Omega revealed a new generation of their Seamaster watch earlier this year at Basel. The watch enters a crowded space of sub $5,000 dive watches, but the Seamaster brings with it a rich history and trusted name. Not to mention even more ceramic and the return of the wave dial. Is all that enough to emerge from the shadow cast by Tudor’s Black Bay 58, also released this year? If demand is any indication, the answer to that is yes, with many variants currently listed as “sold out” on Omega’s website.
In recent years, Omega has leaned on reviving historic references in the form of reissues and throwback designs. As popular as these have been (and as many as there still are within the Seamaster family), their modern references had taken a back seat in terms of visibility. That’s exactly what makes the latest generation of the Seamaster Diver 300 is so exciting, it is entirely modern in execution and design. The watch is a breath of fresh air out of the historic brand, and is hopefully a sign of more to come.
We spent some time with the new Seamaster Diver to see how it stacks up to other dive watches in this price range, and if it’s a viable daily wear option.
A Brief History
The Seamaster lineage dates back to the waning days of the second World War. Omega’s work developing Marine watches for the British military, in particular the use of rubber O-rings to create a more watertight seal on the caseback, laid the foundation for the Seamaster’s commercial release in 1948. The watch wasn’t strictly a diver’s watch, but rather more akin to an explorer’s watch. One was even flown over the North Pole in 1956 strapped to the outside of a plane.
It wouldn’t be until 1957 that’d get something recognizable as a dive watch in the Seamaster 300. The now famous design can still be found within the Seamaster family, stuffed with the latest and greatest Omega built calibers for good measure. They are capable as they are handsome (even with faux patina), but they are representative of what Omega was, not of where it’s going.
The Seamaster Diver 300M as we know it today was introduced in 1993, and is perhaps best known for being the watch of choice for the modern James Bond (beginning with Pierce Brosnan, now a spokesman for Peter Speake-Marin). Let’s pause here for a moment to address the breadth of the Seamaster family. Everything from the Aqua Terra to the Planet Ocean and PloProf fall under the Seamaster umbrella, and the Diver 300 is simply a branch of of this family.
The Seamaster Diver 300 debuted with a few unique traits, most notably the wave textured dial, and the helium release valve in the form of what looks like a second crown at 10 o’clock on the case. More subtle details included the thumb-sized grooves in the bezel, and the hollowed out hour and minute hands. Each of these traits would come to define the Seamaster Diver 300, and we see the return of each with the latest installment released this year. Each is elevated to a degree when compared to the original, but it is unmistakable as a whole.
The Seamaster Diver 300 reference 188.8.131.52.01.001
Omega began teasing a new Seamaster well ahead of Baselworld this year, with a bright laser cutting a wave pattern into darkness. This was a not so subtle nod to the original Seamaster dial, which had a wave texture applied to it. Enthusiasts knew what to expect straight away, and many celebrated the return of an iconic (?) ‘90s look. If modern streetwear trends have taught us anything, the ‘90s are hot right now. And so it was, Omega revealed the all new Seamaster Diver watches in a variety of colorways, 6 to be exact.
At first glance, the new Seamaster watches are clearly identifiable within the context of the SMP300 (Seamaster Professional 300 meters) family. It is at once familiar, and new. While each design element is a reinterpretation of the original, there is only one visible departure from the exterior, and that is the placement of the date complication, which has found its way to 6 o’clock on the dial, rather than 3 o’clock from prior generations. Everything else is an update of something very familiar. And that’s not a bad thing.
Let’s start with the star of the show here, the dial. As we’ve seen elsewhere in the Omega stable, the dial is constructed of ceramic, or rather, zirconium oxide (aka zirconia, ZrO2), as you’ll see labeled just south of the dial’s center. The material has a high thermal expansion (similar to that of steel) and is highly resistant to crack propagation. Visually, the material is glossy with an almost grey sheen to it. The laser cut wave pattern extends to just shy of the minute track, and the waves themselves are cut to a depth that ensures light is captured and reflected, making the pattern itself stand out from a distance. The pattern itself may be a bit ‘90s-ish, but the execution feels high tech.
Elsewhere on the dial we have monumental hour markers that, due to their height, reflect in the dial itself, exaggerating their stature. The markers are filled to the brim with Super-LumiNova with glossy caps make for exceptional visibility and legibility. Likewise, the ends of the hour and minute hands get their own lumed cavities, atop hollowed out bodies. The hollow hands will be a love it or hate it feature, but this is a feature unique to the SMP300 and whatever side of the fence you land on, the newest edition won’t hold any surprises.
The interesting details don’t stop there. This is clearly a well thought out dial design that’s easy to get caught staring at. The date is color matched to the dial, and the font of the numbers feels chosen in concert with the rest of the dial signage. The minute are blocked out between the hour markers making it easy to get the exact minute read at a glance. The red of the “Seamaster” at 12 o’clock is echoed by the end section of the seconds hand. These are the small discoveries that will keep a smile on your face when checking the time. It will also fall prey to the dreaded “I just looked at my watch but I don’t know the time” syndrome.
