Breitling Superocean HistoryBack to Articles
In the 1950s the conquest for sea exploration had risen, through scientific exploration of the seas and professional deep-sea diving meaning the demand for divers watches had increased. The publics interest in water sports had also increased, meaning amateurs too also required instruments that they could use safely.
In 1957 Breitling responded to this demand and released two new diving watches: a time only diver (ref 1004) and a chronograph (ref 807). Both of these watches held the name Superocean but had different purposes – the time only watch was aimed at the gentleman who cares about his style whilst at the beach and enjoying water sports, whereas the sportier chronograph model was for the diver who needed performance and reliability.
Both models boasted a 200m water resistance and were designed with performance and elegance in mind, building upon its experience in building legible instruments for aircraft. Breitling gave the watches a rotating bezel and an elegant look in an avant-garde concave design, which was most unusual for the flat back disc that was used at the time for diving duration. The 39mm Superocean was designed to stay completely flat on the wrist and had a thin profile and elongated design.
With always keeping innovation and progression in mind, Willy Breitling wanted to advance the technical side of the divers watch and offer a new Chronograph that enables easy reading of the diving duration even when in the darkest and deepest depths of the oceans. With the minute recorder being small and difficult to read when under the surface of the water, Willy Breitling decided to use the main Chronograph hand to show the diving duration and to do this developed a new movement he called ‘Slow Motion’ which enabled the chronograph hand to make one revolution per hour instead of per minute. This gave the wearer the ability to read the diving duration using the chronograph hand and the minute track on the dial. This did however make it nearly impossible to tell at a glance if the chronograph is running or not as it moves so slowly.
To combat this problem Willy Breitling found a technical solution by developing a running indicator. This was located by the number 6 and when the chronograph is launched displays a yellow disc. Then when the chronograph is on hold the disc turns black with a small yellow dot, then all black when the chronograph is reset and stopped. This gave a practical solution to the problem of forgetting or not setting or running under the water.
The first automatic Superocean was launched in 1964, which impressed customers with its clean look and technical complexity without any Sub-Dials and holding a bold 43mm stainless steel case. Later in 1969 Breitling launches the first automatic Chronograph caliber – the Chrono-Matic.
Soon after Breitling launches its first Superocean automatic (Ref 2105), with the newly patented waterproof, rotating bezel fitted on an extra-large 48mm case.
Later in 1983, Breitling develop an extreme version of their diving icon, Superocean ‘Deep Sea’ (Ref 81190). The original Superocean could be seen being worn by both professional divers and gentlemen. Where as the ‘Deep Sea’ with its water resistance of 1000m is definitely for extreme and well trained divers.
The deep levels of water resistance was made possible by the patented helium escapement case-back that acted like a valve, releasing excess helium and protecting the watch from exploding under the pressure when swimming back to the surface.