Breitling Emergency: The Distress Signal Watch
The Breitling Emergency is the world's first wristwatch with an integrated emergency distress beacon, a feature that can and has saved lives. What's more, the watch includes numerous functions such as a chronograph, timer, and calendar.
A Livesaver on Your Wrist
Every pilot, seafarer, and adventurer dreams of having a savior in an emergency: The Breitling Emergency is that guardian angel. Introduced in 1995, it was the world's first wristwatch with an integrated distress beacon. It can send out a distress signal to rescue services on an international frequency and, thus, save lives in dire situations.
The Emergency also features numerous additional functions, including a chronograph, timer, second time zone, alarm, and calendar. You can even navigate with it thanks to the bidirectional bezel with a compass rose. Chronometer-certified quartz calibers provide these watches with their exceptional functionality. Furthermore, the Emergency comes with both analog and digital time displays.
Breitling has produced three emergency models. The most recent version, the Emergency II, debuted in 2013. This timepiece measures 51 mm in diameter and is made of titanium, a lightweight yet robust metal. Its predecessor is also crafted from titanium but is much smaller at 43 mm across. The third edition, the Emergency Mission, has a 45-mm stainless steel case. You can easily recognize this model because it features analog subdials instead of digital displays.
Reasons to Buy a Breitling Emergency
- Saves lives with an integrated distress beacon
- Chronograph, timer, calendar, second time zone, alarm
- Precise, chronometer-certified quartz calibers
- Robust cases in titanium or stainless steel
Prices at a Glance: Breitling Emergency
|Model, reference number||Price (approx.)||Diameter, material, caliber|
|Emergency Black, V7632522||15,000 USD||51 mm, titanium, B76|
|Emergency II, E76325||10,500 USD||51 mm, titanium, B76|
|Emergency II Night Mission, V76325||10,000 USD||51 mm, titanium, B76|
|Emergency I, E76321||4,300 USD||43 mm, titanium, B76|
|Emergency I, E56321||3,400 USD||43 mm, titanium, B56|
|Emergency Mission, A73321||3,200 USD||45 mm, stainless steel, B73|
How much does a Breitling Emergency cost?
Prices for a Breitling Emergency begin around 3,200 USD for a well-maintained Emergency Mission in stainless steel. A titanium Emergency I in excellent condition will set you back roughly 3,400 USD. Finally, the Emergency II sells for between 10,000 and 15,000 USD. Prices vary based on whether you choose a model with a satin-brushed or black-coated case.
Emergency I: Broadcasting at 121.5 MHz
The first-generation Emergency was part of the Breitling catalog from 1995 to 2009. At 43 mm in diameter, it is the collection's smallest model. Its robust titanium case contains a chronometer-certified quartz caliber. The manufacturer initially outfitted this timepiece with the caliber B56, before switching to the thermo-compensated SuperQuartz caliber B76 in 2001. The latter boasts a mechanism that can account for irregularities caused by fluctuating temperatures. As a result, this SuperQuartz caliber is astonishingly precise, with a maximum annual deviation of just 15 seconds. For comparison, conventional quartz calibers can deviate from the reference time by up to 150 seconds per year.
The original Emergency indicates the time using analog hands. It also comes with two liquid crystal displays on the dial's upper and lower halves. You can use these LCDs to show the date, the time in a second time zone, or set an alarm. Large Arabic numerals adorn the dial at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock. A bidirectional bezel with a compass rose surrounds the dial, which comes in your choice of black, blue, orange, or yellow.
However, perhaps the watch's most notable feature is the additional crown on the lower right side of its case. This is where you'll find the antenna that can send out a distress signal in life-threatening situations. Its frequency, 121.5 MHz, is the International Air Distress (IAD) civilian frequency. The signal can travel a maximum of nearly 100 miles (160 km) in any direction and, thanks to the integrated lithium battery, will transmit your location for 48 hours.
If you're interested in owning an Emergency I, the pre-owned market has plenty of options to choose from. For example, you can find the ref. E76321 with an orange dial for around 3,200 USD on Chrono24. The same watch with a blue, yellow, or black dial demands between 3,600 and 4,300 USD, depending on its condition.