Moving on to the case, we find one of the biggest departures from models past, the size. Prior Seamaster 300 iterations have been celebrated for their wearability, and when the new model was revealed to be 42mm, it was cause for some concern. In practice, the watches wears more like a little like the Speedmaster, which is also 42mm. Thanks to the short, “twisted” lug design, the watch fits neatly within the confines of a 7” wrist. Would it be better at 41mm? Probably, but this is an easy to wear 42mm watch, so don’t let that number scare you.
For all intents and purposes, this is a very user friendly case. If you’re coming from Rolex sport watches, you’ll find the crown of the Seamaster far easier to unscrew and manipulate thanks to its placement slightly protruding from the case. It’s the same with the bezel, which still features those broad grooves that are easy to grab and turn. Lastly, there’s the finishing, which has a mix of brushed and polished surfaces. The polished surfaces highlight the shape of the lug, but without much of the “bling” factor you’d expect. There’s really only one qualm with the case, and it’s a remnant of every SMP300 to date, and that’s the HEV (Helium Escape Valve).
In brief, a small subset of divers spend prolonged periods at great depth and pressure breathing a trimix, usually containing helium or hydrogen. Helium atoms have an easier time penetrating the seals of a watch, and when the diver returns to the surface via decompression stops, those atoms need to go somewhere. The helium release valve allows the release of that pressure once the diver has ascended. It was first introduced by Rolex and DOXA, and it’s been a feature of the Seamaster Professional since its introduction in the ‘90s. The Sea-Dweller still features this valve as well, though it’s integrated into the case wall in a manner that neatly tucks it out of view. The HEV on the Seamaster, however, looks like a second crown located at 10 o’clock on the dial. Given the fact that this feature is relevant to an exceedingly small percentage of the population, it seems an odd appendage to incorporate into the case. But that’s the way it’s been, so there’s no real surprise here unless you’re a newcomer to the brand.
On the wrist, the HEV is the only sore spot, and it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Overall, the watch wears wonderfully for a dive watch. It’s easy to read, the available rubber strap contours to the wrist, and the keeper is even tabbed to lock into place on an open hole. Compared to something like a PloProf or DSSD, the Seamaster is downright demiure.
METAS-certified Master Chronometer 8800
Within the new Seamaster Diver 300 beats a METAS-certified Master Chronometer 8800, which is a big upgrade from the caliber 2500 found in prior Seamaster models. METAS certification means the movement must pass a series of 8 tests, ranging from the movements ability to function under magnetic influence both cased and uncased to the chronometric precision day to day. It’s put through this testing post COSC certification.
According to Omega, the process of testing is all recorded and transparent. In fact, you can enter the certificate number of your own watch and view the testing results of your exact movement. This is a process that Omega’s been putting more of their watches through since beginning in 2015, and now encompasses a broad range of their stable. Expect all future models to be held to the same process.
This being an Omega built chronometer, the 8800 makes use of the co-axial escapement. This means less servicing thanks to direct impulses, casting aside the sliding friction of a lever escapement. If you’re curious about how this works, here’s a good place to nerd out.
What’s all this add up to? The watch is precise, and it is accurate. Meaning you’ll have to deal with less deviation in timekeeping throughout the power reserve, which is 55 hours. In practice, you can hack the movement while setting (to atomic time, of course), and not expect it to budge between the need to wind. In our time with the watch it remained within 1 second per day, as expected.
The $5,000 dive watch category is getting competitive, and the Seamaster has its work cut out for it. That said, it’s got a lot going for it. But what else is out there for the price that’s worth a look?
Likely the biggest competition for the Seamaster Diver 300 is the Tudor Black Bay family of watches. The Black Bay now features an in-house movement, and can be had in 41mm and 39mm sizes, on bracelets or straps, all for under $4,000. The Tudor may lack the trick ceramic dial and bezel, and METAS certified movement, but it does have vintage good looks going for it. The Seamaster feels like a far more modern and tech heavy watch compared to the Tudor, and if you’re a bit over the throwback designs we’re seeing these days, the Seamaster will be the more attractive option here.
Other attractive options can be found elsewhere in Omega’s Seamaster family, in particular the Planet Ocean line of watches. The PO offers a slightly different aesthetic, but also uses ceramic in the bezel around a 42mm case, and offers a staggering 600m depth rating. The price also goes up to $6,200, and it’s tough to see the added value overall, so only look here if you prefer the look to the Diver 300.
Other watches with this level of features are going to be in the $7k to $8k range, and include the likes of the Blancpain FF Bathyscaphe, and the Rolex Submariner. In watches like this you’re getting a brand with more cache, but you may find the features lacking in comparison to the relative value that the Seamaster represents. The same goes for pre-owned references from the same marques.
The harder you look, the more unique the Seamaster Diver 300 feels. It is thoroughly modern inside and out, and feels fresh compared to more played out themes in the dive watch genre. While it feels like a Seamaster through and through, it’s not making any compromises to reflect its past.
Omega has done a tremendous job with the new Seamaster Diver 300. It’s a watch that feels fresh, and provides a clear case for its asking price of $4,750. The same cannot be said of many watches these days. The design won’t be for everyone, but fans of the Seamaster family will find something familiar, and something exciting at the same time. We love the re-issues and the throwbacks, but this Seamaster deserves credit for pushing the envelope forward. This is exactly the watch Omega needed.
These watches are a hot ticket at the moment, but there are 14 different variants across 6 different colorways. Discover them all from Omega right here, and keep an eye on StockX as they enter the market.