“The colour blue really suited Pierce,” recalls Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming. “I was dressing him in lots of blue shirts and the blue bezel and dial of the Omega Seamaster matched perfectly. Plus, blue suited Commander Bond’s naval background.”
As a switch from the Rolex Submariner – James Bond’s default choice since Dr No bar a few dubious meanderings into digital Seikos in the seventies – Hemming’s choice of the Omega Seamaster 300 was perfect in every way. “Beautiful,” even, according to Vesper Lynd during the dining-car scene in Casino Royale, by comparison to the watch she blithely assumes 007’s type would wear (Rolex, obviously).
It’s not just the blue though, Lindy. As perfect as Omega’s professional-spec diving watch suited Mr Brosnan’s twinkling eyes and deck uniform when she first dressed him for Goldeneye all the way back in 1995, the Seamaster really is the default choice for Britain’s finest seamen, albeit those whose operational bonuses can afford it. For everyone else, here’s everything you need to know about the Seamaster 300, from its heritage to the most sought after models today.
Omega’s Military Pedigree
Today, the Royal Navy’s Special Boat Service – notoriously harder than their landlubber SAS contemporaries are almost entirely kitted out with specially engraved, proudly war-torn Seamaster 300 Professionals. But the Swiss brand’s service roots extend back much further. Rugged, legible, highly water-resistant, chronometer-level precision Omega timepieces were kitted-out to British servicemen and pilots almost exclusively during World War II. See the wrist of Tom Hardy’s Spitfire pilot in Dunkirk for further cinematic proof of that particular pedigree.
War, after all, accelerates technological innovation, as this year’s 70th-anniversary Seamaster reissues remind us. Between 1940 and 1945, Omega delivered more than 110,000 timepieces to the British Ministry of Defence. After the war, as we steadily progressed through the jet age toward the nuclear age and finally the space race, this breathless period of innovation found Omega at the height of its engineering creativity.
It responded to the demand for a timepiece with the same robust technology and reliable conception as its military efforts, but more aesthetically suited to a more academic existence. Not to mention the burgeoning craze for SCUBA diving, heightened by the garlanded cinematic exploits of Jacques Cousteau.
Launched in 1948, the Seamaster line was Omega’s first official ‘family’ of watches. Modelled on the ‘Watch. Wrist. Waterproof.’ military-spec pieces made for the MoD, these more classically designed timepieces boasted greater water-resistance than their military counterparts thanks to the novel use of O-ring gasket technology. Previously, water-resistant watches relied on lead or shellac gaskets, which were easily affected by a temperature change – something, that tends to happen when you dive deeper and deeper.
Omega turned to the hatches on submarines used during the war for inspiration and came up with a resilient rubber seal in the Seamaster’s final case design. This remained intact at depths of up to 60 meters and temperature ranges between –40 degrees and 50 degrees Celsius. In short, it worked.
The Seamaster’s Technological Innovations
That all said, with due respect to Bond’s original choice of wristwear, the Rolex Submariner was quick to blow Omega completely out of the water as soon as 1953. The immortal, legendary and quite-simply peerless diving watch had the whole package from the outset: screw-down crown, unidirectional rotating dive-time bezel, 300-metre water resistance… Bar the modern Tudor Pelagos and the Sub’s early rival, Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms, there was and would be little contest. Sure enough, the souped-up Rolex ‘Mil-Sub’ got in early as first choice for the British Navy’s crack frogmen during the fifties and seventies.
By 1957, however, Omega got back in the game with not one but three new ‘Master’ watches, fit for land, sea and air. Alongside the Speedmaster (the only watch that’s been on the Moon) and the Railmaster was an overdue, fully accomplished thinking-man’s alternative to the Sub’: the Seamaster 300, complete with all the above and still-standard diving-watch requisites. A broad-arrow hours hand was neatly counterbalanced by its luminous arrow-shaped hour indexes. The following year, inspired by the historical markings on gondolas in Venice, the Seahorse became the symbol of the Seamaster, engraved on its caseback and still featured today on a selection of ‘Professional’ models.
