History of the Breitling Superocean

A look at the HIstory of the Breitling Dive Watch

Origins back to the 1950’s

We have to go back to the 1950s to trace the origins of the Breitling Diver’s watch. At that time the demand for divers’ watches was on the increase. The oceans of the world were opening up their secrets and the need to explore and conquer the deep-see growing. But not only were the professional and scientific worlds looking to the ocean for answers aquatic sport enthusiasts and nautical leisure activities were also on the up and up. There was a new and very apparent need for technical, affordable, accurate diving instruments that could be worn while diving.

At this time, in 1953, Rolex released the Rolex Submariner water resistant to 100 metres. A few years later in 1955 Omega unveil their Omega Seamaster divers watch with a certified rating to a depth just beyond 60 metres. The world market for Swiss quality professional dive watches had emerged. This short history of the Breitling Superocean looks at a few of the models that have succeeded in making this such an iconic underwater timepiece.

1957 enter the Superocean MK1

A few years later, in 1957, Breitling launch two innovative dive watches. The first is a simple time-only affair Ref. 1004. The other is a more complicated chronograph diver’s watch Ref. 807. Both are pictured below. These new dive watches are named the Superocean and, most importantly, they are rated to 200 meter water resistancy. Compared to the main rivals at the time, Rolex and Omega, this 200 meter claim was substantial and attracted much interest.

Superocean Ref 1004

The Breitling marketing team at the time produced two luxury watches with very different style attributes. The Ref 1004 was designed as a gentleman’s watch who demanded style and function in the one timepiece. When looking back over the history of the Breitling Superocean it’s clear this was a watch that was just as at home in the gentlemen’s clubs of the 1950s as it was at the sailing club or on the beach.

The original Brietling SuperOcean dive watch from 1957 - time only
The stylish 1957 SuperOcean Ref 1007

Superocean Ref 804 Chronograph

The Breitling Superocean Ref 804 had a more functional brief. This timepiece was intended for professional use, to be worn by a diver demanding the highest levels of accuracy and reliability.

The innovative Breitling SuperOcean Chronograph diver's watch from 1957 - Ref 804
Fully functional SuperOcean Chronograph Ref 804

To the modern watch fan these two classics look as good today as they did over 60 years ago. The new SuperOcean Heritage watches have taken all their design cues from these innovative models. Same classic looks, style and desirability with improvements made to accuracy and reliability only.

You had to personally experience these watches in 1957 to understand the impact they made in the luxury watch industry. It was clear to everyone involved that their boast of 200m water resistance was a game changer. But it was everything else about these watches that caused a commotion at the Geneva watch show. The fresh lines and breathtaking design distinguished them from all other watches available at the time. All those years making aviation instruments was put to good use with the highly oversized circular and triangular hour markers maximizing the legibility and ease of timekeeping.

1965 Slow Motion Ref 2005

The CRITICAL feature of a diver’s watch, aside from the obvious water resistancy, is ease of use measuring the DIVE TIME. The 1957 versions of the SuperOcean feature a rotating bezel that can be used in conjuction with the minute hand to measure dive time. However, it wasn’t very clear and sometimes hard to read.

The solution to this problem was a devised in 1965 by Willy Breitling with the new Superocean SLOW MOTION Ref 2005. His plan was to use the chronograph hand (the second hand to most people) to mark time in minutes rather than seconds. When the chronograph is running the second hand completes one full rotation in one HOUR, not the normal one rotation per MINUTE. This clever utilisation of an existing primary hand permitted easy reading of the elapsed dive time.

Innovative design of the Breitling SuperOcean SLOW MOTION with running indicator set to RUNNING

How do you know it’s running?

The problem with this clever innovation of the SLOW MOTION chronograph calibre is the difficulty in checking that the clock is running. With the hand moving just 1/60 of a revolution every minute a quick glance wasn’t enough to determine if the user had pressed start or stop. In other words, a big problem when diving in to the ocean.

The solution was the addition of a RUNNING INDICATOR located at the 6 0’clock position. When not in use this indicator is all black. When the stopwatch is launched it turns to all yellow. Start the chronograph and the indicator displays a black disc with a yellow spot (as shown above).

Superocean Landmark dates

Many people only consider Rolex and Omega when looking for a dive watch with history, innovation and heritage. At ChronoDiver’s we’d urge you to take a look at the Breitling range. With a rich history in dive watch advancements from 1957 to present day. Here’s a few of their highlights.

  • 1957 sees the arrival of the SuperOcean Ref 1007 and 804 (hand wind)
  • 1965 the SuperOcean “slow motion” Ref 2005 (hand wind)
  • 1969 arrival of the SuperOcean CHORNO-MATIC – first self winding Breitling dive watches (automatic)
  • 1983 Breitling release the SuperOcean DEEPSEA Ref 81190 water resistant to 1000m
The first AUTOMATIC Breitling SuperOcean diver's watch - the CHRONO MATIC Ref 2005
Breitling SuperOcean “slow motion” Ref 2005
Extreme depths - the Breitling SuperOcean Deep Sea divers watch water resistant to 1000m
Brietling SuperOcean Deep Sea 1000m
Further Reading

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