back to top

Breitling Emergency II Hands-On: Truly Global Rescue Beacon In A Watch

Breitling Emergency II Hands-On: Truly Global Rescue Beacon In A Watch Hands-On

Will you ever be in a situation where you might need a rescue team to come find you? If so the Breitling Emergency II watch is a gadget you are going to want strapped to your wrist. This is an exclusive hands-on first look by aBlogtoWatch, though we originally debuted the Breitling Emergency II watch here.

In addition to being a luxury Swiss watch maker, Breitling retains its role as a supplier of professional-use timepieces to military personnel and demanding active people all over the world. For 2013, Breitling has released an updated and improved version of their famous Emergency watch designed to be used in situations where you might need to be rescued. The Emergency II represents a unique evolution in miniaturizing emergency beacon frequency technology in what is otherwise a stately-sized timepiece.

Breitling Emergency II Hands-On: Truly Global Rescue Beacon In A Watch Hands-On

The original Breitling Emergency watch is a distinctive-looking piece and was released in the mid- to late- 1990s. It contained a capsule filled with a wiry antenna that when deployed automatically transmitted a signal on the 121.5 MHz emergency frequency channel. It had a range of about 100 miles, and was to be used exclusively in legitimate emergency rescue situations as the 121.5 frequency is actively monitored by search and rescue authorities.

In about 2009, I understand that most marine and air services stopped using the 121.5 MHz frequency in favor of the 406.040 MHz frequency channel for emergency beacon signals. The reason is obvious, given that the 121.5 MHz frequency’s range is limited. The 406.040 MHz signal is also monitored by low orbit satellites that are part of the Cospas-Sarsat system. This effectively gives the Emergency II watch a much more impressive range than the original Emergency given that the wearer is no longer limited to transmitting a signal with a 100 mile range.

Breitling Emergency II Hands-On: Truly Global Rescue Beacon In A Watch Hands-On

Breitling Emergency II Hands-On: Truly Global Rescue Beacon In A Watch Hands-On

Breitling Emergency II Hands-On: Truly Global Rescue Beacon In A Watch Hands-On

On land, the 121.5 MHz frequency is still monitored because there are very few places that are 100 miles out of range of an emergency beacon monitoring station. In air or at sea, that is a different story. Therefore, the Emergency II watch automatically transmits both signals when the beacon system is activated. The Emergency II is the very first watch where dual frequency emergency beacon technology has been implemented into a timepiece.


Breitling Emergency II Hands-On: Truly Global Rescue Beacon In A Watch Hands-On

Breitling Emergency II Hands-On: Truly Global Rescue Beacon In A Watch Hands-On

How it works is rather simple. The Emergency II watch is basically part timepiece, and part radio transmitter. The transmitter has a pair of antennae that sit in a pair of capsules which are accessible on the sides of the watch. Unscrewing the caps and extending the wire-style antenna automatically activates the beacon system, which alternates between sending out signals to the 121.5 MHz and 406.040 MHz bands periodically for about 24 hours. The system uses a rechargeable battery, which should be charged every two months. I am glad that Breitling was able to manage all this in the space of a wristwatch, as the 406.040 MHz signal requires much more power than the 121.5 MHz frequency to transmit.

Breitling supplies a smart charging base with each Emergency II watch. The charging base not only charges the beacon battery, but also does a systems check to ensure that the system is in proper working order. The watch movement itself operates on a separate battery. This new system is significantly more robust than the one in the older Emergency watch. In addition to the dual frequency capabilities, the Breitling Emergency II watch is finally an emergency beacon system that allows for search and rescue anywhere in the world.

It is likely that Breitling will extend their original Emergency watch policy to the Emergency II. That policy saying that if someone uses an Emergency watch in a true emergency situation, Breitling will replace their Emergency watch without charge. A replacement is necessary due to the antenna system which is designed for one-time use.

Breitling Emergency II Hands-On: Truly Global Rescue Beacon In A Watch Hands-On

Breitling Emergency II Hands-On: Truly Global Rescue Beacon In A Watch Hands-On

The new technology of the Emergency II watch is rather fantastic, and I am pleased to hear that Breitling was able to offer the same, no-brainer operation as the original. As a watch, the Emergency II looks like the big brother of the original Emergency, quite literally. The Emergency II is a rather large timepiece, even by large watch standards. It is wearable, but at 51mm wide, it is probably going to be the largest (and quite thick) watch in your collection. Produced entirely in titanium, the Emergency II isn’t that heavy though – so at least weight is not an issue.

From the markings on the case back to the overall personality of the watch, the Emergency II doesn’t feel like a gimmicky high-end sport watch but rather a serious tool for active professionals who find themselves in high-risk situations. The entire point of a product like the Emergency II is to be reliable, and Breitling has done everything in their power to ensure that the Emergency II watch is just that.

Breitling Emergency II Hands-On: Truly Global Rescue Beacon In A Watch Hands-On

Inside the watch is a Swiss Breitling Caliber 76 SuperQuartz COSC Chronometer certified multifunction quartz movement. These fantastic thermocompensated quartz movements offer a rich variety of functions such as a 1/100th of a second chronograph, countdown timer, world time function, alarm, and full calendar. This is done via the analog hands for the time and the two negative display LCD screens. All of the functions are operated via the crown. Thermocompensated quartz movements such as the SuperQuartz are accurate to about plus or minus 10 seconds a year (which is very good).

