Omega Seamaster: A Comprehensive Guide and History of the Collection
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Omega Seamaster: A Comprehensive Guide and History of the Collection

The Omega Seamaster is not only a modern icon among divers’ watches; it’s also the cornerstone of one of the Swiss brand’s most prominent and versatile collections: today’s connoisseur can choose between robust, sporty utility (the Seamaster Diver 300M), nautical-inspired elegance (the Aqua Terra), and understated vintage flair (the Heritage models like the Seamaster 1948), as well as an array of colorways and case materials ranging from steel to titanium to high-tech ceramics and proprietary gold alloys. Nowadays, it can be difficult to believe that such a diverse collection with such a dominant presence traces its roots back to just two groundbreaking models: a post-war gents’ watch from 1948 and its descendant, built for recreational divers, in 1957.

MILITARY STYLE

Omega Seamaster ad 1948Introduced in 1948, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the firm that became Omega, the Seamaster was perhaps always destined to become a mainstay of the Omega portfolio. The watch, however, bore little resemblance to the one we’re familiar with today, the model worn on the screen by James Bond. The “dive watch,” as we know it in the modern sense, didn’t really exist, and the original Seamaster was instead positioned in contemporary advertisements as a watch for “town, sea, and country” — a dress watch for gentlemen that was distinguished from its many competitors by its adoption of a new waterproofing system that Omega had developed for the wartime watches it produced for British military divers a few years before. Omega’s pioneering waterproof technology centered around the use of a rubber O-ring gasket, of the type used in submarines, to seal the crown and case against leaks; this type of gasket proved to be more reliable than the shellac and lead versions that watchmakers had been using at the time, and set the Seamaster on its path to becoming a full-fledged divers’ watch. In 1955, diver Gordan McLean wore the Seamaster for a record-breaking 62.5-meter dive off the Australian coast; in 1956, another Seamaster took a polar-route journey across the North Atlantic strapped to the hull of a Douglas DC6.

THE CLASS OF ‘57

Omega Seamaster 300The following year of 1957 proved to be a historically significant one for Omega, thanks to the launch of three specially designed “Master” tool watches, all of which owed some stylistic debt to the original Seamaster. One was the Railmaster, a watch aimed at scientists and technicians whose technical hallmark was its extreme magnetic resistance. The second was the Speedmaster, a chronograph for timing motorsports that would eventually become much more famous for being the first watch worn on the moon. Finally, there was the Seamaster 300, the first “Professional” Seamaster watch, which boosted its dressy predecessor’s water resistance to 200 meters (Omega was confident that the watch could handle pressures as deep as those at 300 meters, even though the testing equipment at the time could only record down to 200, hence the name) and embraced the era’s growing masses of recreational divers. Like another now-legendary divers’ watch that preceded it to the market, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, the Seamaster found its way to the wrist of Jacques Cousteau, the man almost single-handedly responsible for the growth in popularity of diving as a leisure pursuit, and went on to play a role in several record-breaking dives throughout the late 20th Century.

A DEEPER PLUNGE

Omega Seamaster PloProf

Watch manufacturers continued to push the limits of water resistance for their dive watches during the 1960s and ‘70s, and Omega was no exception. In 1970, the company partnered with COMEX, the same French commercial diving firm that collaborated with Rolex on the development of the Sea-Dweller, to produce its most “extreme” divers’ watch to date, and still arguably its most polarizing model, the Seamaster PloProf, aka the Seamaster 600. (“PloProf” was an abbreviation for the French “plongeuers professionel,” the “professional divers” for whom the watch was intended.) The PloProf, with its hulking, asymmetrical monobloc steel case, doubled the Seamaster 300’s water resistance to 600 meters; Omega followed that up within a few years with a PloProf (better known to collectors as “The Grand”) that could descend to 1,000 meters. While this oddball, somewhat unwieldy timepiece never became a mainstream hit (though it could be described as a cult favorite among hardcore diving enthusiasts), the PloProf set some records of its own in the diving world and was another model seen on the wrist of Cousteau. Omega revived the Seamaster PloProf in 2009, with an increased water resistance of 1,200 meters, and a version of it remains in the collection today.

