Wearing the all-new El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th chronograph, Zenith Ambassador Felix Baumgartner is taking the plunge in the summer of 2012: the Austrian will jump out of a capsule suspended from a balloon in the stratosphere at an altitude of over 120,000 feet / 36.5 kilometres, nearly four times higher than passenger planes typically fly. A mission to the very edge of space labelled Red Bull Stratos, the project will attempt to transcend human limits that have existed for more than 50 years and smash four world records:
1. Тhe highest manned balloon flight
2. The highest freefall
3. The longest freefall time
4. And, for the first time in history, breaking the sound barrier with the human body
Supported by a team of experts, Felix Baumgartner will ascend to 120,000 feet / 36,576 metres with a stratospheric balloon and make an unprecedented freefall jump – accelerating from a standstill to 700 miles/hour / 1,125 kilometres/hour or more and rushing toward earth at supersonic speeds before parachuting to the ground. This attempt to dare atmospheric limits represents the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for the adventurer and provides valuable medical and scientific research data for future pioneers. Zenith Manufacture is one of the main sponsors and sole timekeeper of this extremely dangerous mission (see special inset).
The Red Bull Stratos team brings together the world’s leading minds in aerospace medicine, engineering, pressure suit development, capsule creation and balloon production. The team includes retired United States Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, who has ascended to a height of 102,800 feet / 31,333 metres and currently holds three of the records Felix Baumgartner will strive to break.
In preparation for this landmark event, on March 15, 2012, Felix Baumgartner executed a balloon jump from an altitude of 71,615 feet / 21,828 metres, making him only the third person in history to successfully complete a freefall from such an altitude. A second and last test will be undertaken between July and September.
On the way up, beginning at around 63,000 feet / 19,200 metres, Felix Baumgartner will pass the “Armstrong Line”, a point where the air pressure becomes so low that without the pressurization of a capsule or spacesuit, body fluids would vaporize, in other words start to “boil” at normal body temperature.
During the test jump from 71,615 feet / 21,828 metres in March 2012, Felix Baumgartner passed through a level of the stratosphere where the temperature plunged to -90 degrees Fahrenheit (-68 degrees Celsius). Felix Baumgartner will experience the environment of near space at 120,000 feet / 36,576 metres. It’s the vacuum of space and extreme cold.
The fact that air resistance is much lower in the stratosphere than at lower altitudes will allow Felix Baumgartner to accelerate quickly, as he attempts to break the speed of sound in approximately the first half-minute of his freefall before gradually being slowed by increasingly dense air. Controlling his body position despite such intensely rapid acceleration will be an extraordinary feat. The mission pilot will be protected during his fall by a pressurized space suit. He says “This is truly a leap into the unknown. No one can predict how the human body will respond when it crosses the sound barrier in a near space environment”.

The inevitable risks involved in attempting such a feat have been painstakingly evaluated – and there are plenty of them! Dr. Jonathan Clark, the medical director of the mission, explains that there will a number of challenging physiological moments for Felix Baumgartner, whose data will be closely monitored and recorded throughout the mission. There are several critical phases during the ascent and freefall. At launch the wind must be no more than 2 to 4 miles/hour / 3 to 6 kilometres/hour to enable the capsule and 55 storey-high balloon to lift off safely. However, during the first 1,000 feet / 305 metres of ascent, Felix Baumgartner will be unable to perform an emergency exit as there will not be enough altitude for an emergency parachute deployment.
On the way down, Dr. Clark points out that the scientists have taken all possible measures to prevent Felix Baumgartner from falling into an uncontrollable ‘flat spin’ on the way down. “Flat spin is a genuine threat. The primary concerns during a flat spin are the eyes, the brain, and the cardiovascular system. If the centre of rotation is in the upper part of the body, blood rushes toward the feet, which can cause a blackout. If the rotation is centred in the lower part of the body, blood rushes toward the head, potentially causing a condition called “red out” with effects that can range from a feeling of pressure in the head to an ocular hemorrhage and intercranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain). The longer the spin lasts, the more dangerous it becomes.”
During his test jump from 71,615 feet / 21,828 metres, Felix Baumgartner was able to control his stability very effectively, using his skydiving skills. As a safeguard, Felix Baumgartner has a specially developed parachute system with a meter that will deploy a drogue stabilization parachute automatically if he experiences 3.5 Gs for more than 6 continuous seconds. He can also deploy the drogue manually by pressing a button attached to his glove.
Felix Baumgartner himself has spent several years studying the risks and preparing mentally and physically. “Breaking the speed of sound in freefall is a pioneering effort and being a pioneer requires risk. I don’t have to put myself in danger to be happy. But I do need to have a challenge. This is the ultimate skydive.” His mentor Joe Kittinger, retired U.S. Air Force colonel and current record holder, is also confident his protege will succeed. “I always tell Felix Baumgartner that he needs the ‘Three Cs’ – confidence in his team, confidence in his equipment and confidence in himself. At this stage, he’s got all that.”

