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The History and Evolution of The Breitling SuperOcean

Breitling began designing and making watches in 1884, when Leon Breitling founded his watch workshop on the Swiss Jura Mountains. The company was established shortly after the first successful flight in world history, and has had a long association with aviation. Breitling became well established as a premier Swiss watchmaker of luxury watches renowned for designing and producing exceptional chronographs, in fact, Breitling’s many groundbreaking innovations led to the development of the chronograph as we know it today.

From Pocket Watch to Wrist Watch

Leon Breitling had more than a passing interest in aviation, which was where the cutting edge technology of the time was. As the brave men were attempting to take to the skies in ‘heavier than air’ machines for the first time ever in history, the one piece of technology they were in need of was a reliable and easy-to-use timer which could also free up their hands for the tricky task of takeoff. Pocket watches were in vogue at that time, but their fobs and chains got in the way and were far too cumbersome for the chaos of the cockpit. Leon Breitling had his own innovative solution to the problem. And so, the world’s first wrist-worn chronograph with a push piece separate to the crown was born. It was much more convenient, and easier to use in the skies. It soon began to gain admirer’s on the land too.

The Gentleman’s Journal credits Breitling with vision for the future and development of the watch. They cite this vision as being what gave Breitling the impetus to take the technology on faster than the rest of the watch world, Breitling had the foresight to know that all of these progressive endeavors of the day were need more precise timing methods than these that were currently available, this was what led to his design ideas.

Leon Breitling – Master Watch Maker

The master watchmaker had the drive and determination to create watches and timing instruments of superior accuracy that could be used for everything from industry to sports. So he pushed his company to gain patents for some of the biggest progressions in chronographs and sports watches. Léon Breitling had perfected his intricate and complicated design which impressed everyone, including his watchmaking contemporaries. Even after his death, Breitling’s watches were sought after and his best-selling chronograph was frequently worn by military forces and police officers. It was Breitling’s designs that led to the very first modular automatic chronograph movement. The firm is particularly famed for its strong presence in and significant contributions to aviation.

The History in Aviation

Following the First World War, with Léon’s grandson Willy at the helm, Breitling developed its aviation reputation further as the Swiss watchmaker focused on manufacturing watches that allowed pilots to calculate flight speed and distance quickly and efficiently. Right from aviation’s very beginnings, Breitling led the way as the watchmaker of choice, as they had the reputation of providing excellent on-board instruments and pilot watches.

Many people in the watch industry believed that when peace was eventually achieved, the demand for chronographs would plummet. But Breitling never gave up his determination for driving his company forward, and producing desirable innovative products. The brand continued to adapt with the times and people were given what they wanted, fashions were adhered to and the brand went from strength to strength. Watches became slimmer and more elegant. Watches were designed so that they could be worn with a suit. Breitling also channelled considerable energy into designing ladies’ watches. This was a new market, and one that many watch manufacturers didn’t greatly invest in, failing to see the value that was to be gained from this market alone. Their loss ultimately contributed towards Breitling’s continuing success.

During this innovative period of time, Breitling introduced the Navitimer collection featuring the slide rotating bezel which made crucial in-flight calculations (such as, fuel consumption and air speed) significantly easier for pilots. As a result of their innovative designs, Breitling won the bid to supply watches to the Royal Air Force. Today, Breitling is well established as the “official supplier to world aviation”. draws attention to the fact that. Breitling continues to offer innovative, impressive, professional-grade chronographs.

The Breitling brand pride themselves on their legendary designs and excellent quality, their products have always been robust, precise and created with charisma, these timepieces are special. Perhaps it is this element of specialness, which makes them so popular amongst pilots, top athletes, and the stars of the silver screen. Breitling watches are highly prized and recognized as quality timepieces throughout the world. The Breitling logo - the winged B- is reminiscent of the watch manufacturer beginnings and its original association with the aviation industry.

In fact up until the fifties, Breitling was best known for its aviation-focused watches. But, as the popularity of dive watches increased, Breitling introduced the SuperOcean. By doing so, Breitling boldly declared that the company was moving into new territory – from the world of the Air, to that of the sea. Breitling’s iconic SuperOcean became the most sought after diving watch available.

The Introduction of Breitling SuperOcean

Breitling claims that the SuperOcean defines the classic dive watch. The suggest that it was created in 1957 to equip professional and military divers, but quickly developed a following among leisure divers and watch enthusiasts.  In the 1950s, dive watches were becoming incredibly popular. Rolex and Omega had established themselves, with impressive dive watches and Breitling knew that to succeed in the watch industry, they had to produce something spectacular. The Omega Seamaster was waterproof up to depths of 62.5 meters. Meanwhile, Rolex’s Submariner in 1953, was waterproof to a depth of 100 meters. In turn, Breitling released its SuperOcean in 1957. The Breitling SuperOcean touted its water resistance of 200 meters, which was immediately impressive when compared with main rivals, Rolex and Omega. The SuperOcean’s design was also clean and practical, featuring large Arabic numerals and oversized hands, specifically designed to make it easier for divers to read.

