Breitling Emergency

Since I’m currently on holiday in the UK, I’ve not got much flying related stuff to write about so figured I’d do a wee review on my favourite watch of all time, my yellow faced Breitling Emergency.

Yellow faced Breitling Emergency, Pro 2 bracelet



I’ve lusted after one of these for about 10 years and always promised myself that one day, when I become a commercial pilot, I’d buy myself one. Fast forward 7 years to my first flying job and the realisation that the $600 a month salary wasn’t going to get me much Breitling.

Breitling Emergency case with watch box, DVD, ELT test unit, screwdriver, batteries and user manuals/docs

However, after just over 2 years in the job I finally came into the position to be able to afford one of these, just as Breitling stopped making them. Typical! After a bit of searching I was able to locate a lightly used one from a dealers in London. The deal was done over the phone from Indonesia and then came the next problem; the dealers couldn’t release the watch until the disclaimer had been signed:

Breitling Emergency condition of sale contract

As I was due back in the UK just before Christmas, I really wanted the watch ready and waiting for me there. Very kindly, my father was willing to sign the required contract and the watch was posted out. We transferred ownership again to myself, once I got back to the UK.

Breitling Emergency wrist photo



So, to the watch itself. It’s everything I could have hoped for really. Big, chunky and solidly built. The bezel is bi-directional with just the right amount of resistance so that it stays where you put it but is easy enough to rotate should you desire.

Raised bezel of the Breitling Emergency

Just inside the bezel is a raised section with tiny gaps every 30 degrees. Not only does this look great but it also helps offer a little bit of extra protection for the sapphire crystal which is coated on both sides with an anti-reflective coating. This coating makes the crystal literally disappear. I’ve never had any problems with reflections when looking at the face whilst flying in the brightest of sunshine.

Breitling Emergency case back (serial number blanked out)

The ELT antenna is located in the lower part of the watch and despite it’s size, it never makes the watch uncomfortable. In the top part of the watch is the ground antenna which can be optionally deployed to increase the ELT’s range. Curiously the Emergency Mission version of this watch does not have this extra antenna; I can only assume because it’s made of stainless steel, it doesn’t require it.

Breitling Emergency face, yellow

The face of this watch is just lovely. It’s the perfect blend of analogue and digital and in yellow it really stands out against the dull titanium metal. My only criticism is that the luminosity of the hands at night is not that great and it can be very hard to see them unless you’re in a pitch dark room.

The case is only rated to 30m which in my eyes is a bit of a shortcoming considering the obvious intended use of the watch. However, I’ve been caught out a few times in torrential rain and there’s no sign of any ill effects to the watch. In fact, judging by how a certain Bear Grylls uses this very watch, I suspect the 30m is somewhat pessimistic.



Beautifully constructed from titanium, it’s incredibly light for it’s size. Each link fits together perfectly and with minimal slop. The bracelet is adjustable by removing/adding links at the clasp end which are all of the screw down type.

Breitling Emergency Pro 2 bracelet

The clasp is of the fold over type and very secure. No chance of it accidentally popping open. I’m not especially a fan of bracelets though, so I always wear my watches on a rubber or leather strap.



There’s all the usual things here including countdown timer, chronograph/stopwatch and a second time-zone which is very handy to have set to UTC whilst I’m flying. All these features are accessed by rotating the crown one way or the other. This is my only other criticism of the watch; it’s not that easy to use and requires a smooth but quick rotation of the crown to operate. Once you get a feel for it, it’s not too bad but does take a bit of getting used to.

Emergency Location Transmitter (ELT)


Breitling Emergency ELT antenna crown

Now this is obviously the watch’s key selling point. The ELT in the watch is activated by unscrewing the large, lower crown which breaks the seal and activates it. You then have to pull the crown away from the watch which uncoils the antenna and extends it to about 43cm at which point the crown should pull away from the antenna. The secondary antenna can also be extended (about 60cm) by unscrewing it’s crown but unlike the main antenna, it’s of a much thinner wire and simply hangs by the weight of the crown which remains attached.

Breitling claim the range in perfect conditions is 220nm (i.e. if you’re on the top of the highest peak in the area and the aircraft receiving the signal is at 33,000ft). The lower the searching aircraft, the lower the range of the ELT (this is basic radio theory). If the search aircraft is at 3000ft, the range is 20nm and if at 20,000ft the range is about 90nm.

