Testing its steely resolve
Time on Our Hands: Breitling Superocean Chronograph Steelfish
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Huge cargo ships come from far-flung lands to tie up to the giant pier on Bonaire’s southwestern coast, taking on loads of the salt for which this island is known. The Salt Pier, as it is fittingly and unimaginatively known, happens to be one of the best dive sites on Bonaire. Its massive pilings, rising from the seafloor in only 30 feet of sun-drenched Caribbean water, have become vertical coral reefs. Barrels and fans and brains cling colorfully to the sides of the tangle of industrial uprights, creating a stark contrast with the detritus below — discarded cables, ladders and cargo trolleys litter the bottom, quickly becoming colonized by sea creatures.
Calibre: Breitling Calibre 13 (Valjoux 7750)
Frequency: 28,800vph (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 42 hours
Hours, minutes, seconds
Chronograph elapsed seconds, minutes and hours
Date and day
Rotating steel timing bezel
Material: Stainless steel
Case Back: Screw-in steel
Water Resistance: 50 ATM (500 meters)
Lumed hands and hour markers
Blue rubber with pin buckle
Under the pier, huge schools of fish hover motionless in the shadows — snapper, grunts, angelfish and captain majors — moving begrudgingly in unison as I swim towards them. Higher up, silhouetted against the bright surface, are the silvery, scaled barracuda and five-foot-long armored tarpon. These predators rest here by day, watched carefully by the schools below, waiting for night to fall to hunt. As I slowly approach one particularly toothy barracuda, its jaws working open and closed, pumping water through its gills, it watches me with its unblinking eye. I suddenly think back to the lore: barracudas are attracted to shiny objects, and some have bitten off divers’ hands, lunging to snap at the glimmering metal of wristwatches. That’s only a myth, isn’t it? I glance down at my own watch, the Superocean Chronograph Steelfish ($5,700). Its iridescent blue dial catches the sun, its blocky hands thrown into sharp contrast, and I withdraw my arm a little and descend, keeping an eye on the barracuda above. I don’t want to take a chance.
The Superocean Chronograph Steelfish is Breitling’s latest addition to its dive watch lineup and, other than the retro-inspired Superocean Heritage ($3,395), which tugs at our heartstrings daily, is their best underwater effort.
The Steelfish’s 44-millimeter size with short lugs wears smaller and comfortably, though housing a modified 7750 chronograph calibre means it sits tall and is prone to snagging on gear and knocks on door frames. The bare steel bezel looks rugged and sporty but also goes well topside. The rubber insets in the bezel markings provide high contrast and added grip for wet hands — though they might not stand up over time, particular in and out of saltwater.
The Mariner Blue dial (white and black are also available) with a matching blue rubber strap remains vibrant at great depths, even as water filters out light, fading other colors. The embossed “Hershey bar” rubber strap was comfortable and plenty long for wear over a 3-millimeter wetsuit sleeve. A full square buckle acts as a sturdy first keeper for the strap tail but proved a bit finicky to thread.
Screw-down chronograph pushers are always a polarizing feature on a watch. They are designed to prevent accidental pusher actuation, thereby ensuring water resistance (the Steelfish is rated to 500 meters). But if you’re going to make a dive chronograph, the pushers should work underwater — there are plenty out there that do. After all, if you can’t use the chronograph for timing underwater swims or decompression stops, the subdials are mere decoration and defy the legibility priority of a dive watch.
Despite this letdown, the Superocean Chrono Steelfish remains a solid dive watch. Breitling is known for their pilot’s watches, but lovers of the brand who favor sea over air and who can’t get their hands on the Superocean Heritage should be happy to have the Steelfish on their wrist. Just look out for those ‘cudas.