Zenith ambassador Felix Baumgartner triumphed yesterday, jumping from the edge of space to earth wearing a Zenith timepiece, becoming the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall.
Baumgartner took part in the Red Bull Stratos mission, in which he travelled to the edge of space in a helium balloon before leaping to earth. He had to overcome concerns with the power for his visor heater that impaired his vision and nearly jeopardized the mission, but still managed the life-or-death leap.
He wore the new El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th chronograph, falling 39,045 meters at a top speed of 1,342.8 kilometers per hour.
Baumgartner made his jump from a specially built capsule, landing safely with his parachute in the desert of New Mexico after freefalling for 4m20s. His jump lasted a total of 9:03 minutes, with “countless millions” of people tuning in to watch the jump broadcast live online and on television.
He said of the achievement: "It was an incredible up and down today, just like it’s been with the whole project.
“First we got off with a beautiful launch and then we had a bit of drama with a power supply issue to my visor. The exit was perfect but then I started spinning slowly. I thought I’d just spin a few times and that would be that, but then I started to speed up. It was really brutal at times.
“I thought for a few seconds that I’d lose consciousness. I didn’t feel a sonic boom because I was so busy just trying to stabilize myself. We’ll have to wait and see if we really broke the sound barrier. It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be."
Zenith branding could be seen on the capsule as well as on the chest of Baumgartner’s special suit, worn during the jump.
The brand’s president and chief executive Jean-Frédéric Dufour said: “The Manufacture Zenith is very proud to have been the official timekeeper of this mission and to present the El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th Tribute to Felix Baumgartner.
“Thanks to him, Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th is the first watch ever to cross the sound barrier in a near space environment.”
The Stratos is equipped with the El Primero automatic movement, said to be the world’s most accurate automatic chronograph movement.
Once back on terra firma, Baumgartner said: “This project is all about uniqueness, manpower and precision and my Zenith watch perfectly matches the mission.”
Zenith watches have accompanied several other human exploration adventures, including Roald Amundsen’s discovery of the North and South Poles, Louis Blériot’s Channel crossing and Johan Ernst Nilsson in his daring Pole2Pole mission.