The Breitling Cosmonaute is one of the most instantly recognizable models from the aviation-centric brand, in no small part due to because of its close resemblance to the Navitimer, with which it shares a case, movement, and most of its design elements.
One of the first things you notice when viewing this piece is the extremely busy and intricate dial. Complicated yet organized, this Cosmonaute is truly fun to look at. At 42mm, it's no doubt a significant piece of steel to sport, and with the watch on, you will undoubtedly feel like a test pilot in the 1960s - pushing further into the heavens to expand the reach of mankind.
In extremely good condition, this particular example features a strong case, crisp lugs, and a stunning glossy dial with Breitling's signature "Twin Jets" logo. Perhaps most importantly, this timepiece retains its correct slide rule bezel insert - which were commonly water damaged and replaced with low quality aftermarket parts. For a lover of aviation and space history, there might not be a better timepiece available!
When Breitling designed the Navitimer in the early 1950s, the concept of a civilian tool watch was a novel idea. Watch companies produced a few purpose-designed pieces for military use in the early 20th century, but most watches that were sold at retailers were designed with purely fashion in mind. In the 1950s and 1960s, the tool watch market exploded, fueled by the popularity of SCUBA diving and the growing interest in aviation. Breitling was one of the earliest manufactures to respond to the trend when they released the Navitimer in 1954.
Most passers-by would refer to the Navitimer as a watch, but that’s not quite right. This is a wrist-worn navigational computer. The Navitimer’s most distinctive feature, the slide rule bezel, is used by pilots to calculate airspeed, ascent and decent rates, flight time, distance traveled, fuel consumption and even imperial to metric unit conversions. The Navitimer truly is a computer, and also happens to be one of the best damn looking watches out there.
On the 24th May 1962, the Astronaut Scott Carpenter orbited the Earth three times in the Aurora 7 space capsule. Aiding him in his endeavours was a Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute with 24-hour dial. The special design in place of the usual 12-hour denomination was suggested by the astronaut as it was not possible to distinguish between day and night when in orbit. As a result of this connection, collectors now refer to the reference 809 with 24-hour dial as the “Scott Carpenter” and is viewed as an attractive alternative to the Omega Speedmaster to acquire a manually wound chronograph with a connection to space travel.
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