Favre-Leuba Bivouac 9000

The Favre-Leuba Bivouac 9000 features an altimeter scale, air pressure display and power-reserve indicator, all powered by a hand-wound movement. Angus Davies explores the many virtues of this distinctive watch.

This detailed review of the Favre-Leuba Bivouac 9000 includes live images, specification and pricing.

Favre Leuba Bivouac 9000 - altimeter and air pressure display

I am not comfortable with heights. After ascending a few feet, I become unsteady. In my opinion, life at sea level, stood on terra firma, sounds a much more sensible proposition. However, there are some individuals who like nothing more than scaling a mountain, eager to stand atop the summit.

Favre-Leuba, the Swiss watch company with a lust for adventure, has recognised the innate need for some brave souls to climb. The Favre-Leuba Bivouac 9000 is equipped with an altimeter and air pressure display. These indications are delivered using mechanical means alone.

The Bivouac nomen has been used before. Favre-Leuba, one of the oldest names in watchmaking, released its inaugural Bivouac model in 1962. This latest version of the legendary watch has ‘been improved and refined’.

The dial

The stone-grey dial coalesces with the titanium case, providing a superb backdrop for the various indications.

Favre Leuba Bivouac 9000 - altimeter and air pressure display

A red, centrally positioned, hand circumscribes the dial, displaying the altitude up to 3000 metres on a bidirectional bezel. An altimeter scale, located at 3 o’clock, also displays the altitude in 3000 metre intervals. When the red central hand has made three full rotations of the dial, the altimeter scale displays 9000 metres. Again, the hand on the altimeter scale is red, making it to stand out from the epidermis of the dial.

If the wearer knows the altitude of the base camp, they can set this altitude on their watch using the bidirectional bezel. Leaving base camp, ascending the mountain, they can monitor their progress using the altimeter scale.

The altimeter scale features a shaded area between 7000 and 9000 metres. This is referred to as the ‘death zone’. Typically, there is insufficient oxygen for humans to breathe at altitudes greater than 8000 metres.

Also positioned at 3 o’clock, and sharing the same subdial as the altimeter scale, is the air pressure display. This displays the prevailing air pressure on a scale ranging from 1013 to 300 hPa. Again, assuming the climber knows the altitude of the base camp they can set the altimeter on their watch prior to going to sleep. If the following morning, the air pressure has dropped, then the weather has deteriorated. Conversely, if the air pressure has increased, relative to the night before, then the weather conditions have improved.

The air pressure display is marked with a shaded area to indicate danger to the wearer. Low air pressure can cause fluid to leak from the capillaries in the lungs and brain. As the pressure continues to drop, the build-up of fluid increases, potentially endangering the wearer’s life.

A small-seconds display is presented at 9 o’clock. This indication is particularly useful to a climber as it indicates the movement is operational.

In the southern hemisphere of the dial is a date aperture. It consists of black text on a white date disc. A power-reserve indicator is positioned below noon.

The two subdials and the power-reserve indicator are presented on a light grey background. The contrast of the light grey against stone-grey presents each function in a discrete, simple to interpret form.

The white-tipped open-worked hour and minute hands stand out from the dial and interface with matching, rectangular-shaped indices.

A key strength of the dial is that, despite featuring several functions, it remans simple to read. One explanation for this impressive lucidity relates to the vastness of the Favre-Leuba Bivouac 9000 case and, as such, the space available between each indication.

The case

The Favre-Leuba Bivouac 9000 is a horological leviathan. The diameter of the watch is 48mm and the case thickness is 18.7mm. On the face of it, this may dissuade many would-be buyers from making a purchase. However, I would implore these individuals from making any snap decisions. The watch has very short lugs, helping to mitigate the sense of scale and I personally found it afforded a comfortable fit.

Favre Leuba Bivouac 9000 - altimeter and air pressure display

The titanium case is relatively light and the metal proffers hypo-allergenic properties, making it suitable for those individuals with sensitive skin. The titanium has a dark grey appearance with a slightly mottled finish.

Favre Leuba Bivouac 9000 - altimeter and air pressure display

On the right hand flank of the case is a plate, retained with two screws. Behind this plate is an air inlet which is necessary for the watch’s barometer. Cleverly, a ‘tough membrane’ allows air to enter the case while preventing any ingress of water or dust. The aforementioned plate ‘protects the delicate membrane against physical damage’.

Six screws affix the solid case-back.

Favre Leuba Bivouac 9000 - altimeter and air pressure display

This is a highly practical watch with a robust appearance which also proves very handsome. The visual allure is ameliorated with the fitment of a grey antelope leather strap. The hue of the strap replicates the tone of the case. The Swiss brand repeatedly shows that practicality does not necessitate abandoning style.

The movement

The FL311 movement is hand-wound. The presence of a capsule (see later) within the case precludes the fitment of an oscillating weight.

The Favre-Leuba Bivouac 9000 measures altitude using an aneroid barometer. At the heart of the ‘barometer is an airtight capsule made from a special alloy. This capsule is contained in a chamber into which the atmospheric air required to measure the altitude enters through a 3mm opening in the case’.

As the wearer ascends a mountain, the air pressure drops and the capsule expands. Conversely, when descending the air pressure increases and the capsule contracts. In principle this sounds very straightforward, however, the difference between air pressure at sea level and the summit of Everest is very small, a difference of only 0.7bar. Favre-Leuba has overcome the technical challenges of measuring these infinitesimal differences in air pressure.

Owing to the solid case-back, it was not possible to appraise the finishing of the movement.

The hand-wound movement has a power-reserve of 65 hours.

Closing remarks

The Favre-Leuba Bivouac 9000 harnesses much ingenuity and delivers functions which are likely to appeal to many adventurers. Indeed, the altimeter scale and air pressure display should sate the horological needs of any self-respecting climber.

Nevertheless, I suspect the majority of men attracted to this watch will never use crampons and ropes. They are more likely to wear the watch at comparatively low altitudes. This is not to diminish the technical prowess of the Bivouac 9000, it’s technically amazing.

However, similar to a diver’s watch, this timepiece has many attributes which make it relevant in normal use. The dial is highly legible, the watch is comfortable to wear and the styling is bold, masculine and very different from other timepieces. Furthermore, the titanium case proves lightweight and skin-friendly.

Another attribute of Favre-Leuba is keen pricing and this model proves to be no exception. Considering its impressive specification and innovative technology, the recommended retail price of £6900 represents excellent value for money.

Further information

Technical specification

  • Model: Favre-Leuba Bivouac 9000
  • Case: Titanium; diameter 48mm; height 18.7mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid case-back; water resistant to 3 atm (30 metres)
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; power-reserve indicator; altimeter scale; air pressure display
  • Movement: FL311 movement; hand-wound movement; power reserve 65 hours
  • Strap: Grey antelope leather strap with pin-buckle
  • Price: £6,900 (RRP as at 11.6.2018)

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