Today was the last day of Baselworld 2015! At Baselworld 2014, Omega released a reissue of their Seamaster 300. I have recently brought a new member to the It's All About Watches team, Clayton O'Donnell, who will be joining myself (Jake Fogarty) in delivering new material. I will still write the day-to-day posts regarding new releases, while Clayton will contribute an article or two a month. These articles will pertain to the history of specific models from companies past and present. The first will be covering the Omega Seamaster 300, so if you would like to discover this watch and it's history, just click "Read More".
By Clayton O'Donnell
The quandary from time to time with any long established watch brand is the decision on whether or not to bring back successful models of the past. While some are less appealing than others not many have the cache of the Omega Seamaster 300. In 2014 Omega did just this with a co-axial based reissue 57 years after the original design.
The Seamaster line began in 1948 with the 100th anniversary of Omega with cases that were based on waterproof designs used by the British military during WWII. While the early models were more "elegant but functional" for those looking to adventure in the outdoors they were not ready to accommodate heavy depth pressure. However in 1955 a Seamaster diving record of 62.5m was accomplished by Gordon McLean in Australia. In 1957 the first Seamaster 300 was released and thus began Omega's ascent in competition with the Rolex submariner (first released in 1954) both in name and function.
In comparison the 300 was a "professional" upgrade to the earlier models and was actually rated at 200m though Omega claimed this was due to testing limitations. The original design for the 300 used a thin coin edge bezel (with Bakelite) on a 39mm stainless case and was powered by the 501 caliber movement. However through the years caliber 552 (no date), 563 and 565 (date at 3) movements were the norm. These are considered Omega's original workhorse caliber movements. Later models In the 60's saw cases range up to 41mm wide with a thicker bezel using larger groove to improve grip. These became a tool of choice for divers around the world including Jacques-Yves Cousteau's "Precontinent II" experiments during 1963 in the Red Sea. In the 1970 the 300 gave way to the ploprof designs with chunky styling and deeper depth ratings.
Fast forward to 2014 and Omega has relaunched the 300 in vintage styling that breaks from the professional lines that have seen a resurgence since the 90's with use in Bond films worn by Pierce Brosnan and now Daniel Craig. We've seen multiple variations including the Planet Ocean but the new 300 goes back to its roots in style and form.
Returning are the broad arrow hands and thin bezel on a 41mm case. The dial has been "aged" with a matte black background (also available are a blue dial and bezel on the titanium model) and tinted Superluminova to recreate an appearance that normally took 40 years to achieve. While purists may balk at the inability to observe their watch grow old the end look is striking nonetheless. The bezel is no longer Bakelite but instead Omega's own LiquidMetal that provides a stronger structure but similar look to the plastics of past. Multiple case material variations are being offered including stainless steel, titanium, titanium/gold and solid gold. Above and beyond physical characteristics is the inclusion of Omega's caliber 8400 Co-Axial Chronometer movement which is no longer a modified eta 2892 as had been the case with previous Co-Axial releases.
The new version will dent the pocket book starting at about $6.5k for the steel version but can be found for $5k if you shop around. This is about double what you can expect to pay for an original.
As with any historically significant dive watch the end decision comes to modern technical superiority or true vintage collecting. Though it is my opinion that Omega continues to be at the forefront of not just style but functional wrist tools.
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Jake Fogarty is the founder of It's All About Watches and writer for most of what you will read here. If you want to contact me you can visit the contact and advertising page.