Rounding out a year in which we’ve seen several traditional Swiss watch brands release decidedly nontraditional “connected” watches — most recently TAG Heuer and Movado — Breitling enters the arena this week with the launch of the Breitling Exospace B55. As fans of the brand have come to expect, its range of functions is eminently suitable for aviators and aviation enthusiasts.
The mission statement of the Breitling Exospace B55 — an electronic chronograph watch that was teased but not officially launched at Baselworld 2015 earlier this year — is distinctive among the burgeoning crop of Swiss smartwatches and connected watches in that Breitling did not want to create a watch that was “dependent on a smartphone yet less efficient than the latter.” In other words, whereas the timepiece is built to pair up with a smartphone, it is also equipped for two-way communication between the devices, so both phone and watch form a complementary pair in which each does what it does best.
For example, a smarwatch’s biggest assets, its relatively large screen and ergonomic interface, can be used to perform operations such as setting the time, time zone, alarms, display and operating parameters and night mode — tasks that would be more cumbersome on the small screen of a wristwatch. At the same time, the watch, which boasts a multi-function, two-LCD-screen analog-digital display, performs an array of chronograph operations that can then be uploaded to a smartphone for review, storage, or sharing. These include pilot-friendly readings such as flight times, lap times, and recorded times with split times. The interface between phone and watch also enables the latter to receive notifications of incoming emails, SMS and WhatsApp messages, phone calls with caller name and number, and appointment reminders.
The Breitling Exospace B55 follows the design codes of previous Breitling AnaDigi watches, such as the Breitling Emergency and Aerospace Evo, with a sturdy but lightweight case made of black titanium, measuring 46 mm in diameter, and equipped with a ratcheted, rotating, unidirectional bezel with rider tabs. The sapphire crystal is glareproof on both sides and the entire case is water-resistant to 100 meters (330 feet).
The movement in the watch is Breitling Caliber B55, a thermocompensated “SuperQuartz” ana-digi movement equipped with a wide range of functions. Among these are an electronic tachymeter; a chronograph recording up to 50 split times; a countdown/countup system for MET (mission elapsed times) readings; and numerous aviation-centric capabilities including a “chrono flight” device to record flight times and “block times” (jargon for the elapsed time from the moment a plane begins to taxi to the moment it comes to a stop at the end of a flight). It can store in its memory data including departure dates and times, arrival times, and takeoff and landing times. Other useful features include a perpetual calendar with week display, a battery-charge indicator, and seven daily alarms. The movement, which Breitling says is 10 times more accurate than a standard quartz watch movement, is powered by a rechargeable battery system and is chronometer-certified by the Swiss testing agency COSC.
Breitling strove for user-friendliness in the operation of the Exospace B55: wearers can select a function by simply rotating the crown to and activate or deactivate it by pressing one of two push-pieces. The two LCD screens include a backlighting system that can be engaged by either pressing the crown or by merely rotating one’s wrist at a 35º angle. This so-called “Tilt” function is especially useful when the wearer’s hand is at the controls in an airplane cockpit (or, for those more land-bound, gripping the steering wheel of a car).
The Breitling Exospace B55 is outftted with a Volcano black dial and comes on a two-tone TwinPro rubber strap. It is available now at Breitling boutiques and priced at $8,900. I had the opportunity to talk about the watch today with Breitling CEO Jean-Paul Girardin and to try it on. Here’s what it looks like on the wrist. Below the photo, you can check out Breitling’s official video for the Exospace B55 Connected watch.