Classic: Breitling Emergency II

Classic: Breitling Emergency II

The Good Life Guide may not have been born until shortly before Cigar Aficionado’s 10th anniversary, but the pursuit of excellence has been part of our DNA from the get-go. The section started with just seven categories and soon Time, Places and Gourmet joined the regular roster. On the occasion of our 25th anniversary we tapped the archives of some of our favorite Good Life Guides from the past.

Fans of James Bond may recall Breitling’s role in 1965’s Thunderball. The ingenious Q outfitted the brand’s Top Time dive watch with a Geiger counter, so the spy could locate stolen atomic bombs. The prop sold at auction for $160,000, but you can buy a working Breitling watch at retail that offers its own real-life gadgetry worthy of 007. The Emergency II ($15,825 in steel with rubber strap) will transmit a radio call for wearers (secret agents or not) in distress.

Breitling spent years developing the followup to the original 1995 Emergency, which worked on the 121.5 MHz international air distress frequency. The next-generation Emergency II houses a dual personal locator beacon (PLB) that operates on that frequency (the most reliable for homing in on those in distress) and the 406 MHz emergency beacon, which transmits digital information to orbiting satellites in compliance with the Cospas-Sarsat international satellite alert system.

Thierry Prissert, president of Breitling USA, explains that the brand collaborated with an institute specializing in aerospace, defense and industry to create circuitry small enough for the watch to house the dual PLB and still be comfortable. The brand was similarly challenged by the need to incorporate two antennas in the watch’s 51-millimeter titanium case. Heightened energy demands also required the development of an innovative
rechargeable battery system that is 1,000 times more powerful than the cells that are typically used in wristwatches.  

To activate the beacon, you unscrew the cap on the lower right side of the case, extend the main antenna to the correct length, and the second antenna on the opposite side releases and activates the transmitter. 

Emergency II’s transmitter system is designed to operate independently of the electronic chronograph with functions that include a 12/24-hour analog and digital display, 1/100th second chronograph, alarm, timer, second time zone and more, all separately powered by Breitling’s COSC-certified SuperQuartz movement, which the brand claims is 10 times more accurate than a standard quartz movement.

Release of the new watch in the U.S. was delayed for two years as Breitling awaited FCC approval. The holdup was that a wrist-worn dual PLB was unique and had no certification standards or category within the FCC. Prissert adds that Breitling ultimately requested a special waiver to sell the timepiece in its own category. 

According to Breitling, the original Emergency has saved the lives of more than 20 people. Emergency II doubles down on that technology, combining peace of mind for pilots and adventurers with the swaggering sex appeal of a secret agent.