Earlier this year in June 2022, Breitling unveiled an entire new generation of Superocean watches. Drawing their aesthetic inspiration from the cult-favorite Breitling Slow Motion diver’s chronograph from the 1960s and 1970s, the new Superocean watches forego their predecessors’ chronograph complication altogether and reimagine the model as a simple three-handed sports watch with plenty of water resistance and a distinctly vintage overall design. Rather than being an addition to the existing Superocean lineup, the new vintage inspired models were introduced to replace the previous generation of Superocean watches entirely, and this particular decision slightly puzzled some collectors. Prior to this latest release, buyers who wanted a modern Breitling dive watch could opt for the standard Superocean range, while those who wanted a diver with vintage styling had ample options within the Superocean Heritage collection. Now, all Breitling dive watches are more-or-less vintage inspired, with the standard Superocean drawing its inspiration from the 1960s and 1970s, while the Superocean Heritage is based on the very first Breitling dive watch from 1957.
However, arguably even more puzzling than Breitling’s decision to go completely vintage with the styling of the Superocean lineup are the sizes that Breitling chose for the new models. Just like the previous generation, there is notably no 40mm option within the collection, despite the fact that available case sizes range from 36mm all the way up to 46mm in diameter. Buyers have the choice of getting the new Superocean in 36mm, 42mm, 44mm, or 46mm; however, there is not a single option for that “Goldilocks” case size between 36mm and 42mm. Admittedly, Breitling does have a reputation for producing large watches, but 42mm is just a bit outside the realm of what some people might want to wear on an everyday basis (myself included). Therefore, when asked which model I would be most interested in spending some time with for a hands-on review, I selected the smallest 36mm version.
Realistically speaking, I could probably pull off the 42mm Breitling Superocean, but I find the concept of a midsize diver to be quite appealing. Dive watches are supposed to be big to help with legibility underwater, but unless you are actually scuba diving, a watch with a large chunky case can ultimately be a bit cumbersome in everyday life. A midsize diver will offer all of the same water resistance and practical features as its larger siblings, but it will be less prone to getting caught on your sleeve, and it will also be lighter and easier to wear throughout a wide variety of different situations. Additionally, given the bold and colorful styling of the new Superocean watches, even the 36mm model won’t be lacking in wrist presence, plus vintage-inspired designs are often well-suited to more compact case sizes. On paper, the 36mm Breitling Superocean has all of the ingredients to be a fun and funky midsize dive watch — and yet, I encountered my biggest disappointment with the model while still deciding what color I wanted to review.
I had initially hoped that the 36mm version of the new Superocean would be available in the exact same colors and configurations as its larger siblings, but this is hardly the case. At the present time, the 36mm model is only offered in three different colorways: white, orange, and turquoise. Therefore, if you were hoping to pick up one of the 36mm watches in a classic and understated color like black or blue, you are simply out of luck. Furthermore, the 36mm models are not just smaller versions of the full-size Superocean watches with the same dial colors. Instead of having black bezels frame their dials, the 36mm models all feature bezels made from white ceramic, which ultimately results in a noticeably different overall aesthetic. Breitling doesn’t specifically list the 36mm Superocean watches as women’s models, yet there is an undeniable effort to try to give them a slightly softer and more stereotypically feminine appearance compared to the rest of the collection. I personally enjoy the strong contrast created by the black bezels surrounding the Superocean’s large white minute track, and while I am more than likely not Breitling’s target demographic for this particular watch, it’s still a bit of a shame that this funky aesthetic simply does not exist in the 36mm range.
