Is the mobile phone threatening to kill off the wristwatch? Not if Swiss watchmaker Breitling has anything to say about it. With an apparent motto of "if you can't be 'em, then make 'em work for you," the Breitling B55 Connected combines smartwatch technology with haute horlogerie in a partnership where the phone serves the watch instead of the other way round.
When it comes to mixing smartwatch technology with upmarket analog watches, there's a bit of a dilemma. The design flair and craftsmanship that a fine watchmaker can provide is definitely one up on the cheap plastic lozenges that often encase bleeding-edge smartwatch technology. On the other hand, creating a minor work of art on a device that merely acts as a readout for your phone's emails and texts is a bit demeaning for the average horologist.
Breitling's approach with the B55 Connected was to create the company's first connected chronograph, but instead of making the watch into a device for operating or reading data from the phone, the B55 uses the phone to operate the watch. Aimed at the aviator and aspiring aviator market, the basic idea is to use a phone app as an easy way to control the watch, such as setting alarms, changing time zones, adjusting display and operating parameters, and activating the night mode. The watch can also upload chronograph records to the phone.
The B55 is an electronic multifunction chronograph with analog and digital displays, and a host of aeronautical time functions. These are operated by the phone app or a pair of studs on the watch and selected by turning the crown. Amongst the features are an electronic tachometer, a countdown/countup system, and mission elapsed time. It can also record flight times, including the take-off time, landing time and date.
According to Breitling, the B55 is based on the company's previous Caliber B50, which introduced Breitling's in-house thermocompensated "superquartz" movement. This is a quartz movement that has the added twist of compensating for changes in temperature, so it's 10 times more accurate than a standard quartz watch and is chronometer-certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).
The B55 has an ultra-bright backlight for the two large LED displays that light automatically when the timepiece is tilted to a 35-degree angle. Not surprisingly, the wireless connection, superquartz movement, and light are power hungry beasts, so the B55 has a rechargeable battery with magnetic connector that can be hooked up to the mains or a USB port for recharging.
In terms of style, the B55 echoes the Breitling Emergency, with the same bulky lines and "ultra-technical look" as well as the bi-directional compass bezel around the cambered sapphire crystal that is set in the titanium case with black carbon-based coating. The coating goes with the general blue and black theme set off by the wireless connection logo on the dial and extends to the rubber strap.
No price has been quoted for the B55 Connected, but it is due to be unveiled along with further details at Baselworld 2015, which kicks off later this week.
The video below introduces the Breitling B55 Connected.
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