Water resistant to 50 meters, the Emergency II watch isn’t meant for any serious time underwater. The dial comes in three colors, being black, yellow, and orange. Over the dial is a sapphire crystal and attached to the case is either a titanium Professional bracelet or a Breitling Diver Pro III rubber strap.

While wearability is an issue given the large 51mm case size, that likely won’t deter professionals who have been relying on Breitling Emergency watches in the event they are caught in emergency situations and they need a beacon in order to be recused. I am not sure if the Emergency II will totally replace the original Emergency, but I suspect that it might. As the technology in the Emergency II timepiece is still new, the price is quite high at launch, being around $15,000.




Disqus Debug thread_id: 3991135045

  • Oelholm

    If I ever see this watch on the wrist of someone, I’ll asume that the owner is either:
    1) Doing a very clever, satirical comment on society.
    2) A grade-A idiot. 
    If I ever see a “professional” wearing one of these, I’ll skip option 1.

  • DG Cayse

    Mr. Delholm, items such as this have been SOP equipment for persons going into high-risk areas for 30+ yrs. 
    Items such as these are standard(required) issue to such personnel per company insurance regulations.
    Kidnapping is big business in may parts of the world. Business executives and even repairmen(persons?) doing work on machinery can become involved in kidnap/hostage/ransom situations.
    At the price mentioned, it is rather unlikely the person wearing such an item is a poncy wannabe.

    • Oelholm

      DG Cayse When you say “items such as these” I take it that you mean the actual transmitter, not the watch? Which is stupidly expensive compared to an ordinary transmitter. The watch itself is rendered nearly useless as a practical proposition by its dimensions. And by the way, if a person is kidnapped, for how long time do you think that the (obviously) expensive watch is going to stay on the kidnapped person’s wrist? And if the kidnappers are professionals, I’ll assume that they have done just a bit of research and identified the watch as one having a emergency transmitter.
      I actually found an example of one saved by an Emergency, but still – a dedicated transmitter is just $250. And usually boyant and with more than just 50 m water resistance. Given how careful watch enthusiast are with their watches, I bet none will dare go for a swim with one of these!

  • Ulysses31

    I like it.  A watch that is decent looking with a lovely graphite-like finish and that could save your ass in a pinch.  You could even creatively use the wire aerial to choke your enemies – or yourself, if you’re into that sort of thing… The bezel font is hard to read though – typical Breitling I suppose.

    • Oelholm

      Ulysses31 I approve of the suggestion reg. choking your enemies. A watch with this feature ought to be made – a bit more proactive than just having an emergency transmitter!

  • cmdr_bong

    I friggin’ love the design! WAY better than the original Emergency. Damn shame about the price, which like the dimension of this piece are on a course of horse steroids. Take away 5mm and $10K, and I would be all over this watch like stink on a monkey.

    I suppose when it comes to deciding on the size of this watch Breitling have the thick, manly wrists of the adventurer types in mind. But I know that when I go venturing into the wild I won’t be lugging around a multi-thousand $ watch on my wrist, Emergency transmitter or not. It’ll be my trusty Suunto or G-Shock. Perhaps I have this all wrong? Maybe the target audiences are rotund businessmen who are kidnap-proned? I suppose a 51mm watch would be suitable on their rather meaty wrists? Well there’s still the hip-hop crowd, where 51mm is considered to be “mid-size”.

  • KeithNagel

    Perhaps useful, though every civil aircraft has a beacon installed, which must be tested annually for proper operation. Cool gadget, but really limited possible use. Unless you’re on an aircraft which went down (and preferably on a flight plan), chances of search and rescue coming after you are remote. 121.5 or “guard” is still in use. Most new transmitters are on the new frequency but there are 1000s of older systems still in use.
    Love the blog. Saw one of the 1990s vintage on Pawn Stars awhile back. Think they bought it for $500…

  • evolight

    I agree with most of the comments however is there room for the high end thrill seeker who can’t always rely on other people’s vessels to be equipped and having the transmitter strapped to your wrist may ensure that it never leaves arms length so to speak?

  • Saleem

    I habv the Breitling Emergency (Night Mission), Special edition.
    after 3 months of use, the buckle fall a part while washing my hands.
    I ran to the nearest Breitling shop , they asked for €880 to replace it even that it is still under warranty.
    It is a shame for such a brand and such a watch to have this diffract in the buckle, any other normal company would be a shamed to see this happens for a watch that is few months old, but they found it a chance to make more money on a low quality product with abnormal price.

    I thing I learned my lesson very good, and now I know what Breitling watches stand for. (high price & cheap quality).

    I can’t put this watch any more on my hand it is a shame., I will use another watch and keep this only as an emergency tool in my pocket or my ket chain.

    I thought I bought one of the best watches, but I was wrong.

    No Breitling ever again.

  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: jpg, png.