* Unfortunately, this is all that could be salvaged from IMAGESTATION
The never-ending search for the perfect dive watches continues. In this segment I explore the new 2002 Breitling SuperOcean, which has been dubbed the “Queen of the Seas”. Don’t ask where that name came from, it appeared on the hang-tag and I’ve been using it ever since. Catchy isn’t it? As a prologue, I’d like to list off, if you don’t mind, the possible “perfect” dive watches I’ve owned in recent years. This will allow you to understand what I’m comparing this watch with and why I am so critical.
I have owned a few TAG Heuers (1500, 2000, S/EL), a few Omega Seamaster Pros (200m, 300m, AC), a titanium IWC Aquatimer, a Rolex SeaDweller (briefly), a 1998 Breitling SuperOcean, a Doxa Sub300T re-issue, a couple of Tudors (Hydronaut, vintage Sub 200m), an Oris BC3 diver regulator, a couple of Eternas (200m Kon Tiki, Pininfarina 500m), a Sinn 203st, a Zodiac SeaWolf, a Michel Herbelin Safari 200m, as well as numerous Citizen and Seiko divers. There have been others, but these are from my post-WIS years.
All this in last half decade and of course there has been a fair share of pilot and other sports watches. Let’s just say I prefer dive watches...
So now that you get an idea of how frequently I flip my watches, you can see that being content/satisfied has been an impossible task for me. I just cannot seem to get “it” right. Either the watch is too thick, too glitzy, too uncomfortable or I just get bored if it quickly. The latter being the most common. The way I see it, the watch that will make me content will keep me happy for a long time. So far none have done this. Mind you, the closest was the Omega Seamaster Pro (James Bond model). I had that watch for almost 2 years, while trading others at the same time.
Now let’s see if the new Breitling SuperOcean and all its improvements can make the grade...
The polished SS case measures 41mm in diameter, 15mm thick and 50mm from lug to lug. Unlike its predecessor this model hugs the wrist very comfortably and is designed to resemble the Avenger line. I for one prefer the new look and welcome the changes. I used to have a big problem with watches greater than 12mm in thickness, but ever since I owned an IWC Aquatimer, I seem to have gotten use to thicker watches and 15mm is no longer an issue. Especially when the watch’s thickness is due to the obtuse and rounded case back, which tends to sit down on your wrist. It appears a lot thinner when worn. According to my postal scale at work, it weighs a generous 176g. While not being the heaviest, it is just heavy enough to be constantly reminded it is there.
The crown guards have also been redesigned. They are now thicker and smoother in appearance, while curving ever so slightly upwards in order to improve wearer comfort. The screwed down crown is large, easy to grip yet a tad on the difficult side to screw into place. I attribute this to the fact that the watch is rated to 1500m and the seals must be really tight. Either way, it is very reassuring once it is locked. The lugs are much longer than before and even go beyond the end-links, a look that takes some getting used to, but is nice nonetheless. (More on the end-links in the bracelet segment below)
Just like the crown, the case-back is screwed down and it looks VERY impressive. In my opinion, a nicely executed case-back is worth more to me than a display back. Well, at least on a sports watch. This one does not disappoint. It is thick, nicely rounded, beautifully engraved and tightly secured. I wish more companies would put as much effort as Breitling does on the back of their watches. Call me crazy, but the first thing I do when a sales person hands me a watch is look at the back. It is written in French “CHRONOMETRE OFFICIELLEMENT CERTIFIE / MANUFACTURE EN SUISSSE ETANCHE 1500M”, which means officially certified chronometer / manufactured in Switzerland water-resistant to 1500m. Pretty obvious even if you are not French, right? It also features the famous Breitling wings logo and the appropriate model and serial numbers.
The helium escape valve is located at 10 o’clock, same as on the previous model. It is used to vent the gases that are found in deep waters during saturation diving. Not for most recreational divers, mostly professionals using diving bells and staying at depths for extended periods of time. One has to wonder if a “fart” valve is actually needed, couldn’t one just unscrew the crown upon ascent? Just a thought...
I had reservations about the polished finish on this watch, that is why I had been eyeing the SuperOcean Pro over the last few years, but something changed recently. I owned a B-1, which was polished and the look grew on me. I also liked the fact that scratches/scuffs were not as apparent on this kind of finish. Now I love it, bling-bling or not...
BEZEL, CRYSTAL & DIAL:The signed bezel (small “B” @ 11:30) is your typical Breitling rider-tab type. It is unidirectional and collects every bit of lint the tabs can gather. I never liked them, for aesthetic reasons, but they do improve your grip and make the bezel easy to operate. It is brushed on the surface, polished on the tabs and the sides. I find the brushed surface beautifully offsets the polished case, nicely done!
The domed sapphire crystal is nearly 4mm thick and is coated for reflections. A nice touch, making it disappear at certain angles, but if you are like me, the disadvantages are annoying. One, fingerprints and dust stick out like a sore thumb and two, it is difficult to keep clean, not to mention the rider tabs do not help things. They tend to get in the way of a proper wipe. I have found that turning the bezel in order to access the “blocked” areas, the easiest way around this problem. I am presently debating whether or not I should remove the top AR coating, but for now I am going to leave it alone. I am following some good advice from dear friends. As with the IWC Aquatimer, from certain angles the crystal appears to obscure the dial. This is due to its thickness and can be seen in the picture above. It is not a real problem, just neat to see.
