Breitling Superocean Automatic 42

Let’s get one thing out in the open: I don’t generally like Breitling watches. I think their dials are usually too busy, their cases too thick and the prices are often too high compared to brands like Tudor that share the same space in the market. On the other hand, I have always had a soft spot for the SuperOcean heritage line. The standard SuperOcean line seemed a bit out of place, with neither the clean looks of the heritage range nor the ultra-business of, say, the Navitimer. The 2019 refresh put the standard Breitling SuperOcean firmly on my wishlist. The minute I saw this model I fell in love: it has removed almost all of the text and other “fussiness” from the dial, has a bold, modern look. It’s just 13mm thick and can be had for around £3k – which is not exactly cheap but is about right for the specifications given the brand cachet.
Presentation, for a luxury brand, is spartan, to say the least. The watch comes in a leather case that closes with a simple push-through stud. That case comes in a simple, two-part cardboard box. If I am honest, lower-end brands like Christopher Ward offer a significantly better unboxing experience. I know boxes end up in storage, but when you’ve dropped more than a month’s wages on a watch it’s within your rights to expect better.
This 42mm model is just the right size for me, with the just-over-13mm thickness making it wear wonderfully. The case finishing is as good as you would expect from a top Swiss brand, and little things like the way the crown feels as it screws in are just right. It’s not dissimilar from the daily-wearer I am replacing – a TAG Heuer Aquaracer WAK2110 – but everything feels that bit better. Like the TAG is is good for 500 metres of water resistance but there’s no helium escape valve on the SuperOcean which keeps the case cleaner. Inside, behind the solid case back, is a Breitling Calibre 17 (basically an ETA 2824) regulated to chronometer standard. The steel-inset bezel has a great feel with positive clicks and no back play. What Breitling has managed to do is make a chunky, solid watch that wears like a dress watch. The balance is perfect: I can offer no higher compliment.
It’s the Breitling SuperOcean dial that persuaded me to part with my cash. This model has a white dial with the markers and hands surrounded in a matt blue that matches the bezel colour. An orangey-red tip to the second hand adds a splash of colour. The lume is superb, lighting up in a cool green after only a short exposure to daylight. n a word, the dial is brilliant. There is hardly any reflection from the crystal and just the right amount of depth. The way the chapter ring curves into the dial reminds me of the best Seiko offerings; the silver-coloured applied Breitling logo adds just enough sparkle and – for once – Breitling has not ruined the look by writing all over the dial. There are just three lines of text and oversized numerals at 6, 9 and 12. If I must pick fault, I wish the date text was a matching blue instead of black.
The slanted Breitling bracelet is divisive but I personally love it. Some people prefer a rubber strap for Breitling watches but I think the steel option adds character to the watch. The construction and finish are superb, everything feeling as smooth as silk. Adjustment is via a very fiddly system of tiny, tiny screws. I took mine to the AD for resizing after it became apparent even my mid-range tools would soon destroy the shallow screw heads if I attempted it myself. If you are larger-wristed, beware: usually I need to take three links out a watch bracelet to get it to fit. The Breitling SuperOcean bracelet was just one link too big for my 7.5 inch wrist, and even before it was taken out it was only one micro-adjustment shy of a perfect fit. The clasp, however, is very disappointing. Unlike the sliding clasps of several competitors, it is a basic, foldover clasp with a click secure that is almost identical to the one I always criticise when it is fitted to a Spinnaker or similar lower-end brand. I understand the 2020 models have a much-improved clasp design, but it is a real weak point of my watch.
Overall, despite the price, despite that clasp, the Breitling SuperOcean is one of my favourite watches. It pulls all the things I like in a watch into the same package and makes a perfect daily wearer. It looks modern without going over-the-top and there’s nothing else quite like it in the mainstream Swiss watch world. I love it, and that’s why I bought it – try one on, I think you might love it too. The right place to buy a Breitling is from an authorised dealer. You can buy Breitling Watches online, for example from Jura Watches. For used Breitlings, you could try Bob’s watches.