The New Breitling Emergency Watch Will Save Your Life

If it doesn’t kill your bank account. 

If you’re going to drop thousands of hard-earned dollars on a luxury Swiss watch, you had best be getting some bang for your buck. While the new timepiece from Breitling is ripe for conspicuous consumption, it stands out as the one model that could save your life—literally. 

The high-end Swiss watchmaker is introducing to the US market a new model of the Breitling Emergency—the first of its peers to feature a built-in dual personal locator beacon (PLB) for search and rescue purposes. When activated, the watch transmits emergency signals via two separate frequencies. A 121.5 MHz signal is received by immediate land operations whilst an additional 406 MHz signal alerts the international Cospas-Sarsat system, a network of satellites in low-altitude-earth and geostationary orbit. Ground stations as well as control and coordination centers receive emergency alerts via satellites and dispatch expeditionary assistance to persons in distress. The Cospas-Sarsat system has saved over 26,000 lives since its launch in 1985. Which means its powerful enough to get you out of whatever mess you may find yourself in.

Sticker-shocked enthusiasts of the high-priced Swiss label can take solace in the story of Mark Spencer — a hunter who credits the Breitling Emergency to saving his life. While hunting grizzly bears along the Susitna River in the infamous Alaska Range in August 2012, Spencer and his crew encountered Class VI rapids and had to divert their course to the Tyone River. However, the river route proved too shallow, and their boat struck a shoal that tore a hole through the vessel. Spencer intrepidly left his crew to seek help but in short order found himself lost, deserted, and hypothermic. After a harrowing 48 hours in the gelid Alaskan Backcountry, signals released by his Breitling Emergency communicated to the Cospas-Sarsat system and spurred a rescue team from Elmendorf Air Force Base to find and recover him. The rest of his group was ultimately saved.

Spencer sent these distress signals to the old Cospas-Sarsat system, back when it was still receiving signals of 121.5 MHz frequencies. However, the newly unveiled Breitling Emergency is updated to work with a rebooted Cospas-Sarsat system, which upped its frequency processing from 121.5 MHz to 406 MHz in 2009 in order to ensure accuracy and comprehensiveness of information. The old models are now only viable for land receivers, such as ships at sea or airborne aircraft.

Though rather conspicuous with a case 55 mm in diameter, the Emergency boasts a sleek design in titanium casing and is remarkably compact given its capabilities. To activate, two discreet caps along the case are unscrewed, and red antennae are then pulled out to communicate with satellites. The timepiece utilizes a rechargeable battery and features the trademark quartz chronometer that has made the company a byword for expert Swiss craftsmanship. Though Breitling caters to an aviation clientele, the Emergency is intended for a myriad of users, including navigators, sailors, hikers, and mountaineers.

The Emergency will be made available in a selection of three dials — black, yellow, and orange. It will be available in three different straps, costing $15,825 for one with a rubber strap, $16,475 with a titanium bracelet and $18,745 with a signature “Co-Pilot bracelet.” A separate “Emergency Night Mission” edition in a black rubber strap will run $18,910. It will be available in Breitling Boutiques beginning in July.