Hands-on Review – The Breitling Superocean Heritage ’57 Outerknown

The Skinny

  • Diameter: 42 mm
  • Thickness: 9.9 mm
  • Lug to lug: 44 mm
  • Strap size: 20 mm
  • Case: Steel and Bronze
  • Bezel: Bidirectional non-ratcheting
  • Movement: Breitling 10 (modified ETA 2892-A2)
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Price: $4,380

Why This Watch

This may sound crazy, but the reason I wanted to review this 42 mm Breitling dive watch is because it is a small watch. Consider that if you subtract the large overhanging bezel what remains is a rather flat 38 mm watch with a modest lug to lug distance of 44 mm. The old days of Breitling as a shiny chunk of metal are over. Welcome to the new Breitling where environmentally friendly vintage style rules.

As with many of the new releases, Breitling’s muse is the collection of Fred Mandelbaum, better known by his instagram handle @watchfred. The 1957 release of the reference 1004 was the original Breitling dive watch. The very unique design features of the 1004 are replicated here but without the fragile Bakelite bezel and hazardous amount of radium lume.

Image: watchprozine.com

The Context

One of the innovations at Breitling under Georges Kern is to introduce the concept of releasing capsule collections. It is borrowed from the fashion industry, but it seems to have a somewhat different meaning for Breitling in that it indicates that the watch is limited in duration of availability and not by number of pieces. It seems that in addition to drumming up interest without imposing a strict limitation, the capsule collection also allows Breitling to take some risks. The Superocean Heritage ‘57 watches come in sets of limited and capsule collections. Other models in the range include the highly desirable “Rainbow Dial” as well as versions in black, blue, black with red gold accents, and mesh bracelets.

This particular watch is a collaboration with sustainable clothing brand Outerknown. There is also a more expensive limited collection version in steel with red gold accents. The brand was started by Kelly Slater who is widely regarded as the greatest surfer of all time along with designer John Moore. Their purpose is to create clothing using sustainable materials and fair labor practices. The brand, in additional to surfing and cool beach vibes, gels well with Breitling’s newfound emphasis on sustainability and environmental consciousness. In addition to design input, the most visible evidence of the collaboration is what they call ECONYL yarn for the brown striped Outerknown branded NATO strap. This is made from nylon waste from the ocean which they note includes fishing nets.

The Watch

The design is really what stands out here. The ceramic bezel has a concave shape and the sapphire crystal is gently domed so the overall appearance is like a pie with a pronounced crust at the edges. A wide bezel that overhangs the edge of the watch is sometimes also referred to as a “UFO” style case, which I think applies in this instance. The downside of the concavity is that it tends to trap dust which is noticeable when it accumulates on the shiny bezel. The characteristic bezel also gives rise to some of the other idiosyncrasies of this watch. For example, there is no screwdown mechanism on the crown. Looking at it from the side, it would be rather hard to screw in a crown with the large overhanging bezel in the way while maintaining the flatness of the overall case. The logo embossed crown in fact protrudes quite a bit in a conical manner in order to give something to grip onto while hand-winding. Fortunately the design works and the crown is easy to wind and set the time but this design choice is probably why the water resistance remains limited to 100 meters. The bezel spins bidirectionally and has no “clicking” action much like so-called “skin divers” that are associated with the breezy beach culture of the 1960’s. The functionality is also simplified with a lume dot at 12 and 5 minute marks. More of a fashion statement than a tool, this watch lets ISO 6425 certification take a back seat to cool vintage design.

The case itself is in high polish stainless steel without brushed surfaces. The lugs are thin with a wide facet. They curve sharply downwards which forces the watch to wear smaller than the large bezel diameter would suggest with its short lug to lug distance of 44 mm. The caseback is closed and bears the Outerknown logo as well as noting that the movement inside is a COSC certified chronometer. Inside is a modified ETA 2892, an automatic winding three hand movement which is thinner than the workhorse 2824.

The dial is distinctive and funky. Let’s talk about these very characteristic indices. The five minute indices are elongated and slightly tapered with light brown lume with the effect that they seem to radiate outwards. The color of the lume gives the dial a bit of a monochrome appearance in certain light so I think I would have preferred white lume. They are a bit wider and less pointy than the original dagger style indices. The 3/6/9/12 indices have the very characteristic circular lume filled dots with an un-lumed larger index in the same semi-triangular style placed across it. The original was faceted like a spear point and had an additional lume dot outside the index whereas this one is flat but the spirit of the original is well captured. The hour hand is also very distinctive with a large lume filled triangle with a decorative chevron. The minute hand is a lume filled baseball bat shape with a pointed tip. The seconds hand is simple and there is no luminous tip to indicate that the watch is running under low light conditions. The dial itself is an attractive brown with a sunburst finish that catches and changes color in sunlight. There is an applied Breitling logo and a few lines of text indicating the depth rating, chronometer status, and Superocean line. The minutes are delineated by white lines with arabic numerals indicating 15/30/45/60.

The Experience

I was surprised by how much I immediately liked this watch once I had it on the wrist. I generally find dive watches a bit bulky and large for my taste but this really isn’t a proper dive watch in the conventional sense. Oftentimes vintage style cues are upsized into a large watch but the only thing here which is upsized to some degree is the bezel. Underneath there is a small thin watch. By not bothering with the features of a contemporary dive watch that add robustness, instead the watch emphasizes casual comfort. I found that OEM strap a bit loud but otherwise the watch proves rather versatile due to the size. It is slim enough to easily slide under a cuff making it discreet enough for the office. I was never bored and really enjoyed wearing a watch with a dynamic look from the unusual overhanging concave bezel along with the unusual hands and indices.

One of my frustrations with the watch industry is that oftentimes it seems like brands copy each other and are searching for trends. There is some kind of convergence from time to time around certain common design features whether that is a dial color, material, or style of watch. While this watch clearly is not intended as a serious diving tool, I appreciate that Breitling is unafraid to take a point of view. The collaboration with Kelly Slater and Outerknown makes sense in terms of the casual and cool surfing style as well as environmental sustainability. For someone like me who likes vintage and appreciates a slim and comfortable watch with a distinctive style, this is pretty close to perfect.