The dial measures 29mm in diameter and is matte black in color, often reflecting shades of gray, which I like very much. The outer perimeter is glossy black and features hour and half-hour markers, similar to what was found on the Pro model. Can you believe it, they FINALLY replaced “100” scale. What the heck was up with that 100 scale? Who actually needs to be able to tell the time in 1/100s of an hour?Another nice change is the applied Breitling wings logo, which is also reminiscent of Pro model. The previous SuperO was painted on. The date is black on white and surrounded by a white border. I’ve given up on my quest for color coordinated dates. The way I see it, if the opposite side has enough while it counter-balances the date colors. In the case of the SuperO, the 9 numeral is light in color and does that job.
The famous Arabic numerals have been slightly updated, with the 12, 6, and 9 a little larger than the rest. A very subtle change, but I love it. The 24-hour scale on the inner part of the dial remains, while the hands appear to be a little different. A tad chubbier if you ask me, though I am having a hard time putting my finger on exactly what is different. I’ve always made fun of the red square on the second, but now I like it! I believe it is because I’ve always seen these watches in giant internet close-up pictures. When you are actually looking at the watch in real life, it does not look so funny; in fact it does the job of accenting the second admirabley well.
As far as luminosity goes, this watch is perfect. Not too bright, so I’m not asked to take it off at night and bright enough to be easily read. The best part is that the hands (second/minute/hour) and the dot on the bezel glow brighter than the rest. Finally a company that gets this right! Another cool thing is that the outer perimeter’s hour marker’s glow as well.
As far as movements go, the ETA 2824 in this watch is as basic as it gets. By basic I do not mean cheap, nor do I mean poor quality. Breitling goes to great lengths to finish this movement to the highest standards and as of 2000, all Breitling movements are COSC certified. I know many people no longer put much stock in COSC certification, but the fact remains that it proves the movements are capable of great and consistent accuracy.
Here are the particulars of the raw ebauche:
Movement with automatic winding, with an autonomy of 38 hours, rotor mounted on a ball bearings, base caliber 2801-2
hours, minutes, central seconds; date [with quick change capability].
Shape:round. Diameter:25.60mm [11'''1/2]. Thickness:4.60mm. Jewels:25. Balance:gilt nickle or Glucydur. Frequency:28,800 pulsations/hour. Balance-spring:flat, in Nivarox 2 or Nivarox 1. Anti-shock system:Incabloc. Options:feature to stop seconds; fine adjustment.
My watch is only a little over a week old and so far I have been getting +3 seconds/day, which is VERY impressive. I am crossing my fingers that once it settles it will get even better, but I can easily live with its current performance.
This is where the watch shines, no I mean it really shines! I am saying this because the bracelet is mostly polished SS, with the exception of the center portion of the links, which are brushed. Once again, this finish took some getting used to, but now I like it. The width between the lugs is 20mm and it tapers down to 18mm at the clasp. It is thick, extremely solid while remaining quite supple. It’s like budah! (old SNL/Mike Myers reference)
The links are adjustable via twin screws. First you unscrew them, then you remove the top part of the link, followed by the middle and finally you slide out the bottom part. The entire link comes apart, which I like very much. Kind of gives you that “do it yourself” feeling when you are putting everything back together again. It is easy to do with this watch, but be careful with the 7 piece Navitimer bracelet. You have to make sure the top piece is the one that is beveled to fit the screw heads. I learned that the hard way!
The signed claps is stamped SS, while the folding portion is solid. I nice combination of sleekness and sturdiness. It closes very reassuringly and fits comfortably on my wrist. The diver’s extension is your standard thin steel, nothing special there. The one thing I do not approve of is that once the clasp is adjusted at its maximum length, the diver’s extension sticks out past the end. A sloppy look if you ask me. However, if your wrist is the same size as mine, it is a blessing. I wear mine at the shortest possible position and now the back portion does not “stick out” as much as on other watches. It is difficult to explain, but if you have ever had the back of your clasp get stuck on an item of clothing, than you know what I am talking about. No matter where you size the bracelet on the clasp, the latter is a non-issue.
I recently asked on the TZ Breitling Forum if anyone thought the end-links would eventually be replaced. The consensus was that they were. I guess I will have to wait and see when more of these become available and if changes are made. Personally I like the way the lugs step out further than the end-links, but as it was pointed out, it does leave marks on the outside of the top links. They are not readily visible and I doubt real wear will set in. I am just curious to see what the future holds.
I am uncertain when Breitling changed the bakelite box, but I can say that the one that came with my 2000 B-1 was not like this one. The hard foam interior has been replaced with thick beige leather and it now looks as rich as the watches that are housed in them. I really love the new look and smell! I honestly could not care any less if the watch came in a cardboard box, so long as I love the watch inside. Mind you, getting a nice box with a nice watch is like having your cake and eating it too!
The paperwork is generic Breitling stuff. Nothing special, no thank you for buying a Breitling or any of that warm fuzzy stuff. Instruments for professionals and instructions for them as well. I just love the way IWC talks about their watch in their manuals, I just wish more would do the same. After all, we put a lot of emotions in and are passionate about our watches; we deserve some warm fuzzies, no?
I really, really, really like the new beefy styling of this watch. They have completely redesigned it from the ground up. Keep in mind that the progress was gradual. First with the COSC certification, the sapphire crystal and the solid end-links, not to mention the screws in the links and the polygon case back. And now with the redesigned dial and case, it is perfect! I am not saying it is a perfect watch. I am simply stating that in MY OPINION, it is a perfect SuperOcean. Kudos to Breitling for incorporating all of these measurable changes and for keeping the prices relatively competitive.
Now the question is, am I content? I have to admit I’m still in the honeymoon phase and cannot honestly answer that. I do love the watch very much and intend on keeping it for a while, but forever seems like a long time. Notably for a guy that changes watches every few weeks...
The true test is to see how I feel about it in a few weeks. Especially since a new Marathon SAR on bracelet is on its way from sunny California!
Wish me luck, or should I say wish the SuperOcean luck?!
Thanks for reading,