The Omega Seamaster 300 Today
It’s now been 25 years since the blue-bezelled iteration we all know best was launched – the one that Lindy Hemming matched so perfectly to Brosnan’s perfect nineties Bond. Since 1993, the Seamaster Professional Diver 300M has become so much of an embedded, modern classic that one particular example is to be seen permanently peeping from the wrist of a certain Duke of Cambridge now and again. Wills even wore it to his brother’s wedding – which is arguably a bit of a sartorial no-no, but who are we to argue with His Royal Highness? Let’s not forget his own naval experience, after all.
Loved for its colourful design and oceangoing technology, the original 300M Professional signalled Omega’s triumphant return to the world of diving watches after a dry-docked eighties and singlehandedly ignited the ongoing partnership with Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Of course, there have been many variations on the Seamaster over the years, with the Aqua Terra and Planet Ocean ranges being particular highlights – the latter of which turns things up 300 more notches, to 600 metres’ water resistance – but the Professional remains the flagship.
The Newest Seamaster 300M Professional
For 2018 Omega celebrates 25 years since its modern reboot, introducing a bold new Professional Diver 300M collection with a total facelift numbering 14 different models, including six in stainless steel and eight in a blend of stainless steel and gold (the bi-metal watch trend is back, if you hadn’t noticed, eighties fans).
Now sized up from 41mm to a slightly more contemporary 42 mm, keeping the skeletonised hands and wavy dial pattern so popular in the 1993 original, the real Bond-worthy gadgetry is whirring away inside. And it’s all down to innovation that’ll protect the delicate mechanics from the sort of ultra-magnetism knocking about your average Bond villain’s lair.
The in-house-manufactured Master Chronometer Calibre 8800 movement instantly accelerates things into unprecedented realms of precision, performance and magnetic resistance. Seamaster devotees will know that the range has been host to several movements over the years, including the ETA-based Omega Caliber 1120 and, most recently, the 2500, which is essentially based on the same original movement though considerably modified by Omega to include its lubricant-free Co-Axial escapement.
With the new Seamaster 300M employing the Master Chronometer 8800, Omega is continuing its brand-wide programme phasing-out older movements in favour of its more cutting-edge in-house hardware, repositioning itself as a genuine, evenly equipped rival to Rolex, as it once was back in the day.
So what’s so cutting-edge about the 8800? Well, with the humble mechanical watch, magnetic fields are still Public Enemy No. 1 to the ferrous components ticking inside, sticking them together or sending them out of whack. According to international standard ISO 764, watches must resist exposition to a direct current magnetic field of 4,800 Amperes per metre – about the strength of the magnet in your fridge door.
The equivalent to 4,800 A/m is about 60 Gauss, which makes Omega’s ticking cocktail of clever alloys and silicon extraordinarily overqualified: its new certification by the Swiss metrology institute, METAS demands a resistance up from 60 to 15,000 (yes, 15,000) Gauss – enough to resist the influence of a neodymium magnet, the strongest permanent magnet commercially available, found everywhere from hard disks to MRI scanners. And laser-beam torture devices, presumably.
Dive in, chaps. The Seamaster has never felt finer.
Today’s Best Omega Seamaster 300 Models
Model Number: 220.127.116.11.03.001
As masculine as you’d expect from James Bond’s watch of choice, this does what few diving watches can manage in that it functions as a proper high-spec tool watch, while also being (just) smart enough for more dressed-up occasions. (Though not with the tuxedo. Really, 007.)
Model Number: 18.104.22.168.01.001
Launched in 2017, this 60th anniversary piece pays very respectful tribute to a fifties model, but under the surface is all the technical diving tech that Omega has honed in the decades since. A certified chronometer with a screw-in crown, this is form and function in near-perfect harmony.
Model Number: 22.214.171.124.03.001
This version, on a leather strap, is another vintage-looking Seamaster, the sand-blasted blue dial deep enough to want to dive right in. As with the other models in the family, it has a ceramic rotating bezel to help track your time underwater.
Model Number: 126.96.36.199.01.001
Bimetal watches are something of a Marmite style but they’re definitely trending. Here, the handsome rose gold brings the sober stainless steel to life, while under all the glitz and glamour sits the same hard-working movement as you’ll find across the Seamaster range.