PARIS -- Breitling SA, the closely held maker of luxury Swiss watches, unveiled what it billed as the first wristwatch equipped with a dual-frequency transmitter to help the pilot or adventurer signal help in an emergency.
The company in 1995 introduced customers to the first watch with a built-in personal locator beacon. Now, it has rolled out a similar but more advanced product, called the Emergency II.
The device, which will sell for about $16,000 (12,000 Euro), is designed to be compliant with new frequencies used for search and rescue operations in North America and Europe, according to Jean-Paul Girardin, vice president at the company.
"You can use this beacon for any type of emergency distress situation," he said during a news conference announcing the product Tuesday at the Paris Air Show.
The company spent five years developing the technology, which makes several breakthroughs in miniaturization, Girardin said. The watch features a rechargeable battery, dual frequency transmitter and antenna system.
In an emergency, the user would activate the transmitter by unfastening the main antennae cap on the right-side of the watch, pulling out the wire, then performing a similar step with the secondary antennae on the left-side of the device.
The watch would then begin transmitting signals on two frequencies over a 24-hour period.
The first transmits a digital signal on the newly designated 406 megahertz frequency to satellites for alert and homing, according to a brochure distributed by the company. The second transmits an analog signal on the 121.5 megahertz frequency -- the international air distress frequency -- used for homing and rescue operations, it states.
The latter is being phased out for satellite processing; the digital signal offers the potential for better security, more information and less risk of false alarms, according to the brochure. But the analog signal is still used by ground control stations, ships and aircraft, and remains the most reliable system for homing in on victims, it states.
The technology relies on the international Cospas-Sarsat satellite system and its network of spacecraft in low-altitude earth orbit and geostationary orbit, according to the brochure. The system since its launch in 1985 has helped to save more than 26,000 people, it states.
Breitling has sold about 40,000 previous versions of the emergency watch, which has helped to save more than 20 people, Girardin said.
The new watch features a titanium case and a dial that comes in three colors: black, yellow or orange.
Once the transmitter is activated, the watch cannot be reused, Girardin said. "It's a one-shot device," he said. However, if the emergency is an actual distress situation and not a false alarm, the company will replace the watch at no charge, he said.