Accuracy and reliability have been the watchwords of the Manufacture Zenith, manufacturer of navigational chronometric instruments for civil and military aviation since 1865. The fact that one of its timepieces will be the first to break the sound barrier in a near space environment with Felix Baumgartner will once again prove the brand’s reliability under extreme conditions.
Zenith timepieces are indeed well accustomed to “trials by fire”, such as that undergone by the famous El Primero, the first automatic high-frequency chronograph, that crossed the Atlantic fixed to the landing gear of a Boeing 707 in 1970, on the AF015 flight from Paris to New York. Subjected to drastic changes in temperature, pressure and terrible jolting, it imperturbably maintained its regular cadence of 36,000 vibrations per hour and required no adjustment, having remained accurate to the nearest second – apart from the inevitable timezone difference.
Like all models in the brand range, this model is indeed entirely in tune with the corporate values of authenticity, daring and pleasure. Authenticity, since it embodies the brand’s pioneering spirit and the excellence of traditional craftsmanship. Daring, as reflected in its conception and construction. And of course pleasure, because it is intended to delight the wearer of the watch troughout his dreams.
As the faithful heir of the Rainbow Flyback model developed for the French Air Force in 1997, the Stratos is equipped with the world’s most accurate automatic chronograph movement – the legendary El Primero – as well as the Striking 10th and Flyback functions, making it an eminently suitable partner for Felix Baumgartner’s exploit. Watches and cockpit flight instruments are subjected to abrupt variations in pressure, intense vibrations and violent accelerations – from 9 Gs to 11 Gs. Thanks to its robust construction, the El Primero Stratos can withstand it all – and will be right there with Felix Baumgartner as he tests the edge of the human envelope.
On a visual level, the three different counter colours echo the first El Primero chronograph launched in 1969 with a three-tone dial that was extremely unusual at the time anddesigned to enhance readability. The darker anthracite-grey colour for the hours counter at 6 o’clock accentuates the length of time being recorded, while the light-grey colour of the small-seconds counter at 9 o’clock symbolizes the fleeting nature of time, and the midnight-blue minutes counter at 3 o’clock epitomizes the intermediate nature of this unit of measurement.
In addition to the chronograph, the El Primero Stratos is also equipped with the Striking 10th function, which serves to read off 1/10ths of a second and is combined with the flyback mode that is particularly useful in the field of aviation and a favourite with pilots – since it enables instant resetting of the chronograph functions in one smooth, easy move.
First watch to cross the sound barrier in a near space environment.
This mission in the stratosphere will test the reliability of Zenith watches under the most extreme conditions: temperature, low pressure, speed, friction, impacts, etc. If the jump is successful, Zenith will be the first to have a watch cross the sound barrier in a near space environment. Zenith CEO Jean-Frederic Dufour explains what spurred him to participate in this mission: “We have often been forerunners in unexplored domains and we have accompanied people in there most incredible projects. It is this ability to come up with new ideas, and then push through with new technical developments before anyone else, that is most fascinating at Zenith. Our watches have participated in some of the grandest human adventures: explorer Roald Amundsen’s discovery of the North and South Poles; Mahatma Gandhi’s peaceful fight for India’s independence; the laying of the foundations of ecology by the learned Prince Albert I of Monaco; Louis Bleriot’s Channel crossing; John F. Kennedy’s political action; intrepid explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell in various endeavours such as his latest expedition to Nepal; as well as Johan Ernst Nilsson in his daring Pole2Pole mission. Felix Baumgartner is made of the same stuff as these pioneers and we are very excited that the El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th will accompany him on his exploit.”

El Primero 4057B, automatic
Caliber : 13.”’ (Diameter: 30 mm)
Thickness : 6.60 mm
Components : 326
Jewels : 31
Frequency : 36,000 VpH – (5 Hz)
Power reserve : min. 50 hours
Finishings : Oscillating weight with
“Cotes de Geneve” pattern.

Hours and minutes in the centre
Small seconds at 9 o’clock
Date indicator at 6 o’clock
1/10th of a second flyback chronograph:
– 60-minute counter at 6 o’clock
– 60-second counter at 3 o’clock
– 1/10th of a second indication by the chronograph hand

Material : Stainless steel
Unidirectional rotating bezel with black ceramic disc
Diameter : 45.5 mm
Diameter opening : 35 mm
Thickness : 14.10 mm
Crystal : Box-shaped sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides

Case-back : Solid case-back with Stratos mission logo and Felix’s moto: “learn to love what you have been taught to fear”

Water-resistance : 10 ATM
Dials : Silver-toned sunray with 3 coloured counters
Hour-markers : Rhodium with
SuperLuminova SLN C1, faceted Hands : Rhodium with
SuperLuminova SLN C1, faceted STRAPS & BUCKLE

Alligator leather strap with protective rubber lining, metal bracelet or rubber strap