Breitling Unveils All-New Navitimer B12 Chronograph 41 Cosmonaute

by Sameera Gamage

Breitling honours its space icon with the release of the latest Navitimer Cosmonaute!

With Breitling celebrating its 140-year history, the brand is marking this special occasion by releasing the latest versions of several iconic models. One of these models is the Navitimer B12 Chronograph 41 Cosmonaute. The Navitimer was the first wristwatch for pilots to combine a chronograph and a computational slide rule. The Cosmonaute was a redevelopment of the Navitimer with a 24-hour time scale.

Scott Carpenter dons the Project Mercury suit he will wear on his MA-7 orbital flight (Ref. GettyImages)

The story of the Cosmonaute is so much more than that, though. It is the first wristwatch in space. The historic feat of the Cosmonaute started in 1962 when Breitling received an unexpected call that would propel them from aviation to space travel. Scott Carpenter, one of NASA’s legendary Mercury Seven astronauts, had a brilliant idea. He wanted to take the original Navitimer and customise it for his upcoming mission.

Navitimer Cosmonaute advertisement from ca 1963 for the first Swiss wrist chronograph to travel in space in 1962.

Carpenter loved the Navitimer for the same reasons we do: the computational slide rule. But unlike the everyday wearer, he had specific uses for the slide rule, which required some modifications to make it space-ready. Breitling states that Carpenter had a checklist of modifications for the Navitimer: “keep the slide rule for potential calculations, ditch the tachymeter scale, add a stretch-style metal strap to be able to fit over his suit, and give it a bezel he could grip in space gloves. However, the most memorable change was swapping out the 12-hour time scale for a 24-hour one, with day and night being relative while in space.”

Willy Breitling had less than two months to deliver this momentous project, and was he up to the task! He wasn’t going to pass up such an immense opportunity for the brand. He completed Carpenter’s Navitimer just in time to make history. Carpenter wore the Navitimer Cosmonaute as he orbited the Earth three times, officially making it the first Swiss timepiece in space.

Breitling advertisement from the 1964 Breitling Catalogue for the Navitimer and the Navitimer Cosmonaute.

This wasn’t the end of the story for the Cosmonaute, however. Carpenter had a dramatic re-entry back into earth and splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly 400km off target! While the watch was designed to be space-proof, it wasn’t designed for the rough sea terrain and, unfortunately, suffered water damage. While Willy Breitling promptly replaced the watch for Carpenter, the original had remained with the Brielting family until 2022, when it was unveiled as the 60th anniversary of the historic space flight.

Now, as a modern-day tribute to this legendary icon, Breitling has introduced the latest Navitimer B12 Chronograph 41 Cosmonaute in a limited-edition run. The timepiece retains the 41mm case size of previous models and is now offered in 18k red gold. The Navitimer’s signature knurled bezel looks quite stunning on the 18k red gold material.

Breitling Navitimer B12 Chronograph 41 Cosmonaute – Full view

The dial colours of black and deep green perfectly complement the 18k red-gold case and bezel. The dial shows the timepiece’s numerous functionality, with the sliding scale and tachymeter scales along with the chronograph tri-counter layout. To make time readability easier, Breitling has given the 24-hour Arabic indices a golden colour, which contrasts nicely against the dark green dial.

While the dial doesn’t get any aesthetic changes, the movement is where Breitling has given this watch its latest modifications. The watch has been developed now for everyday life rather than for zero-g as its intended purpose. For this, Breitling has given this new Cosmonaute their self-winding chronograph movement, the Calibre B12.

Breitling Navitimer B12 Chronograph 41 Cosmonaute – Open case back

The B12 movement gives the timepiece 70 hours of power reserve while operating at a high frequency of 4Hz (28,800 VpH), providing a high level of accuracy. The open case back of the timepiece showcases this B12 movement with its beautiful skeletonised oscillating weight finished with Côtes de Genève stripes. The case back also comes with the engraving “FIRST SWISS WRISTWATCH IN SPACE”.

Final Thoughts

Breitling’s Navitimer is an icon in the world of watchmaking. The timepiece has so much history in the world of aviation. Its purpose as a usable tool watch is only further re-iterated with the creation of the Cosmonaute, the first timepiece to be taken into space.

Looking at the aesthetics, I personally love the colour scheme of this timepiece. Red gold case material with a combination of green and black dial isn’t all too common; however, it’s one that works beautifully well. For the new watchcomers, the dial can seem very busy, but remember it was a tool watch designed with a purpose. While there is a lot going on in the dial, the readability of the time isn’t hindered by the contrasting hour indices and the hands having white Superlumi-Nova coatings, which also contrasts nicely against the dark green dial. You just have to get used to reading time on the 24-hour scale instead of the traditional 12 hours.

Breitling Navitimer B12 Chronograph 41 Cosmonaute

Georges Kern, CEO of Breitling put it best when he states “and when it comes to these two watches—the Navitimer and Cosmonaute—you cannot overstate the significance they’ve had for our brand, for aviation, and for watchmaking as a whole.”

The Navitimer B12 Chronograph 41 Cosmonaute will be limited to a production of 250 models worldwide and will be available for purchase online at Breitling.com.au or through Breitling boutiques.

Reference: RB12302A1L1P1

Specification

  • Case: 41 mm x 13.6mm thickness
  • Case Material: 18k Red-gold
  • Dial: Green with contrasting chronograph counters. Super-LumiNova® luminescent hour and minute hand.
  • Crystal: Cambered sapphire, glareproofed on both sides
  • Water resistance: 30m (3 Bar)
  • Movement: Self-winding automatic in-house Breitling Manufacture Caliber B12
  • Movement Frequency: 4Hz (28,800 VpH)
  • Power reserve: Approx. 70 hours
  • Bracelet: Black alligator leather strap with an 18k red-gold folding buckle

Australian Recommended Retail Price: $30,790 AUD

Availability: Limited to 250 models worldwide. Available for purchase online at Breitling.com.au or through Breitling boutiques.

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