Few self-proclaimed tool watches yield the kind of functionality on offer from this vintage Bivouac. Fewer still do so with such personality, coordinated design, and bizarre history. Unique to this watch, the outer dial scale is not a tachymeter or pulsations scale. It is a mechanical barometer/altimeter. The pressure drops, measured as mmHg, could be scaled to measure elevation gained through its bezel or simply to register the kind of quick drop in atmospheric pressure that often precedes harsh conditions. The Bivouac was a model intended to accompany explorers to the farthest corners of the map with an exquisite, lighthearted design.
Favre-Leuba has a complicated origin story. Often parroted as the second oldest Swiss watch brand (that is, behind Blancpain but ahead of Vacheron Constantin), their early pocket watches were some of the most widely circulated and reputable. FL was then sold to Bovet, later JLC, and finally Saphir Group before vanishing in the 1970s (but still occasionally knocking out a piece for Dior). In those latter years, Favre-Leuba went out with a spectacular supernova of excellence and not a dying whimper. This is mostly what collectors remember them for today.
This 1962 Bivouac, perhaps alongside the Sea Sky, are consummate examples of that final brilliant decade. Mechanical altimeters are a notoriously difficult complications to engineer at scale on the order of a wristwatch. Oris has only recently succeeded in that task, sixty years later. This first-generation attempt is quaint by mechanical comparison, but no less attractive (or useful in the weather context). In its day, the Bivouac was worn by Walter Bonatti whilst climbing the Grandes Jorasses. Later, it accompanied Paul-Émile Victor on multiple Antarctic expeditions. The chunky 40mm case sports stout lugs and an 11mm rise. The bi-directional bezel is pure bakelite. It is powered by Favre-Leuba’s own manually wound calibre 10032. The seller notes this watch as a place where function meets funk. In this aquamarine orange, I don’t think I could summarize its appeal any more succinctly.
This example is one you want. It appears to have lived an adventurous life and simultaneously been very well cared for. The case is sharp with back engravings and serial still visible. Its dial is strong and hardly aged for all its adventures. The handset is matched to its dial in tritium, even under UV. The bakelite bezel has not cracked and rotates freely. The movement was serviced in 2017 and is running well. It even comes with its original 1962 box. It comes from a private collector in Switzerland.
Find this Bivouac here on Omega Forums for 5650 EUR.