Omega had hardly been inactive since the Marine of 1932 but while excellent, their Seamaster range wasn’t really ground breaking in any way – it just did what Rolex and Blancpain had already done. That was until 1972 when they released the Seamaster ‘Grand’ whose 1000 meter depth rating (“The Grand” – see?) surpassed the Rolex Sea Dweller’s 610 meters and stole the march. A very rare watch – only around 500 were made – not only did it achieve an incredible depth rating but was so brilliantly designed that it had no helium release valve because it just didn’t need one.
The other Omega dive watch that is of particular note is perhaps the ultimate tool watch – the Seamaster 600 – and later 1200 – ‘PloProf’ (short for ‘Plongeur Professionnel’ or ‘professional diver’). Introduced in 1971, the PloProf was designed more as a dive computer than a wristwatch and was only expected to be worn over a dive suit – consequently, no consideration was given to aesthetics that didn’t directly affect its performance underwater and no one worried if it would fit under a shirt cuff – it was a pain to even turn the crown to change the time. It was also extremely expensive – twice the price of a contemporary Submariner – as befits a tool designed to save your life rather than a fashion accessory.
The angular case was designed to be rugged, the orange button locked the bezel for safety and the (almost) matching massive red minute hand was really just a pointer.
The Seamaster 1200 PloProf of 2009 made a few concessions to the everyday wearer as it gained a following as an idiosyncratic curiosity for those who crave something different to the everyday. The biggest shift came in 2016 when Omega launched the PloProf in titanium rather than stainless steel to significantly reduce the weight of what was quite a chunk of steel.
While just about every major manufacturer has their own take on the dive watch and new styles come and go – bronze cases are the big news of the last few years, particularly from Tudor, Oris and Panerai – the advent of the dive computer pretty much rendered significant developments to the dive watch redundant. Most developments have been in weight reduction, Tudor’s titanium Pelagos for instance, and design. There have also been many reissues of classic dive watches such as the aforementioned 1200 PloProf and the Seiko Prospex 62 MAS reissue.
However, Rolex did have one other (last?) dive watch hurrah with the Deep Sea Sea Dweller released in 2008 – Its 44mm case is 17.7mm thick and it has a 5.5mm crystal – for comparison, the current Submariner is 42mm and just 12mm thick. That makes the DSSD the biggest Rolex wristwatch ever with a depth rating of 3900 meters. Like the PloProf, it was designed with few concessions to daily life although of course most of them never see a scuba tank.
In 2012, Rolex were inspired to develop the DSSD when movie maker and National Geographic explorer James Cameron descended 10908 metres to Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench for only the second time in history. Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenger submarine was equipped with three specially adapted versions of the Rolex Deep Sea Sea Dweller as well as the original Deep Sea Special from 1960 (although that particular piece of Rolex history stayed safely inside the Challenger).
As a tribute to this exceptional achievement, Rolex released a commemorative version of the existing Deep Sea with the same 3900 meter depth rating but an all new graduated blue dial.
I’m sure that there will be more developments, new compounds, new styles and designs but for my money, nothing will ever beat the best designed sports watch ever..
What’s that you ask? Well that would be telling.
Come back soon for other blogs on the Chronograph, Alarm watches and maybe some others too…