Easily one of the strongest new high-end wristwatch product offerings for 2018 is Omega’s updated Seamaster Diver 300M. Originally launched during the Jean-Claude Biver-era ofOmega in 1993, the Seamaster is today a truly iconic model for Omega. At the time in the early 1900s it was meant to reassert Omega’s relevance but also distinctive design ethos. In fact, the Seamaster 300M was supposed to NOT look like the Rolex Submariner – which at the time dozens and dozens of watches did indeed look like. The first companies to copy Rolex did so with their own name on Rolex’s designs. Omega wanted to be more than just like Rolex, it wanted to be something totally refreshing and contemporary in its approach to a late 20th century luxury timepiece.
All images by Ariel Adams
It is important to talk about the original Seamaster 300M design because the new for 2018 updated models (of which there are a healthy variety) celebrate those core values and aesthetics that made the original so popular. 2018 isn’t the same as 1993 for the watch industry, but 25 years later, I think one can agree that contemporary watch tastes haven’t actually changed that much. I would argue that the modern era of luxury watches clearly began in the 1990s. In 10-20 years from now I anticipate plenty of “vintage re-issue” watches based on watches from the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s.
Omega had big marketing plans for the Seamaster 300M when it was new. Notably was its popularity both as a professional diving watch and also on the wrists of would-be 007s. Omega used the Seamaster 300M as the British spy Bond watch during the 1990s (and Omega remains the James Bond 007 official wrist watch today) which for many solidified the importance of the Omega Seamaster for men who followed pop culture. At the time Rolex was doing nothing of the sort to reach mainstream (versus already rich) audiences.
One of the most iconic design elements of the Omega Seamaster 300M is the manual helium release valve located at 10 o’clock on the case. I’m not sure why Omega opted for a manual versus automatic helium release valve at a time when automatic valves were easy to design. My guess is that Omega simply wanted the case to have the added character created by the addition of a second crown on the case. The curious feature draws anyone’s attention who notices it. “What does that crown do?” is a common question.
The real answer is that it helps certain types of professional divers from dying or getting really sick after they have spent long periods of time at great depths. I’m sorry, I meant to say that it helps some specialized commercial divers be able to wear a watch in a decompression chamber during the process of not dying after a deep dive… that won’t have a crystal pop out because of helium molecules that want to escape the case. I’ve never been into a decompression chamber and even though I dive for recreation, there is a tiny, tiny chance I will ever be in one – let alone with my choice of timepiece. Nevertheless, the duty that the Seamaster 300M was designed to endure is communicated to the wearer of old and new generation models with the presence of a crown that most people will never need to touch. Though for the brand new 2018 models, those helium release valves can be unscrewed and the watch will still be water-resistant to 50m (a new feature).
While I can’t say for sure, I believe that Omega has been continually producing at least some form of the Seamaster 300M for the last 25 years. Don’t forget that Omega even added a few dive watch lines to the Seamaster collection over the years including the dressier Seamaster Planet Ocean, and the vintage-style Seamaster 300 (sans the “m” for meters). The Seamaster 300M remained a good all-purpose mechanical sport watch (some quartz versions were made for periods of time too), and it was also priced at an entry-level ($4,000-$5,000) price for a mechanical Omega sport watch.
In my opinion, the Seamaster 300M dial with its distinctive hands and hour markers is a design that has aged well. I do admit that when I first learned about the design long ago it didn’t do much for me. It took years of looking at other sport watch dials to appreciate that Omega made something with the enduring power of a Submariner – but with a more contemporary and active feel to it.
Everything about the Seamaster 300M is new for 2018 and for the purposes of this article I am going to focus on the steel (or mostly steel models). For a long time, titanium Seamaster 300M models complimented the steel ones. To begin with, the modern generation of Seamaster 300M watches for 2018 have only one titanium model – which is a limited edition produced in titanium, Sedna gold, and tantalum. Omega did however produce a fair number of two-tone steel and 18k Sedna (rose) or yellow gold models. Those two-tone Seamaster 300M models are truly lovely, but they include a rather steep price increase that in my opinion takes a lot out of the really high value-proposition fun of the entirely steel Seamaster 300M models.
To examine the important details of the 2018 Seamaster 300M watches let’s begin by looking at the movement. It goes without saying that Omega has included the Seamaster 300M into its family of Master Chronometer watches, which means it contains an in-house made METAS certified “Co-Axial Master Chronometer” movement. The movement is the Omega caliber 8800 automatic. Operating at 3.5Hz (25,200bph) with a co-axial escapement, the caliber 8800 has a power reserve of 55 hours and uses a silicon hairspring and non-magnetic parts which give the movement a super high resistance to magnetic fields. The movement offers the time and date.
One change to the Seamaster 300M dial for the 2018 models is the position of the date window, which is now at a more symmetrical position at 6 o’clock (versus 3 o’clock). Omega also tells us that new rules exist saying that dive watches need to have luminous points at all 12 hour markers. Thus, the Seamaster 300M has a small hour marker under the date window. According to these new rules, the Submariner would not pass given that on most models the date window replaces the hour indicator at 3 o’clock.