BOND, JAMES BOND

James Bond wearing Omega Seamaster

The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M, the successor to the Seamaster 300, began its march to mainstream popularity in the 1990s, when Omega signed on as the official watch of James Bond. The megapopular Bond films, the first of which was released in 1963, had featured several actors in the lead role and numerous watch brands as Agent 007’s wristwear of choice — from the Rolex Submariners established as Bond’s preferred timepiece in Ian Fleming’s novels, to high-tech Seiko and Pulsar models popular in the 1970s Quartz era, to models from Breitling and TAG Heuer.  Starting in 1995’s Goldeneye, which rebooted the franchise with Pierce Brosnan in the lead role, Bond would sport an Omega in his cinematic adventures, almost always a Seamaster.

Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Blue

In a bit of serendipitous timing, Omega had given its Seamaster model a major facelift a few years earlier, in 1993, with the introduction of the Seamaster Professional Diver 300M. The watch’s details included a blue divers’ bezel with a scalloped edge, skeletonized hands, a five-link bracelet, and an engraved wave pattern on the dial. (Also, unlike the “300” watch that preceded it, the Diver model actually could claim a tested water resistance of 300 meters.) As the dominance of quartz watches over mechanicals had lingered into the ‘90s, the watch that Brosnan wore in Goldeneye was outfitted with a quartz movement, though other models in that earliest generation used the automatic, ETA-based Caliber 1109 and 1120. In 2006, the same year that Daniel Craig took over for Brosnan as Bond in Casino Royale, Omega began equipping the Seamaster 300 with Caliber 2500, an ETA 2892 base caliber enhanced with Omega’s hallmark co-axial escapement, and the version introduced in 2012 had dispensed with the dial’s wave-pattern texture in favor of a flat, glossy finish. This element returned, however, in the most recent revamp of the Seamaster Diver 300M, in 2018, its 25th anniversary year, along with a host of other enhancements and upgrades, more on which below.

EXPANDING THE FAMILY

Omega Aqua Terra

Shortly after the turn of the millennium, and the revival of the mechanical luxury watch that accompanied it, Omega set out to expand the Seamaster family, first with the Aqua Terra in 2002, and then with the Planet Ocean in 2005. Serving as a dressier and more understated sibling to the sporty Diver models — and to some extent harkening back to the original 1948 Seamaster — the Aqua Terra eschews the rotating divers’ bezel and other tool-watch accouterments for a more streamlined style. The dials are characterized by simple wedge-shaped hour markers inspired by the silhouette of a sailboat, a triangular hour hand paired with an arrow-tipped minute hand, and — as of the most recent revamp of the collection in 2017 — a textured line pattern on the dial that echoes the teakwood deck of a boat. The Aqua Terra is also the Omega watch family most associated with the company’s sponsorship of the PGA tournament and several elite pro golfers. (I explore the Aqua Terra collection in much more detail here.) Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean  

The Seamaster Planet Ocean, in contrast to the more genteel Aqua Terra, was positioned from the start as a modern dive watch that embraced both sporty utility and luxury. Drawing some of its influences from a 1960s Seamaster model, the Planet Ocean was distinguished from the Diver models in several respects: the coin-edged, unidirectional bezel with an aluminum (later also ceramic) insert, the matte black dial with Arabic numerals at 12, 6, and 9 and arrowhead hour and minute hands, the helium-release valve at 10 o’clock, and, most significantly from a diving standpoint, a water resistance of 600 meters, double the rating of the Seamaster Diver. The first models contained Omega’s co-axial Caliber 2500, which beat behind a solid caseback adorned with a relief-engraved seahorse, a longtime emblem of Omega’s seaworthy watches. Like the Aqua Terra, the Planet Ocean family would expand into additional complications like chronograph and GMT functions, and a few would find their way into Bond movies, including 2006’ Casino Royale and 2008’s Quantum of Solace. 

