Add one more record to the list of those broken when Felix Baumgartner stepped out of a pressurized capsule at nearly 128,000 feet and became the first human to free-fall at Mach 1. Strapped to his wrist, outside of his spacesuit, was the Zenith Stratos Flyback Striking 10th, making it the first wristwatch to be exposed to such a velocity outside of an air- or spacecraft. This is officially the fastest watch in the world.
With this feat, the Stratos joins an elite list of legendary “space” watches, such as the Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute and the Omega Speedmaster Professional. There aren’t a lot of high-end sports watches that are proven in real world conditions or used as standard equipment (Richard Mille and the Rolex DeepSea Sea Dweller notwithstanding). They’re typically just strapped on at the end of a tennis match or given a limited edition engraved caseback. But Zenith was confident enough in its Stratos Flyback Striking 10th to strap one on to Baumgartner’s arm and to expose it to the harsh environment and shock waves of a supersonic skydive from 24 miles high.
The Stratos Flyback Striking 10th features Zenith’s vaunted high-frequency El Primero self-winding calibre with foudryante complication, capable of timing events to 1/10th of a second, thanks to a center seconds hand that traverses the dial once every ten seconds. It is the first Striking 10th to feature a flyback complication, allowing for one-touch resetting and restarting of the chronograph. The dial is virtually identical to the standard El Primero Striking 10th, with the trademark tri-color subdials that echo the original El Primero A386 from 1969. The Stratos case is 14mm thick, 45.5mm across, and features a chunky uni-directional ratcheting timing bezel with a ceramic insert. The chronograph pushers are rectangular and low-profile, providing protection for the screw-down crown nestled between them.
The Stratos Flyback Striking 10th Tribute to Felix Baumgartner is brimming with technology and refinement, yet it comes in under $10,000. On the rubber strap, the price is $9,200, though if you opt for the steel bracelet, you’ll move into five figures at $10,400. Sure, that’s a lot of money, but for an innovative manufacture column wheel flyback foudryante chronograph movement, it may be the best value haute horlogerie watch on earth in addition to the fastest.