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The Watch That Could ‘Save Your Life’

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‘A five-figure watch? It’d better save my damn life.’


Well, this one potentially can. Swiss watchmaker Breitling announced the U.S. release of the Emergency watch, the only watch with a dual onboard Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).

Available in Sweden for a couple years now, the Emergency’s tiny beacon required extensive testing from the FCC before it was approved stateside.

The catch? The watch is priced from $15,825 to $18,910, making it the PLB for the one-percent crowd.

‘Watch As Lifesaver’

In a press release, Thierry Prissert, president of Breitling USA, claimed the watch has already saved “more than 20 lives” since it was released a couple years ago.


We’re a little skeptical that 20 people wearing this very expensive watch were in peril of death and saved thanks to this gizmo, but the claim is out there, and we have read at least one survival story related to the watch.

Despite being smaller than traditional beacons, the Emergency’s PLB operates on both 121.5mHz (for sending an alert to rescuers on land, at sea, and in the air) and 406mHz (which transmits to orbiting satellites) frequencies.

The beacon is simple to activate:

  1. Unscrew the cap on the right side of the watch face
  2. Pull the antenna out to activate it
  3. Wait for help to arrive

breitling watch antenna

It doesn’t neglect standard watch functions, however: Among the Emergency’s features are a 12/24-hour analog/digital display, alarm, timer, calendar, and battery-end-of-life indicator.

And since the beacon takes up more power than a traditional watch, Breitling designed a battery that it claims is 1,000 times more powerful than a traditional watch battery. (No details yet on how they’ve done it, but that alone is an impressive feat.)

brietling plb watch

$16,000 is an unholy amount of money to spend to merge two simple and inexpensive technologies. You can buy a decent watch and a PLB for around $250-$300 total.

But I guess that would seem like a bargain to someone stuck on a glacier without any means of communication. That said, you can buy a whole lot of SPOT Gen3 satellite communicators for the price of one watch.


In a press release, Prissert expressed confidence that the watch will be an essential piece for adventurers.

“I hope many adventurers will find it a key piece of equipment,” he said. Well, at least 20 really wealthy ones.

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