Swiss Perfection on the Roof of the World

On May 20, 2018, the Favre-Leuba Raider Bivouac 9000, while on the wrist of the mountaineer Adrian Ballinger, became the first mechanical altimeter wristwatch to accurately convey altitude, air pressure, and time, on the roof of the world – Mount Everest. On May 12, 2019, Favre-Leuba will be auctioning off the very watch worn by Ballinger, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going toward supporting the Khumbu Climbing Centre (KCC).

The KCC was co-founded by Jenni and Conrad Anker, with the support of the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation. Influential members from the local Sherpa community such as Chhongba Sherpa, Panuru Sherpa, Lhakpa Sherpa and Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa were key to the centre’s development.

On the whole, the centre’s resources focus on the development and training of the vital indigenous Sherpa and mountain guiding community in Nepal. In a region where many families and communities have lost loved ones to the mountains, the KCC is helping to enhance the mountaineering knowledge of the local people so that the margin of safety is raised when working in high mountain terrain.

The foundation was set-up in 1999 after the demise of Alex Lowe in a mountain accident. Thanks largely to the friendship and support the Ankers have found within the people of this region, the whole team’s efforts at the KCC has had a direct impact on improving the safety and wellbeing of all climbers and hikers who enter the valley surrounding Mount Everest.

The Bivouac 9000 altimeter watch that will be auctioned to raise funds for the KCC was harnessed to Adrian’s wrist throughout the preparation and ascent to the top of Mount Everest.

It’s internal mechanical air pressure and altitude system not only provided accurate barometric readings to Adrian, but when the team encountered a severe oxygen equipment malfunction, and as a result, thought the summit window had closed, the Bivouac 9000 indicated an incoming high-pressure system which was confirmed by base camp. This meant that a weather window had opened and offered just enough time for the team to reach the summit and descend back below the ‘death zone’ of 8,000 metres. To commemorate this achievement, the case back has been engraved with the defining date and altitude of the summit.

Favre-Leuba’s legacy is built upon the bold and pioneering spirit of mountaineering. The original Bivouac released in 1962 became synonymous throughout the climbing world as there was, for the first time, a timepiece to accurately calculate altitude. It joined Walter Bonatti on defining climbs in the Grand Jorasses. Junko Tabei wore the original Bivouac on the summit of Everest while becoming the first female climber to ascend to the roof of the world.

In a terrain where shattering winds and sub-zero temperatures can cause chaos with digital instruments, the Bivouac 9000, proved that it is a true marvel of Swiss mechanical engineering.