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1957 marked the beginning of a period of extraterrestrial exploration that would culminate in the Moon Landing in July 1969. The launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik I—the first man-made satellite to successfully orbit the planet—ignited a decades-long race between the world's most powerful nations. As mankind sought to “slip the surly bonds of Earth,” the importance of exploring and charting the depths of the planet’s oceans.
That year, American oceanographic cartographers Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp published a map that would shape the science of undersea exploration and our understanding of the Earth’s surface.
For Tharp—a native of Ypsilanti, Michigan—her love of earth science had roots as deep as the Marianas Trench. She received inspiration early on from her father, who drafted soil classification maps for the USDA. Though Tharp initially studied English and music at Ohio State, she could not resist the magnetic pull of geology, attaining a master’s in that subject from the University of Michigan.
After the Second World War, Tharp took a job at the Lamont Geological Laboratory as a general drafter. It was there she met Bruce Heezen, a fellow Midwesterner. Their first project together was to locate downed WWII aircraft using photographic data.
Soon after, they undertook the daunting task of mapping the vast hills and canyons under the ocean’s surface.
For eighteen years, Heezen travelled aboard the RS Vema, collecting samples of seawater and sediment cores; measuring currents; and photographing the ocean floors. Back in New York City, Tharp (barred by her sex from working aboard the ship) used the data to draft maps. Supplementing that information with data collected from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s ship Atlantis, Tharp and Heezen discovered that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge was seismologically active.
It was this discovery that led to the acceptance of the theory of seafloor spreading and later, continental drift, a science which would blossom into the modern study of plate tectonics.
The same year that Heezen and Tharp published their map, Breitling released their first dive watch—the SuperOcean.
Breitling had long been purveyor of chronographs to pilots, but the popularity of dive watches like the Rolex Submariner and Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms pushed Breitling to enter that race. The SuperOcean, with its gilt dial, shares similar aesthetics to early Submariners, and the concave bezel is reminiscent of Blancpain's Fifty Fathoms. Yet the SuperOcean is a creature unto itself, with as impressive a pedigree of its own, enough to ensure its presence in Breitling’s catalogs to this day.
We can’t exaggerate the rarity of early SuperOceans—we’ve seen perhaps half a dozen appear on the vintage watch market. This example has a stunning gloss gilt dial, with the sharp spine-shaped indices aged to a gorgeous creamy hue, and the bezel has likewise ghosted to a handsome grey. On its original shark mesh bracelet, this is a creature of the deep, as elusive as the Giant Squid, and an important artifact from an era of underwater exploration.
Stainless steel case is approximately 35mm (excluding crown). Breitling Calibre B125 Self-Winding Movement. Circa late 1950s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition with sharp lugs and no signs of over-polishing. Case does have moderate signs of use and wear commensurate with age, particularly on the sides of the case and on the backs of the lugs. Deep dish replacement prototype bezel shows some signs of age and use. Gloss gilt dial is in very good condition with gorgeous patina to the luminescent elements of the hour markers. Breitling-signed crown. Breitling screw case back has signs of wear throughout.
Includes original 19mm shark mesh bracelet. Also includes two 19mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle.