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FrontRunners: Time Saver

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Although it’s easy to imagine agent 007, trapped on a remote mountaintop, unscrewing the cap of Breitling’s Emergency and extending the antenna to call for a pickup, the watch is not a high-tech fantasy gadget that Q conjured up. Breitling (800.641.7343, www.breitling.com) spent $7 million developing the Emergency before launching it overseas in 1995. However, only last fall was this lifesaving timepiece, with a miniature transmitter that operates on the 121.5 MHz aviation distress frequency, approved in the United States for sale to non-aviation professionals. Later this year, Emergency Mission, a more consumer-friendly model featuring a traditional chronograph design in polished steel instead of titanium, will hit the American market. The watch will be priced from $3,975 to $4,400, depending on the strap or bracelet.

Don’t be deceived by the tamer exterior; underneath is a transmitter that functions just like the distress beacons that are mandatory aircraft equipment. Across flat terrain or the open sea, the Emergency’s signal can reach a search and rescue plane as far as 100 miles away flying at 20,000 feet. The watch’s power source is a SuperQuartz thermocompensated movement certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute.

“Breitling has a long history with the world of aviation and is dedicated to technological innovations in its wrist instruments,” says Breitling USA President Marie Bodman. “This is even more significant today, as there seems to be an increase in private piloting.”

Needless to say, the distress signal is one watch function you hope never to need.

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