Breitling Cockpit B50: in-house quartz movements
Equipped with a brand new in-house quartz caliber, the multifunction chronograph Cockpit B50 meets all the requirements to become aeronautics’ main watch partner.
This is an account of our exploration of the new promising movement with Jean-Paul Girardin, the independent brand’s Marketing General Manager, who is also ready to listen to pilots’ needs.
When asked about what Breitling thought is the position of quartz in watchmaking, Girardin immediately replied: “Breitling has never regarded quartz as any better or worse than mechanical movements. We do not engage in any judgments because some professional instruments need electronics. This is due to the fact that some functions cannot be developed with mechanics only. For instance, we need electronics to send a distress call to a satellite or to set off an alarm”. In short, if you want to meet the requirements of the professional public you need to stay connected to the real world and offer the best services.
In aeronautics, everything technological is seen as the best and that is why the sector has never shied away from the use of electronics. Girardin added: “Remember the launch of the Chronomat in 1984. At the time, it represented the renewal of traditional watchmaking production. However, Schneider was aware that keeping up with modernity was crucial to avoid lagging behind with technology. Hence, in 1985, he launched Aerospace, the brand’s first multifunction watch. The first Emergency wasn’t introduced until 10 years later. In 2001, the manufacture released its first Super-Quartz Thermo-compensated movement eligible for accreditation from the Certificat Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC).
The electronic movement oscillates at its best frequency when the quartz bar vibrates at 23°C, but it is less precise at other temperatures. The processor, which is coupled to the oscillator, registers the information that it transmits and makes necessary modifications according to the ambient temperature which is measured by a sensor. This unique system enables Breitling to make its quartz calibers accurate in the range of some seconds per year in contrast to some minutes for its competitors.
As Girardin highlighted: “This means that pilots who have to follow timed procedures rigorously need to wind their watches less often”.
B50 Caliber: post combustion for precise movements
With the caliber B50, Breitling decided to take up a new challenge that allowed it to offer pilots instruments that met their expectations. The useful and functional watch would suit anyone from airline pilots to air-sea pilots, who usually go on dangerous missions. The piece’s meticulous specifications have been followed thoroughly. In order to be efficient, the piece had to be perfectly readable. That is why it is equipped with both analogue and digital displays like the ones found in aircrafts, with either dashboards or HUDs (Heads-Up Display). The digital mode works on two white-on-black LCD screens and a light makes it readable in any situation. The backlight can be activated just by pressing the winding crown or, thanks to the “Tilt” function, simply by rotating the wrist 35°.
Professionals will surely find this function very useful. Breitling has also chosen to add seven 14-segment digits that allow all the letters of the alphabet and the alphanumerical display to be seen on the 12-hour dial. A high-power battery (70 milliamperes) was needed to optimize this display, which also has a backlight. As Girardin underlined, it was no easy task to develop the battery as the chemistry needed for this state-of-the-art product is something that he himself just discovered and which he finds fascinating. In order to optimize its functionality, Breitling has developed a new type of miniature rechargeable battery for two simple reasons: First of all, these batteries, which are as powerful as traditional batteries, are both smaller and more reliable as well as rechargeable. This means that they can be used over a long period of time. They are charged through an AC adapter or USB cable. Secondly, in order to prevent the battery from running down too quickly, the mechanism switches to standby when necessary and once the battery is charged it only uses the function that enables the watch to be wound uninterruptedly.
Useful functions for pilots
The caliber B50 was designed for and by flying professionals and features every state-of-the-art technological function that might help pilots carry out their missions successfully. Thus, the movement is equipped with a chronograph, which includes an intermediary time device and a fly-back function. It also features a second time zone (for civilian pilots), a perpetual calendar, and two alarms (with ringtone and/or vibration). Moreover, the electronic movement is equipped with a high performance processor and it features a “LAP” timer function and a countdown with alarm. And that is not all: Breitling wanted to make this movement a successful product in line with technological trends for years.
Breitling Cockpit B50 side
To this end, the manufacture has added new functions to the caliber; namely, an electronic tachometer, a “countdown/countup” system that allows switching directly from a countdown to a timing operation. It also has an “aviation-style” function like the Chrono Flight which helps juggle time zones without restraints.
And because there is no such thing as “too good to be true” when it comes to electronics, Breilting has integrated the “Swap” function to the caliber already loaded with complications. This new function enables the user to switch the time displayed by the hands with the second time zone one by only pressing a push-piece. The digitalized system takes account of a potential date change to avoid disturbing the iwearer, who often has to focus on something elsewhere.
Efficient and sophisticated external parts
Due to its great potential, the exceptional caliber should not find it difficult to compete with similar products. It is currently housed in a natural or treated black titanium case in the chronograph Cockpit B50. A particularly simple, logical and coherent control system featuring function-selection via crown rotation and activation/deactivation by two push-pieces makes the watch especially user-friendly. A HUD (Heads-Up Display) guides the user through the various operations with interface messages that appear on the screen; thus, making the whole process even easier. Too much information kills, as we know. Hence, the designers have equipped the caliber with a “sport” mode that enables the user to temporarily limit the number of available functions.
Finally, a double press on the crown momentarily “parks” the hands so as to provide a clear view of both screens. How can you beat that?