitant. Breitling watches are considered high-end luxury watches hence the high price tag; they may not come close to Rolex, but they still would make a great addition to your collection.
You might be tempted to think that buying a pre-owned one will save you the high cost of purchasing a new one, but you are mistaken. One advantage you cannot overlook is that Breitling timepieces hold their resale value. For instance, on the Chron24 site mentioned above, you will find a pre-owned Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute watch that is going for $48,382, which is far above the cost of most new Breitling watches.
Watch manufacturers make limited edition pieces hoping that with time, the watches will accrue value so if you happen to have one, you might be holding on to quite an investment. Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute produced a variety of limited editions. In 1986, only about 100 pieces of the Valiant Air Command edition were made. In 1993, the "Serie Speciale" was for the Japan market, and the limited edition had only 100 watches.
Around 1996, the Scott Carpenter edition introduced only 1000 pieces in the market, and it was named after Scott to commemorate the space mission. The Porco Ross limited edition, whose artwork was from "Porco Ross" animation movie, followed with only 300 pieces. However, of all the limited editions, only the 50th Anniversary had the most pieces; 1962 to be precise, in remembrance of the year the watch was born.
Suppose you are interested in a Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute that has unique features from the other models? In that case, a limited edition will do, but you should be willing to part with more money. Still, remember that the early editions were not waterproof and most were manually wound. Also if you still are interested in buying a pre-owned watch that dates back to the 1960s or 70s, you will be happy to know that the bezel mechanism is much easier to rotate than the recent models. Additionally, the earlier models had a Snap-on case back, and the case was brushed only on the sides, unlike current models that are polished entirely.
Written by Garrett Parker
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