The timepiece tailor-made for aviation professionals
Jetsetter must-have brand Breitling recently raised the maximum altitude of the 21st century luxury watch by launching the Breitling Exospace B55 Connected, the exalted brand’s first timepiece tailor-made for aviation professionals. The launch, held at the Breitling Boutique at the Palais Renaissance on Orchard Road in Singapore, was heralded by a phalanx of uniformed models replete with aviators and epaulets: while you couldn’t look into their eyes, you felt comforted that someone gorgeous in uniform was keeping constant watch over your welfare-an experience not unlike wearing the Exospace B55 itself.
At a warm and sunny welcome luncheon at riverside restaurant Absinthe a few hours before the launch, Breitling Southeast Asia general manager Alvin Soon afforded me some personal time with the Exospace B55. I remember thinking to myself: I can get away with calling myself a watch aficionado, but can I pass myself off as an actual aviation professional if I wore it? The models, keeping up stolid expressions under their mirrored lenses, judged me silently as I briefly replaced my current daily beater, whatever it was, with the giant 46mm Exospace B55. While it wasn’t yet connected to my smartphone so that I could perform remote adjustments on various alarm, display, and operation parameters, I did feel strangely and immediately connected. I had just come in on a short-haul flight from Manila, and I could only imagine the data it might have gathered had I worn it- flight times, lap times, etc.-and the kind of granularity it might have introduced into my brief transit here on earth. The Exospace, after all, and to begin with, was equipped with an electronic tachymeter, a chronograph capable of recording up to 50 split times and a countdown/countup system useful in enabling a sequence of timing operations.
In addition to delivering these incredibly detailed measurements to your smartphone, the Exospace B55 receives a host of notifications: incoming e-mails, SMS and app-based messages, phone calls, and caller ID, as well as upcoming appointments. And while your average smartwatch-and I include Apple’s in that description-might function in a similar manner, there was certainly more heft and substance in wearing a watch that was a watch first, before it was ever anything else. And if I wasn’t going to be mistaken for an experimental fighter pilot, I certainly welcomed the alternative-of being regarded as a serious buyer rather than a technological early adapter, or worse, a person who still lived with his parents.
This is a watch that would be a natural selection for successful, technology-obsessed individuals: the frequent-flying, hotel reward-collecting, flight-attendant-appreciating men of this world, of which there are many, but of whom only a select few might be successful enough to be able to afford the Exospace B55.
Beyond these basic comparisons to your run-of-the-mill Foxconn-assembled smartwatch, the Exospace finds itself in pioneering territory. The watch sat large on my girlish wrists, but its black titanium case, decked with a gorgeous etched black bezel embellished by raised rider tabs, kept it breathtakingly light. A two-tone rubber strap made sure it meant serious business. But certainly the most fascinating achievement of the Exospace is the face, bright and dark behind its glare-proof sapphire glass, confidently rendered in the classic Breitling manner that has won the massive brand millions of loyal fans: busy but not cluttered, all business but also all luxurious style. To wit: the dial gathers an analog dial and two LCD screens-powered by a backlighting system that is activated merely by pressing the crown, or by gently tilting the wrist. Black on black, with a sprinkle of white and scintillating blue: Breitling made sure it appealed to the masculine sensibilities of the cockpit.
And piloting the timepiece itself, the exclusive Breitling Caliber B55, a thermocompensated SuperQuartz movement that packs the powers of a 1/100th of a second chronograph, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), a countdown/countup (or Mission Elapsed Time), a flight time chronograph, a lap timer chronograph, an electronic tachymeter, a countdown timer, a second time zone, seven daily alarms, a perpetual calendar with week display, and-helpfully-a battery change indicator. But perhaps, to would-be watch snobs like me, the real feat of the watch is that it is, incredibly, certified by the COSC, the gold standard of Swiss watch accuracy and precision that all mechanical watches arguably aspire to. This is the human part of the Exospace, the part that your everyday smartwatch can never have, no matter how hard they try to make Siri sound like a stern but lovely aunt.
That’s also because Breitling never wanted to be anybody’s aunt-or uncle, even. As perhaps the only luxury brand never afraid of embracing technology beyond the technical complication, Breitling has always nurtured a youthful, driven image, which is why it is able to successfully market such professionally specific timepieces to a mass audience. The very idea of a corporate professional purchasing the Exospace B55, something explicitly designed for pilots, lies not in the realm of possibility but in the area of expectation. My own semi-cultivated (and semi-youthful) instinct tells me that this is a watch that would be a natural selection for successful, technology-obsessed individuals: the frequent-flying, hotel reward-collecting, flight-attendant-appreciating men of this world, of which there are many, but of whom only a select few might be successful enough to be able to afford the Exospace B55.
The launch was wisely timed with the Singapore Airshow, a vast showcase of air power on both the civilian and military sides of the aviation community. The biennial event hosts high-level conferences for serious buyers and sellers and features global leaders in the air industry. For the gawking public, there is an incredible array of aircraft and airborne material on exhibit.
At this year’s Airshow, hordes of visitors took selfies by drones and ground-to-air missiles; they swooned to the thunderous aerobatic performance; they treated the F22 Raptors-and their supersized US Air Force pilots-as though they were celebrity sightings. In short, it was a perfect setting for Breitling’s launch. As a longtime sponsor of the Airshow and a bleeding edge technical luxury brand, Breitling set the stage for the watch that would embody the spirit of total air superiority.