A lifesaver by any other name
I took a couple of relaxing minutes to watch the sharks and tropical fish in the vast Breitling aquarium above the entrance to their pavilion, then joined Jean-Paul Girardin, Breitling’s Vice-President, for his presentation of the latest and greatest Emergency.
The brand launched its first Emergency timepiece in 1995, selling more than 40,000 pieces to pilots, aviation professionals and aeronautical teams to date and it has proved to be an exceptional aid in locating and rescuing people.
Girardin, sporting an Emergency II for the meeting, explained that the new model is a high-tech instrument equipped with a dual frequency transmitter compliant with the specifications of the Cospas-Sarsat international satellite alert system which is based on a network of satellites in low-altitude earth orbit (LEOSAR) and in geostationary orbit (GEOSAR) ; it also comprises ground receiving stations as well as control and coordination centres. Its mission is to provide accurate and reliable distress alert and homing data and then supply this information to search and rescue authorities to provide fast and efficient assistance. Since its launch in 1985, the Cospas-Sarsat system has helped save more than 26,000 lives.
The maritime, aviation and land operations comprise three steps: alert, homing and rescue. The alert and homing phases used the same 121.5 MHz analogue frequency until 2009, when Cospas-Sarsat decided that it would phase out satellite processing at that frequency and alerts would be triggered only on 406 MHz – a digital frequency able to offer enhanced security, provide more comprehensive information and reduce the number of false alarms. The 121.5 MHz signal is nonetheless still received on land, by ships at sea and by airborne aircraft, and remains the most efficient and reliable system for homing in on victims. Distress radio beacons must thus be of the dual frequency type in order to guarantee accurate homing.
Developed in conjunction with major scientific institutes, the Emergency II has numerous microelectronic and microtechnical innovations, including a revolutionary rechargeable battery, a miniaturized dual frequency transmitter and an unprecedented integrated antenna system.
As the first ever wrist-worn dual frequency Personal Location Beacon (PLB), it is a unique safety and survival instrument for distress situations on land, at sea and in the air.
The Emergency II is equipped with a microtransmitter alternately operating on two separate frequencies over a 24-hour period. It transmits a first digital signal on the 406 MHz frequency intended for satellites and lasts 0.44 seconds every 50 seconds; as well as a second analogue signal on the 121.5 MHz homing and rescue frequency, which lasts 0.75 seconds every 2.25 seconds.
The beacon of the Emergency II was designed to simplify handling. Deploying the antenna by unscrewing and pulling out the cap on the right-hand side of the case automatically activates the transmitter. The cap automatically comes free of the antenna when it is deployed to the right length. This operation releases the cap of the second section, which the user can then deploy according to the same principle. A clear reminder of all the stages is provided by a series of inscriptions on the watch. Once the two antennae are deployed, all that remains is to ideally position the watch so as to ensure the best possible transmission performance.
The energy issue was a crucial element in developing the Emergency II. The Cospas-Sarsat prescriptions notably demand that beacons should be capable of transmitting for 24 hours, including at -20°C. In addition to these requirements in terms of duration and temperature, the dual frequency transmitter features its own specific characteristics due to its alternate operation at very different power levels (30 mW for 121.5 MHz, and 5 W for 406 MHz, making it 170 times higher). After considerable research, it became apparent that the ideal solution was to opt for a rechargeable battery capable of delivering more power than a standard model, consequently, in collaboration with one of the leading institutes in this field, Breitling developed a brand-new rechargeable battery for this beacon-watch.
The titanium-cased Emergency II is not just a personal survival instrument, however, it is also an electronic chronograph featuring all the functions useful to professionals: 12/24-hour analogue and digital display, 1/100th second chronograph, alarm, timer, second time zone, multilingual calendar and a battery end-of-life indicator. Equipped with a thermo-compensated SuperQuartz™ movement, it is ten times more accurate than a standard quartz movement and it is a COSC certified chronometer.
I left Jean-Paul Girardin impressed by the complexity of the Emergency II and its homing device, but wishing they had invented a system of guiding me unscathed past the hundreds of visitors with their pushchairs and wheelie bags that make the chariot race scene in Ben Hur seem like an outing for old age pensioners.
The Roman Empire
Bulgari is the first pavilion on the left as you enter Hall 1 and it is an oasis of stylish Italian décor, magnificent jewellery and stimulating timepieces and the best espresso coffee outside of Italy.
The charming Maria Thalia Terezakis, responsible for External Relations for Switzerland, Russia & Eastern Europe, greeted me and quickly won me over by organising an espresso coffee. She then gave me a tour of the showcases, introduced me to Guido Terreni, the Managing Director of the Watch Business Unit, who presented the brand’s latest timepieces, then quietly melted in the background until it was time to leave.
One of Bulgari’s most striking timepieces this year is a delightful blend of colour and craftsmanship and goes by the name of Il Giardino Tropicale di Bvlgari. It is a watch that combines the art of miniaturized painting and champlevé enamelling with an horological masterpiece - an automatic tourbillon movement, Bulgari’s first Grand Complication for the ladies (see Paul O’Neil’s article in this issue for more details).
- Commedia Dell’Arte Minute Repeater by Bulgari
For something even more sophisticated and precious given that there are only eight pieces of each of the three models available (Brighella, Pulcinella and Harlequin), there is the Commedia Dell’Arte Minute Repeater. The cathedral gong minute repeater is longer than the normal gongs and the steel wire that encircles the interior of the case twice gives a deeper sound and amplifies the resonance of the mechanism. The repeater chimes, on command via the repeater slide at 10 o’clock, the hours, quarter hours and minutes in different tones and animates the four figures on the dial. There are three different city depictions on the dials of the three models – Venice, Naples and Bologna. The dial, which is in 18 carat white gold, is decorated using four different techniques – miniature painting, engraving, chasing and enamelling – and the retrograde minutes, which are set between 7 and 11 o’clock, are indicated by the central character’s right arm. The jumping hour indicator is at 6 o’clock. The case is in 18-carat white gold and Magsonic, a special alloy that optimizes the resonance of the piece.
After another fortifying espresso with Maria Thalia Terezakis, I left Bulgari enchanted by the brand’s creative and artistic timepieces and impressed by their voyage into the domain of grand complications combined with poetic and allegorical themes. Next