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  Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute space watches

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Author Topic:   Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute space watches
Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 08-23-2008 03:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Editor's note: This thread begins with a series of previous messages excerpted and reproduced from the Early astronaut and cosmonaut watches topic in order to establish a Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute-dedicated discussion.

Please use this topic to discuss the Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute and its flights into space.

Lou Chinal
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From: Staten Island, NY
Registered: Jun 2007

posted 08-23-2008 03:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I heard that Scott Carpenter asked Breitling to make a 24 hour version of the Navitimer. Anybody know anything about this? I first saw photos of it dated Nov. 1961. It would be an interesting topic, if someone wanted to write about it.

328KF
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posted 08-24-2008 09:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Indeed Carpenter did fly with a modified Breitling Navitimer with a 24-hour movement dubbed the "Cosmonaute". I have corresponded with Scott and Kris about this timepiece some time ago in an effort to find its' whereabouts.

Unfortunately, Scott's chronograph was submerged in seawater during his recovery and was not very watertight. It was returned to Breitling for repair following the flight and, in a nice gesture, they replaced it with a pristine model.

Of course, today his flown watch would be very valuable, but that was not appreciated at the time. He was happy to get a replacement. The original has never been seen again, even after efforts by Breitling to track it down recently.

Scott didn't have too much luck with his personal gear on MA-7...his Randall survival knife, engraved with his name, also went missing from his kit. Bo Randall ended up making him a new one of those, too.

Two people somewhere in the world have some very nice flown items.

Breitling still makes the Cosmonaute today, but don't be fooled. It has a completely different automatic movement, unlike the original hand-wound Venus his had. At one time, they were fitted with a Lemania-based movement similar, if not identical, to the 861 caliber Omega Speedmasters. I'd look for one of those if I were shopping for one.

Takes a little time to get used to looking at a 24-hour dial, after recognizing the hand positions on a standard one all your life.

kr4mula
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From: Cinci, OH
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 09-30-2008 10:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Are there photos of Carpenter wearing the Breitling? As an owner (the Datora, not the Cosmonaute) and enthusiast, I occasionally visit the Breitling forums and this topic comes up every now and then.

KC Stoever
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From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Oct 2002

posted 09-30-2008 10:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are a few images.

Recall that he received the reconfigured Breitling Navitimer just a few days before his flight — so on perhaps one of the Bill Taub photographs of Carpenter's capsule ingress on May 24, 1962, you can see the watch around his space-suited wrist.

You can also see what I assume is the Breitling around his wrist for his postflight arrival at Patrick AFB. But he returned it to Breitling HQ to fix some water damage in the week or so after his flight. The story he tells is that Breitling sent him a replacement watch, named the Cosmonaute.

What I believe to be the first flown watch,* therefore, may be in a vault somewhere. The question is where, and whose vault? It likely has a serial number that would date its manufacture to some time in April or May 1962. Breitling has changed hands since 1962.

*By "flown" I mean flown in US spaceflight. As far as I know, Carpenter is the first documented wearer of a timepiece, a Breitling timepiece, in space.

328KF
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posted 10-05-2008 05:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I ended up sitting next to a Breitling VP on a flight one night. We talked about this subject for a long time, and he got interested in looking into it.

Well, he went to the big annual watch show at Basel, and was met with alot of shoulder shrugs and funny looks. If there were such a vault, it was likely cleaned out long ago during one of the mergers/buyouts.

That is assuming, of course, that the orignal Breitling company even saw the value in retaining the watch. I can see at least three other possibilities:

  1. Breitling disassembled the watch for cleaning and perhaps testing.

  2. Breitling disassembled the watch and, not recognizing its' historic importance, returned parts or the whole watch to stock.

  3. Someone at Breitling retained the watch as a personal momento and it remains in private (and very quiet) hands today.
I think the likelyhood of seeing it publicly again ranks right up there with finding Buzz's Speedmaster. But, if the owner(s) of said timepieces happens to be a lurker here, I welcome the opportunity to be proven wrong.

KC Stoever
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From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Oct 2002

posted 10-14-2008 03:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had a chance on Monday to discuss the Breitling with my dad. This was his ca. October 2008 recollection, which contains some new information.

Carpenter tried to explain that communication and navigation were his specific responsibilities for Project Mercury. Timekeeping was an essential subset of these.

So when he met the RAAF pilots who introduced him to their Breitling Navitimers in September 1961, when he was in Muchea for MA-4, he took the initiative to write to Breitling, telling Breitling that timekeeping was his specific responsibility and toward this end he wanted the reconfigured Navitimer to retain the circular slide rule and to delete the tachymeter in order to make room for the 24-hour dial.

Carpenter concedes that he proceeded in this direction without developing a consensus among the 7. "I held my ground maybe in defiance of the pressure of the group but in the belief I was right."

