Watch in Focus – Omega Seamaster

The Seamaster name covers a whole host of sporty, dressy, quirky and techy watches from over nearly three quarters of a century. Although many of these watches don’t look anything alike, they are all developments of the same thing — a water resistant watch.

It started in 1932, when Omega patented an innovative design for a diving watch that used a sliding case within a case. The theory was sound but the design was too complicated. It was taken back to the drawing board, and in 1947 — a decade and a half later —the first Omega Seamaster watches were launched. Rolex may have pipped Omega to the post for the first water resistant watch, but the Seamaster beat the Submariner to the shops by a clear six years.

The first Seamaster followed a simplistic design that was consistent with the rest of Omega’s range, and the slim and delicate case proved that water-resistance didn’t require the watch to be heavy and bulky. This dress style continued through to the 1960s, when the Seamaster had a dramatic makeover. The range split into two: one part dressy, and the other sporty.

Rolexs Submariner hadproven that chunky sports watches were indeed popular, and so the Seamaster De
Ville continued the original slim-cased, formal dress look, and the Seamaster 300 (300 referring to the depth rating in metres) took the fight to the Submariner. The 300s black dial had wide markers and the hands were chunky. The case too was of much more solid form than the previous Seamaster, and came with the addition of a rotating timing bezel. A second, cheaper model was released four years later, the Seamaster 120, and a chronograph model completed the range in 1970, the first watch to incorporate an internal rotating bezel.

In a battle with Rolex to create a watch with the highest depth rating, Omega developed the Seamaster Plongeur Professionnel (PloProf) 600. Where the Sea-Dweller used a helium escape valve to control internal pressure, Omega took the brute force approach by building a case strong enough to do without one. This move saw the Rolex win the COMEX contract.

Not to be deterred, Omega dabbled with quartz Seamasters during the seventies quartz revolution, before producing the Seamaster Professional 300 in 1993. In 2005, the Planet Ocean joined it. It took inspiration from the original sixties Seamaster 300, and an updated reissue of the PloProf joined it in 2010, this time water resistant to 1200 metres (and fitted with a helium escape valve).

The Seamaster has had a strange and wandering existence, but is all the more interesting for it; there are many models not mentioned here that never really caught on, that each have their own story and now make interesting and collectible pieces. One thing is certain though: you can’t go wrong with a Seamaster.

KEY FACTS

  • The strange creature often seen on the back of Omega Seamaster cases is a Hippocampus, a mythical Greek creature that is half horse, half fish. Poseidon, the Greek sea-god, used Hippocampi to draw his chariot through the ocean waves
  • Both Comex and Jacques-Yves Cousteau were involved in the development of the ‘Plongeur Professionnel,’ Omega’s entry into the deep sea diving arena
  • The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean is a modern interpretation of the 1957 Seamaster 300, Omega’s first sports diver

[Note: This is an updated post of a Guest Article published earlier on our website by Gary Robery from Watchfinder.co.uk]

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