The Breitling Emergency Watch
When Breitling introduced the Emergency in 1995, it was totally innovative. In terms of its design, the original Breitling Emergency bears a lot of resemblance to its predecessor, the Aerospace. It features a dial with an integrated digital LCD display and a quartz battery. The Breitling Emergency watch provides a distress beacon to find you if you are lost or in a dangerous situation. We take a closer look at this watch.
Breitling’s Historic 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 watches. By the mid-1900s, 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.
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.
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-1980s, 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 Breitling 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 Breitling rescue watch 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.
When Grizzly Bear Hunting Goes Wrong
It may be hard to imagine the Breitling Emergency’s application in a real-life situation. We’re fortunate enough to share the story of some folks who lived to tell the tale, thanks to Breitling rescue watch. Captain Mark Spencer was leading a group of fellow hunters down Alaska’s Susitna River. Along their journey, they encountered class five rapids their vessel couldn’t handle. So, they diverted their ship to a nearby river, only to become stuck in the shallow water. Stranded in the woods, Spencer left his crew in search of help. He battled the rapids of the Susitna River until a glacier poked a hole in his boat. Stranded alone in the rough Alaskan country, the rescuer suddenly needed rescuing or face death at nature’s 400-750 pound paws. Miles from civilization and his crew, Spencer deployed his emergency locator transmitter and the antenna in his Breitling rescue watch. After 48 hours, a Black Hawk helicopter swooped in for a rescue. According to Breitling, the helicopter wasn’t thanks to the emergency locator transmitter (ELT). In fact, the ELT led rescuers to a location four miles away from Spencer. His rescue was a direct result of his watch, the Breitling Emergency Transmitter A73321. It’s worth noting that at this point, stories aren’t consistent about whether Spencer accepted his Black Hawk helicopter rescue. At least one news outlet states Spencer turned down his rescue, which makes you wonder why Spencer would deploy both his ELT and Breitling Emergency’s antenna. Still, Spencer is quoted saying, “Breitling is the number one piece of equipment I always bring with me. Even if I lose everything, I will always have my watch. That gives me and my family peace of mind.” Regardless of whether Spencer accepted his helicopter rescue, it’s a great opportunity to explore how the Breitling Emergency watch works.
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, the brand needed to start working on a new version of the Breitling 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.