Breitling as a brand holds a special place for me. Back in my mid 20’s – long before I got married or had children, I decided that I wanted to buy a ‘proper watch’ which one day would become an heir-loom, and that watch was a Breitling. Some 24 years later, my parents kindly bought me a Breitling for my 50th so I think it’s fair to say ‘we have history together’.
Last year Breitling refreshed the SuperOcean models by delving into their back-catalogue and revitalising a historical design language – yet executing this with a contemporary flair has delivered a product that is distinctly ‘Breitling’. It also just happens to be my 50th Birthday and my wife decided to take me out to Portugal to celebrate this milestone event and as I had not spent anytime with the new SuperOceans, Breitling kindly lent me a couple of watches to take with me.
Upon arriving in Lisbon, and collecting my luggage, I was immediately reminded why I protect my watches when I travel. This time my main suitcase had received some rough treatment form EasyJets Baggage handlers which had severely compromised the case. Luckily I had packaged my watches in a Peli Enigma case supplied by ‘ToTheHour’ – needless to say the watches were all fine. Less can be said about the rest of my luggage! If you want to take a look at watch travel solutions including the Enigma case, you can take a read here.
Once I had managed to get over the initial shock of the state of my luggage and had endeavoured to try and sort the issue with EasyJet (to which there is nothing Easy about it at all!) I then went about setting my watch to local time. The Breitling SuperOceans are not GMT’s so after unscrewing the crown, ensuring they were properly wound, I got out my reference time (aka my iPhone) and compared the two. Not having travelled to Portugal before, I then spent the next minute in a rather confused state – The SuperOcean had in fact managed to set itself to the local time in Portugal without any further interaction from me – which I clearly wasn’t expecting. It was only when my wife pointed out that Portugal and the UK were in fact in the same time zone, that I realised exactly how sleep deprived I was and that I should not be in charge of making any important decisions for a while!
Breitling’s update to the SuperOcean has provided variety and choice in a abundance. Available across 4 sizes including 36mm 42mm 44mm and 46mm, a range of materials including Steel, Gold and Bronze and a whole range of colour options as well. In addition, the 46mm has a unique feature. Unlike most traditional dive watches that have a uni-directional bezel, this has a bezel locking mechanism operated via a lever on the left hand side of the case. This is a distinctive feature that is easy to spot when you know what you’re looking for and the keen eyed amongst you will have spotted this in some of Breitling’s photography and wondered what this was. Once this lever is moved down to the unlocked position, it allows the bezel to rotate freely and once set can then be re-locked by sliding the lever back up. This is a design feature of Breitling dive watches from the 1960’s which they have sympathetically included – but only for the largest in the range.
The first thing that strikes you is the dial configuration. With the renewed design, Breitling have shrunk the dial and dramatically increased the size of the rehaut. In addition the hour and minute hand do not share the same design. Although these two elements (the dial and hands) are both drawn from the Breitling SuperOcean Slowmotion of the 1960’s the delivery and implementation is very contemporary with raised indices, and a ceramic bezel. I would of course be remiss not to discuss the bezel action – which in all honesty is near perfect; an effortless 120 position action with a positive click returning to perfect alignment every time with a feeling of precision ball bearings. If I were to be very critical I would suggest that the action is almost a little too light and it would be nice to have just a little more tension to move the bezel as I had noticed that once or twice the bezel had moved by being caught on a coat sleeve – but this is an extremely minor observation.
Notably, Breitling have chosen to remove the date from the new range. I’m sure that some will see this as a controversial move by Breitling, however this does deliver a much cleaner and more balanced aesthetic which suites the design language well.
On the wrist, one of the first things that you notice is how slim it is. Many might criticise Breitling for not putting their own movement in it and for using an ETA calibre, however this has resulted in much more slender height of 12.9mm for the 44mm and 12.5mm for the 42mm – which certainly improves their ‘cuff-ability’. The design of the crown guards allows for easy access to the crown to adjust the time when travelling through time zones or winding the watch if its part of a collection, while still protecting the crown from lateral knocks.
The new SuperOceans have a relatively short lug distance of 49mm for the 44mm and 47mm for the 42mm further enhancing their wearability. The 42mm SuperOcean almost felt too small for my wrists and the 44mm wore extremely well. For reference I have 18cm wrists and although I have a range of watches from 41-45mm, my own Breitling is a 43mm Avenger.
The new Rubber straps have a much more dramatic taper to them with an updated design pattern and are fastened by Breitling’s new and improved deployant clasp. This is a milled clasp with brushed outer flanks and a polished centre section with Breitling inscribed along the clasp. It is well designed and curved with a twin push button system to release or secure the clasp. On the inside is a spring loaded 8 position variable adjustment for the strap allowing easy tool-less on the fly adjustment. Breitling have used this system for a while on their rubber deployant clasps, however the big change here is that this same clasp is now used on the steel bracelet which is a major improvement from previous generations of ‘bracelet clasps’.
I spent just over a week with two contrasting models from the new SuperOcean range. The 44mm variant with the Green dial, bezel and strap and the 42mm with a white dial, blue bezel and blue strap. Although the design language is consistent between the two, the overall feel is remarkably different. This is simply because the combination of the white dial and white rehaut lends your eye to believe that it is in deed a single large monochromatic dial rather than two separate elements.
I find it notable when so many brands are choosing safe design options with little to differentiate their design from any one else’s, when a prominent manufacturer like Breitling makes a bold step to create something new and vibrant. The new range of SuperOceans brings a lot of choice – with variations of material, dial colour and bracelet. Dial colours include black, blue, teal, green, white, orange and now yellow, delivered in a range of sizes including 36mm, 42mm, 44mm and 46mm and a range of case materials including stainless steel, bronze and stainless steel & 18k red gold, available on steel or colour matched/complemented rubber bracelets all with the new adjustable clasp.
As always, pictures can be deceiving and I would highly recommend anyone to go and take a look at the new collection in person. Overall I found the new range to be extremely comfortable and highly wearable embodying proportions that are accessible by a range of wrist sizes. Overall the new SuperOceans are very well built and extremely wearable with good proportions. It’s clear that the new design language is going to be highly divisive and not for everyone, however if you are in the market for a new dive watch and want something contemporary, colourful and a little different this could just be the watch for you.
The new SuperOceans are available now from Breitling starting at £3750 and offer a huge array of choice for someone looking for a something a little different.
Available from: www.breitling.com