If you follow watches closely, you might tend to sigh at "another dive watch." But we'd argue that Breitling's newly redesigned Superocean collection isn't just another dive watch: in a sea of dive watches that look more or less similar, it stands out. It does so with the combination of a traditional dive watch appeal and a unique look — and it's all based on a fascinating vintage chronograph from 1965.
The new collection of watches aren't chronographs: functionally, they're standard dive watches with three-hand time-telling, rotating bezels and 300m of water resistance. The look is what makes them particularly cool — and it comes from a watch with a practical design, and some rather unusual features. Known as the Breitling Superocean "Slow Motion" (or "Slow Chrono" or "Minute Creeper"), this was a diver's chronograph that didn't really look like a chronograph as we know it today.
Dive watch design is largely based around water resistance, legibility and tracking minutes — minutes being the most critical unit of time for divers. The Superocean Slow Motion first had a pared-back design for legibility and did away with any indication of seconds, both for the main time and the chronograph. In place of the typical centrally mounted seconds hand was a chronograph minutes hand. (Its relatively slow procession around the dial gave the watch its nickname.)
The Slow Motion would've mostly looked like a standard dive watch apart from the chronograph pushers on its case side, but it had another interesting feature: Above 6 o'clock was a dot that indicated the chronograph's mode. (No, it's not a moisture indicator like on the Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms Mil-Spec.) Since you can't really see a minute hand's motion, this window would change color to let the diver know if his chronograph was running (white), paused (smaller white dot) or not running (black).
The new Breitling Superocean watches feature neither the chronograph nor the mode indicator: these are automatic divers offering the standard hours, minutes and seconds, but based on the look of those vintage watches. Most notably, that look includes a contrasting inner ring, originally made to offer legibility for the chronograph minutes.
The other distinctive feature is the minutes hand with its thin stem and large square tip derived from the chronograph hand on (some versions of) the vintage model. It's almost weird, and it's slightly reminiscent of the famous Tudor snowflake hand, but it gives these watches an immediately recognizable look.
The other thing that makes the new collection cool is that the watches have the brand's typical sense of refinement and the appeal of a traditional dive watch, with a modern feel despite their vintage lineage (interestingly, they're in the Superocean collection rather than the separate, vintage-inspired Superocean Heritage).
The new collection comes in a dizzying array of sizes and colors (and a couple models in bronze) at debut with versions in 36mm, 42mm, 44mm and up to 46mm. There are 29 SKUs in total, and each uses a chronometer-certified version of the common ETA 2824 automatic movement.
The combination of history, purpose, that slightly quirky design and some bright colors make these some of the coolest recent divers we've seen. Starting at $4,600 for the 36mm version on a strap and topping out at $6,700 a model featuring a rose gold bezel and crown, these are about the prices we expect from this tier of Breitling watches — and we'd love to get them in some summery settings for testing.