When it comes to museums operated by watch brands, the Omega museum in Bienne is definitely one worth a visit (and if you’re not planning a trip to Switzerland, there’s a website as well: www.omegamuseum.com). It is located just across from Omega HQ, admission is free, it’s open on Saturdays as well as during the week, and — best of all — you get to see hundreds of watches, clocks, movements, and instruments displaying more than a century of the brand’s fascinating history:
Of course, among all these exhibits are quite a few dive watches, given the Omega watch brand’s rich history in manufacturing watches for underwater use.
Along with a comprehensive lineup of past and current Omega Seamaster watches, we discovered five prototype watches on display at the museum that we felt were worthy of attention. Here they are, along with photos:
1. Super Compressor Case Prototype
This “Super Compressor” case prototype from 1969 with a 52-mm diameter and a flexible caseback intended to be used in helium-saturated environments. Probably because the Omega Seamaster 600 from that time was put “through our helium test […] This test showed that the 600 is one hundred times as air- and water-tight as the Apollo spacecraft.” Omega did not pursue the concept of a helium release valve further until the 1990s (with the launch of the Seamaster Professional 300 with He release at 10 o’clock).
2. Omega Seamaster 1000 Prototype
An Omega Seamaster 1000 prototype (using a thinner version of the Flightmaster-style case) with a very unique bezel inlay and an unusual dial/hand combination. The watch was used by COMEX during Janus II (two years before the partnership with Rolex started), along with some specially marked Seamaster 600 “Ploprof” models, when “they spent eight days on the seabed, while setting up a new world deep-sea diving record.”
3. Seamaster 1000 Prototype Titanium
Here’s the first of currently two Seamaster 1000 prototypes on display, using titanium for the case (1982). Below is the second one (different hands, strap and dial):
4. Omega Megaquartz Seamaster 1000
Next one is the rather extreme-looking Omega Megaquartz Seamaster 1000, with a rather unique evolution of the brand’s traditional orange “Plongeur” minute hand.
5. Diver Mockup Seamaster 120
Maybe not a real prototype, but the watch pictured above was used in the 70’s as a design study for the Seamaster 120.
All of which brings up another reason why you should visit the Omega museum: you are actually allowed to take pictures.
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.