When it comes to aviation-related luxury watches, Breitling is a name that is likely familiar to most people. As for myself, while I have been aware of the brand, I never really saw any watches in the lineup that appealed to me. To begin with, I am not a pilot, so most of the functionality that the more famous pieces offer was lost on me, and just made for (to my eye) a rather cluttered and complicated dial. This view of the brand’s products got flipped right around when I first saw photos of the Breitling Transocean 38, so I knew we needed to get one in for a review.
Since it was the dial that caught my eye first, we will start there. While there are four options (black, mercury silver, pearl, and pearl diamond) it was the black dial that really spoke to me. This was odd, as I seem to lean towards lighter dials, but the reasoning was quite simple. With the black dial, the polished indices and hands (which have a white strip running the full length, though only part of it is luminous) stand out crisply against the matte black dial, making for an extremely legible dial.
Another feature of the dial I really grew to appreciate while I had time with the watch was the subdial. Here again, crisp white markers and a polished hand stand out against the dial, making things quite legible. What I really liked about this particular design is that there is not actually a circle marking out the subdial – just the indices and a crosshair. This allows the subseconds to sort of fade away until you actually want to focus on them. In much the same way, the large, two-disc date window is the same. With the black background used there, the date can, again, remain not distracting until you need it, keeping your “at-a-glance” really focused in on the current time. It’s a shame, in some regards, that Breitling did choose to outline the date window; I would have preferred it to be “unlined” to allow it to further blend in.
Finally, with the dial, I do appreciate that the text and branding was kept to a minimum. You’ve got Swiss Made tucked away on the bottom portion of the dial (as we have with many brands), and then, of course, the Breitling logo (in gold tone) in place of the 12 o’clock index, with the brand name below that. Normally, I would call out the appearance of gold in an otherwise silver-toned watch. I again surprised myself by liking it, as it does subtly remind you not only of the brand, but the fact that this is, indeed, intended to be a luxury watch.
For me, the milanese (aka mesh) bracelet continues the same theme. This is something I have rather grown to like over the past few months, and have handled a few watches with this style of bracelet (though, Breitling has a twist on it; more on that in a minute). With this sort of bracelet, you have the durability and heft that a steel bracelet gives combined with the dressier look that one might look to accomplish with a leather strap. To my eyes, it is classier option than a regular polished three-link bracelet, as well as being one that really does not show fingerprints. Should the mesh not be to your liking, there are 20 other straps to choose from.
Now, for the twist that I mentioned that the Breitling Transocean 38 has. With the Ocean Classic: Steel (yes, that’s the name) bracelet, you might expect that you adjust the sizing by manner of unclamping the clasp, sliding it along the bracelet to the desired spot, and the latching it back down. This is what we generally see on thinner mesh bracelets, and it’s a simple method of adjustment. Here, Breitling actually has made a fairly thick mesh bracelet. Along with that, they actually do have removable links (just like on any other solid-link bracelet) that you use to size the bracelet, along with micro-adjustment holes on the clasp. While this means you may not have near as custom of a fit as you would with a sliding clasp, you do get a good fit (at least, I was able to) without the bulk of any unnecessary mesh being doubled up.
The bracelet itself is sized appropriately for the case, starting at 20mm for the lugs and tapering to 18mm at the fold-over clasp. In short, it simply makes sense along with the 38mm case diameter that is in place. When team ABTW talked about the Breitling Transocean 38, there was some concern raised that the watch would simply appear to be too small. And, in relation to other members of the Breitling family that come in at 46mm, it would appear small. For my own tastes, I think the 38mm is spot-on.
While it is a touch smaller than I normally wear (that is, when I wear my own watches), it worked well on my 7.25″ wrist, especially when I was headed to the office or had a suit on. I will say that the watch feels taller than it’s 12.75mm spec would suggest. This is partially due to the raised sapphire crystal, but also because of the smaller diameter case – it simply is a matter of proportion. Fortunately, you do get used to this very quickly, and of course, there are no issues slipping it under a cuff.
As I have mentioned a few times, the Breitling Transocean 38 definitely has a dressier feel to it. Dress watch purists may not like the date display on the dial, but it really did not cause an issue for me. That said, the polished steel and mesh bracelet works just fine with jeans, and could certainly make the watch a very nice all-rounder, especially for those who want a smaller-than-average (for these days) watch to put on their wrist. As reviewed, the Breitling Transocean 38 (on the mesh bracelet) has a price of $5,800. breitling.com
>Model: Transocean 38
>Price: $5,800 (on the Ocean Classic mesh bracelet)
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes, I would – this is a great, compact three-hander
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: This would be perfect for the person looking for something that won’t dwarf their wrist
>Worst characteristic of watch: If I had to pick anything, I guess it would be the outline around the date window
>Best characteristic of watch: After the sizing, I’m going to go with just how clean and crisp the dial is