Watch In Focus – Breitling Emergency

From the very beginnings of the brand, there has always been a strong tie between Breitling and the aviation industry. Renowned for introducing revolutionary new ideas to assist aviators in their duties, Breitling has repeatedly justified its reputation for being the pilot’s choice.

The first innovation that Breitling added as a feature to one of their watches was the addition of the bezel calculator on the Chronomat in the early 1940s, and again on the Navitimer in the 1950s. The Navitimer became the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) recommended watch and is still a big seller today.

Another development exclusively for pilots was the co-pilot bracelet. Fitted as an optional extra to any of the professional range, it included an additional digital display that can show local time, UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), take-off time and landing time. It serves as a backup to the main watch and offers easy management of flight times.

Super-quartz was another revolutionary advancement that Breitling took on board.

The ability to display analogue time and also incorporate a digital display with features such as count-down timers and alternate time zones, as well as retaining an accuracy of around ten seconds per year is a perfect combination for pilots on active duty.

The most recent addition to the impressive collection of pilot’s tools can be found on board the Breitling Emergency.

As the name implies, this watch is specifically designed to provide pilots with a rescue aid in emergency situation, using a 121.5 Mhz transmitter to send a distress signal to the search and rescue services and guide them to the location of the watch. Coupled with the 121.5 Mhz emergency radio transmissions and emergency locator transmitters found on board most aircraft, this watch provides an additional and welcome backup for pilots who find themselves in an emergency situation.

The transmitter beacon is powerful enough to transmit a signal ninety miles for forty-eight hours, and had successfully saved several pilots since its release in 1995. Because of its professional nature, the Emergency is only supplied to civilians if they sign an agreement with Breitling to only deploy the beacon in an emergency. Breitling will, given the use was genuine, replace the transmitter free of charge, but improper use will result in a hefty fine.

Since 2009, the 121.5 MHz signal is no longer received by any satellite system, so Breitling updated the Emergency to include the digital distress frequency of 406.040 MHz. The new Emergency also includes a charger to make sure the beacon remains at full operational capacity.

Breitling’s dedication to the aviation industry is more than just a marketing exercise, it is a genuine partnership, and one any owner of a professional Breitling can feel a part of.


  • The 121.5 Mhz signal, as of 2009, is no longer received by any satellite, however it can still be used as a location becon in conjunction with a standard distress signal.
  • In 1995, the fifteen-man crew of the Mata-Rangi raft were saved by the Emergency’s transmitter, which can be detected ninety miles away.
  • If the signal is used in an emergency, Breitling offer to cover the costs of rescue and repair to the watch, however improper use can result in a $10,000 fine.

[Note: This is an updated post of a Guest Article published earlier on our website by Gary Robery from]

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