As far as the watch itself, the stainless steel case measures 36mm in diameter by approximately 42mm lug-to-lug, with an overall thickness of about 12mm. Sitting on top of the case is a 120-click unidirectional rotating timing bezel fitted with a white ceramic insert that features silver-colored markings for its elapsed time scale. While the bezel action is better than what you will find on many watches, the insert’s silver markings set against its white ceramic surface do not offer the best contrast, and this ultimately hinders low-light visibility. Protecting the dial is a domed and cambered sapphire crystal with a glare-proof coating on both sides, while a signed screw-down winding crown and a solid stainless steel caseback help provide the 36mm Breitling Superocean with an ample 300 meters of water resistance. Due to its relatively small crown guards and the fact that its bezel ends right at the edge of the case, the 36mm Breitling Superocean wears fairly true to its on-paper measurements, and the majority of its external surfaces receive a brushed finish with high-polished bevels for an added touch of visual intrigue.
The dial and hands on the new Breitling Superocean are where its vintage design inspiration is most obvious, although they are not in any way exact recreations of the examples found inside the original vintage Slow Motion chronograph. The dial itself is essentially a two-layer structure, consisting of a flat center surface that contains the applied rectangular hour markers, which is then surrounded by a prominent white chapter ring that angles upwards to meet the crystal and features the minute track markings. One of the things that seldom gets discussed in regards to Breitling is the quality of its dials. It’s not like the brand is doing anything crazy in terms of its artwork or designs, but they are always very well-executed and this one is no exception. As far as the hands, this is arguably the single feature most reminiscent of the vintage Superocean Slow Motion chronograph. Again, not exact recreations, a small and stubby hour hand is complemented by a lollipop-style minute hand carrying a luminous box, which is intended to resemble the chronograph hand on the vintage model. While this design is certainly cool and funky, it really isn’t the absolute best when it comes to outright legibility, although I never had any issues reading the time with it after the brief moment of acclimating to its slightly unconventional display.
Powering the Superocean 36 is the Breitling Caliber 17 movement, which is essentially a chronometer-certified, Breitling-decorated and -assembled version of an ETA 2824-2. As such, it offers the standard specs of running at a frequency of 28,800vph with a power reserve of approximately 38 hours. When it comes to the venerable ETA 2824, this is about as good as it gets, and since you also receive chronometer-certified timekeeping performance, the Superocean really isn’t the same as a watch that uses an off-the-shelf Sellita SW200. However, given the price point, it would have been nice to see Breitling give the Superocean something a little more special in terms of its internals — especially considering that the brand has access to Kenissi-manufactured calibers. That said, generic movement designs offer unparalleled serviceability, and if you want to wear this bright orange timepiece as a fun and carefree vacation watch, there is something to be said about having the option to get it serviced at virtually any competent watchmaker in the world.
The 36mm version of the Breitling Superocean is available on either a stainless steel bracelet or a tangerine orange rubber strap, and the version that I had in for review was the strap variant, which would have also been my preference had I been buying this watch for myself. The two-piece orange textured rubber strap is thick but fairly comfortable out of the box, and attached to the ends is a chunky stainless steel fold-over deployant clasp. The double push-button release is easy to operate, and the clasp includes an extension system that offers five positions of tool-free micro-adjustment. Additionally, one interesting point about this particular extension system is that in addition to offering an instantaneous push-button release of the adjustment mechanism, the extension can be tightened without first having to open the clasp by simply squeezing the two sides of the strap together so that the adjustable end slides into the body of the clasp structure.
Objectively speaking, as a fun and funky mid-size diver, the 36mm Breitling Superocean delivers. However, given that is accompanied by an official retail price of $4,600 USD when purchased on a strap, or $4,800 USD if you opt for the bracelet, it’s worth considering that for a few hundred dollars more, you can get yourself a Superocean Heritage with one of the brand’s in-house movements. Price point aside, it would have been nice to see Breitling offer some slightly more neutral colors such as black, blue, or green for the 36mm version of the Superocean, especially considering that the next smallest size available within the range jumps all the way up to 42mm. Some people may find it strange that Breitling has decided to give all of its dive watches vintage-inspired designs, but when you consider that mechanical dive watches themselves are a category of timepieces firmly rooted in the past, having a retro-themed Breitling Superocean starts to make a bit more sense. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.