Watches: in search of the coolest travel watch

Continuing on my search for the ultimate travel/adventure watch..........


The Breitling Emergency is one of the most ideally designed watches for travel/adventure, originally intended for use by pilots it has an integrated beacon that transmits on the emergency 121.5Mhz frequency once deployed. A potential 'just in case' life-saver. Today that particular frequency is used less and only really practical if activated on land (the frequency is not regularly monitored at sea) but still instills a certain sense of security for the wearer. Housed within a rugged satin-finish 43mm diameter case, the watch is definitely more suited to the jungle than the city; still, if you want to show a passion for the outdoors on your wrist while wearing a suit, this is the watch for you. In addition to an emergency beacon the model boasts an impressive list of useful features for travel including a digital/analog display, dual time zone, military time, chronograph, alarm, <24hr count-down timer and perpetual calendar. Although intended for navigation, the bi-directional rotating bezel can also be used as a time-marker by using North as zero.

This watch is really hard to beat when it comes to the outdoors, sure it’s quartz so the battery could die and this is a concern, but honestly not a big one as the functions this enables are all so useful. The alarm is great for waking you up to catch those early-morning flights and the calendar with day/date display personally I find useful; it’s surprisingly easy to forget what day it is in the jungle. The black rubber strap is comfortable, if a little bulky, but the watch can be worn on a bracelet or NATO strap as an option. 

Overall the Emergency feels well-made, the luminous markers and hands glows well in the dark (although a backlight for the LCD display would have been ideal) and the bezel rotates really smoothly. The size is almost ideal at 43mm and despite the integrated beacon the case not too thick that it catches on everything when worn. (such as the Richard Mille Diver)  

Although the model is now discontinued they are available to find for less than US$6,000 making it a sensible value for traveling. If looking for one make sure it is complete with the instructions and most important beacon test unit, nothing could be worse than discovering your emergency transmitter doesn’t work just when you need to use it! 


Although perhaps not ideal in a true survival situation, having the emergency beacon does give some sort of psychological ‘comfort’ when traveling. The case is well made and the bezel rotates smoothly without feeling like its going to fall off, the luminescent is clear at night and the functions provided by the quartz movement very useful for travel. It's also very understated and doesn't really look valuable so your unlikely to be targeted for theft.


My main gripe, other than the fact it's quartz, is the digital functions are changed via rotating the crown and this is somewhat difficult to do with the watch on your wrist. Taking the watch off your wrist though to scroll through the functions is also slightly frustrating. I found myself leaving the digital display on the calendar for daily wear and removing the watch when I needed set the alarm etc. I would also have liked a back-light for the digital display so it was easily visible at night and the rubber strap I found just a little too chunky. 

This is probably the best pure-travel watch that I expect to find as it really has everything, although let's face it if I was looking for just a travel watch I would wear a Suunto. As the title of the post suggests, I am looking for a seriously cool travel watch and I am not sure the Emergency really has the ‘cool’ factor I am looking for. Sure it’s got a certain style and adventure mystic I appreciate, but cool?

Time to keep looking……..