The smart Breitling Exospace B55 replica is, according to Breitling, a watch that’s specifically designed for aviation professionals, with actual watch adjustments that can be made from the phone (time-setting, timezone adjustments, and alarms).
Having flown everything from A6-Intruders to the Space Shuttles, Discovery and Endeavour, Kelly has the gravitas to demand a hearing when he talks about what a pilot might actually want a connected watch to do, so it was interesting to see that he went straight to the log-book functions that are at the heart of the B55 experience.
It doesn’t have an accelerometer to track fitness, but it can receive Breitling connected copy smartwatch notifications that show on its two basic digital displays, showing notifications of emails, SMS and WhatsApp messages, incoming phone calls, and calendar appointments.
The Exospace B55 pairs with a connected app on the iPhone, which can be used to sync lap times recorded on the watch, or to set certain watch functions. This is a traditionalist’s approach to smart tech: I barely had a chance to test the features for myself.
He also made the point that all the development comes from Breitling and therefore meets their needs. Obviously, basic electronic components are off-the-shelf (though their layout is proprietary), while the apps Breitling have written work with established mobile OS, but by controlling the development in-house, Breitling were able to favour concerns such as battery life.
Going back to Mr. Kelly, he sees this functionality as expanding greatly in the future, allowing the watch to access various plane/ship/craft systems and operate as both a controller as well as an information terminal that is connected to everything else.
Once set up via the iOS/Android app, a pilot can record the different time-checks that pilot and aircraft logs require with a single touch of the button – as Kelly put it, the watch saves having ink all over your hand (pilots are required to record “block-off”, take-off, landing and “block-on” times for every flight). Secondarily, the ability to have several chrono and count-down functions quickly to hand and recordable is a real boon in navigation, whether your keeping up a private pilot’s licence or riding a Soyuz craft up to the ISS, where Kelly’s brother is station commander.
As smartwatches keep evolving and higher-end watches strive to find ways to compete with high-tech alternatives, this hybrid idea will be seen more frequently. Having a good-looking premium watch that also folds a few smart parts into the equation, and still feels analog, might bridge the gap better than shoving a smartwatch into a fancy case. Traditional watch manufacturers will have to decide whether it’s best to help design a smartwatch, make a traditional-meets-connected Breilting B55 watch replica, or forgo any sort of smart stuff whatsoever.