Sunday Morning Showdown: Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Vs. Breitling Navitimer B02 Cosmonaute
Welcome back to Sunday Morning Showdown. This week, we follow up last week’s titanium face-off with a battle between two Swiss chronographs. But these are not just any chronographs. Both of these watches have a claim to firsts in outer space. You’ve read it in the title already, but today’s showdown will be between the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch and the Breitling Navitimer B02 Cosmonaute. Respectively, these modern watches are descendants of the first watch worn on the Moon and the first Swiss watch worn in space. But which one of these two cosmic chronographs will take the win? As always, the choice is yours.
Now, the Speedmaster is a house favorite here at Fratello. But the Breitling is also a watch with plenty of pedigree and classic good looks. Both watches feature manually wound movements and steel bracelets and are modern versions of a historic model in their respective brands’ catalogs. They’re also both three-register chronographs with a functional bezel and have seen action on the wrists of astronauts. Even size-wise, these are truly two horological peas in a pod. Read along, and make sure to cast your vote for the winner.
Last week on Sunday Morning Showdown…
Before we get into it, let’s take a look at last week’s results. Breaking Sunday Morning Showdown records for the most one-sided victory, the Zenith Defy Extreme came out on top with 82% of the votes. According to some of your comments, you felt that the slightly less busy look of the Zenith’s dial and its slightly more classical case helped it claim this victory. The Linde Werdelin SpidoLite’s looks are indeed avant-garde and perhaps not for everyone. Still, it is a properly impressive piece and one that put up a decent fight. How will this week’s contestants fare? Will the Speedy, fighting on home turf, leave the Breitling without oxygen in the outer atmosphere? Or will the Cosmonaute come out on top? Read Daan and Nacho’s arguments, and vote for your pick below.
Nacho: Breitling Navitimer B02 Cosmonaute
Hello, boys and girls! Welcome to this week’s SMS. As hinted at in the intro, it will be an uphill battle for my Breitling, but I’m here to give it an honest go. In the end, removing the slight bias that we (as Fratello) and you (as our readers) might have in favor of the Speedmaster, it’s not an unfair match. Plus, I have a soft spot for Breitling’s nerdier watches (shout-out to my Aerospace) and those which dip into the brand’s heritage designs. So, in my mind, the B02 Cosmonaute is — vintage watches aside — quite possibly the most exciting watch available from the brand today. Don’t worry; I won’t spend the following sections telling you all about this story of the watch. Ben already did a great job of it in his introductory article here.
But it is worth noting, albeit briefly, the heritage of the Cosmonaute. As you can see in the collage above, the original Cosmonaute was a watch that made it into space, though it was never officially flight-qualified by NASA. It enjoyed its time in outer space during the MA-7 Mission on the wrist of astronaut Scott Carpenter on March 15th, 1962. Carpenter’s watch suffered an unfortunate watery demise upon his return to Earth’s surface. However, the story of his watch persists, having found new life in the 2022 re-release of the Navitimer Cosmonaute. During the campaign, Breitling used Carpenter’s original watch, which shows heavy signs of the saltwater corrosion that ended its timekeeping for good. However, under all the damage lies a handsome watch. And the reissue certainly does it justice.
A watch with history, pedigree, and rugged good looks
As you can see above, the new Cosmonaute (left) faithfully reincarnates the original ref. 809 (right). It also revamps the model with some extra features. Its unique 24-hour dial (which helped Carpenter keep track of night and day while experiencing multiple sun cycles in space) is a charming feature from the original. But the date and the chunkier knurling on the (platinum) bezel are new additions. I somehow find the dial of the modern Cosmonaute more balanced than that of the vintage watch. This is likely thanks to its larger sub-dials and slightly higher placement of the AOPA logo at 12 o’clock. Compared to the cleaner dial of the Speedmaster, the Breitling’s may appear cluttered at first. But it’s certainly no less legible, with bright white hands contrasting nicely with the black backdrop. The only thing that requires mental rewiring is reading the watch’s 24-hour format.
Size-wise, the Cosmonaute comes in at 41mm. That’s smaller than a Speedy, but don’t let proportions fool you; the Breitling will likely wear just as large. This is due to its bigger crystal and lack of an external bezel. Whether that’s a positive or a negative, I’ll leave it up to you. As you can see above, the watch wears well on Mike’s wrist. Let’s talk about color for a second.
As much as I appreciate the black-and-white look of the Speedmaster, there’s something appealing about the slightly more colorful Breitling. The white rotating bezel creates a tuxedo-dial appearance, and the subtle hints of red on the slide-rule scale add a purposeful flair. And speaking of purpose, this watch is like a mini wrist computer. The versatility of the bezel boggles my mind whenever I read about it. You can read about it here if you too would like to be mercilessly baffled.
