There is no denying that the Breitling SeaWolf is a fantastic looking timepiece. It seems lengthy consideration has been bestowed on the aesthetics of this utilitarian tool watch. The case is meticulously finished, with the perfect combination of polished and brushed finishes applied.
The dial is well balanced and detailed.
However, there is one subtle distinguishing visual detail on this watch that makes it a superior dive watch than almost everything else available on the market.
Yes, that’s right: This watch has a depth rating of 3000m! We need to digest that minor/major detail for a little while and try to put it into some kind of perspective: If you were to walk 3000m it would take you about 40 minutes on average. Consider starting that 3000 meter walk from your front door. Imagine where it would take you. Personally I would feel a long way from home if I were on foot. If you were travelling 55 kmph on the US highways it would take you three and a half minutes to travel that distance. Now try to imagine swimming that distance……..straight down!
At 3000m beneath the sea it is completely pitch black. There are very few species that can survive down there and those that can have the ability to do so only after millions of years of evolution. They are completely blind and rely on other senses to hunt and breed. It’s an amazing distance under the water to contemplate. A completely different world.
I appreciate that it is unlikely that anyone buying this watch will ever be in a position to subject their watch to the conditions witnessed at over 2 miles under water. This may make this watch seem a frivolity to the point of irrelevance. Not so I believe. There are many advantages to the average Joe wearer of a watch of this type, even if they are afraid of the water entirely. For a watch to be able to be rated to withstand the elements and pressures that is beyond most professional divers means that the watch will be hermetically sealed. So, no risk of dust particulates affecting the lubricated automatically wound chronometer rated mechanical movement. It is also a given that the case will be strong enough for any day to day abuse that may be demanded of it. Which leads us to another important consideration with this extraordinary tool watch: The pressure rating of this remarkable timepiece. 300 bar. I pump my car tyres up to just 2bar. At a cornering speed of 50 mph the car will create about 1.5G. My car weighs about 2.5 metric tonne. That’s 3.75 metric tonne during cornering and I’m pretty sure the tyres are hardly deformed in any way.
300 bar is the equivalent of over 2 tonnes per square inch! Would you allow a baby elephant in stilettos to stand on your watch? No wonder that this diver’s companion has a truly reassuring heft about it that reflects the strength it must take to withstand such punishment. Speaking of heft. The SeaWolf is the heaviest timepiece in Breitling’s current catalogue. Weighing in at an impressive 160 grams, before you add a strap. However, despite this, and the seemingly bloated dimensions of 45.4mm diameter and 18.5mm height, the Seawolf is remarkably comfortable to wear on metal bracelet, leather strap or rubber strap.
What is also remarkable is that Breitling didn’t just stop when they had designed a watch that could cope with the amazing conditions witnessed at 10000ft below sea level. With the aid of simulation software they also produced a watch of perfect proportions and almost elegant aesthetics.
I love the ratio between the case diameter and thickness. This gives the watch a real feeling of strength and purpose, to the point where 3000m depth rating is quite believable.
The dial has to be primarily functional on a professionally rated diver watch. Yet Breitling has also produced a dial that is, arguably, aesthetically pleasing to look at. It is perfectly balanced and harmonious. The hands are a nice size: Not overbearing yet incredibly legible.
You would be excused for thinking that a watch that has taken so much development to achieve this major milestone and yet still be a viable consumer workaday product must cost a small fortune. Almost to the point of putting out of reach and non-justifiable to the non-professional diver. Not so, because the final amazing figure for this watch is the price. At just £2500 on a rubber strap (at time of writing) this is truly a bargain. In fact, I personally think this is the best value for money professional diver’s watch on the market today. Period. I would welcome you to consider alternatives. Contact me if you think of anything even close because this particular conundrum has me stumped.
The Seawolf is available with either a black, blue, grey or yellow dial. It can be coupled with a rubber strap (complete with standard buckle or micro-adjustable clasp), leather strap or metal bracelet. This particular example is, of course, the yellow dialled version on the blue leather strap. A combination that sounds incompatible on paper but works perfectly well in reality. Now, I’m not normally a fan of yellow at all but I really like the yellow Seawolf dial. Yellow does, of course, reflect the corporate colours of Breitling and also adds to the legibility of the dial with the contrasting black numbers. These use the very cool stencil font. However, I really like this yellow and it reconfirms the watch’s tool aspirations. Whichever dial is chosen high levels of legibility are guaranteed due to the colour and font type of the digits and the oversizes hands and markers.
Other functions that are a requisite for any diver’s watch are the automatic helium escape valve, crown guards and the uni-directional bezel.
The helium escape valve is required to stop the Sapphire Crystal Glass from popping out during a deep dive ascent. Let me explain: Professional divers often have to spend long periods of time in diving bells breathing in a mixture of helium and oxygen. Helium is the second smallest gas particle known to man. This allows rogue particles to enter the water proof watch case. Even ones pressure tested to 300 bar (3000 metres) like the Seawolf. This is perfectly OK whilst the watch stays under pressure at depth. However, during decompression, when the surrounding pressure is dramatically reduced, the helium particles will expand. Under extreme circumstances this will cause the glass to pop out. The Helium Escape Valve on the Seawolf is automatic. At pressures above 3bar from within the case the valve will allow the helium particles to escape whilst retaining the full water resistance of the watch.
The crown guards are some of the best designed I’ve seen. They look like they can really protect the crown from literally anything. Plus they are great looking, by virtue of the attention to detail and finish, and yet solid looking too. A difficult combination to achieve:
The bezel has been well thought out to offer a great utility and great looks. There is a very reassuring resistance when rotating the bezel and it firmly locks into position at each minute counter. Another quality component of this great timepiece.
The lume is also impressive. Easily legible in dim light conditions and lasting throughout the night.
Other highlights, that reflect the attention to detail and thought gone into this extraordinary timepiece, include a date function, red tipped seconds hand, applied Breitling logo and military-styled stencil font numbers.
My only criticism of this amazing timepiece is that I would have preferred the hands to be a little larger (I loved the arrow hands on my SuperOcean Heritage), but that really is a subjective opinion and is in no way related to the legibility that is offered. Also I think it would have been nice if Breitling had shouted about the incredible depth rating. Many other marques offer over-the-top packaging with their diver watches. These can include large plastic cases, tide charts, interchangeable straps and the required tools, etc, etc. Other than that I can find nothing wrong with the Breitling SeaWolf. Hollow words of a biased reviewer I hear you cry. Well, I can make no higher testimonial to this wonderful divers timepiece than to say: After beingkindly loaned this example by Andrew Michaels for a week I thought it so perfect I bought it.
Many watches are good enough looking not to conflict with either casual or formal wear. Indeed this tool watch could happily sit at the end of the sleeve of a dress suit at a dinner party, etc. But how many watches could also be worn if that dinner party was 3 kilometers under water? Hypothetically speaking of course.
All words and pictures by Richard Atkins (unless otherwise stated). Please ask if you wish to reproduce any of the material in this article.