BREITLING’S ‘B55’ SMARTWATCH
WITH A LONG HISTORY OF PIONEERING WATCHES, BREITLING LAUNCHES ONE OF ITS MOST IMPORTANT CREATION IN YEARS – A FIRST FULL-THROTTLE ‘CONNECTED’ WATCH, THE ‘EXOSPACE B55’.
The problem with smartwatches isn’t that no one needs them. GQ needs a Chappelli Fixie about as much as we do a Buck Woodsman hunting knife, but both are already in our possession. The problem with smartwatches, so far, is that no one’s managed to convince us we want one. Persuade us that strapping a piece of wearable tech to our wrist will make our lives all the more worth living, and the smartwatch movement stands a better chance of achieving critical mass. At the moment, interest levels are languishing somewhere between mild ‘huh?’ and total ‘nah.’ The most successful smartwatches have been those geared towards one particular function – ftness monitors and activity trackers, mostly. Smartwatches trying to be all things to all people have, on the whole, failed. Apple may have shifted seven million of its watches in the frst nine months since launch, so say market researcher Canalys, but that was against yearly forecasts of more than 16 million. During the frst two months of 2016, Google Trends tells us, the Apple Watch is generating the same number of searches as the ipod. When did you last think about buying one of those? The iphone ‘6’ and ‘6s’, by comparison, achieved in excess of 70 million sales last year. Breitling started to consider its answer to the smartwatch question three years ago, when developing the ‘Cockpit B50’ – the frst watch to house the brand’s in- house, thermocompensated quartz analogdigital movement. Using the B50 as a springboard, Breitling added backlight and battery technology from the Sos-signal-emitting ‘Emergency II’ and arrived at the ‘Exospace B55’, which, after all that, isn’t a smartwatch. “A smartwatch is a device on your wrist that is connected to the internet – an additional terminal that is only fully functioning when it’s connected to a smartphone,” Breitling’s vice-president, Jean-paul Girardin, explains to GQ. “That is how Breitling understands a so called ‘smartwatch’ – which the ‘Exospace B55’ is not.” Instead, says Girardin, the Breitling ‘Exospace B55’ is a “connected” watch. It is a highly legible, ultra-precise chronograph aimed at professionals. So far, so Breitling. The watch facilitates a range of timing functions that will allow it to record and store measurements independent of a smartphone. Only when a connected phone is within three metres range, will the watch upload the information it’s saved, via Bluetooth. “The ‘Exospace B55’ is a real watch, with a real dial, real hands, real motors. If you look at the ‘B55’ you can’t tell it’s a connected watch. The watch is the master. It is a standalone device.” Breitling’s put the smartphone in the service of the watch, not the other way around, and each device plays to its strengths. The main asset of a smartphone is its large screen and ergonomic interface, so ‘Exospace’ users can use handsets to set
“THE ‘EXOSPACE B55’ IS A REAL WATCH, WITH A REAL DIAL, REAL HANDS, REAL MOTORS.”
the time, two additional time zones, seven alarms and alter modes of display. The watch can present two time zones simultaneously, capture timed events and, if you want, inform of incoming phone calls, emails and messages (though the messages themselves won’t be displayed). The ‘Exospace’ is powered by Breitling’s ‘Superquartz Calibre B55’. It provides an analog-digital display, an electronic tachymeter, the ability to record up to 50 split times, and a countdown and count-up timer. What does this mean in practical terms? If you’re a pilot, you’ll be able to record and upload fight and block times automatically. And astronauts can keep track of Mission Elapsed Time with ease. “The additional features of the ‘Calibre B55’ make it easy to fll in your logbook,” says Girardin. “Push a button and everything’s there saved for you.” Of course, not everyone is a pilot. Even fewer people are astronauts. So what are the advantages for us surface-dwelling folk? Firstly, it’s a Breitling watch, not a smartphone accessory. The ‘Exospace B55’ has altered none of Breitling’s DNA. You get masculine, attention-grabbing looks, a highly-legible dial, a super-resilient titanium case, and a thermocompensated Superquartz movement 10 times more precise than an ordinary quartz watch. It’s as much a Breitling as is a ‘Navitimer’, a ‘Chronomat’ or ‘Transocean’, and more. With the ‘Exospace’, you get a watch with the ability to wake you up in the morning. A watch that can sound the hours of the day. A watch to time runs, and record laps. With regular use, battery life lasts up to two months and updates are automatic whenever needed. Last month, GQ took the ‘Exospace’ to a racing track. With the push of a button we recorded each of our lap times with relative ease. With a swipe of our phone, we sent the results to our inbox. More interesting, though, was the attention the watch generated among our track mates. Strapping the watch to their wrist at lunch, every driver nodded the silent sign of manly approval. The ‘Exospace’ is a solid piece of hardware, linked to an intelligent piece of software, which works – a smartwatch that earns kudos among people as cool as racing drivers. So will you want one? Absolutely, we’re convinced of it.