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
Price Overview: Breitling Emergency
|Model, reference number||Price (approx.)||Size, material, dial|
|Emergency Mission, A73321||3,200 USD||45 mm, stainless steel, white|
|Emergency I, E76321||3,500 USD||43 mm, titanium, blue|
|Emergency Mission, B73321||3,800 USD||45 mm, stainless steel and yellow gold, blue|
|Emergency Orbiter 3, E56321||5,200 USD||43 mm, titanium, blue|
|Emergency II, E76325||8,600 USD||51 mm, titanium, orange|
|Emergency II Night Mission, V76325||10,000 USD||51 mm, titanium with black coating, black|
|Emergency II, E76325||12,000 USD||51 mm, titanium, yellow|
|Emergency I, J56321||32,500 USD||43 mm, white gold, black|
Prices for a Breitling Emergency
Prices for a Breitling Emergency begin around 3,200 USD for a stainless steel Emergency Mission in good condition. A model in mint condition demands around 500 USD more.
A pre-owned titanium Emergency I in very good condition will set you back roughly 3,500 USD. If you would prefer a new piece, expect to spend between 4,100 and 4,700 USD, depending on the dial color.
The Emergency II sells for between around 10,000 and 12,000 USD. Prices vary based on whether you choose the titanium model or the version with black DLC coating. You can save a few hundred dollars by opting for a pre-owned timepiece.
Rare versions of the Emergency sell for much higher sums. For example, the strictly limited white gold version of the Emergency I can demand up to 33,000 USD, depending on the watch's condition.
Emergency I: A Beacon 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 lightweight, yet 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, Chrono24 has plenty of listings for new and pre-owned watches. For example, you can find the ref. E76321 with an orange dial for around 3,500 USD on Chrono24. The same watch with a blue, yellow, or black dial demands between 3,500 and 4,500 USD, depending on its condition.
Emergency I Special Editions
Breitling has produced a number of special editions in the Emergency I line. One notable model is the Emergency Orbiter 3, named after the Rozière balloon manned by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones on the first non-stop flight around the world in a hot air balloon in 1999.
The watch uses the same movement as the standard editions of the Emergency I, and can be found under the reference E56321. One differentiating feature is the mission's logo at 9 o'clock.
Breitling only made 1,999 copies of this watch. Prices for new models on Chrono24 come in at around 5,200 USD, while pre-owned examples sell for closer to 4,500 USD.
The white gold ref. J56321 is even harder to come by. As only 20 copies of this reference exist, it's become a popular collector's item and changes hands for as much as 32,500 USD.
Features of the Emergency I
- 43 mm in diameter
- Titanium case
- Caliber B56 or B76 (SuperQuartz)
- Emergency Orbiter 3 is a collector's item
- 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. Breitling also produced a two-tone version, which has yellow gold hands, numerals, and detailing on the bezel.
Visually, the watch resembles a traditional chronograph 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 3,200 and 3,700 USD.
Features of the Emergency Mission
- 45 mm in diameter
- Stainless steel case
- Available as a two-tone watch
- 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. These timepieces are now under the Professional collection, along with the Endurance Pro and Aerospace EVO. The 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, bluish-gray, yellow, or orange dial. Prices vary by the exact edition and range from 8,600 to 12,000 USD. One final option is the Night Mission model. This timepiece has a black dial and black-coated case and requires an investment of roughly 10,000 USD.
Features of the Emergency II
- 51 mm in diameter
- Titanium case
- Night Mission models with black-coated cases
- SuperQuartz caliber B76
- Distress beacon frequencies of 121.5 and 406 MHz
How does the Breitling Emergency work?
The Breitling Emergency is easy to use in everyday situations as well as when things get critical. The lower part of the watch features two antennas for use in dire situations. To activate the distress beacon, simply unscrew the cap of the main antenna on the right-hand side in the direction indicated by the arrow. Once unscrewed, pull the antenna out as far as it goes. The cap will automatically release once it's at the correct length. The second antenna, which is located on the left side of the Emergency II, works according to the same principle. 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 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.
Is the Breitling Emergency water-resistant?
The Emergency Mission watches have a depth rating of 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft), so you can wear them in the shower or pool without any reservations. The Emergency II is water-resistant to 50 m (5 bar, 164 ft), meaning it should survive washing your hands or heavy rain. However, you should avoid prolonged contact with water. The first generation Breitling Emergency only offers water resistance to 30 m (3 bar, 98 ft). In other words, these watches are only splash-proof and should come into contact with water as little as possible.
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