Features of the Emergency I
- 43 mm in diameter
- Titanium case
- Caliber B56 or B76 (SuperQuartz)
- Distress beacon frequency of 121.5 MHz
The Chronograph-Inspired Emergency Mission
The Emergency Mission debuted in 2003, and sets itself apart from the Emergency I in several ways. First, it is 45 mm in diameter and comes in stainless steel. What's more, it bears a strong resemblance to traditional chronographs thanks to its push-pieces and entirely analog subdials at 2, 6, and 10 o'clock. A date window at 4:30 completes the displays. In terms of the movement, this watch is powered by the SuperQuartz caliber B73.
Another notable difference appears on the bezel. Instead of a compass rose, the Emergency Mission's bezel features a timer and rider tabs, just like the Chronomat and other Breitling pilot's watches. The position of the antenna and distress beacon's signal frequency are the same as those of the Emergency I.
The dial is available in white, black, or blue. The latter two options have contrasting subdials. Prices for an Emergency Mission ref. A73321 depend on the watch's condition and fall between 3,100 and 3,500 USD.
Features of the Emergency Mission
- 45 mm in diameter
- Stainless steel case
- SuperQuartz caliber B73
- Distress beacon frequency of 121.5 MHz
The Emergency II With a 51-mm case
Breitling released the third-generation Emergency, the Emergency II, in 2013. This stately titanium watch is a massive 51 mm in diameter. Its design takes many cues from the original model. For example, the Emergency II has analog and digital displays, a bidirectional bezel with a compass rose, and the iconic antenna crown on the lower right side of its case. It even uses the same movement: the SuperQuartz caliber B76.
However, its distress beacon has received an upgrade. Once activated, the Emergency II sends out a signal across two frequencies: 121.5 MHz and 406 MHz. While the former is the conventional civilian IAD frequency, the latter has been in use since 2010 and is monitored by Cospas-Sarsat, an international search and rescue initiative. This satellite-supported system uses geostationary search and rescue (GEOSAR) and medium earth orbiting search and rescue (MEOSAR) in conjunction with ground stations and global coordination centers. Upon receiving a distress signal, Cospas-Sarsat forwards the location data to search and rescue services.
Breitling offers the Emergency II with a black, yellow, or orange dial. Prices vary by the exact edition and range from 9,900 to 11,500 USD. One final option is the Night Mission model. Listed under the reference number V7632522, this timepiece has a black dial and black-coated case and requires an investment of roughly 15,000 USD.
Features of the Emergency II
- 51 mm in diameter
- Titanium case
- SuperQuartz caliber B76
- Distress beacon frequencies of 121.5 and 406 MHz
The Emergency's Antenna System
The Breitling Emergency is easy to use in everyday situations as well as emergencies. The lower part of the watch features two antennas for use in dire situations. To activate the distress beacon, simply unscrew the cap in the direction indicated by the arrow. Once unscrewed, pull each antenna out as far as it goes. The cap will automatically release once it's at the correct length. After you've pulled out both antennas, the watch starts transmitting the distress signals. The antennas function in a wide range of environments; they can withstand extreme temperatures ranging from -4 to +131°F (-20 to +55°C). Like a mini-instruction manual, all of the steps are clearly written on the case back.
Breitling developed a special battery to power the Emergency. It's remarkably more efficient than traditional batteries. With the help of a charging and testing device, you can test how full the battery is and charge it if needed. Thus, you'll never run out of power in an emergency. The testing device also assesses your watch's functionality.
COSC-Certified Quartz Calibers
The Emergency has more to offer than just a micro-transmitter and distress beacon. Breitling's Caliber 76 is COSC-certified. As a quartz movement, it undergoes much stricter testing than mechanical movements. For example, a mechanical caliber can deviate a maximum of +4/-6 seconds per day, while a quartz movement may not exceed a deviation of +/- 0.07 seconds per day. This equates to 2.1 seconds a month and 25.55 seconds a year. The average quartz movement deviates about 10 to 30 seconds from the official time each month.
The SuperQuartz caliber B76 powers the Emergency. As a thermo-compensated movement, temperature fluctuations have minimal effect on the B76. The time is displayed in a traditional analog fashion with hands. However, it also features two LCD screens for the chronograph and additional functions. The Emergency can accurately measure time to within 1/100th of a second. Furthermore, the watch can display the time in another time zone (GMT function), and the calendar is multilingual.
- 1/100th second chronograph
- Timer function
- Second time zone
- Multilingual calendar
- Analog and digital displays
- Battery life display