Breitling has long been associated with precision watches used by pilots and lately, it boosted this further by joining the “wearable tech” revolution.
It’s called a “connected chronograph” that the company says places “the smartphone in the service of the watch” instead of the other way around. The name of this latest luxury watch? The Exospace B55 Connected.
This writer, along with other journalists, was in Singapore over a month ago for its regional launch, in conjunction with the huge aviation, aerospace and defence showcase at the Singapore Airshow.
“It’s not a smartwatch,” explained Alvin Soon, the brand’s general manager. “It’s still primarily a luxury watch, but one that can make connections to your phone.”
We were having a superb al fresco riverside lunch at Boat Quay, just opposite the Singapore Parliament. Soon, we were joined by a bevy of “pilots”, male and female models in aviation garb (including some in blouses one size too tight), who had been walking through Raffles Place and Orchard Road earlier to “activate” the brand.
That night, things got hotter at the Breitling Boutique Singapore inside the Palais Renaissance Mall along Orchard Road. As wine flowed, the official launch party was kicked off by the renowned Urban Drum Crew.
Then strapping male aviator models presented the watch of the occasion to the 100 plus distinguished guests and members of the media. Then they browsed through the various watches on display, admired the pop art on the walls or grooved to the latest up tempo electronic tracks spun by DJ Eclipse.
Performance has long been Breitling’s leitmotif in the technical advancements of its watches. Some classical Swiss watch makers have been looking for ways to blend smartwatch-related technology with their classical heritage but Breitling’s positioning as a sport watch brand for pilots (and scuba divers too, since it’s water-resistant to 100m) gives it an added edge to integrate new high-tech features into the traditional chronograph.
The Exospace B55 is billed as “the ultimate pilot’s instrument”. In addition to a host of technical capabilities for pilots, the watch also has digital capabilities usually found in wearable tech such as measurements of athletic and adventure activities.
Two-way communication enables the watch to complement your smartphone, with each being used for what it does best. The main advantage of a smartphone is its large screen where you can swipe away at any function you want. Owners of the Exospace B55 can use their phone to perform certain adjustments which are more comfortable on a touchscreen, such as time-setting, timezones, alarms, display modes, operating parameters and night settings.
At the same time, there are certain functions at which the watch is supreme, such as the super precise measuring of stop watch lap times. What the connection does is to enable the user to upload those measurements to the smartphone, so that they can be read, stored and shared more easily.
But it’s still the chronograph that remains the absolute master, the connection is primarily designed to complement it, to improve its functionality.
“Deep down, owning a luxury watch is still about the heart,” says Soon, the general manager.
Indeed, the Exospace B55 has a outdoorsy appeal, what with its black titanium case and two-tone rubber strap. Adding to this rugged feel is the volcano black dial framed by a ratcheted rotating bezel.
With a diameter of 46mm, the watch is ideally suited for someone with solid forearms too. The look is finished off with a digital display which adds that contemporary high-tech touch. All in, the dynamism and strength of its pilot cum adventurer persona could be easily transferred to a high-powered corporate setting.
It also perfectly suited the mood at the Singapore Airshow, what with the numerous advanced combat aircraft (and even satellites) being promoted at the exhibition hall in Changi. There were also heart-stopping stunts from a single advanced Mig-29 fighter jet from the Royal Malayisan Air Force (ever seen a plane stop in mid air?) plus a stunning multi-aircraft display from South Korea’s Black Eagles aerobatics team.
Apart from the rugged look of the watch, character, the watch also has a sturdy mechanical heart inside. This family business is one of the last remaining independent Swiss watch brands (many others are part of larger multinational companies). Breitling is also one of the few companies to produce its own mechanical chronograph movements, entirely developed and manufactured in its own workshops.
The Exospace B55 is powered by the Caliber B55 movement, officially chronometer-certified by the COSC or Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute which is responsible for certifying the accuracy and precision of wristwatches in Switzerland.
This is a thermocompensated SuperQuartz engine with a 1/100th of a second chronograph (said to be ten times more accurate than standard quartz). The watch can record up to 50 split times and has a countdown/countup system that is useful in enabling a sequence of countdown and timing operations.
An eminently aviation-oriented “chrono flight” device serves to record “block times” (times elapsed from the moment the plane begins to taxi towards takeoff through to when it comes to a halt at the end of a mission) and flight times. It also memorises departure dates and times, arrival times, as well as takeoff and landing times. These Block and Flight Times functions are user friendly as the function is selected by rotating the crown, while activation/deactivation is done by means of two buttons at the side. Seven daily alarms, a perpetual calendar and a battery charge indicator (the battery is rechargeable) complete this watch.
The two very readable LCD (liquid crystal display) screens feature a backlighting system that may be activated merely by pressing the crown – or when the user tilts his wrist at a more than 35° angle (Tilt function) – that proves particularly effective when the hand is gripping aircraft controls (or, for the rest of us, a steering wheel).
The new connected watch system also receives notifications of the smartphone’s incoming emails, messages (SMS, WhatsApp) or phone calls (with caller’s name or number) as well as reminders of upcoming appointments.
All in all, the combination of high tech features with a watch with a solid engine inside and a rugged appeal externally makes for a attractive package.
The Breitling Exospace B55 Connected is available in Singapore, Dubai and New York. It will be available in Malaysia soon. The recommended retail price will be around RM36,550. For more info, see www.breitling.com