The Breitling Aerospace is the choice of professional and amateur pilots. This was brought home to me recently when I was at an Air Show in the UK. Whenever I looked at the wrist protruding from a flight suit during the show there seemed to be an Aerospace strapped to it.
For a watch collector this took some working out, mainly because I’m a lover of mechanical movements. However, I soon realised that a professional or amateur pilot demands so much more from their wrist watch than simply telling the time and/or the date. As a pilot in the modern era you are aided in your job, or pastime, by many instruments and technologically advanced equipment. Breitling realised that any wrist instrumentation for these aeronautical chauffeurs should be as easy to use, legible, accurate, light, durable and inconspicuous as is possible. Therefore, the Aerospace, with its multi-functioning SuperQuartz© movement and superlight titanium case, is the perfect choice.
The Aerospace was first introduced in 1985 and has always offered a 12 hour analogue time display, a 12/24 hour digital time display, 1/100th of a second chronograph, countdown timer, four year day/date display, second timezone, alarm, minute repeater function and a backlight. Since 1999 it has also had the incredible COSC certified SuperQuartz© movement that is accurate to within 25 seconds per year! In fact, Trevor will happily testify to the amazing accuracy of his daily worn Aerospace which has lost just one second since he bought it 9 months ago!
If the above complications were offered in a mechanical watch it would no doubt be unstable, not as accurate, weigh a lot, be as thick as a brick, have more pushbuttons than my TV remote and cost as much as my house.
Instead, the Aerospace weighs just 50grams with its titanium bracelet, is 10.4mm thick, has a single pushbutton/crown, is very stable, is accurate to within 25 seconds per year and costs about 100th of my house.
The other reason I think the Aerospace is so popular with those people it was ultimately aimed at, pilots, is the fact that it reflects so readily what we associate with our respective air forces and the equipment available to them these days: It is designed for maximum functionality whilst being super light; It is made from cutting edge materials to exacting standards; It is super accurate and reliable; And finally, it is stealthy.
This final attribute is achieved through its unobtrusive size and the a very clever design feature that allows all of this functionality to be controlled by one single crown/pushbutton. This gives the Aerospace a look of a standard two handed time only watch upon first glance. It is not until the super clean aesthetics of the case draw you in that you realise that there are two digital displays on the dial also. This normal contradiction in high level functionality versus simple appearance is what is so appealing about the Aerospace. It really is a stealth watch. A point worth re-emphasising in this day of uber-styled watches that are a la mode. Only the wearer need know what the watch is truly capable of beneath this modest and unassuming exterior.
This is why Andrew Michaels chose the Aerospace as the base for a Limited Edition to commemorate the return flight of the very last airworthy Vulcan. An example of these truly rare and collectable watches has been kindly loaned by my friend, and avid Vulcan fan, Trevor. Now, I should explain that Trevor is not a watch fan as such, although he has grown to appreciate why watches can cost “How much?”, after I’ve tried to educate him in such matters. Like those pilots mentioned previously Trevor recognised the Aerospace as a desirable and yet incredibly functional instrument that he could wear and use daily and which would remind him of the Vulcan which was flown regularly just 5 miles from where he lives. Here is a picture of the very same Vulcan that Trevor photographed at the Waddington Air Show a few years ago.
Andrew Michaels are well respected by Breitling themselves which puts them in the enviable position of being able to ask for Limited Edition timepieces to be built. In total, just over 50 different variations of Limited Editions have been produced. These mainly take on Military themes with low numbered editions (between 50 and 150) being built for Chinook pilots, Eurofighter Fighter Typhoon pilots, the Red Barron, Red Arrows pilots and the Parachute Regiment, for example, and they can use any one of the Breitling tool watches as their base.
Check out my Breitling Emergency review for more on Breitling’s technical range. Some of these will, sadly never be made available to the general public. However, some exceptions allow Andrew Michaels to distribute surplus examples to the public. By surplus examples I refer to those timepieces remaining after the watches have first been offered to those military personnel, etc, that the Limited Edition was designed for.
The features that separate this, or any other Andrew Michaels Limited Edition, are the dial, caseback and certificate.
