From the November-December 2015 issue of WatchTime, we present this quartet of multifunction quartz watches from top brands — the Omega Skywalker X-33, Breitling Cockpit B50, Tissot T-Touch Solar, and TAG Heuer Aquaracer 72 — and reveal what makes each unique.
Space travel will remain a dream for most of us, but the dream came true for the German geophysicist Alexander Gerst. This European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut experienced his first tour on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2014. He conducted experiments for almost half a year and photographed the earth in new and fascinating ways. Photos show Gerst floating through the ISS wearing the Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33. This watch follows in the footsteps of the multifunctional Speedmaster X-33 and the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch, which was part of every manned moon landing.
The Skywalker was specially developed for astronauts. In addition to the analog time display using hands, the digital display shows three different time zones and has three alarms, a chronograph, countdown timer, date, mission-elapsed time (MET) and phase-elapsed time (PET). The 45-mm case is made of lightweight grade 2 titanium.
ESA has tested and certified the watch for use by its astronauts: the caseback bears the words “tested and qualified by ESA.” Although earthbound citizens still have to contend with gravity every day, we can strap on the Omega Skywalker X-33 with its sapphire crystal and unidirectional rotating bezel for $5,900.
Breitling is famous for its pilots’ watches, which include not just mechanical models but multifunction quartz ones as well. The best known of these has been the Breitling Emergency, which, with its integrated emergency call transmitter, has saved numerous victims of air crashes or maritime accidents.
Last year the brand introduced the Breitling Cockpit B50, which has a new, thermo-compensated, chronometer-certified quartz movement. The watch has luminous hands for the time and LCD displays for the chronograph and countdown functions. It also has two alarms and a second time zone. One push switches the time zones from the digital display to the analog display. Pilots will find the flight-time function especially helpful. Only one push button must be pressed upon start and landing. Start, landing and flight times are stored and can be read later and transferred to the cockpit and flight records. Two pushes on the crown moves the hands away from the digital displays. The backlight will switch on automatically when the wearer tilts his wrist to read the watch.
The newly designed, rechargeable mini-battery can be charged using an AC adapter or a USB port. The bidirectional rotating bezel, inscribed with cardinal points and markers at 10-degree intervals, helps with navigation. The Cockpit B50 costs $7,200 with a 46-mm titanium case and a titanium bracelet.
Mountain climbers need perseverance, strength, physical endurance and, of course, the right equipment. A watch and an altimeter are both musts. Tissot combines them in its Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar.
Tissot made news in 1999 with the T-Touch and its touch-screen functions. Since then the original T-Touch has expanded into a collection of watches with a wide range of functions. Last year, with the launch of the Expert Solar, Tissot branched out into solar-powered technology. The power will almost never run out since the watch needs only 16 minutes of sun for daily operation. Fully charged, it will run for an entire year, even in the dark.
The T-Touch Expert Solar has a lightweight, 45-mm titanium case and offers a world-time display, a chronograph with logbook function and a countdown timer that will automatically start the chronograph. It displays altitude, altitude gain and barometric pressure. There is an electronic compass that is of great help in the mountains: if desired, the minutes hand will point due north. The programmable azimuth facilitates navigation: by entering a three-digit course (in degrees), the watch will show whether you’re traveling in the right direction. Each of these functions is activated and controlled by touching the crystal, which is scratch-resistant sapphire. The watch can be worn for swimming since it is water resistant to 100 meters. It costs $1,150 with a rubber or a silicone strap and $1,250 with a titanium bracelet.
TAG Heuer developed the TAG Heuer Aquaracer 72 in collaboration with Oracle Team USA, winner of the most recent America’s Cup series of yacht races, in 2013. (The “72” refers to the America’s Cup 72 yacht class.) The watch can take readings from sensors distributed throughout the yacht and display information such as wind speed, wind direction, boat speed, wind angle and more. The watch was engineered specifically for the Oracle crew (which will be defending the Cup in July 2017): each member can select the data needed for his specific task. All of the data is updated in real time. Thanks to the 51-mm case size, the values shown on the high-contrast LCD display can be read at a glance.
The watch weighs only 108 grams and can withstand impacts of up to 5,000 Gs. Only 50 watches were produced and they are not being sold to the public. TAG Heuer plans to equip other professional sports teams with similar timekeeping instruments in the future. (More on the watch, and the Oracle partnership, here.)