CRASH! BANG! WALLOP!


Before you head into the wild, arm yourself with one of these hardy Swiss timepieces designed to survive life's rigours, whether you're in the pool or at the North Pole.

Words by Alex Doak
Photography by Wilson Hennessy

TEST #01
EMERGENCY TRANSMISSION
MANUFACTURER: Breitling
TEST MODEL: Emergency II
VALUE: £12,040
For official use only:
PASS FAIL
LAB NOTES:
Sometimes even the world-weariest action hero comes unstuck. Or rather, stuck − be it up a mountainside or in the middle of a barren wasteland. For these occasions, Breitling has introduced the Emergency II, the world’s first wristwatch with a dual-frequency personal locator beacon. Like Breitling’s original, cult-status Emergency, its antenna system is housed inside a chamber in the lower part of the case, and is deployed by unscrewing the bottom crown. This time, however, the in-built microtransmitter alternately transmits on two separate frequencies over a 24-hour period: the original analogue signal on the 121.5 MHz homing and rescue frequency, as well as a digital signal on the 406 MHz frequency intended for the Cospas-Sarsat system − a network of satellites providing accurate and reliable distress alert and homing data.

TEST #02
WATER RESISTANCE
MANUFACTURER: Omega
TEST MODEL: Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M
VALUE: £5,460
For official use only:
PASS FAIL

LAB NOTES:
William Beebe, the marine biologist and record-breaking bathysphere explorer wore an Omega; so did Commander Yves Le Prieur, the inventor of scuba; and Jacques Cousteau famously wore an Omega Seamaster PloProf. Omega diving watches have been worn by the best. This titanium ‘Planet Ocean’ edition of the Seamaster boasts water resistance to 600m. And should you choose to follow in Beebe’s flipper-shaped steps and engage in a spot of deep-sea bathysphere exploration, you’ll be glad of the watch’s helium escape valve. Breathing gases in diving chambers are helium-rich − helium atoms are small enough to work through the joins in a watch case but expand during ascent, building internal pressure. The valve allows the helium to escape, ensuring your sapphire crystal won’t pop out when you return to normal atmospheric pressure.

TEST #03
SHOCK RESISTANCE
MANUFACTURER: Jaeger-LeCoultre
TEST MODEL: Master Compressor Extreme LAB 2
VALUE: £36,000

For official use only:
PASS FAIL ☐ 
LAB NOTES:
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s first Extreme LAB concept was an audacious cocktail of high-tech innovations that included a case with an in-built shock-absorption system. Its successor is this similarly robust GMT chronograph, encased in super-tough titanium-vanadium TiVan15 alloy. Among the Extreme LAB 2’s upgraded anti-shock systems is a special protection device that limits the motion of the hairspring on impact. Its silicon escapement and ‘special alloy’ gear train (Jaeger-LeCoultre remains intriguingly elusive on the material involved) also mean it can withstand magnetic fields up to 240 Gauss, four times the international standard for a watch to be certified as antimagnetic, and higher than any other mechanical chronograph. Further tech comes in the form of a radial power reserve indicator and a digital instantaneous chronograph minutes counter at 12 o'clock.

TEST #04
SCRATCH RESISTANCE
MANUFACTURER: Audemars Piguet
TEST MODEL: Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph
VALUE: £28,800

For official use only:
PASS FAIL ☐  
LAB NOTES:
We’ve all done it. A careless jerk of the arm slightly too close to a wall, followed by that wince-inducing scrape of bezel on brick, then a panicky examination of your pride and joy for damage. It’s even more likely with a big, chunky man watch like Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph strapped on − it sits proud of your wrist by some 14.5mm. But because its case and bezel are made of high-density scratch-resistant black ceramic, even the most accident-prone will have trouble scuffing its surface. Ceramic’s properties make it hard to work − in this instance, Audemars Piguet devotes 12 hours to machining the case middle, and the bezel requires eight hours more work than the same piece in steel. The Offshore is 20 years old this year and has always been a sports watch − this model comes on a rubber strap and is water-resistant to 100 metres.
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