SuperOcean 2005

In 1964, Breitling developed and released the SuperOcean 2005 famed for its slow motion function. Vintage Breitling watches describes the SuperOcean 2005 as having an incredible design, being equipped with a very interesting feature for measuring the diving duration: a chronograph making one complete turn of the dial in 1hr and not in 1 minute like the classic chronographs. It should also be noted that whilst the superOcean 2005 was officially presented in 1964, the youngest case observed dates from 1961. The production could therefore have begun in 1961 for final assembly and marketing a few years later.

The problem for the chronograph of 1964, was the difficulty in seeing with the naked eye whether the chrono had actually started. To overcome this problem, Breitling added a disc shaped walking indicator at the 6hr point. Black — meant the chrono had stopped, Yellow — meant the chrono was running, Black with a yellow dot — meant the chrono was on hold. This made it easy to know if the chronograph had started, this truly was an innovation.

The Development of Chrono-Matic

Breitling worked hand in hand with other brands such as TAG Heuer, Hamilton and Dupois Depraz, to develop the first Swiss automatic chronograph, labelled “Chrono-Matic.” This huge technological leap towards the chronograph that we know today, took place in 1969. Burrell accredits the development of the automatic twin pusher to this time, pointing out that this has now become industry standard and has since been adopted by all watch manufacturers as the basis of their own chronograph designs.

SuperOcean 2005 Execution 2

In 1971, Breitling released the SuperOcean 2005 Execution 2. Like its predecessor, this has some earlier cases dating back to 1965. The dial had been remodeled with a sweep second at 9hr. The indexes in circles were removed in favor of large baton indexes with green tritium, this was a classic design in fitting with the late sixties, early seventies. The dial retained the signature B Breitling Geneve and SuperOcean. The hands on the SuperOcean 2005 Execution 2 had been enhanced: they were much shorter than the previous model and thicker. The chrono hand was still very visible and there a large square filled with tritium.

The case of the SuperOcean 2005 Execution 2 underwent no significant changes when compared to the previous generation of SuperOcean. Breitling introduced a new bezel design, and customers were able to purchase a “yachting” bezel as an alternative to the classic black bezel of the previous generation. So now there were two bezels to choose from. The “Classical” black bezel with indication every 15 minutes and tritium bead at noon and the Black “yachting” bezel.

2007 SuperOcean Heritage

In 2007, Breitling commemorated the model’s 50th anniversary with the SuperOcean Heritage Collection. The SuperOcean Heritage is a tribute to the first ever SuperOcean, with its braided steel bracelet. Breitling even brought back its original 1950s logo for this collection. However, to keep up with modern tastes, the SuperOcean Heritage is available in a 38 mm or 46 mm case size in a variety of different colors and in three different bracelet materials: rubber, leather, and steel mesh.

2017 SuperOcean Heritage II

In 2017, Breitling once again, updated the iconic design of the SuperOcean diving watch whilst retaining the unique characteristics of the original legendary diving watch. The main development for the 60th Anniversary model, was the introduction of a new steel bezel with a scratch-proof ultra-hard high-tech ceramic ring which is completely shock-resistant. The brand new Breitling SuperOcean Heritage has had a few design updates, and as a result is differs visually from its predecessor.

The metal ring surrounding the minute circle has been removed, so that the new SuperOcean Heritage’s bezel moulds seamlessly with the dial. With the current fashion for vintage, it is perhaps no surprise that the Breitling SuperOcean Heritage has been such a success. It sports the original SuperOcean logo and the unusual shape of the hands, along with the cone-shaped hour-markers, is reminiscent of the 1957 model, whilst modern luminescent markers ensure optimal legibility.

The SuperOcean Heritage II is available to buy in either 42mm and 46mm and has a range of different color options, this model takes on a life of its own, having its own distinct personality different from that of previous generations. It is however the classic version (with a sleek black dial and bezel on the steel ocean classic bracelet) that wins in the popularity stakes. This watch truly embodies the elegant side of what Breitling can be.

The SuperOcean Heritage II; also has the addition of a ceramic bezel. It is, however, the leap from the modified caliber Breitling 17 movement to the Breitling B20 movement that make the watch even more desirable than ever before. Breitling has co-created this new B-20 movement in conjunction with none other than Tudor on a quid pro-quo basis. Breitling provides Tudor with the skeleton BO1 movement for their Heritage Black Bay Chrono in exchange for their basic three hand base movement that sits in the Black Bay range. This allows Breitling to fully optimize the power reserve to at least 70 hours, as well as allowing them to offer the same excellent 5 year warranty synonymous with the in-house chronograph models.

Breitling’s SuperOcean Héritage II is available in two sizes (42 and 46 mm) and as a 46 mm chronograph. All of these are available in black, blue and bronze. Later versions are also available with a rubber-leather strap in the same color with contrasting stitching. In addition to the leather, crocodile or rubber straps, all the models are available with a steel mesh bracelet, just like the legendary 1957 version.

The Breitling SuperOcean Today

Since its debut, the Breitling SuperOcean has continued to be fine-tuned to cope with even deeper waters and, on some models, is actually waterproof up to a depth of 2,000 meters. The diving watch now features an innovative helium valve, which allows the watch to withstand incredible underwater pressure without exploding. Breitling has also introduced many aesthetic design features to the SuperOcean, which means the magnificent timepiece is now available in more colors and sizes than ever before.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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