Breitling's Historic Chronograph Watches: Cosmonaut and Cadet

Breitling's Historic Masterpieces: Cosmonauts and Cadet

Breitling is a watch manufacturer with deep ties to the sky, as can be seen from its logo of wings extending large on both sides of the letter B.

Soon after its founding, Breitling demonstrated its technical expertise by making precision watches for air forces and pilots.

Today I would like to introduce a model that has left a significant mark on Breitling's history.

[Breitling's History]

Breitling is a watch manufacturer founded in 1884 in the Swiss mountain village of Saint-Imier.
Nowadays, the company sponsors air shows and races, so many people probably have the vague image of it as a "watch closely related to the aviation."

In fact, the first products that Breitling made were highly specialised precision instruments such as pocket watches for pilots and cockpit equipment.

Later, they released a wristwatch-type chronograph equipped with a 30-minute counter, which marked the beginning of their aggressive development of watches for aviation, and they began to forge their own unique path.

Breitling had developed close ties with pilots during the development of the watch, and in 1936 the Royal Air Force decided to adopt it as the official military watch.

Then, in 1952, Breitling created the Breitling Navitimer , a chronograph equipped with an aviation slide rule.

With this announcement, Breitling began supplying cockpit clocks to major airlines around the world.

After World War II, the world's attention shifted from Earth to space, driven by the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Breitling was one of the first to recognize this trend and began developing watches that could be used in space. It was around this time that the Cosmonauts were born.

This is just a brief overview of Breitling's history, but even just this alone shows that it is a brand that continues to innovate without stopping even as the times change.

Now let's take a look at the Cosmonaut and Cadet, two innovative watches that are still loved by many fans today.

[Navitimer Cosmonaut]

May 24, 1962.

News spread around the world that American astronaut Scott Carpenter had boarded the Aurora 7 capsule and orbited the Earth three times.

The time was the height of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The United States, which had fallen behind the Soviet Union from the very start, was devoting all its national energy to completing a successful program to send humans into Earth orbit and return them safely.

This project was Project Mercury.

Named after Mercury, the Roman god of travel, the project involved an estimated 2 million people.

Just a few weeks after the success of this mission, America announced its manned mission to the moon, the Apollo program. As humans took this small, yet huge step into the vastness of space, the astronauts were wearing Breitling watches.

The watch that astronaut Scott Carpenter wore during the flight was a Breitling Navitimer, a 24-hour watch. This watch supported Scott's flight in the darkness of space, where there is neither day nor night. The Navitimer he wore at the time later became known as "the first chronograph in history to be used in space."

This Breitling watch, which has been a part of this great human achievement, was given the name "Cosmonaut" because of the way it went into space.

To make it comfortable to use in space, where it is difficult to tell time, and above all to support the flight of astronauts, we designed a watch with a hand-wound movement and a dial that can display 24 hours. These two elements remain exactly as they were in the 1962 model when Scott flew, and are still used in the design of Cosmonauts today.

This is the same model of Cosmonaut that was worn during the space flight.

The story behind the 24-hour clock

One of the major features of Breitling's Cosmonauts is the design of the dial with a 24-hour display. With the proliferation of digital watches, I don't think people think much about the 12-hour and 24-hour display, but there are only a few analog dial watches with a 24-hour display, so they were a rare product. It is no exaggeration to say that this function was created to meet the needs of military personnel, such as pilots, rather than general watch fans.

The 24-hour clock first became popular due to an order from the US military. To prevent people from misunderstanding the time due to the AM/PM display, the military always uses the 24-hour clock. In Japan, the US, and Europe, 24-hour clocks are used in everyday life in places where accuracy is required, such as airplane boarding times. So it was inevitable that the military would request a 24-hour clock as a function for their watches.

It's actually not that difficult to change the design of the dial from 12 hours to 24 hours. It can be changed by adding some gears and cogs in the movement. What's more difficult is the design of the dial. When there is a lot of information that needs to be displayed, the dial tends to become cluttered with numbers and hands. However, in situations such as flights where speed is required, it is important to be able to read the information accurately and instantly. Breitling, which is often used in the military and on flights, has put a lot of effort into making the information on the dial easy to see at a glance.

In fact, it was Scott himself who first approached Breitling about this improvement. In 1959, he requested that the Navitimer be changed to a 24-hour dial. He was so fond of the watch that he is said to have even worn a Breitling watch during his time in the Korean War before becoming an astronaut.

The first watch Scott Carpenter wore into space was a Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaut 809. This watch was slightly large, measuring 43mm in width. The back of the case has a special engraving commemorating this space flight. In fact, the watch Scott wore was broken by the shock of landing on Earth (watches at the time were not waterproof) and its whereabouts are unknown. However, the fact that it was present at this historic event is an undeniable fact, and watch fans continue to talk about it to this day.

This cosmonaut is engraved with Carpenter's name and the words Project Mercury.

A model loved by many celebrities

The Cosmonaut 809 is also famous for being a model loved by many celebrities, including Jerry Seinfeld (popular comedian), Graham Hill (British F1 racer), and world-famous jazz musician Miles Davis, who all wore the sleek black-and-white design.


Changes in the Navitimer over the years

The first generation Navitimer (produced in the early 1950s) featured a black dial with Arabic numerals.

In the second generation, index notation became mainstream instead of numbers, and the dial was also silver.
Another notable feature of early Navitimers is that they do not have the Breitling logo, but rather have the AOPA wings emblem. (AOPA stands for Aircraft Owners, and Pilots Association.) Even more valuable watches have the AOPA wings and the Breitling initial B instead of the logo.

You can see in the photo that he is wearing a Breitling watch over his space suit.

1962 was a very important year in human history, and for Breitling as well, and five years ago in 2012, we released a limited edition Cosmonaut to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Scott Carpenter's achievement.

The beauty of the dial and sophisticated design remain intact to this day.

[Breitling Cadette Chronograph Watch ]

Although the world war had ended in 1950, it was a time of continued turmoil as conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union became apparent.

One of Breitling's masterpieces born during that period is the Cadet.

This watch is elegant in its simplicity and is sure to be on any watch collector's wish list, with the Breitling 1190 Cadet being one of the most popular models.

American comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who was a fan of vintage Breitlings, and world-famous jazz musician Miles Davis are said to have both used the 1190 Cadet.

Origin of the name Cadet

Speaking of Breitling, as I mentioned in another article, it is a watch manufacturer that has developed alongside motorsports, which require precision, and the military (especially the air force), where agility is important.

Cadet is a term used to describe students who are officers or officer candidates at military and naval academies. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether the meaning of this term is directly related to the watch itself, but the simple design of the Cadet seems to convey hope for the future of the candidates who will be responsible for the future.

A product that shines in its simplicity

The Cadet is basically a three-hand model with two chronograph small seconds. The scales are arranged around the outer edge of the dial, so despite its high functionality, there is plenty of space on the dial, making it look neat and tidy.