Earlier this year, I found myself flying to Zurich to meet the management team of one of Switzerland’s oldest watch-making companies, Favre-Leuba. It was to provide a watershed moment in the evolution of Arctic Mission.
Watch-making and exploration became closely entwined when accurate time-pieces provided the key to establishing longitude, and therefore one’s position on the surface of the Earth. World-renowned explorer Captain James Cook was one of the first navigators to use a time-piece at sea to establish longitude. He was only a 10-year old when Abraham Favre was registering himself as a watch-maker in 1737.
And randomly, in my researches some time ago for an article about the dependence on watch-makers by explorers, I’d clocked that Favre-Leuba’s Bivouac wristwatch, launched the year I was born (1962), was the first mechanical watch ever to incorporate an altimeter and aneroid barometer thereby creating an ‘indispensable companion’ for explorers. I’d also noted legendary polar explorer Paul-Emile Victor had been one of the first to deploy this wristwatch on one of his Antarctic expeditions … and one of my heroes, Walter Bonatti, had worn it while summiting the Grandes Jorasses in the Alps.