Visually, the new Breitling Emergency II life-saving wristwatch looks like an evolution of the 1995 model. Its timekeeping SuperQuartz module is, too, anything but new. However, you still want to upgrade your older timepiece for this one. The reason is, of course, the new ultra-compact two-band personal locator beacon, which is now fully compatible with current Cospas-Sarsat Program guidelines. While for most it won’t make a lot of difference, real professionals will probably like this update.
First revealed almost twenty years ago, Breitling’s groundbreaking lifesaving watch featured such a classic, timeless design that it seemed that the Swiss brand would never need to seriously overhaul the timekeeper. It was working properly and reliably and, as the company claims in its press release, actually helped save a number of lives.
However, starting February 2009, the Cospas-Sarsat Program -an international satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) system that was designed to detect and locate compatible emergency beacons installed not only on large ships and aircraft, but also on wrists and chests of all sorts of extreme sports enthusiasts- stopped processing distress calls from devices operating on the 121.5 MHz frequency that the original Emergency worked at.
To make the wristwatch once again compatible with the system, Breitling has partnered with a number of “institutions” not only producing a tiny version of a new personal locator beacon (PLB), but also developing a new battery park for an energy hungry device: while the previous version of the beacon needed just 30 mW of transmission power, the new one, which is supposed to operate on the old frequency AND the new wavelength of 406.04 MHz, actually needs more than five watts of power to make itself heard by at least one LEOSAR satellite and get its location triangulated.
Regretfully, the new watch is still plagued by the same problem as the original: to get the beacon activated, you have to manually unscrew the antenna cap in the lower part of the watch. So, if your fingers are too cold to turn the cap or if you lie unconscious after your plane hit the ground, you are basically out of luck: help won’t come, sorry.
The other functions of the Breitling Emergency II seem to be quite okay. Measuring 51 millimeter in diameter and featuring relatively thin bidirectional rotating bezel with the usual compass scale, the watch features a very large dial opening so there is enough space not only for the usual XXL-sized Arabic numerals, but also for a couple of oversized digital displays that display all sort of the necessary information including a chronograph, a second time zone and all the usual stuff.
Of course, the size of this doesn’t make it particularly suitable for everyday wearing, but if it doesn’t really scare you away, the gadget will feel quite comfortable on a wrist thanks for the lightweight titanium alloy that the case is fashioned from.
The ETA-based Caliber 76 quartz movement that powers the Emergency II seems to offer the same functionality as other SuperQuartz movements and, being a thermo-compensated mechanism with its accuracy not affected too much by temperature fluctuations, is also officially certified by the Swiss-based COSC institute as a chronometer-grade mechanism.
As for the price, the Swiss brand plans to offer this beauty at a fairly steep MSRP of $16,475 that makes it more than three times more expensive than, say, a Breitling Chronospace that comes with a sticker price of “just” $5,260. Of course, there are dozens of respectable online retailers that would give you at least 10 percent of the official price, but, from where I sit, if there is no real need in getting such an advanced timekeeper, you would probably be better off buying yourself an aforementioned Chronospace AND a nice Cockpit B50 chronograph, while spending the rest couple of grands on buying a nice gift for your significant other.
See also: Breitling Aerospace Evo SuperQuartz
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Breitling Emergency II quartz watch specification
Price: $16,475 (MSRP)
Movement: SuperQuartz, Breitling Caliber 76, COSC-certified chronometer, Swiss Made
Power source: Rechargeable battery pack with EOL indication; Beacon: 1 x Li-ion 4,2 V, 1,1 Ah / Watch: 1 x 1.5 V, 40 mAh, type 370 (transmitter autonomy at least 24 hours)
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph, second time zone, 12/24 analog-digital display, COSPAS-SARSAT PLB Category 2
Case material: Titanium
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Tonneau
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 51.00 mm
Case height: No data
Lug width: No data
Dial: Volcano black / Cobra yellow / Intrepid orange
Numerals: Arabic, luminous
Hour markers: Luminous
Water resistance: 50 meters
Strap: Black rubber Diver Pro III band / solid titanium Professional bracelet
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective on both sides, cambered
Case back: Solid