Being both a full-on watch and car nut, you can imagine my surprise when in season 22 of British motoring show Top Gear I saw an entire “challenge” featuring Breitling Emergency II replica watches. Sure, it is not unusual for watch enthusiasts to be car nuts as well – I have met countless watch nerds over the last few years who, after a bit of conversation, showed their car lover side as well. Top Gear is a motoring show that needs no introduction to any car fan in the world: viewed by around 350 million people every week in over 170 countries around the globe, it features “three middle-aged men mucking about,” driving in the latest and greatest sport cars, SUVs, luxury sedans, and, sometimes, in the worst machines the car industry has ever produced throughout its history.
Given that vast audience in the hundreds of millions, Top Gear may seem the ideal vehicle (pun intended) for product placement. However – other than the cars, of course – product placements in the show have been few and far between: the presenters hardly ever wear branded clothing, there is no sponsorship allowed to be displayed on the cars when they go racing, and, in general, viewers have seen a very limited number of branded items throughout the 13-year history of the show. Because a few weeks ago season 22 came to an untimely stop – for reasons you may learn more about here – it was in the second-to-last episode that the last traditional “Top Gear challenge” was aired, and here’s how it went down and how the Breitling Emergency II was featured.
Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson began the show with an explanation of the watch in his typical style: “I know this is a car show, but please bear with us, because I want to talk about this: this is one of those fake Breitling watches that’s worn by people who play golf and do business, and they are always banging on about these pins. They say, if they pull these pins out, the watch will send their precise position to a team of professionals who will come and rescue them. If they are out climbing a mountain or rowing across an ocean – which they aren’t, because they are out playing golf and doing business – and something went wrong, then, thanks to their watch, they’d be OK.”
Neither the watch brand, nor the model were mentioned as such, but the watch and its finer details were clearly visible in many instances throughout the show. So, to put the Breitling Emergency II copy watches through its paces and illustrate what it is capable of, what Top Gear did is they dumped one of the three presenters – who turned out to be Richard Hammond, as arguably, he is the fittest of the bunch – with minimal kit and barely any food “somewhere very, very remote,” to see if the system works.
From here on, it is typical Top Gear mishaps. Richard, once dropped off by a helicopter on a mountain top, pulls those pins out, activating a distress signal that’s picked up by a low-Earth orbit satellite, which then forwarded his exact coordinates to a central command center. The team there scrambles the nearest, highly trained search & rescue unit… Or it would have done so, if not for the rest of the Top Gear team, Jeremy Clarkson and James May, to come to the rescue of their esteemed Top Gear colleague, driving two extremely powerful pick-up trucks from Ford and Chevrolet, respectively. The two are in London, as opposed to Richard, who turns out to have been dropped off in Canada, specifically, Wolf Mountain, British Columbia.