Functions and LCDs of the Breitling B-1

Most of the B-1's various functions are displayed through the LCDs

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The digital displays

The B-1's dial uses two electro-luminescent digital displays, one in the upper half of the dial, one in the lower half. This design can be considered as a Breitling signature, and is a shared characteristics with other emblematic models, like the Aerospace or the Emergency.

Depressing the crown activates the LCDs' backlights; it is then possible to read them in the dark. They are “NVG-compatible” which means that activating the backlight will not result in blooming your night goggles' display.

The LCDs use what is called a negative display, with clear digits over a dark background. The displays are actually AC powered, from a DC to AC inverter contained inside the watch. This is why one can hear a “whining” sound in some B-1s when activating the backlight.

LCD functions

Functions are activated through swift twists of the crown. They go in this order:

  1. TIME: Local time display
  2. AL: Alarm (within normal time zone)
  3. DATE: Day/date display
  4. CHR: Chronograph
  5. TM: Countdown timer
  6. TZ: Time for selected time zone
  7. AL2: Alarm 2 (within selected TZ)
  8. UTC: UTC time
  9. Options (language and sound)
  10. Neutral position (LCDs off, plain black)

The chronograph is accurate to 1/100th of a second, and can count up to 99 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds, with split times.
The year can be adjusted between 1904 and 2099.

Note that while using LCDs for things other than displaying the current time, you still can tell the time from the analog hands. Only the chronograph function overrides the use of the second's hand.

Battery end-of-life: blinking LCDs and the UEL message

When the battery is discharged and needs to be replaced, the LCDs start flashing. Also, when rotating the crown to the “blank LCDs” position, the upper LCD displays an odd “UEL” message.

While the watch remains fully functional for at least several weeks, you may notice that the backlighting stops working, considering that it is the single most energy-consuming feature of the movement. However, it is not advised to let the battery run out entirely.

(Animation screenshot)
Animated picture of the B-1 showing “UEL”

The usual way of replacing the battery is by bringing the watch to a Breitling retailer.
If for some reason you suspect that your battery is not faulty, it is worth trying putting your B-1 in suspend mode and back to normal operation to see if the blinking problem (temporarily) goes away.

From his conversation with Breitling USA, Andy reports that the UEL notification is actually a programming misprint: it should normally read “EOL”, but that became “UEL” because of an error in the digital code in the movement. Thanks Andy!
Another viable theory is that UEL stands for “U (i.e. voltage) End of Life”.

Energy saving for the B-1

The battery is meant to last about 2 years according to Breitling; in reality, it heavily depends on the battery model and the way the owner uses it. As this estimation is probably a bit pessimistic, you can usually expect maybe twice as much. When the battery becomes depleted, the LCDs will display and end-of-life message. Backlight and alarm functions are known to drain the battery faster.

Ordinary battery saving

The B-1 has a mode to blacken the LCDs. But while in this mode, the second's hand will still be running, which consumes some energy too. However, if you set the function to “CHR” and don't start the chronograph, the second's hand will be steady; this seems to be a marginally more energy-efficient position. (One of my batteries could last for more than 7 years by doing this most of the time.)

Suspend mode

The B-1 has some kind of a hibernation feature, which is not documented in the user manual. This was designed so that the user settings (hour, alarm, etc.) can be kept alive while the battery is being replaced by the watchmaker, using the power stored in the condensators.

Quoting Andy from the TimeZone Breitling forum:

On my B-1, if I rotate the crown until the display is off and then pull the crown out, the top display says “R” and the bottom display shows the time, (an hour behind the time the hands show) and allows me to set this time using the usual controls.

[…] While the above is happening, I can press the top button and the word “BAT” flashes up in the top window. If I hold the top button, the word “BAT” stays on the screen for a while and then both screens go completely blank and the watch seems to be in some kind of “Sleep Mode”. The screens are blank and the hands are still.

To “wake” the watch up again, I have to push the crown back in again, at which point, the watch returns to its normal operating mode and seems to reset itself to the correct time.

Keep in mind that this may harm your watch's movement if it sits for a long time without running, as the gears will not be lubricated.

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