Helicopter pilot and explorer Quentin Smith — known by many as simply Captain Q — holds a special place in Breitling’s history. En route to the South Pole in 2003, Smith, together with his fellow pilot Steve Brooks, was forced to ditch their Robinson R44 helicopter 100 miles off the Antarctic continent and became the first publicly acknowledged person to have used the Breitling Emergency, the first wristwatch with a built-in personal locator beacon (PLB).
The men had been attempting to become the first pilots to fly a helicopter to both the North and South Pole, but found themselves drifting for nine hours in their life raft before they were rescued. It was fitting, then, that Q — the first Breitling Emergency on his wrist — was the guest of honour when Avaunt magazine held its latest magazine launch at the watchmaker’s flagship London outlet.
Introduced by Gavin Murphy, managing director of Breitling UK, Smith and Avaunt’s editor and fellow explorer Ben Saunders shared stories of their adventures before taking questions from the audience. Having circumnavigated the Earth not once but twice by helicopter, Smith found it impossible to pick the finest sight he has seen from the air.
“I have seen so many wonderful, amazing places that it’s impossible to pick a favourite,” he explained. “Everywhere is beautiful. The trouble is the more you go on, the more you realise there’s more and more to see.”
At the event, supported by G.H. Mumm, Smith explained that he had started flying helicopters at the age of five, and has clocked over 15,000 hours in the air since. And Q wasn’t put off by those nine hours drifting in the south Atlantic as, two years later on January 18, 2005, he and Brooks landed their helicopter at the South Pole and wrote their names in the history books.
Breitling haven’t stopped either. In April 2013, it succeeded the Emergency with the Emergency II, adding the digital frequency 406.04 MHz signal to the analogue 121.5 MHz.