What was the design principle involved in the 24-hour dial, I asked? "NASA needed to conform its practices," he explained, "to the ways of the future and anticipate the pressures exerted by changing technology" in the environment of space. My sense was, at root, Carpenter believes that pilots "want to be able to say what they read. Nowhere on a 12-hour dial," he finally expressed with satisfaction, "does it say '8 PM'."

He remembers that the one they sent him did say "Cosmonaute" on the face. This name presented a bit of an ideological affront, he recalls, given cold war tensions but he reasoned that Breitling was just being "European."

And I wonder now, as an aside, that this francophone linguistic faux pas on Breitling's part may have cost them the NASA contract. I mean, they could have made Cosmonaute 24-hour and 12-hour versions of the watch in an effort to appease the 12-hour dial aficionados. Most importantly, they could have named it The Astronaut.

KC Stoever
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From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Oct 2002

posted 01-05-2009 05:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I heard a charming Breitling story yesterday that also happens to capture Carpenter's sense of humor ca. 1964. Elite master diver Bob Barth tells the story. He was aquanaut for Sealabs I, II, and III.

So Bob and Scott meet during training for Sealab I in Florida ca. late 1963. Naturally, conversation soon turned to hardware, specifically, Scott's fancy Breitling (the replacement Breitling). He obliged Bob's curiosity about what Bob called "the astronaut watch" and took it off his wrist for Barth to inspect (and admire) more closely.

"What's this?" Barth asked, poking at a kind of bulge on the caseback. It was kind of a button that provided a little give if you pressed down on it fairly hard.

"Oh, that," Carpenter replied gravely. "Breitling made that especially for Mercury astronauts since they knew that we might be lonely, up there in space all alone." He's stringing Bob along, who is still listening earnestly. "And so Breitling decided to install a special button for us Mercury astronauts."

"We could press the button if the solitude got to be too much for some of the guys," he explained. "And Breitling designed it to push back. It was like having a buddy right there inside the spacecraft."

By now, Bob's awe began to wear off a little. He realized Scott was pulling his leg. They had a good laugh.

The little button? Access to the battery, Bob recalled.

kr4mula
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From: Cinci, OH
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 01-06-2009 11:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's nice to see an example of one of the guys besides Wally Schirra as having a sense of humor.

I think the Bob's conclusion is a little muddied by time, however. The watch Breitling gave to Carpenter was certainly a mechanical movement (the Venus 178), not an electronic one, thus didn't have a battery. It was hand-wound. I suspect the bulge was just the typical slightly domed caseback that's typical of Breitlings with a chrono (the thicker movements need more room). Perhaps Bob was used to seeing the very thin, non-chrono watches fashionable in that period that typically had flat casebacks?

KC Stoever
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Posts: 1009
From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Oct 2002

posted 01-06-2009 12:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, Kevin. I don't know much about these elite watches but I was surprised nevertheless to hear that the Breitling would have a battery case. Let me run down this detail and post what I learn from the Breitling owner himself.

KC Stoever
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Posts: 1009
From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Oct 2002

posted 01-10-2009 06:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
About the replacement Breitling and its mysterious caseback, Carpenter had this to add today. "Bob forgot the punchline!" which was, when the button "pushed back, it made you feel wanted."

And then he explained that the joke really belonged to Bill Dana, who concocted the wide-eyed anecdote to all "the big astronaut watches" worn by the guys.

So, what about the "button" Bob says he saw on the caseback? The button that he thought was the battery case, I asked my dad.

"An invisible soft spot," he replied, channeling Bill Dana.

That pushed back?

Well, everything hard "pushes back" he explained patiently — especially if you suggest it to the suggestible.

kr4mula
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From: Cinci, OH
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 01-12-2009 01:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the story and clarification, Kris. You gotta love the irreverance with which those guys take/took this stuff that occasionally seems greatly importance to some of us!

Out of curiosity, what watch does does the esteemed aquanaut/astronaut wear these days?I wonder if it's considered gauche to wear one with your own name on it, a la the Scott Carpenter edition of the Cosmonaute? On the other hand, I could see his colleagues giving him a hard time about it either way.

KC Stoever
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From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Oct 2002

posted 03-13-2009 12:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Carpenter wears a Breitling Navitimer for everyday, and sometimes one of his Omegas.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 05-29-2012 10:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
collectSPACE
Breitling models watch after historic space timepiece missing for 50 years

Swiss watchmaker Breitling is offering a new timepiece in celebration of the 50th anniversary of its watches' first launch into space, which was also the first time an American astronaut wore any wristwatch into orbit.

The newly-issued Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute borrows some features from the chronograph that Scott Carpenter wore on NASA's Mercury-Atlas 7 mission, a historic watch has been missing for the half-century since Carpenter set the record as the second American to circle the Earth.

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