A matter of taste (and wealth)
Before I wrap things up, let’s talk about the movement. Inside the Breitling Navitimer B02 Cosmonaute, and visible through the sapphire case back, you’ll find the Breitling B02 movement. This manually wound chronograph caliber is a lovely sight to behold. Its bridges are finished with a radial brushing extending from the balance wheel. They are also engraved with a couple of nice “Easter eggs” from the watch’s space-faring history. The chronograph also utilizes a column wheel and has a beautifully snappy and precise feel. For what it’s worth, the watch is also slightly slimmer than the Speedy “Sapphire Sandwich” at 13mm thick (0.2mm thinner than the Omega).
Ultimately, the watch you prefer will come down to personal taste. Well, and also the contents of your savings account. It wouldn’t be fair to let Daan beat me to the punch regarding price, so I’ll mention it here. Yes, at €11,450, the Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute is almost €3,000 more expensive than its Speedmaster equivalent (the sapphire version retailing at €8,600). However, one thing to note is that the Cosmonaute is a limited edition. Breitling has only made 362 of these, making it a far more collectible watch than the standard-production Speedmaster. So, if you have the taste and the money to reach for the cosmos, the Breitling Navitimer B02 Cosmonaute should be your pick.
Daan: Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch
All right, Nacho, I won’t bring up the Cosmonaute’s price again. Instead, I’ll start by asking: why is the watch called “Cosmonaute” rather than “Astronaute”? According to Wikipedia, both words have the same meaning. They both refer to “a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft.” But I always thought that “astronaut” was used for people from the United States and Western Europe while “cosmonaut” was used for Russian people.
You could just say, “What’s in a name?” But in this case, 1962, the year the Breitling Cosmonaute debuted, was also the year that the Cold War came to a climax. The United States and the Soviet Union almost let their nuclear bomb(s) burst during the Cuban Missile Crisis that very same year. Of course, as always, Switzerland was a neutral party during the Cold War. Nevertheless, calling a watch “Cosmonaute” seems almost like a provocation towards other countries in the West. Of course, this says nothing about the actual watch, but I do think the peculiar naming of the watch definitely deserved to be mentioned.
As a watch, I do appreciate the Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute B02 quite a bit. I like the 24-hour layout on the dial, the syringe hands, and the very elegant bezel. And I even like how Breitling redid the model for last year’s anniversary, except for that date at 6 o’clock, of course. But otherwise, it still very much has the vibes that the original had back in 1962. I do prefer the way the Speedmaster wears on the wrist, though. Yes, it might be 1mm wider, but because of the lugs’ dramatically sloping facets and the external bezel, it definitely wears smaller than the Cosmonaute.
I also much prefer the bracelet on the Speedmaster, especially when we’re talking about the current versions of both these watches. The one for the B02 Cosmonaute is the typical brushed/polished “slanted” seven-row bracelet that comes with a lot of Breitling watches. It’s just a little too clunky and shiny for my taste. Then again, it’s up against one of the best bracelets currently available on a sports watch. The designers at Omega really went the extra mile on the new Speedmaster bracelet.
A sports watch versus a space watch
One big difference between these two watches is that the Cosmonaute was specifically designed to be worn during spaceflight. The Speedmaster, on the other hand, was introduced as a sports/racing chronograph to emphasize Omega’s role as the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games in 1957. I think it’s quite badass that a watch that was incidentally on the wrist of a few astronauts became one of NASA’s officially certified instruments. It somehow won that race against a watch that was specifically designed to go into space.
And even though I like what the Breitling designers did with the 2022 Cosmonaute re-edition, I think the Speedmaster wins this battle in terms of design. In particular, the current Speedmaster is such a nice reiteration. And what I really appreciate is that you can choose between versions with either a Hesalite or sapphire crystal. The whole point of buying such a space-inspired watch is the fact that a similar watch went to space. In that case, buying it with a Hesalite crystal makes a lot of sense. That’s why I think it’s a shame Breitling doesn’t offer that option.
To conclude the nitpicking, I’d like to point out that the Cosmonaute is only water/pressure resistant to an equivalent of 30 meters. The Speedmaster is rated to 50 meters, which isn’t the most impressive spec on a sports watch either. However, I’d be more comfortable bringing the Speedmaster near some water than I would with the Cosmonaute.
Cast your votes!
All right, there you have it — the battle between two space giants. Honestly, you can’t really go wrong with either one. But which one would be your watch of choice to fly into space? Would it be the slightly more colorful Breitling Cosmonaute that was specifically designed to go into space? Or would you go for the mostly black Speedmaster on its magnificent bracelet? Cast your votes now, and let us know the reasons behind your choice in the comments. Enjoy your weekend, and make sure to tune in next week for another installment of Sunday Morning Showdown!