About 19 years ago, Quentin Smith and Steve Brooks had just spent three arduous months reaching the tip of South America in an attempt to fly a helicopter from the North to the South Pole.

Six weeks before the accident, Quentin Smith and Steve Brooks were in Chile, patiently seeking permission from the government to fly into the Drake Passage – a windy and treacherous 550-mile stretch of water at the southern tip of South America. and Cape Horn. The Chilean government at that time warned that the feasibility of the journey would be very low and full of danger.

Quentin Smith, a commercial pilot, recalled: “We had gone 450 miles and suddenly there was an explosion.” “There was a technical problem with the engine, it stopped working and in the middle of some of the most remote and aggressive water in the world, our chances of survival were almost zero.”

“After an hour of fighting to stay afloat on the raft, we decided to send a distress signal from the Breitling Emergency with a frequency of 121.5 Mhz. Desperate and hungry, 9 and a half hours later, a rescue plane arrived, discovered us through thick fog and rain… in a search area of nearly 600 square miles, it was unbelievable !”

The same story happened to more than 20 other adventurers, both military and civilian, all supported by the special features of the Breitling Emergency.

Breitling Emergency

The story begins with Ernest Schneider, who bought Breitling in 1979 when the brand was struggling and helped Breitling survive the Quartz crisis, thanks to a series of iconic new generation collections. A former officer in the Swiss Army’s signal corps during World War II, as well as an avid pilot and engineer, he participated in a panel discussion at a NATO conference in mid- 1980s about emergency beacons and their benefits.

It was during these conversations that the idea of a watch with a personal locator beacon was born. After the meeting, Breitling began working with Dassault Electronique to create prestigious beacon technology integrated into wristwatches, and after a decade of research and development, the Breitling Emergency was born.

Introduced in 1995, the Breitling Emergency features a special feature that, when activated, transmits a signal at the international distress frequency of 121.5 MHz (for military owners, the transmitter micro signal has been modified to operate on the military distress band). This transmission can be received up to 167km away and is directional, allowing authorities to determine the location of the beacon with high accuracy.

Initially, Emergency was only available to licensed pilots, but was later made available to the public after a document was signed pledging their responsibility to pay for rescue efforts in the event of an emergency. There are false alarms. Some military units even give watches to their pilots as an unofficial insurance policy. A special feature is that if the transmitter is used in a real emergency situation, Breitling will offer to replace the watch with a new one free of charge to the owner.

Between 1995 and 2010, when the first Emergency model was discontinued, 40,000 units were sold, credited with saving dozens of lives – and according to Breitling, there were never a single report of alarms. The fake came from an Emergency. However, false alarms in general are on the rise, and in 2009 the old 121.5MHz frequency started to be phased out as the main incident frequency for international search and rescue, meaning it’s time for Breitling must begin development of a new watch model.

The brand’s plan was to come back stronger, and four years later, Emergency II was released. Equipped with a microtransmitter that operates alternately on two separate frequencies, Emergency II transmits the first digital signal on 406 MHz for satellites and lasts 0.44 seconds every 50 seconds. second; as well as a second similar signal on the 121.5 MHz travel and rescue frequency, lasting 0.75 seconds every 2.25 seconds.

The new frequency is monitored by the international search and rescue program known as Cospas-Sarsat, with the 406MHz band able to be picked up by low-altitude satellites and ground antennas. Digital encryption allows for fewer false alarms as well as longer range. The 406MHz transmitter also requires a much larger battery.

The development of this dual-frequency transmitter specifically designed for the Emergency was a major technical challenge, as essentially the size of the watch had to be adapted to the wrist. Conducted in collaboration with an institute specializing in aerospace, defense and industry, the result is a wonder of both miniaturization and assured reliability, setting new standards beyond outside the scope of watchmaking.

The Breitling Emergency II is the first dual-frequency personal locator beacon watch on the wrist, boasting truly impressive feats of technical miniaturization. The watch can also transmit well in a temperature range of -20° C to 55° C for 24 hours and has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery system that operates independently of the watch movement. 

With its impressive compact design, Emergency II is 51mm wide and 21.6mm high. Additionally, the watch is relatively light at 144g, thanks to the use of anti-magnetic titanium throughout. The Caliber 76 SuperQuartz movement is certified by COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres – Official Swiss Chonometer Testing Institute) offering both analog and LCD digital displays, as well as bells, whistles and alarms. the standard of a digital watch today.

Water resistance to a depth of 50m, although not a diver’s watch like the SuperOcean, is suitable for most users. The dial comes in a choice of black, yellow or orange, and for those who aren’t fans of the titanium Pro strap, they can go with the rubber Pro Diver III strap.

Born with the mission of protecting and supporting people, Breitling Emergency has been successfully completing its mission. In the future, with the continuous development of science and technology, it promises to bring upgraded and more advanced versions of Emergency, so that explorers can safely set foot in new lands. As a brand that always focuses on useful multi-functional designs, typically with Navitimer, SuperOcean and Emergency, Breitling has occupied an extremely important position in the minds of enthusiasts.

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