A funny thing happened while I was in the midst of the drawn out process of reviewing Breitling’s “original” (modern) Superocean Heritage watch – Breitling decided to release a brand new model with the Breitling Superocean Heritage II that debuted at Baselworld 2017. The Breitling Superocean Heritage II is actually a few different models comprised of various styles of the 42mm-wide three-hand model, the 46mm-wide three-hand model, and the 46mm-wide chronograph. This article is meant to compare and contrast the first generation Breitling Superocean Heritage I with the replacement “next generation” Superocean Heritage II. An interesting change about the watch – which I will discuss more below – is that for the three-hand models Breitling is now using Tudor movements – imagine that.
Changes to the Superocean Heritage II over the I are subtle but important. What Breitling really did is address the “aging” of the Superocean Heritage, which was about materials and parts over design. The Superocean Heritage was and continues to be a solid money-maker for Breitling, being one of its most popular and attractive models. The Superocean name is derived from a historic diving watch of the same name released about 70 years ago by Breitling, whose look was “revived” in the Superocean Heritage. As a “vintage-inspired” diving watch, the Superocean Heritage lived alongside more “modern” (in design) diving watches from Breitling such as the (non “Heritage”) Superocean. Since we have photos of both the Generation I and Generation II in this review, the fastest way to identify them is by looking at the hour and minute hand. If the hour hand is bisected and the minute hand sports a more dramatic tapering, it’s the Generation II.
While it is increasingly common for luxury watch brands to follow “The Rolex Way” of updating existing models over and over again as time goes on, the practice is more rare than you might be led to believe. Though, in recent years brands have seen value in sticking to “pillar” products and continually refining them over time in order to make them appealing to new customers as well as to encourage existing customers to upgrade. That is really only something you can do with a good core design. Breitling has more or less followed this strategy, but in a very different way, While they certainly have their share of pillar models, there are instances when new generation versions of existing names aren’t necessarily improved previous versions. Sometimes they are merely “different,” without a clear reason why.
The 2017 Superocean Heritage II is much more clear in its purpose – and that is not to re-imagine the look of the Superocean Heritage collection, but rather to make it more modern. Some of the design decisions might be controversial, but for the most part, the Superocean Heritage II is everything we loved about the Superocean Heritage I, with some more modern materials and in the case of the three-hand version, a new movement.
A very important question to ask yourself is whether or not you should get a good deal on a previous generation Superocean Heritage I or pony up for the brand new Superocean Heritage II. Is one a solid upgrade over the other, or are both models appealing in their own way? In fact, a very good argument could be made that while the Superocean Heritage II has some clear improvements over the first generation model, depending on your taste (and ability to find a deal), the previous generation Superocean Heritage watch might be just as good if not better for your needs.
Breitling makes a very solid-feeling watch, which in my opinion starts with the case. The brand is particularly good at serving up well-polished heavy blocks of steel. While a lot of modern dive watches offer complicated cases with contrast finishing and other interesting design elements, the Superocean Heritage is all about appearing like a retro tank. The 42mm-wide or 46mm-wide steel case is entirely polished (with a great finishing) and water resistant to 200m. With that said, it feels like it could take a lot more of a beating. The vintage-inspired design eschews a lot of modern things you might expect to see in a diving watch (such as crown guards). So, the elegance and attractive design of the Superocean Heritage made up for its lack of being a totally “pro” diving instrument.
The Superocean Heritage II is a bit more “pro worthy” but you can see that the design decisions come at the expense of aesthetics. So let’s first talk about how the unidirectional rotating bezel of the Superocean Heritage II differs from that of the original model. This is one of two major visible ways the Superocean Heritage I and II models all differ from one another. In doing the video part of the review for the Superocean Heritage 46, I mentioned that the most “age showing” part of the watch in terms of its product lifespan was the anodized aluminum / or coated steel (I’m not sure the specific metal used) bezel insert. Ceramic bezels are far more preferred and valued these days simply because they have colors which will last forever, and because they are extremely scratch resistant. With the Superocean Heritage II Breitling correctly upgraded the bezel from a metal version to a ceramic one – and it comes in black, brown, and blue.
The ceramic bezel doesn’t look exactly the same, and the metal one, with its very simple markers was a bit more elegant looking. The Superocean Heritage II’s ceramic bezel is very similar, but has a bit more of a matte finish (to be expected) and now a Super-LumiNova luminant-filled pip at 12 o’clock on the rotating bezel. This ups the functional cred of the Superocean Heritage II, but it does take a bit away from the quasi-minimalist yet masculine design that made the original Superocean Heritage so lovely and charming.
In pictures the lume pip on the bezel is barely noticeable, and in person it is a bit more obvious. I wouldn’t say that this feature is not welcome as it does add functionality, but the lume does take away a bit from the original appeal of the design – which never apologized for making some aesthetic decisions in lieu of functional considerations. What I really would have liked for Breitling to do is introduce a bezel that looked exactly the same as the original, in ceramic, with each of the markers on the bezel painted in white luminant. Thus, the entire bezel could have been lumed, but without visually changing the character of the overall watch.
Under the sapphire crystal is a dial on the Superocean Heritage II which is remarkably similar to that of the Superocean Heritage I. One change is that the date window is at 6 o’clock on both the 46mm-wide and 42mm-wide versions – previously the 42mm model had the date at the less desirable 3 o’clock hour marker that tended to screw with dial symmetry. The Superocean Heritage II changes the style of the text on the dial just a bit, though the text actually says the same thing. The sizing and other minor details are all that are changed.
The biggest dial change in the Superocean Heritage II over the I is the design of the hands. I really (really) liked the design of the Superocean Heritage I hands with the straight sword-like minute hand and the simple arrow-style hour hand. Breitling decided to mess with a good thing and produce new hands for the Superocean Heritage II, which are a bit more inspired by the hands on original Superocean dive watches from 1957. That means you still get a sword-style minute hand and an arrow-style hour hand – but now they are of a different design – and I’m on the fence about how I feel with them.