To The Alps With Vintage And Modern Favre-Leuba Bivouacs
There is only one way to truly test a Favre-Leuba Bivouac, and that is to take it up a mountain.
This year, Favre-Leuba is celebrating 283 years of watchmaking history by looking back at the brand’s connection to Swiss engineering and Swiss mountaineering. These two very distinct disciplines were brought together by one thing: The Favre-Leuba Bivouac.
The 1960s - The Era Of Exploration
In 1962, the Favre-Leuba Bivouac became the first mechanical wristwatch to include a barometer and a built-in altimeter that could measure altitude up to 3,000 meters. The watch became a true companion for the world’s most adventurous mountaineers who could track their progress and the weather in the most hostile of environments.
Early Mountaineers Conquering Frontiers
In 1964, the Bivouac guided famous Italian mountaineer Walter Bonatti up the north face of Pointe Whymper in the Grandes Jorasse, an almost vertical climb. And in 1975, Japanese mountaineer Junko Tabei wore a Bivouac during her ascent of Mount Everest, becoming the first woman to make it to the top of the world.
The Re-edition Raider Bivouac 9000
In 2017, over half a century later, Favre-Leuba unveiled the Raider Bivouac 9,000, a mechanical wristwatch that could mechanically measure altitude up to 9,000 meters. Why 9,000 meters? Well, this is the maximum altitude needed to measure the 8,848 meters of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain above sea level. Like its predecessor, the Raider Bivouac 9000 also features a barometer, but unlike the 1962 version, it is now water-resistant to 30 meters.
To test both watches in the wilderness, Favre-Leuba ambassadors Nicolas Hojac, one of the fastest modern speed climbers, and Ueli Bühler, legendary Swiss mountaineer and mountain guide, set off on a mission to test both watches in the Swiss Alps. Bühler took the 1962 Bivouac and Hojac the Raider Bivouac 9000.
The mission was to ascend to the summit of the Jungfrau mountain. At 4,158 meters, it is one of Switzerland’s highest peaks. The duo took the Jungfraujoch railway up to the Jungfrau mountain range, and from there crossed the Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in the Alps. They spent the night in the Mönchsjoch hut but were forced to turn back the following day due to severe avalanche risks caused by high winds and heavy shifts of snow on the upper slopes.
“When we were out, we knew that the weather would be unstable. The watch's barometer confirmed this and showed that it was likely to be worse than expected. A violent storm caught us, and we barely made it to the safe hut. So, the information we got from the Bivouac was vital,” noted Hojac.
Agreeing, Bühler said, “Both watches are very precise in all their functions and are battery independent. In bad weather conditions, a reliable time and altitude indication are crucial, informing you whether you should or should not start a difficult trip. Besides a good weather forecast, high air pressure of at least 1020 mbar is an important condition. If no weather forecast is available in remote areas, air pressure is the only measurable variable for understanding weather changes. Therefore, a watch with the barometer function, like the Raider Bivouac 9000, is an indispensable instrument on expeditions.”
Despite a 30-year age difference, the two men share a common passion for mountaineering. “It’s always the best gift to explore the mountains with someone who is more experienced than me and learn from them. In my eyes, experience is the sum of the mistakes you have made. I am happy for every mistake that I don't have to make. I can benefit from the experience of the older generation,” shared Hojac.
“Nicolas is a good 30 years younger than me, and he is in great shape,” said Bühler. “I have long since passed the zenith when it comes to mountaineering. Despite the age difference and despite major changes in 30 years, such as better material, targeted training, and dealing with the new digital technology, we get along very well. The drive for long, sometimes wild tours and the spirit of the alpinist is the same as before. We treat each other with mutual respect.”
How The Favre-Leuba Raider Bivouac 9000 Works
The Raider Bivouac 9000 measures altitude thanks to an innovative aneroid capsule, which acts like a mini metal accordion that expands and contracts based on air pressure. This capsule also allows the timepiece to measure minor changes in the surrounding atmospheric pressure, indicating changes in the weather.
Altimeter and Barometer Indication
Even the smallest movement of the capsule is displayed on the dial via two red hands. The first is the central hand that measures the altitude to 3,000 meters and can go three times around the dial up to 9,000 meters. The second red hand, on the subdial at three o’clock, indicates the current altitude in thousands of meters, while the other end of the hand indicates barometric pressure. There is also a rotating bezel that can track gains or losses in elevation during a climb or descent.
All The Details
The timepiece is powered by the hand-wound FL311 movement that is based on the Eterna Caliber 3903M. It includes a specially designed in-house altimeter module. The timepiece is housed in a 48mm titanium case and comes with a black dial and an antelope leather strap.
“You can simply rely on the Bivouac 9000. Because it works completely mechanically, I don't have to worry about a battery. With the integrated barometer, I can read the exact height and be aware of any upcoming weather changes. And it is not only a perfect tool in the mountains, but it also looks stunning and is a perfect companion in everyday life,” said Hojac.
Favre-Leuba’s mission has always been to support mountaineers and keep them as safe as possible. Even if today’s explorers use sophisticated climbing computers to track their progress, batteries can die in extreme cold, and having a back-up is always wise, especially when it looks this good!
(Images provided by Favre-Leuba)