The new Breitling Superocean Automatic 42 Ref A17366021B1A1 is a solid dive watch. Functional. Easy to read. And well-priced. Yet, the Tudor Pelagos Ref 25600TN remains superior in pretty much every way. In fact, I would say it’s one of the best dive watches, pound-for-pound, in its price category. It might even be the best. Clean design. Impressive build quality. Manufacture movement. The watch scores big across the board. Let’s dig into the details though, so you can make up your own mind about which is better.
A (Very) Brief History Of The Breitling Superocean
When you think Breitling, you think aviation watches. Meaning the Navitimer, introduced in 1952. Without question one of the best-known pilot watches on the planet. And to be fair, the company has dedicated a lot of time and attention to aviation. Its speciality was dashboard clocks and other chronometric instruments, including wrist chronographs. All developed with the professional aviator in mind.
As the 1950s rolled around though, a new craze was taking shape. Amateur diving. Bringing with it the need for reliable and waterproof dive watches. Blancpain launched the Fifty Fathoms in 1953. The Rolex Submariner followed soon after. Omega wasn’t far behind either. The Seamaster 300 made its debut in 1957 as part of the ‘Master’ Trilogy. This included the Speedmaster and Railmaster.
In 1957, Willy Breitling was also entering his 25th year as the head of the family business. A robust dive watch seemed like the perfect way to mark the occasion. And thus, the Superocean was born.
A distinctive-looking design, two versions were available. A three-hand automatic (ref 1004). And a manual-wind chronograph (ref 807). Both had dials defined by long and pointy indexes. And both were water resistant to a healthy 200m. The ref 807 is also the first chronograph to ever offer a reverse panda dial.
A (Very) Brief History Of The Tudor Pelagos
The Tudor Pelagos, meanwhile, is not a historic model. At least not in the traditional sense. Instead, it is something of an amalgam. Drawing inspiration from a group of Submariners that appeared between 1967 and 1975.
The Tudor Submariner first appeared in 1954. Over the ensuing decades it would be subject to continuous refinement and improvement. The specific models that inspired the Pelagos form part of this process. They represent a subtle evolution of the collection’s aesthetic if you will.
It starts with the 1967 reference 7928. On this model, the circle bordering the minute track disappeared. And each graduation extended to the flange. The design of the Pelagos minute track is similar. The difference being that it has a sunken dial, so the graduations are now at a taper.
Then in 1969, the eight circular hour markers became square. Reference 7016 and 7021 stand out from other Submariners due to this unique detail. The new face contributed to the Tudor identity and today lives on in the Pelagos. Reference 7021 also introduced a date window at 3 o’clock. Another feature found on the Pelagos.
A third reference with square hours markers appeared in 1975. (Before the circular indexes made a return.) Reference 9401/0 is important for introducing colour. Dials and bezels came in blue, as well as black. Surprise, surprise, the Pelagos also comes in these two traditional dive watch colours.
Unlike the Black Bay collection though, the Pelagos is not meant to look vintage. Instead, it presents the aesthetic of the Submariner as it was brand new. Its mono-colour dials and bezels feature crisp white accents and lume. (The LHD version is an exception to this.)
Breitling Superocean vs Tudor Pelagos
Now that we’ve covered the background of these watches, let’s see how they match up.
The Breitling Superocean Automatic comes in a range of case sizes. Starting at 36mm, they go all the way up to 48mm. The most popular sizes though are the 42mm and 44mm. For the closest comparison to the Pelagos, we’re looking at the 42mm option.
Made from steel, the case displays polished and brushed finishes. It looks like a tool watch but one you could wear with a suit. Crown guards remind you this is a professional dive watch. As does the 500m/1,650ft water resistance rating. It’s worth noting that the larger 44mm case offers 1,000m water resistance. If you’re feeling hardcore. A screw-down crown and screwed down solid caseback complete things.
The Tudor Pelagos also comes in a 42mm diameter. And matches the 500m water resistance of the Superocean. Yet, its case is lightweight titanium. And features an automatic helium escape valve. This means it’s suitable for saturation diving. Whereas the Superocean is not. At least not without the risk of helium particles getting trapped inside the watch. Before popping the sapphire crystal off to make their escape.
Pointy crown guards are another subtle head nod to the vintage Submariners. As is the screwed-in solid caseback. It’s in steel, a more pleasant metal against the skin than titanium. The case shows a satin finish, which is like a brushed finish. There’s no texture to it though, like there is with a brushed finish. In any event, it’s in keeping with the tool watch aesthetic.
The ratcheted unidirectional bezel of the Breitling Superocean is made from steel. It features raised numerals and graduations. None of which are luminous. Although there is a luminous dot at 12 o’clock.
The unidirectional bezel on the Tudor Pelagos meanwhile is in titanium. The insert is matt black ceramic. And all numbers and markers are treated with white luminescent material. Meaning they are still legible in low-light conditions.