The latter is particularly covetable because it is signed by high ranking personnel that are relevant to the chosen theme of the watch. In this instance Trevor’s certificate has been signed by the Engineering Director and the First Flight Captain of the Vulcan. Every Limited Edition certificate that Andrew Michaels produce will also be signed by the Managing Director of Breitling UK. Each Limited Edition timepiece is backed by a full 2 year international Breitling warranty and will also be presented with a COSC certificate and numbered Limited Edition certificate, just as you would expect with Breitling’s own Limited Edition pieces. The Vulcan example here was produced without a number on the watch or the certificate. However, Andrew Michaels assure me that all future Limited Editions that they produce will be both individually numbered on the caseback and on the certificate.
Another nice feature on this individualist’s timepiece is the pearl white dial which, although a nightmare to photograph, gives this particular Aerospace a classy feel.
The standard Aerospace is available in three dial colours including black, blue and grey. These colours all fit in nicely with the brushed grey of the titanium case and bracelet.
I will now use Trevor’s collectable and covetable Limited Edition Vulcan Aerospace to highlight the interesting and useful features of the Aerospace.
The time can be read off the analogue hands at any time. These are complimented by two Liquid Crystal Displays. The one at the top highlights the function that is currently selected in a short hand notation. The bottom display gives the relevant information for the selected function of this “Instrument for Professionals”.
The functions included in this, and all Aerospace models, have already been highlighted above and their specifics include:
- Thermocompensated SuperQuartz© Calibre 79 movement: Accurate to +/-25 seconds per year.
- Analogue time display
- 12 or 24 hour digital time display: Only needs adjusting once every four years
- Chronograph: 1/100th second up to 59 minutes and 59.99 seconds then hours, minutes and seconds up to 48 hours
- Countdown timer
- Second time zone
- Minute Repeater (which signals the time in a series of audible beeps)
- End of battery life indicator
- Backlight: Compatible with Night Vision Goggles
As mentioned before, one of the main highlights for me, of this technically brilliant timepiece, is the use of one single crown to select and control every one of the eight functions. This is not only in keeping with the discrete aesthetics of the Aerospace but it is also very easy to use. This brilliant innovation is what sets the Aerospace apart from all other similar “wrist instruments” on the market. This and, of course, the proprietary SuperQuartz© movement that is incredibly accurate. Each function is selected in turn by simply turning the crown in either direction. Pushing the crowns tends to set , start or stop a function. Pulling out the crown is generally used for adjusting each function.
Comfort is paramount for a watch that has to be worn by professionals who do not want any distractions during the course of their potentially dangerous activities. The Aerospace is so light and has such a low profile that you could literally forget that you are wearing it. To put into perspective the 50 grams that this complete watch weighs we need to consider that a similar sized stainless steel Navitimer weighs about 110 grams.
To aid the readability of the digital subdials described above the hands have been thoughtfully designed to be as thin as possible whilst still allowing for decent levels of legibility and enough Superluminova to be applied for night time viewing.
This night time viewing is further aided by a NVG (Night Vision Goggles) compatible backlight that comes on for just enough time to read the current function and to aid battery life.
To contrast nicely with the two Liquid Crystal Displays the dial features applied numbers at 12 O’clock, 9 O’clock and 6 O’clock. On the standard model the printed Vulcan is replaced by an applied number at 3 O’clock.
In conclusion: The Aerospace was designed for a specific end user and has proved itself to be fit for purpose. The Vulcan theme of Trevor’s Limited Edition adds further desirability to this technological marvel. If you are looking for a do-it-all, but not shout-about-it, wrist watch then the Aerospace is perfectly suited. If you are looking for a very low numbered Limited Edition Breitling timepiece with a design that is relevant to both the type of watch it is and for what it is commemorating and for which you can possibly choose your own edition number then look out for further announcements on Andrew Michaels website and through their regular newsletter which will be distributed to all AMJ Owners Club members.
Many Thanks to Trevor for generously letting me borrow his Limited Edition Vulcan Aerospace for this review. Apparently, he felt totally lost without it.
All words and pictures by Richard Atkins, Breitling and Trevor. Please ask if you wish to reproduce any of the material in this article.