VINTAGE REVIVAL

Omega Seamaster 1957 Trilogy

In today’s vintage-obsessed watch world, everything old is potentially new again, and in 2017, Omega marked the 50th anniversary of its watershed year of 1957 with the release of the Trilogy — largely period-accurate reissues of the Railmaster, the Seamaster 300, and the “pre-Moonwatch” Speedmaster, the three collectors’ classic timepieces that debuted that year. The Trilogy edition of the Seamaster 300 was based closely on the highly collectible Ref. CK2913, and featured that model’s stark black dial, “Broad Arrow” hour hand, recessed triangular hour markers, and bidirectional (rather than the more modern unidirectional) rotating bezel, made of aluminum in the contemporary version. Outfitted with an Omega Master Chronometer movement, Caliber 8806, the watch also featured the historical Naiad symbol on the crown — a visual nod to exceptional water resistance back in ’57 — and a faithful rendering of the original model’s Seahorse illustration on the caseback. The vintage-influenced “non-Diver” Seamaster 300 proved to have staying power with modern audiences, and Omega has since spun off the Trilogy model into another Seamaster sub-family, now boasting numerous case materials, bracelets and colorways (and unidirectional bezels). Even James Bond has discovered the Seamaster 300’s retro appeal: Craig wore a Seamaster 300 on a NATO strap in 2015’s Spectre. The Railmaster, somewhat quietly in comparison, would also stick around as part of the extended Seamaster family going forward, with Omega releasing additional models over the next few years.

Omega Seamaster 1948 Limited Editions

With the 1957 model back on the scene, it was only a matter of time before the very first Seamaster from 1948 would also resurface in a modern incarnation. More or less predictably, that occurred in 2018, the model’s 70th anniversary. Offered in both a three-hand and small-seconds version, the contemporary Seamaster 1948 watches have modest, period-appropriate 38-mm cases and opaline domed dials that use 18k white gold for the hands, applied numerals and indices, and the vintage-style, Greek-letter Omega logo below 12 o’clock. Both versions were equipped with thoroughly modern Master Chronometer calibers. Omega followed up the initial steel-cased limited editions of 1,948 pieces with platinum-cased versions that were even more exclusive (just 70 pieces) later that year. The “dress watch” version of the Seamaster remains in the collection and provides the template for many of Omega’s city-specific boutique editions. 

RECORD-BREAKER FOR THE WRIST

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep

Omega made history (and scored a win in its ongoing battle with rival Rolex for dive-watch record supremacy) in 2019, when a prototype watch called the Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional descended more than 10,928 meters (or 35,853 feet) into the Marianas Trench on an undersea expedition headed by ocean explorer Victor Vescovo. That feat bested the previous record of 35,787 feet, set in 2012 by the Rolex Deepsea model that accompanied director James Cameron in his Challenger Deep expedition, and thus established Omega as the maker of the world’s most water-resistant watch. The prototype, made of titanium and measuring a hulking 55 mm in diameter and 28 mm thick, was not really made to be worn as a wristwatch, but in 2022, Omega introduced a more wearable version called the Planet Ocean Ultra Deep. The cases, one version in grade 5 titanium like the prototype, six others in a new alloy called O-megasteel, have been downsized to 45.5 mm in diameter and 18.2 mm thick — still large, but more wrist-friendly than their predecessor — and offer a still-robust water-resistance of 6,000 meters. Each watch is tested to 7,500 meters — not as punishing a level of pressure as the more than 10,000 meters the prototype endured, but certainly at the upper echelon of underwater toughness for a watch; the Rolex Deepsea tops out at a rating of 3,900 meters.

The release of the Ultra Deep, on the heels of the renaissance of the Seamaster 1948, makes clear that Omega continues to pursue further evolutions of its historic divers’ watch in the areas of both design and technical utility. Below, I highlight the various families within the Seamaster collection, with a focus on some of the most notable examples that are on the market now. (Price ranges are wide due to the diversity of materials, complications, and, in some cases, high jewelry and precious mineral dials within each family.)

