The Omega Seamaster is one of the most renowned diving watches in the world. For decades, the watches in this series have been reliable companions to recreational and professional divers, as well as secret agent James Bond.
The Seamaster series is the oldest series still produced by Swiss manufacturer Omega. It has existed under this name since 1948. One hundred years before the Seamaster's debut, Omega's founder Louis Brandt began producing and exporting watches. In 1932, the company presented their first diving watch, the square-shaped Marine. This was the precursor to the Seamaster series. The Marine was the first watch series designed specifically for underwater use, as opposed to the Rolex Oyster introduced in 1926. In May 1937, the Swiss horological laboratory confirmed that the Marine could withstand pressure up to 13.5 atm, or a depth of about 135 meters. This confirmation was also a first, as laboratory experts had never before issued such a certificate.
Omega has continually expanded the series over the years. In addition to the Seamaster 300, the series is home to the Planet Ocean 600 M, the Aqua Terra 150 M, the Diver 300 M, the Bullhead, and the Ploprof 1200 M. Each model is a unique addition to the overall series.
The Seamaster was initially planned to be a plain, all-purpose men's watch with improved water resistance. However, this changed in 1955, when it truly lived up to its name. Diver Gordon McLean wore the Seamaster on his wrist to a depth of 62.5 m in Australian waters, and it withstood the dive undamaged. A new innovation at the time was the rubber O-ring, which replaced the use of lead or shellac.
In 1956, Omega sent the Seamaster on a polar route over the North Atlantic attached to the outside of a Douglas DC-6 aircraft. One year later, the Biel-based manufacturer introduced the Seamaster Professional, a version that continues to be produced today. The Seamaster 300 quickly gained a good reputation among professional divers. Many divers from the civil and military sectors chose to wear this watch, as well as the UK Royal Navy's Special Boat Service. Oceanographer Jacques Cousteau used the Seamaster in 1963 during his experiments with the underwater station Precontinent II off the Sudanese coast in the Red Sea. There has since been a competition to create the best diving watch: Omega's Seamaster, Blancpain's Fifty Fathoms, and Rolex's Submariner are all contenders. Of course, there will never be an objective winner because personal preference plays such a large role.
In 1970, Omega added the Seamaster 600 to its collection. The watch functioned up to a simulated depth of 1,370 m in laboratory tests. It finally stopped working because the water pressure warped the 4-mm thick glass so far inwards that it impeded the second hand. At such depths, a pressure of about 140 kilograms exerts itself on every square centimeter of the watch. Outside the laboratory, the larger 600 model, the Seamaster 1000, reached a depth of 1,000 m while attached to a robotic arm of the Beaver Mark IV submarine. Seamaster watches were used to time many free diving records in the 1980s and 90s.
Whether you're sailing, surfing, snorkeling, or kayaking, you'll be set with a watch from the Seamaster series. All models can withstand up to 15 bar of pressure.
Most models, however, can withstand even more. Recreational or professional divers should look to watches that can withstand 20 bar or more, as those are solid, functional underwater watches. The rule of thumb is that the Aqua Terra models and the Bullhead can withstand up to 15 bar (150 m, 490 ft), while the rest of the newer Seamaster models can go even deeper.
Considering this watch's fame and reputation, vintage models are surprisingly affordable. This doesn't just apply to quartz models, either, which often cost less than 300 euros. You can purchase a well-maintained mechanical Seamaster for under 500 euros. Most of these watches are simple, elegant men's watches.
Real diving watches were rare finds among the early Seamasters. If you're interested in one of these rarities, then be prepared to pay more than three figures. Well-maintained versions of the first Seamaster 300 from the late 1950s with reference number CK 2913 cost more than 10,000 euros.
When diving, however, you should avoid bringing along a precious vintage watch. Generally, diving watches should regularly have their waterproofness checked. If there's no confirmation that a pre-owned Seamaster has recently been checked when you're purchasing one, then you should take it to be serviced. O-rings age and need to be replaced from time to time in order to keep the watch waterproof.
