October 29, 2022
by Ariel Adams
For 2022, Swiss Breitling has radically rethought the design language of its longstanding Superocean Automatic diver’s-style wristwatch model collection. As the company has done with previous-generation Superocean watches, Breitling produces several sizes of the new Superocean Automatic in case sizes that include 36mm, 42mm, 44mm, and 46mm-wide. This review is of a pre-production model of the largest Superocean model — the Superocean Automatic 46mm (specifically, the reference A17378E71C1S1). In this 46mm-wide diameter case size, Breitling offers a few dial colors, and the watch comes either on a matching steel bracelet or a comfortable rubber strap with a deployant clasp that is equipped with a micro-adjust feature.
I will admit that I was not a huge fan of the new 2022 Superocean family design language when I first saw these via Breitling’s marketing images. I found the design to be a bit brutalist with very large and bold areas, and seemingly relatively stubby hands. While I did see Breitling heritage in the design, I simply wasn’t convinced that this new generation of Superocean was what fans expected from the brand. I will admit that while the Superocean 46 and its cousins remain “distinctive” watches, in person, the Superocean Automatic 46 didn’t suffer from the issues I was worried would taint the otherwise very interesting effort from the luxury brand to give its modern-style diver’s watch collection new life. That is important for me to admit because, much of the time, the conclusions we come to when viewing a watch via pictures alone are amended (sometimes radically so) when we have a personal, hands-on experience with the product.
The first thing I appreciated when putting the Superocean Automatic 46 (there is no non-automatic version available) is that the hands work much better on the dial than I had originally anticipated. It is true that, proportionally speaking, the hands do not inhabit a huge part of the overall top of the watch, but their large size and legibility make them stand out in an unexpected way that would have been hard to determine from the marketing images alone. According to Breitling, part of the design exercise with the Superocean was to play with the core visual things you need in a watch for diving/swimming and maximize their size while removing as many unnecessary elements as possible. This results in the very large hands, hour markers, rings, and overall features — even on the smallest 36mm wide version of the Breitling Superocean Automatic that aBlogtoWatch reviewed here.
What really makes the overall watch work is the high-quality surfaces and depth in the dial — the various levels, sloped edges, and contrasting colors of the face. Perhaps the most notable dial quirk is the shape of the minutes hand, which has a large block in it. While this makes sense, it is often the case that hour hands have added shapes integrated into them. It actually makes more logical sense to put emphasis into the minute hand on a diver’s style watch, and I think that this slightly odd part of the Superocean 46 will actually endear it to more consumers.
In addition to being the largest size, one feature included in the Superocean Automatic 46 that other models don’t have is a sliding bezel lock located on the left side of the case. When in the locked position, it prevents the bezel from turning, which can be a safety measure when you are using your rotating bezel to time things such as diving ascent stops. There could easily be zero instances one of these watches is ever used as an emergency timing dive underwater if a dive computer fails, but it is neat that Breitling has kept this interesting feature of the 46mm-wide version of its then-current Superocean watch.
In addition to being 46mm-wide in polished and brushed steel, the Superocean Automatic 46 case is 13.2mm-thick (not too bad, at all) and has a 52.2mm lug-to-lug distance. The case is also water resistant to 300 meters, has a screw-down crown, and is topped with a domed AR-coated sapphire crystal. Kudos to Breitling for choosing a very effective sapphire crystal that does not have any glare. Around the dial is a unidirectionally rotating bezel fitted with a ceramic insert. On this model, the ceramic insert is in a matte blue to match the blue dial. The bezel actually has a look similar to old aluminum bezels (which is a nice look) but is actually ceramic, with an accordingly high level of scratch resistance.
Breitling has produced fewer spartan casebacks, but this is supposed to be a tool watch, and it is also a more accessible model in terms of price. Inside the watch is a movement Breitling calls its Caliber 17, which is a base Swiss ETA automatic running at 4Hz with 38 hours of power reserve — certainly not a watch people buy for the movement originality, but the movement inside the Superocean Automatic is a venerable workhorse, for sure. Adding assurance to the reliability and accuracy of the movement, each is COSC Chronometer-certified.
Fun, seemingly timeless, comfortable, well-made, and not terribly expensive in the scheme of similar watches today (at least among other Breitling models), the Superocean Automatic 46 is the type of watch you might not know you like until you put one on. Breitling has certainly produced enough versions out there for everyone, given the various sizes, colors, and strap options. Breitling has also priced them more or less the same with the larger versions only increasing in price by $50 USD, and the price of the steel bracelet over the strap is only $200 USD.
Breitling watch brand ambassadors, such as surfer Kelly Slater, will probably be wearing one of these Superocean Automatic watches for the next few years, along with other faces that represent the brand. Of course, the company will continue to produce its Superocean Heritage watches, which offer a similar genre of sporty diving watch (but with a different look). Given the remarkable variety in the Superocean Automatic collection right at the start, it could be hard to buy one of these without trying on at least a few sizes and looks. If you are like me, then the design of these pieces might be a bit jarring at first, but their general effectiveness and practicality do grow on you quickly. The price of this Breitling Superocean Automatic 46 reference A17378E71C1S1 with the blue color and matching rubber strap is $4,750 USD. Learn more at the Breitling website.
>Model: Ref. A17378E71C1S1 Superocean Automatic 46
>Price: $4,750 USD
>Size: 46mm-wide, 13.2mm-thick, and approx. 52.2mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: A comfortable luxury sports watch to lifestyle-conscious outdoor activity events.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Fan of large-sized, classic-looking high-end steel sport watches.
>Best characteristic of watch: Despite the quirky visual concept, the overall composition works well as being both classic and original. Quality feel, legible dial, comfortable on the wrist.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Dial design will probably not appeal to everyone. On the pricier side. Unexciting movement.