Seamaster Diver 300M

Omega Seamaster Diver 300M - greenPrice: $5,100 - $26,000, Case Size: 42mm/43.5mm, Lug width: 20mm/21mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Omega Caliber 8800

As of 2018, the Seamaster Diver 300M once again bears several elements from its 1993 reboot, including the wave-pattern dial and skeleton hands, but also includes several modern upgrades, including the use of ceramic for the unidirectional dive-scale bezel, an enlarged case size of 42mm (and eventually an even larger 43.5mm for some models), and most significantly an Omega in-house automatic movement, the Master Chronometer certified, co-axial Caliber 8800. Both the dial and the insert of the dive-scale bezel are now executed in ceramic, and laser engraving is now used for the dial’s wave motif. The casebacks of most modern models feature sapphire windows to display the movement, a rarity in previous versions of the Seamaster Diver. The newest model, launched at Omega Days 2022 back in March, features a rich green wave-pattern dial and a matching green ceramic bezel with white dive scale. 

Seamaster Diver 300M Chronograph

Omega Seamaster Diver Chronograph

Price: $6,000 - $21,000, Case Size: 43.5mm/44mm, Lug width: 21mm/21mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Omega Calibers 9900, 3300, 3603

The Seamaster Diver 300M comes in two distinctive chronograph iterations, one with a two-register dial layout powered by the automatic Caliber 9900, the other with a three-register dial containing the automatic co-axial Caliber 3330. Both feature a date window at 6 o’clock, a helium release valve at 10 o’clock, and screw-down chronograph pushers positioned outside the shoulder-like protectors of the screw-down crown. 

Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra RedPrice: $5,300 - $53,600, Case Size: 34mm/38mm/38.5mm/41mm/41.5mm, Lug width: 16mm/19mm/19mm/20mm/20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 150 meters, Movement: Automatic Omega Calibers

The Seamaster Aqua Terra offers the largest variety within the larger Seamaster universe in terms of sizes, materials, and colorways, and even includes a handful of complications, ranging from a small seconds display to a GMT and chronograph to Omega’s first — and, thus far, only — world-time watch (as spotlighted below). Even more diversity came to the line in 2022, when five new Aqua Terra models in 38-mm cases and five in 34-mm cases, all in polished stainless steel and mounted on bracelets, debuted at Omega Days, all with dials that eschew the customary teakwood textured look in favor a sunburst finish in a variety of dazzling new colors.

Seamaster Aqua Terra Worldtimer

Omega Aqua Terra Worldtimer

Price: $8,900, Reference: 220.12.43.22.03.001, Case Size: 43mm, Case Height: 14.12mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 150 meters, Movement: Automatic Master Chronometer Caliber 8938

The most complex timepiece under the Aqua Terra umbrella has a multi-level, globe-themed dial with an exterior section of sand-blasted platinum-gold alloy, applied yellow-gold indices, and a circle printed with the names of world cities in three distinct colors — red for London, aka GMT 0; black for locations with daylight savings times; and blue for non-DST locales. Bienne, Omega’s Swiss hometown, stands in for Paris at GMT +1. The center of the dial is a sapphire disk with a hand-crafted enamel world map as seen from the North Pole and an outer 24-hour ring in day and night color segments. The case, also in a platinum-gold alloy, is 43 mm in diameter, with a wave-edged exhibition caseback that displays the movement, Omega’s self-winding Caliber 8939. The original watch was limited to 87 pieces, and followed by a non-limited version in steel, which Teddy reviews here.

Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Deep BlackPrice: $5,800 - $95,000, Case Size: 37.5mm/39.5mm/42mm/43.5mm/45.5mm, Lug width: 18mm/19mm/20mm/21mm/22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 600 meters, Movement: Automatic Omega Calibers 8500, 8800, 8900

The Ultra Deep models covered earlier have grabbed most of the headlines lately, but they represent just the latest variation within the Planet Ocean collection, which encompasses a wide swath of choices, for men and women, avid divers and “desk divers” alike. The Planet Ocean is the first Seamaster model to incorporate an Omega co-axial caliber and today contains the even-further-optimized Master Chronometer movement in all but the smallest versions. Among the highlights of the collection are the Planet Ocean “Deep Black” models introduced in 2016 (example above), noteworthy as the first ceramic-cased dive watches tested to be water resistant to 600 meters. The Chronograph version of the Planet Ocean is powered by Master Chronometer co-axial Caliber 9900, which drives a two-register display in which the 60-minute and 12-hour counters are combined on a single subdial for intuitive reading of elapsed times at a glance.

Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M GMT Big Blue

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Big Blue 

Price: $11,700, Case Size: 45.5mm, Lug width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 600 meters, Movement: Automatic Omega Caliber 8906

Omega offers a handful of GMT options in the Planet Ocean line, the most noteworthy of which is the Deep Blue edition, the successor to the Deep Black models, which is the first Omega watch with a case made entirely from a monobloc of blue ceramic. Orange and blue are the signature colors of the Planet Ocean series, so orange highlights abound throughout the design, including in the 24-hour GMT scale surrounding the dial and the first 15-minute-sector of the bezel’s 60-minute diving scale, which combines orange rubber and ceramic. Inside the stately 45.5mm case is the Master Chronometer Caliber 8906, with a 60-hour power reserve and an integrated GMT function.

Seamaster 300

Omega Seamaster 300 blue dial

Price: $6,150 - $66,000, Case Size: 39mm/41mm, Lug width: 19mm/21mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Omega Caliber 8806

The most substantive differences between the modern Seamaster 300 and its 1957 ancestor are technical rather than aesthetic: the former’s water resistance is rated to the 300 meters alluded to in its name; the bezel (with the exception of the Trilogy limited edition) turns in one direction rather than two, a safety measure to prevent accidental resetting of the time underwater that is now common in dive watches; and the movement is both COSC- and Master Chronometer-certified. The dial design, with the Broad Arrow hands and wedge-shaped markers, is very faithful to the original’s. Today, the once-humble tool watch offers options in bronze, titanium, and Omega’s proprietary Sedna gold as well as numerous models in steel. 

Seamaster 1948

Omega Seamaster 1948Price: $6,400 - $42,700, Case Size: 38mm, Lug width: 19mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 60 meters, Movement: Automatic Omega Caliber 8805

The dressiest and most retro in style of the Seamaster family, the Seamaster 1948 is a range of limited editions, all in modest 38mm cases made of steel or platinum, often with gold details on the dials, and equipped with Master Chronometer movements. Distinguishing these exclusive models from the rest of the collection, as well as from their historical predecessors, are the flat sapphire casebacks that have been laser-engraved and lacquered by hand with a 70th Anniversary logo and two images paying tribute to Omega’s history as a watch provider to the military: a Chris-Craft boat, and a Gloster Meteor aircraft.

Seamaster Railmaster

Omega Seamaster Railmaster

Price: $4,900 - $21,600, Case Size: 38mm/40mm, Lug width: 19mm/20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters/150 meters, Movement: Automatic Omega Caliber 8806

Only recently resurrected for its 60th anniversary year, the Railmaster sub-family has thus far only a small footprint within the modern Seamaster collection, but its vintage design has been winning over a new generation of enthusiasts. Since the release of the Trilogy limited edition, the most interesting version of the Railmaster came in 2018, with a vertically brushed “blue jean” dial (with a beige printed minute track for the “stitching”) meant to evoke the classical Americana of 20th century railroad workers. Behind the dial, with its retro crosshairs motif, beats the Master Chronometer Caliber 8806, whose magnetic resistance of 15,000 gauss is even more robust than that of the 1957 original.

 

3 Comments

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Rv
Robert v.

Love my 2012 SMPc, still a perfect daily wearer for all occasions

JC
Joe C.

How comprehensive can it be when you left the Seamaster Polaris designed by Gerald Genta featuring 18k gold I N L A Y ! ! !

PH
Peter H.

Fabulous content Teddy & an interesting history. I myself have a 1965 Seamaster deVille in 18 kt gold. Such a classsic dress watch.

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