Unworn, new Aqua Terra Seamasters or Seamasters with quartz movements are available for around 2,000 euros. An automatic Diver 300 M will cost around 2,500 euros. In the higher end of the price range you can find the Seamaster 300 with a platinum case and bracelet. It is available for around 55,000 euros.
Today's Seamaster 300 pays homage to the models from the late 1950s, its namesake. However, it differs in design from the Diver 300 M, which has a similar name, but goes better with a diving suit. The Seamaster 300, on the other hand, can also pass as a sporty dress watch even with its diving watch features: waterproofness to 300 m, a rotatable bezel, and luminescent hands. The 41-mm watch is available in stainless steel, various gold alloys, titanium, or platinum.
The professional standards Omega adheres to with the Seamaster Diver 300 M are made obvious by one special detail: the helium escape valve. During long dives, helium atoms can make their way into a watch's case. Pressure levels change when divers surface, which causes excess pressure within the watch. This pressure has to be balanced out in order to prevent damage. Therefore, a helium escape valve was added to the timepiece. The Planet Ocean models within the Seamaster series also have this technology. Several other manufacturers use helium escape valves in their diving watches as well, such as the Superocean by Breitling. While this is usually a hand-operated device, the helium escape valve has an automatic release on the Seamaster Ploprof 1200 M. The Ploprof (which stands for PLOngeur PROFessional, meaning "professional diver" in French) was introduced in 2009 and can withstand pressure up to 120 bar, a depth of 1,200 m. It is the most robust watch in the series.
Omega uses predominantly mechanical calibers with Co-Axial escapements in their Seamaster models. One advantage of this technology is that the mechanism causes less friction and therefore, can function with less lubrication. Furthermore, it has the same jolt resistance as a regular escapement does. Omega uses reliable calibers from the movement manufacturer ETA and develops them further under their own name. According to watch expert Robert-Jan Broer of Fratello Watches, Omega's calibers can now be considered in-house. Aside from the mechanical watches, Omega also offers a few versions of the Seamaster with quartz calibers, such as the Diver 300 M for women with a diameter of 28 mm. The Aqua Terra 150 M series has quartz watches for both men and women.
The Aqua Terra combines water resistance to 15 bar (150 m) with an elegant, rather conservative look. This Seamaster variant features bicolor models combining rose gold and stainless steel. The models for women feature diamond-set bezels or hour markers made of precious stones. By no means is this diverging from the traditional style of the series, however. In the early days of the collection, there was the Seamaster De Ville. It also had a prestigious, classic appearance. The De Ville collection has been its own refined series for decades now.
The Seamaster Bullhead is also waterproof to 150 m (15 bar), but has a completely different look than the Aqua Terra. Its stainless steel case is asymmetric and tapers towards six o'clock. The crown is at 12 o'clock, an unusual placement. Left and right of the crown are two large, square-edged push-pieces, making the timepiece's case resemble the head of a bull. The Bullhead's distinctive look lent it its name. The watch features a chronograph function with a minute counter subdial under 12 o'clock. Another subdial keeping track of seconds is at six o'clock. The watch also features a unique 24-hour bezel under the sapphire glass. You can set the bezel to read another time zone using the second crown at six o'clock. Omega powers the Bullhead with their Omega 3113 caliber. The automatic chronograph movement has a power reserve of 53 hours.
The most well-known Omega Seamaster wearer is British secret agent James Bond. In the 1995 film GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan wore a Diver 300 M with a blue dial. GoldenEye was the debut appearance of both Brosnan and the Seamaster. Daniel Craig, Brosnan's successor, has remained loyal to the series. In the 2015 film Spectre, Agent Bond undertakes his mission while wearing two different Seamaster watches. The first, the 300, was introduced by Omega as a special limited edition in conjunction with the film. Only 7,007 watches were made. They can be recognized by their gray and black striped NATO fabric strap and 41-mm stainless steel case, as well as the black rotating bezel made of ceramic and a special alloy called Liquidmetal. Bond also wears an Aqua Terra 150 M in Spectre. Both watches feature a Co-Axial caliber.