If you were an owner of the original Breitling Emergency watch, then you're probably the sort of person that engages in dangerous activities that leave you with a higher than normal chance of being stranded in the middle of nowhere. For the people that need this watch, and perhaps for others who live a normal lifestyle but are a little paranoid of "what if" scenarios, Breitling has just come up with the Emergency II.
The brand new Emergency II watch adds new features and at the same time takes away the perceived weaknesses of the original. You see, the original Emergency had a 121.5MHz transmitter that, when activated, had a range of 90 nautical miles (167 km) by search aircraft flying at 20,000 feet (6,000 m). This was assuming normal conditions, or basically flat terrain or calm seas. If you found yourself outside such conditions, then the range would be considerably shorter.
Add to that the fact that the Emergency didn't have enough power to send the signal up to a satellite, but only to relatively nearby search and rescue teams, the bottom-line was that while it was a useful device to have, it was not the be-all-and-end-all solution of a truly global distress beacon.
That is where the Emergency II is different.
In addition to the aforementioned analogue 121.5MHz transmitter, the Emergency II adds the new digital frequency of 406MHz, which offers enhanced security and more information for rescuers to determine your location. More importantly, this frequency allows the launch of a distress signal directly into space to reach the network of low orbit or geostationary satellites. This difference makes the watch infinitely more useful as now no place on earth is off limits.
Therefore, if you find yourself in an emergency situation, you twist off the cap of the transmitter and pull the antennae out from both sides of the case. The watch then sends out a distress signal alternating between the 121.5MHz analogue signal and the 406MHz digital signal, and all this for up to 24 hours. These specifications place the watch in the PLB or Personal Locator Beacon category of the Cospas-Sarsat International Satellite System.
In order to maintain the power required to run the emergency functions of the watch, a battery charging station is available that allows users to top up, and test at the same time, all functions of the watch.
It goes without saying that with all the electronics inside, that this isn't a mechanical watch. Except for the day when you have to activate the emergency beacon, what you wear everyday is a typical Breitling quartz chronograph in a 51mm titanium case, which is way bigger than the original version at 43mm.
The movement inside is the Breitling Caliber 76, an officially certified chronometer by the COSC with thermocompensated SuperQuartz. Functions include a 12/24-hour analog and LCD digital display, battery end-of-life indicator, 1/100th second chronograph, timer, 2nd timezone and multilingual calendar.
There are three dial colors to choose from: black; orange; and yellow and it comes with a rubber strap or a matching titanium bracelet.
I have no word yet on the price but it should be the least of your concern. Customers who bought the previous version had to sign an agreement stating that they would bear the costs of a rescue intervention should the distress beacon be set off. Also, the beacon needs to be rearmed at the factory after every use which makes this watch something that you don't hand over to your 5-year-old son to play with, lest you find rescue helicopters above your house. As a serious instrument for professionals, this is no plaything, yet somehow I have the feeling that customers who buy this watch will know what they are going in for.
Though it begs the question, how can we review this watch properly if setting off the distress beacon will set so much into motion and leave us with a hefty bill and facing possible criminal charges?
We will have a closer look at this watch in more detail at Baselworld 2013 and hopefully try to answer that question. In the meantime, please watch this most excellent video about the Breitling Emergency II, which I can guarantee will get you all excited to start exploring hostile environments with your personal distress beacon. (At least, that's what it did to me.)