SuperOcean Abyss – My Review – A17364
I feel sorry for Breitling in some regards. No, really. Let me explain:
This pioneering brand have built up a fantastic reputation for designing and creating iconic, ageless tool watches. During their gestation period on the drawing board these timepieces would have been pre-labelled “Aviation”, “Diving”, etc, etc. However, these watches are just as relevant and practical to the everyman as they are to the professions they are originally intended. Breitling have the knack of creating fit-for-purpose timepieces that are almost elegant in the way they can transcend age, gender and environment, be it down the sports field or with a sports jacket.
I do believe this is why the incredibly knowledgeable and strong worldwide Breitling fanbase did not react so positively to some of the recent contemporary designs that have been presented by Breitling. Why change something that was near perfect already? There was definitely a furore instead of a furor.
It is to Breitling’s credit that there is such a commonly recognised talking point on forums, etc, as Breitling DNA. Apparently, according to this passionate fraternity, the new models do not retain this.
I must admit that I initially did not embrace some of the new designs with open arms. However, I was also guilty of publicly lambasting Lotus when they replaced the James Bond Esprit design in the early 1980s. How wrong was I and how much did I come to love the replacement?
This is, of course, subjective but it could have had deep ramifications if Breitlings bravery and conviction in their new designs had alienated potential customers.
One thing that has, therefore, delighted me is that we (Andrew Michael’s Jewellers) sell many of the new designs. We get owners wanting to trade their previous generation models, which is great. What is so much more gratifying, though, is that when we welcome young or new Breitling clients into the shop, and hand them the 2012 catalogue, most of them immediately react positively to the new contemporary models. This is vindication enough for me that Breitling have, once again, produced watches for the current and next generation.
So, let’s simply view the SuperOcean 42 Abyss as a fabulous diver’s timepiece with all the attributes required to be recognised as such.
To put this into perspective I know of seasoned recreational divers who have only ever been to a maximum depth of 35m. Professional divers, for whom this watch would have been originally intended for, rarely dive beyond 100m. The water resistance, therefore, may seem like over indulgent folly but it does mean that the case of the SuperOcean Abyss is hermetically sealed and impervious to moisture and dust, which is important for the Chronometer rated, 150-odd component, automatic mechanical Calibre 17 movement.
Other must-haves for a Diver’s timepiece are all catered for:
The bi-directional bezel is totally new with respect to any previous Breitling diver’s watch. The main insert is rubber. A really nice design detail is the integrated italic numerals that are machined to be flush to the rubber.
This turns a utilitarian rubber bezel, which is a material not normally associated with high-end, into something aesthetically pleasing of meticulous finish and worthy of inclusion with the remainder of the components. The one complaint I would level at the new bezel is the exclusion of the usual Breitling pointer and luminous marker at the 12 O’clock position. Whether this makes elapsed time readings difficult to judge or is merely an incidental characteristic is up to the individual. It doesn’t particularly bother me.
The dial and hands are incredibly legible in all conditions. The oversized hands harmonise with the large italic numerals. When the light fades the liberal amounts of superluminova applied to the hands, markers and indices come to life. The date window is equally as easy to read.
The sapphire glass has been coated both sides with an anti-glare coating to facilitate time reading under water. This is true of all Breitling sapphire glasses, in fact.
Breitling introduced a unique pseudo personalisation element to the SuperOcean Abyss for the first time. The Abyss can be bought in different colour themes. The individual details that are colour coded include the seconds hand, the chapter ring, the “Superocean” script and the date window.
This has been so successful it has been included in the new SuperOcean Chronograph II and SuperOcean 44.
Please see my review here:
2011 SuperOceans – A comparison and introduction – A1739102/A1334102 | Andrew Michaels Jewellers
My favourite of the new Abyss models is the Limited Edition “Orange” model highlighted above. Only 2000 of these have been produced. Each example has its individual limited edition number LASER engraved on the caseback.
However, my favourite standard model is highlighted below:
This is the “white” version as can be seen in the chapter ring, date window and seconds hand. This example is sporting the wonderful Ocean Racer rubber strap on the brilliant adjustable deployment clasp. I prefer the “white” model because the white chapter ring reminds me of the white wall tyres of the classic cars that I covet. You’ll have your own reason for choosing from the “blue”, “red”, “yellow” or “black” models.
There will always be models that are very much lamented when they are withdrawn from any brand’s catalogue. Due to Breitling’s strong designs this will often be the case.
So, it seems it is time (pun intended) to move on and embrace the new. Design will always be subjective but quality, reliability and accuracy will not.
The SuperOcean 42 Abyss is a superb addition to Breitling’s catalogue. It offers all three of the above pre-requisite criteria plus it is comfy to wear whilst being incredibly strong, highly legible whilst being very detailed and fit-for-purpose whilst being beautifully finished.
The 42mm does immediately seem small. However, this is an optical illusion caused by its larger siblings. 42mm is neither too small for this genre or too large to become cumbersome and fatiguing to wear. It is the perfect size for my 6.5” wrists.
I loved the outgoing Breitling SuperOcean. It remained in Breitling’s catalogue in very similar designs for nearly two decades. Some may argue that it did not need to be removed from the catalogue ever, a la Navitimer. Breitling saw different. They often have in their 125+ year history. It is one of the main reasons they have remained at the very top of their game for so long. I welcome the new SuperOcean Abyss. It may take a while for it to become a Breitling classic, to add to the long list of Breitling classics. I now prefer it over the outgoing model and I know many who have embraced it also. In my opinion Breitling have successfully overhauled a classic divers watch to allow them to continue to offer one of the best value high end tool watches on the market.
All words and images by Richard Atkins unless otherwise stated. This article may not be produced in whole or in part without permission from the author.