Unlike your normal quartz-powered luxury watch that rarely need anything more than a refreshed dial and/or bezel to be called “a new model,” the new Breitling Emergency II SuperQuartz Chronometer offers a major upgrade to one of its key sub-systems that actually increase you chances of survival in case it all goes sideways and things get real for a change.
Visually, the new Breitling Emergency II collection of life-saving wristwatches 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 -or too *ahem* broken- to turn the cap or if you lie unconscious after your plane hit the ground and a pack of coyotes looks at you with some carnivorous interest, you are basically out of luck: help won’t come, sorry.
Case & Dial
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. 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 you expect from a quartz-powered watch.
Of course, the size of this thing doesn’t make it particularly suitable for everyday wearing, so the “Versatility” rating suffered a great deal. Yet, if it doesn’t really scare you away, the Emergency II will feel quite comfortable on a wrist of an average man thanks for the lightweight titanium alloy that the case is fashioned from.
Aside for the aforementioned refreshed two-band personal locator beacon, the ETA-based Caliber 76 quartz movement that powers the Emergency II seems to offer the same functionality as other SuperQuartz movements. Being a thermo-compensated mechanism with its accuracy not affected too much by temperature fluctuations, is also a lot more accurate than your normal luxury quartz caliber. Fun fact: all of these electronic devices are officially certified by the Swiss-based COSC institute as a chronometer-grade movements.
Price & Value
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.
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