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World’s Most Famous Balloon Is Now Part of a Luxury Watch

Twenty-five years ago, the world watched as the Breitling Orbiter 3 completed the first nonstop balloon flight around the world. Today, Breitling commemorates the achievement with the Aerospace B70 Orbiter.

Breitling Orbiter
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If you happened to be reading the news in March 1999 (almost certainly on physical paper, no kidding), one story would have probably been below the fold on page one. And that would have been the story of Bertrand Piccard, Brian Jones, and the Breitling Orbiter 3.

On March 1, 1999, Piccard and Jones launched from the Swiss town of Château-d’Oex. The duo spent the next 19 days, 21 hours, and 47 minutes aloft aboard the gondola of the Breitling Orbiter 3. They eventually touched down in Egypt, having circumnavigated the globe by balloon for the first time and traveling 45,633 km.

The Breitling Orbiter 3 held the record for the longest distance unrefueled flight of any aircraft in aviation history until 2006. It still holds the record for the longest duration of unrefueled flights today.

There was a lot of fanfare at the time. I remember a lot of folks scratching their heads at the rather wild adventure.

Well, today, the mission’s primary sponsor, Breitling has resurrected the story. With it, it brought the launch of a very cool watch, the Aerospace B70 Orbiter.

Breitling Aerospace B70 Orbiter: A Watch With Real Aeronautical History

Breitling B70 Orbiter Watch back showing balloon
Breitling Aerospace B70 Orbiter shows a piece of the balloon through the case back.

As the primary sponsor of the circumnavigation, it seems fitting that Breitling would mark the occasion. And with the Aerospace B70 Orbiter (Ref. EB70101A101S1), it really does so with a highly unique product.

The most compelling aspect of the watch is a small piece of the original Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon inside the case. It is visible through the transparent case back, lending a shimmering, one-of-a-kind element to the luxury watch. The case back also has the Breitling Orbiter 3 mission logo around its perimeter. It carries the inscription, “First non-stop flight around the world 25th anniversary.”

The bright orange dial also matches the color of the Orbiter 3 capsule. Buyers can purchase it on a titanium bracelet or a black rubber strap with a folding clasp.

Breitling B70 Orbiter Watch
Breitling Aerospace B70 Orbiter (EB70101A101E1)

For low-light visibility, Breitling coated the watch’s numerals, indexes, and hands with luminescent Super-LumiNova. The case and optional bracelet are titanium, a robust, light metal that’s nonmagnetic, hypoallergenic, and highly corrosion-resistant.

The new COSC-certified Breitling Manufacture Caliber B70 powers the watch. This thermo-compensated SuperQuartz analog and digital display movement delivers “10 times the accuracy of a standard quartz watch,” according to the brand.

Luxury Watch With Ballooning History

The watch has various functions, including a 1/100th of a second chronograph (with split-time and flyback functions), a countdown timer, a second timezone, two alarms, a lap function, and a perpetual calendar.

Breitling B70 Orbiter Watch
Breitling Aerospace B70 Orbiter

The Aerospace B70 Orbiter launches on March 21, 2024 — exactly 25 years to the day that the Breitling Orbiter 3 made its historic landing. With a retail price of $4,700 on the rubber strap and $4,900 on the titanium bracelet, it lands squarely in the realm of luxury watches.

But with that price comes a marriage of history, flight, and horology. I expect it will pique the interest not only of watch enthusiasts but also the throngs of people who remember the historic balloon like it was yesterday.

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