The Breitling Emergency 2
30 minutes on the wrist with
the Breitling Emergency 2
When you’re about to write an article about a timepiece, two are the main moments: when the brand releases its official press release (Preview o Breaking News) and the moment you’re going hands on with the watch (Review).
When it comes to reviewing the Breitling Emergency 2 the difference between reviewing or just introducing it to the audience is greater than ever brefore. This watch, moreover, is so out of the ordinary that I think just a Breitling official video is able to fully demonstrate its features as if I only attempted to reproduce the real conditions under which the Emergency 2 is designed to operate I will be sure in trouble or else would risk to be prosecuted for reckless use.
The Breitling Emergency 2 is, I do not think I’m outrageous, a professional watch designed for a military use,a product where the brand’s claim (Instruments for Professionals) is perfectly expressed. Breitling created a new market niche when, back in the years, created the Emergency, the first and only watch to tune in to the analog military 121,5MHz frequency and send a distress call. Since 1995, when it was launched, the Emergency has saved a total 18 people that include soldiers, mountaineers and explorers: the last one in a row being Mark Spencer, a hunter from Alaska which, close to dying from hypothermia, has survived thanks to the Emergency wrapped around his wrist (and not his PLB - Personal Locator Beacon).
The Emergency has been a huge success, that Breitling yearns for replicating with the launch of the new Emergency 2 as all the watch enthusiasts out there, even those who are not Breitling’s aficonados, recognize Breitling as the leader in this sector. On top of that the Breitling Emergency 2 drives the sales of all the other products (especially the Professional collection) while this segment is on the rise; it is not by chance, you probably got it, many other swiss brands are entering the digital high end tool watch’s segment with their product offering over the last two years.
The concept and development of the Emergency’s replacement has not been that easy as technology in radio signaling have dramatically changed over the last ten years, while they’re not been conceived to easily fit the size of a wristwatch though, the result being an extraordinary R&D work made at Breitling.
The Breitling Emergency 2 is a sturdy watch boasting a 51mm wide titanium case, powered by caliber 76, COSC certified that provides a lot of functions such as: analog and digital 12/24h visulialization, 1/100 of a second chronograph, a countdown timer, a GMT function and a multilingual calendar. It is a so called thermocompensated SuperQuartz movement, far more precise than a commercial quartz caliber (it would be nice to see, on the Breitling’s official website a section dedicated to SuperQuartz technology and its difference with a common quartz movement).
What lies inside a Breitling Emergency 2 is a micro-transmitter that operates on two frequencies alternatively. It sends to satellites a 406MHz frequency signal, for 0,44sec every 50 seconds coupled to an analog one, operating at 121,5MHz, for 0,75sec every 2,25 seconds. These are the figures behind the COSPAS-SARSAT protocol: the first signal helps "raw" localization, the second one works like a "gunsight": it pinpoints exactly where you are.
To realize and tune this device has been quite hard not because of the technology, already available, while, rather, for the need to make it smaller and wearable, since it had never been done before.
The antennas design has not changed: they are located between the low end side of the case and the lugs and may be easily pulled out and extended by just unscrewing a cap. Once they are fully extended, you just have to follow carefully what is written on the case back and the antennas start to emit. The 406MHz transmitter operates at 3,2W that is as powering a small 130 lumen led light.
The need, though, to supply a radio transmitter 100 plus times more powerful than the Emergency’s only 121,5MHz transmitter while operating continuously for 24 hours (add a -20°C to +55°C operating temperature range) as requested by the COSPAS-SARSAT system, means the Emergency 2 is far more efficient than its forerunner while, conversely, is way more energy consuming. The outcome is engineers at Breitling had to design a small yet rechargeable battery. So small to look for technologies you may easily find in the aerospace’s supply chain, such as Syrlinks, a French Institute specialized in providing solutions to aerospace, defense and industry: the Emergency 2 has, therefore, a Navy Seals Special Corp’s allure that is, at least to my eyes, even more appealing than before.
Be ready however to deal with an extra-large wristwatch; despite the engineering work made to miniaturize components and the choice of a titanium case, its weight’s increase, compared to the Emergency’s case (like for like) is substantial (140g vs 85g), something you can easily feel on your wrist as I felt on mine, which is not so small. I suggest, therefore, to choose it on a rubber strap that helps wrapping it around your wrist. Among its strengths, however, are to be mentioned its fit and finish that truly set a new standard for tool watches and not: the gap between the Breitling Emergency 2 and the Emergency is huge. The big news is its design has been a source of inspiration for the more accessible new Cockpit B50.
The Breitling Emergency 2, that has been kindly provided by Pisa Orologeria for this review, retails for 13.840€. Is it worth this price or not? Long before deepen its features and going hands on with the watch, it happened a couple of years ago, I thought, to be honest, this price to be crazy and just follow up a trend in watchmaking that has seen all the major brands, over the last years, generally increase their pricing. I do think, today, this price to be even underrated; the Breitling Emergency 2 is unique and miles away a large scale product, is avant-garde and will be made in small numbers. It is with no doubt Breitling’s flagship.
I guess whether they’re going to make or not a limited edition version as it has been with the Breitling Emergency Orbiter 3 (whose name, by the way, has inspired in part this blog’s name). Last but not least I would choose, then, a Velcro or a Coramid to be added to the offering as I think it would be a perfect replacement strap.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Breitling; Horbiter's proprietary photo-shooting by Karin Vettorel)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter - Watches & Luxury