Reaching the deepest place on Earth is not for the faint-hearted. Similar to the height of 36 Eiffel Towers, or 28.5 Empire State Buildings, the freezing cold conditions at the bottom of the Challenger Deep correspond to a pressure of 16,000 pounds per square inch. Survival for any person would seem unimaginable. For a watch? Surely impossible. But not for the OMEGA Seamaster – a timepiece whose very DNA was born from adversity.
More than 70 years before the “Ultra Deep” reached a World Record depth in the Mariana Trench (10,935 m), the Seamaster collection was first launched in 1948.
Its birth had arrived from a series of challenges, beginning in 1932, when OMEGA created the “Marine” timepiece. The ambition had been to create a serious piece of underwater technology – with innovation that could take explorers deep into the unknown. The “Marine” certainly delivered. With a patented double-case design, it became the world’s first diving watch available to civilian divers, and offered an impressive water-resistance of 135 metres.
Then came World War II, which changed the course of everything. During this global crisis, OMEGA was tasked with supporting the allied forces’ timekeeping requirements and supplied more than 110,000 timepieces to the British Ministry of Defence. Most importantly, the majority of these watches needed to be water-resistant, and to a certain degree, anti-magnetic, especially for any pilots and navigators in the cockpit of a Spitfire.
It was a truly pressurised challenge and an abrupt lesson in watchmaking design, but enabled OMEGA to master the creation of robust and reliable timepieces quickly. Evolving even further than the 1932 “Marine”, the company achieved breakthrough innovations and industrialised systems, ensuring that the watches during this wartime era would take OMEGA quality to the highest level.
When the war ended in 1945, OMEGA found itself with a revolutionised watchmaking ability. Added to that, the world was experiencing a revival of optimism and adventure. The public were ready to make up for lost time – and OMEGA was in the perfect position to support them in their pursuits.
Within the next three years, the company took its military knowledge and transformed it into a collection for active every-day people. The Seamaster, as it was called, was given an elegant look, yet at the same time, a strong spirit and design that was perfect for “town, sea and country.”
It was the brand’s first true family of watches, and proof that a beautiful dress watch could be sturdy and rugged all at the same time.
Importantly, the Seamaster was also one of the world’s first watches to use rubber gaskets for sealing – a technology that was originally used to seal submarine hatches. Yet again, OMEGA’s wartime knowledge proved to be invaluable to its in-house designs.
Fast forward nearly 10 years and OMEGA’s next big challenge arrived: The growing rise of ocean exploration.
When the Seamaster 300 was launched in 1957, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The emergence of Scuba diving had made diving affordable and available to almost anybody, and was coupled with a renewed scientific interest in the ocean, led by organisations such as National Geographic and underwater pioneers like Jacques Cousteau.
The world was suddenly in need of dependable watches that could accompany divers beneath the waves and keep precise time for their critical oxygen levels. The pressure was on OMEGA yet again, this time to safeguard the lives of underwater explorers at sea. But OMEGA’s fearless response was its “first ever professional divers’ watch”, an innovative marvel that included an ingenious high-pressure water-proofing system, as well as the brand’s first diving bezel, built with a special safety feature to prevent accidental turning during dives.
The Seamaster 300 had instant appeal for experienced divers. The technology, combined with an easy-to-read display, made it one of the most trusted diving watches of the era. Its iconic legacy continues even through until today.
These early years of the Seamaster’s life set the collection up for an incredible future. In the face of the greatest challenges, its spirit has always triumphed, as proven by breakthrough models such as the Seamster PloProf, Seamaster Professional Diver 300M and the Seamaster Planet Ocean.
It’s, therefore, no surprise that the Seamaster “Ultra Deep” of 2019 was able to conquer the greatest mission of all. When the explorer Victor Vescovo set his sights on reaching the deepest place on Earth, OMEGA had just six months to develop and build a watch that could survive the task. Drawing on the Seamaster’s rich DNA, the company was able to achieve its goal – and once again turn a pressurised situation into a story of huge success.
The Making of a Diving Legacy
The Marine – 1932
The world’s first divers’ watch was available to civilian divers and was characterised by a clever double case design. Water resistance was insured by a leather disc on the inner case, which was then hermetically sealed against the outer case when it was locked by the steel locking system. One of the first watches to use artificial sapphire crystal, which was ten times more resistant than ordinary glass.
The First Seamaster – 1948
The watchmaking expertise that OMEGA acquired during World War II was transformed into an elegant collection for everyday wear. Reliable, tough and resistant to water, the first Seamaster was defined by its strong case and thick lugs, as well as its long leaf-shaped hands, which all combined to create a robust yet sophisticated sports watch.
The Seamaster 300 – 1957
OMEGA’s first professional divers’ watch was loved for its exceptional reliability and easy-to-read display, which included a black dial, luminous indexes, and large hands. The diving bezel was built with a special safety feature to prevent accidental turning, while the “Naiad” star on the crown symbolised the ingenious high-pressure water-proofing system.
The Seamaster 300 2nd Generation – 1963
The evolution of the Seamaster 300 was distinctive for its uncluttered legibility, including luminous baton hands and large tritium indexes. Even the British Royal Navy relied on Seamaster 300s like these for support on the ocean, with the luminous bezel ensuring clear readability deep down beneath the waves.
The Seamaster 600 “Ploprof” – 1971
Created to withstand the ocean’s most crushing pressures, the ingenious Ploprof is known for its monocoque case, which prevents the entry of helium atoms, and which houses a system of overcompressed gaskets for exceptional performance. For advanced safety, the crown is protected by a large locking nut, while the red button controls the locking system of the bezel.
The Seamaster Diver 120M – 1972
In radiant blue, this model features a substantial case with innovative pushers that could remain operable underwater. Furthermore, the design enabled two different diving measurements, thanks to the 60-minute counter at the centre. As well as dive time, you could also count decompression time, without needing to adjust the bezel.
The Seamaster 1000 – 1976
Until 2009, this was the most water-resistant model ever manufactured by OMEGA. It was built for professionals with major explorations in mind and was released to the public after several years of intensive testing. The thick “Pilot Line” case was purposely curved to fit the diver’s wrist, and a ribbed caseback ensured that the watch remained firm against a wetsuit.
Professional Diver 300M – 1993
The Diver 300M marked OMEGA’s triumphant return to the world of diving watches. In design, the watch was notable for its waved dial, skeletonised hands, perfectly circular indexes and a helium escape valve for serious explorations. Worn since 1995 by James Bond, the Diver 300M has also established a stylish legacy beyond the sea.
Seamaster Planet Ocean – 2005
The original Planet Ocean was inspired by the design of the Seamaster 300 from 1957 but established its own unique character through bold orange colouring, a water-resistance of 600 metres, as well as the revolutionary Co-Axial Calibre 2500, which enhanced long-term performance and set the course for the Seamasters of the future.