Under the Sea: Omega's updated Planet Oceans
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The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean was the first high-end Swiss watch I ever sold. It was the 31st December 2012 and frankly I had been ready to leave work for hours as I wanted to enjoy the closing hours of the year with my friends. Customers were ebbing and flowing out of the store with no real intent on buying anything days before the inevitable January sales. I wasn't a pushy salesman and most of the time I was happy to chat about watches hoping that my sparkling wit and light conversation could persuade someone into buying a watch. Whilst making idle chit chat with a customer I found that he was shopping for a memento remember his father by.
My Grandfather's Grandfather clock
I started talking about my Grandfather's Grandfather clock and how over the years it caused him untold amounts of stress repairing, restoring and maintaining it so perhaps it wasn't the most practical solution. In jest I suggested that he'd be better off with one of these, pointing to the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean in orange. I say in jest because I was still new to the job, still part time and technically not insured to have one of the most expensive watches out. However over the next hour or so I managed to convince him and his wife that this was the far more practical choice and at five minutes to closing he walked out happily with the watch on his wrist.
Since then I've always had a soft spot for the Planet Ocean Chronographs, despite their gargantuan 45.5mm size and substantial heft. If the rest of the Omega collection was a delicate set of watchmaking tools, the Planet Ocean Chrono is a sledgehammer, seemingly twice the size it needs to be but totally unapologetic for it. It's been no secret that Omega have been wanting to retro fit their older models with the most recent movements. When the experimental Seamaster Aqua Terra >15,000 Gauss was released in 20133 CEO Stephen Urquhart said that he wanted all Co-Axial Calibre movements to be anti-magnetic to the same extent by 2017. Last year's release of the Master Chronometer and METAS certification saw his dream take one big step closer. This year at Baselworld Omega announced the first Master Chronometer Chronograph that would be featured in the updated Planet Ocean.
There are several new color options available: a black/white GMT which continuing with Rolex's "Batman" GMT I'm going to dub "The Punisher" right here and now. My personal favorite being a black/orange combo with a slate gray dial. These new designs are certainly love it or hate it style choices but that's always been the case with the Planet Ocean. The huge 45.5mm case for the chronographs, the ostentatious screw-down helium escape valve at 10 and the large profile meant the watch was never for everyone.
What is special about the black and orange bezel is the use of high grade rubber for the orange 1/4 which marks the first fifteen minutes of a dive. It's the first time rubber and ceramic have been combined with Omega's R&D department saying that in artificial aging tests the rubber didn't degrade. The bezel itself has seen a slight redesign with sixty minute graduations running around the inner circumference for just a pinch of more practical changes. The exhibition case back is apparently narrower than the previous model perhaps due to the new scalloped edge that surrounds the beautifully finished Master Chronometer movement within.
These new chronograph movements boast the same levels of performance as the time-only Master Chronometers with a power reserve of sixty hours, resistant to extreme levels of magnetisms (Thanks to key components being made from non-ferrous materials) and are all rated chronometer under METAS specifications. Whilst the movement architecture is no on par with the haute horology brands, I think it is fair to say these are probably the best production made chronographs movements in the world right now in terms of technical ability.
In the coming years the real test of Omega's commitment to complete Master Chronometer domination will be when they upgrade the Seamaster Professional 300M. The older Calibre 2500 that currently sits inside of the time-only piece was the first attempt to place a Co-Axial escapement in a serialized ETA movement. As such it's not a true Co-Axial Calibre and only has a three year warranty as opposed to the 5 years offered by the 8000 and 9000 series movements. The Seamaster 300M is probably their best selling dive watch and the inclusion of the Master Chronometer movement would sharply increase the price. But for now I'll let Omega bask in the glow of a very successful update to one of my favorite watches.