Aircraft radio receiving a transmission on 121.5MHz (note the “RX”)

Handily, you can also test the transmitter out without having to extend the antenna. You can either use Breitling’s supplied test unit or just push and hold the test button on the back of the watch. This activates the ELT for as long as you have it pushed down. The range is obviously very short but good enough to test if you’re inside the aircraft with the radio on.

For those of you worried about the fact 121.5MHz is no longer monitored by Cospas-Sarsat it’s really not an issue. The transmission from the Breitling Emergency was never strong enough to be picked up by the satellites anyway and it’s always relied on aircraft passing overhead to pick it up. Luckily, all commercial traffic will tend to have 121.5MHz tuned in on a secondary radio to maintain a listening watch. I certainly do whilst flying over the jungles of Indonesia. And if people know your aircraft is missing, they’ll most definitely have 121.5MHz tuned in whilst they look for you.

However, one should never solely rely on a watch as your primary method of being found! In addition to the watch the aircraft I fly are tracked by satellite, there’s a built in ELT (transmitting on 121.5MHz and 406MHz) and I also have a SPOT GPS location transmitter. Hopefully, should the worst happen, someone will find me!

Final word


Breitling Emergency on Pro 1 rubber strap

I love this watch! Despite is small shortcomings it’s the one I wear most of the time. The additional safety it offers me as a pilot flying around the jungles of Indonesia is also a comfort. It looks great, is very easy to get the time from at a glance, having UTC on the lower LCD screen is very handy and on a black rubber strap looks quite unassuming to anyone who doesn’t know what it is. There’s really not much else Breitling could have done to make this watch just perfect in my eyes!

Matt Dearden

Matt Dearden

English born professional pilot, writer, blogger and columnist. Currently flying the Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter in Papua, Indonesia.

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12 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Matt,

    Curious which of the watches, B1 or Emergency you like better? I’m considering one or the other! I’m in Indonesia quite often doing a different kind of flying. Great photos. Thanks!

    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      Of the two, the B-1 is probably the better watch. The lume is much better (although perhaps it’s because yellow faced Breitlings have thinner black hands and thus less lume), it’s got backlit LCD screens, lots more features and an easier interface to access them all.

      That said, I love my Emergency. It’s such a unique watch with the built in ELT and if I could only keep one, it’s the one I’d keep.

    • Christian says:

      Thanks for your comments. I decided to go with the yellow face Emergency and think I got one of the last ones prior to the new model coming out. The B-1 will stay on my list as well. Looks like some great flying you are doing. Be safe!

      Blue Skies,


    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      Great choice and enjoy your new watch! It really is one of the most unique ones out there and who knows if/when Breitling will release a new version!

  2. Great review. I also own a B-1 and am about to pull the trigger on an Emergency. My only concern is the large crown for the antenna. Does it dig into your wrist at all? How does the Emergency compare to the B-1 on you wrist? They’re nearly identical in size and weight, so I assume they feel similar. Thanks.

    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      Hi Scott,

      The B-1 and Emergency wear very much the same on the wrist being of near identical size and weight. The extra crown does not dig into my skinny wrist at all and I tend to wear my watches a little loose too. The LCDs are a little harder to read on the Emergency as the digits are slightly smaller and thinner but still perfectly readable.

      Hope this helps :o)

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Thank you for the reply. I’m looking at a black-faced Emergency superquartz with the rubber Diver I strap, so it should actually be a *little* lighter than my B-1, with its heavy Fighter bracelet.

      You should do a B-1 review with pics, similar to the above. Mine is a superquartz with grey dial. Best watch I’ve ever owned. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I’m having hard time justifying buying the Emergency…

      Breitling should have used B-1’s LCD displays on the Emergency superquartz (especially for the backlight)! Oh well, great watch, regardless. Fly safe!

  3. Never mind, just found your B-1 review! Well done. I love mine!

  4. William says:

    Hello Matt,

    Have you seen, or have you been considering the new Breitling Emergency?

    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      I’ve not seen one in the metal yet, so am reserving judgement until I so. I fear it’ll be far to big for my tiny wrists though; my current one is probably about as big as I can get away with.

  5. Mark Mullen says:

    Thanks for the review Matt, I’ve always fancied one of these and have just seen a lovely white faced one for sale at good money, might treat myself.

    Mark (from PH)

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