Breitling redesigned the dial of the Superocean in 2019. It’s now a lot cleaner and nicer to look at. And it’s more legible too. Large Arabic numerals appear at 6, 9 and 12. With applied trapezoidal markers marking the remaining hours. Their pointy design is a nod to the original dials of the Superocean. Along with the hands, everything has a generous coating of Super-LumiNova.
A date window appears at 3 o’clock. And the redesigned inner flange offers a chapter ring for the minutes and seconds. The central seconds hand features a red-arrow at its tip. Whether you think it’s the better-looking dial of the two is a matter of personal taste. You could make the argument that it’s the more legible. But it’s a close call.
The Pelagos also has a matte black dial. There are no Arabic numerals though. Just square index markers for the hours. These stretch to a rectangle at 6 and 9. And change to an upside-down triangle at 12.
The markers, along with the snowflake hands and all the text are in white. This ensures max contrast against the dial. It is not the most eye-catching colour-scheme though. Everything is of course luminous (except for the text). And again, a date window appears at 3 o’clock.
Breitling is a bona fide manufacture. Yet the Superocean does not use a manufacture movement. Instead, inside is the Breitling Calibre 17, based on the ETA-2824. Modifications by Breitling mean it qualifies for COSC-certification as a chronometer. Beating at 28,800 vibrations/hour, it offers a lack-lustre 38-hour power reserve.
The case of the Tudor Pelagos houses the manufacture Calibre MT5612. It’s also COSC-certified. And it beats at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations/hour. It’s regulated by a variable inertia oscillator with silicon balance spring. And offers a 70-hour power reserve. There is no comparison here.
Both watches come on integrated metal bracelets. But again, one couldn’t be more different from the other. For the Breitling Superocean, it’s steel with a folding clasp. There’s also the option of a Diver Pro II rubber strap with pin buckle for less money. Either will get the job done.
For the Tudor Pelagos it’s a different story. For a start the bracelet is in lightweight titanium to match the case. The style reminiscent of those vintage Submariners we keep talking about. What sets it apart from the Breitling though (and many others) is the steel clasp. It features a unique auto-adjustable spring mechanism developed and patented by Tudor.
This means the bracelet adjusts to suit the conditions when diving. So, it contracts when the diving suit is compressed at greater depths. And expands when the pressure decreases again during the diver’s ascent. It’s not revolutionary. But’s it is pretty damn good at this price point. Oh, and did we mention the Tudor comes with a rubber strap too? With an extra extension piece no less. All included in the one price
Price And Availability
The Breitling Superocean Automatic 42 Ref A17366021B1A1 retails for USD 3,950. That’s on the bracelet. It’s USD 3,450 on the rubber strap. Having debuted at Baselworld earlier this year they should be in stores now. I would not expect a waiting list.
The Tudor Pelagos Ref 25600TN retails for USD 4,400. And that includes the extra rubber strap. Yes, it’s more expensive than the Superocean. But you’re getting a lot of extra bang for your buck. Of course, they’re not as easy to come by in stores.
Why The Pelagos Is Superior
By now you should have a pretty good idea of why the Tudor Pelagos is superior. Titanium case? Check. Manufacture movement? Check. Excellent value for money? Check. Best in its category? If not, you’d have to say it’s damn close.
Now this is not to say the Superocean is a bad watch. It’s not. On offer is a solid model from a reputable brand at a reasonable price. If you like the way it looks better than the Pelagos, buy it. You won’t be disappointed. But when you compare the two side-by-side, a clear winner emerges.
Technical Specifications: Breitling Superocean Automatic 42 Ref A17366021B1A1
- Case: 42mm – stainless steel case, brushed and polished – sapphire crystal on top, double anti-reflective coating – screw-locked crown – screwed stainless steel caseback – unidirectional, ratcheted bezel – waterproof to 500 metres / 1,640 feet.
- Dial: matte black – applied indexes and numerals – Super-LumiNova luminescent numerals, indexes and hands.
- Movement: Breitling Calibre 17, based on ETA 2824 – COSC-certified – automatic – 25 jewels – 28,800 vibrations/hour – 38h power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds, date.
- Price: USD 3,950 (bracelet) / USD 3,450 (rubber strap).
Technical Specifications: Tudor Pelagos Ref 25600TN
- Case: 42mm – titanium and steel with satin finish – screw-down case back and crown – titanium unidirectional rotatable bezel with matt black ceramic insert – luminous numerals and graduations – helium escape valve at 9 o’clock – waterproof to 500 metres / 1,640 feet.
- Dial: Black with white index – scratch-resistant sapphire – centre hour, minute and seconds hands – date – luminous hands and markers.
- Movement: Manufacture Calibre MT5612 – bidirectional self-winding – silicon balance spring – 70-hour power reserve – certified as Chronometer (COSC).
- Price: USD 4,400 (including extra rubber strap).