Smartwatches – Combining Traditional with Digital
In the past several years, a handful of manufacturers of mechanical timepieces have broken into the smartwatch category. TAG Heuer was one of the first brands to do so back in 2015 with the Connected. A year later, Breitling got their foot in the door of this burgeoning watch category with their own connected timepiece. What sets Breitling’s Exospace B55 apart is its hybrid construction. The result is a traditional chronograph with added digital benefits, all built entirely in-house. The best part: it performs just as admirably when it’s “disconnected.” Even without the digital benefits, the Exospace B55 is yet another superbly crafted watch from Breitling.
The Road to Breitling’s First Official Smartwatch
Breitling’s foray into the world of tech-infused mechanical watches actually dates back a couple decades. In the 1990s, they introduced a new line of pilot’s watches that debuted some of the first analog-digital features. In addition to functions like a second time zone display, these models showcased elements like night vision displays and emergency radio transmitters. These models also gave way to watches like the Emergency that have put Breitling on the map.
Another precursor to the brand’s first official smartwatch came in 2014 with the Breitling Cockpit B50. For this model, the brand used electronics to enhance the movement. The trademarked SuperQuartz movement is in fact a special thermocompensated quartz electronic movement. It takes into account the impact of temperature over the quartz oscillation. As a result, it boasts ten times the accuracy of your average quartz movement.
The Breitling Exospace B55
Two years later, Breitling unveiled the first Exospace B55. The model features a hefty 46mm case made of black titanium with a matte finish. The result is a rugged, oversized look that’s unmistakably Breitling. However, the titanium construction and curved lugs give it a streamlined, ultra-practical, and lightweight feel that’s easy on the wrist. The case is finished off with a bidirectional engraved bezel and, of course, Breitling’s signature rider tabs. To compliment the all-black case design, Breitling completes the Exospace B55 with a bold and sporty blue rubber strap.
When it comes to functionality, the model builds off the brand’s other analog-digital watches. It showcases a traditional three-hand display along with two digital windows. All of the mechanisms – both analog and digital – operate via the crown. In addition, there are push pieces flanking the crown that appear like chronograph buttons. Instead, they allow you to scroll between submenus and activate other functions, such as the countdown timer or stopwatch. Another major benefit of the digital display is its performance in the dark. It includes a backlight that glows blue and that’s night vision goggle compatible. Like the B50, the Exospace comes with a SuperQuartz movement – you guessed it, the B55, which also boasts COSC certification.
In addition, the model features a wide array of capabilities optimized for pilots. There are more standard pilot watch functions, like a dual time zone display and countdown timer. However, there’s also an all-new “Chrono Flight” mechanism. This function records overall flight times and saves them in UTC. In addition, it allows you to program them with the corresponding airport codes. Still, the most impressive feature of the Exospace B55 is quite possibly the battery life. Other connected timepieces, like TAG Heuer’s, need to charge every couple of days. However, Breitling’s can last up to two months on a single charge.
The Connected Part of the Exospace B55 and the App
Everything we’ve discussed about the Exospace B55 so far is relatively similar to a number of Breitling’s previous analog-digital models. However, the connected portion of the watch and the app are what really set it apart. The corresponding app is available on both Apple and Android devices. Here, you can view, set, and log various functions and data from the Exospace B55, like timer and chronograph records as well as stored flight times. In addition, the model is Bluetooth compatible, which allows you to receive notifications from your phone. You can’t answer a call or a text, so it essentially acts as a pager. Still, it’s a handy feature to have.
The Next Generation
In 2018, Breitling launched the second generation of the smartwatch: the Exospace B55 Yachting. As the name indicates, the brand engineered the model for the sailing community as opposed to pilots. While much of the design and functionality of the watch remains the same, we do see a few notable updates.
For instance, the Exospace B55 Yachting comes equipped with the quintessential yacht watch function: a regatta timer. Here, Breitling has updated the countdown timer mechanism from the original with an all-new countdown system. It features visible, audible, and vibrating notification and alarms. You can seamlessly reset and re-synchronize them to a reference clock as needed. Just as the original could record and store flight times, the yachting edition does the same with chronograph split times. In addition, Breitling has replaced the bidirectional engraved bezel with a unidirectional compass bezel. This allows you to calculate sailing angles, wind direction, and optimal starting position.