Breitling’s Historical Ties to the Military
The Breitling brand has long been associated with aviators and adventurers. In the company’s early years, they established themselves as premier producers of pilot’s watches. By the mid-1900’s, they had secured partnerships with the British Royal Air Force and United States Army, developing military-grade watches. However, in 1995, they solidified their commitment to pilots, explorers, and avid risk-takers. That year, they debuted a unique and innovative complication, an internal locator beacon, in an all-new model. The Breitling Emergency watch was the first of its kind.
Innovative Breakthrough of the Breitling Emergency
This history of the Breitling Emergency watch traces back several decades prior. In 1979, a man named Ernest Schneider bought the company from the founding family. Schneider was an officer in the Swiss Army signal corps during WWII, a pilot, and an engineer. Even at the helm of the brand, he remained involved in his military past. In the mid-1980’s, he attended a NATO conference where they discussed emergency beacons. These discussions sparked the concept of a personal locator beacon (PLB). Schneider returned to Breitling who began working with an electronics company to create technology to integrate into a watch.
It took a number of years to perfect the system, but in 1995, they unveiled the Emergency. When the wearer activates the beacon, it transmits a signal on the international distress frequency. In addition, a separate military-issued variation operates on the military distress band. At first, the Emergency was only available to licensed pilots and military personnel. Later, the model became available to the public. However, it was on the condition of a signed waiver in the event of a false alarm.
Transition to the Emergency II
Though Breitling never reported a false alarm from the Emergency, they were on the rise worldwide by 2009. In turn, authorities began phasing out the original international distress frequency. As a result, Breitling needed to start working on a new version of the Emergency. In 2013, they released the Emergency II. The key to the new model was receiving classification as an official PLB by authorities. This allowed the Emergency II to operate on an additional frequency monitored by the international search and rescue program, Cospas-Sarsat. The additional frequency is digitally encoded, which results in both greater range and fewer false alarms. The only downsides are that it lacks the same level of accuracy and requires a larger battery.
The Emergency II is equally as groundbreaking as the original. It’s the first wrist instrument to be a dual-frequency PLB. As far as watches go, it’s relatively hefty, measuring a whopping 51mm. However, compared to other PLBs, it’s incredibly compact, housing the world’s thinnest dual frequency PLB transmitter. Regardless of the size, it manages to wear light on the wrist thanks to its titanium case and bracelet. In addition to its lifesaving capabilities, the Emergency II boasts a number of other functions. It features an analog as well as a digital time display with a 24-hour military-style option. In addition, it’s equipped with a date function, chronograph, second time zone, alarm, and countdown timer. A single crown sets all of these. Finally, it houses Breitling’s COSC-certified SuperQuartz chronometer movement, which is ten times more accurate than traditional quartz movements.