Fratello Friday: Comparing the Original and Modern Omega Seamaster Ploprof

Omega Semaster Ploprof - old vs. newI love a good, modern re-edition watch, but most of the time a lot of watch brands get it wrong — wrong case size, wrong movement (or at least not in the right “spirit” of the original movement), wrong hands, wrong printing, and so on. Sometimes it is just one of these things, but most of the time it is a nasty combination of all of them, which doesn’t — in my mind — make the watch a true re-edition.

When Omega introduced its Ploprof 1200M back in 2009 during BaselWorld, I was actually happily surprised to see that the brand did such a good job at first sight. The resemblance with the original Omega Ploprof 600M (Ref. 166.077) was amazing. The new Omega Seamaster PloProf 1200M looked identical to the PloProf 600M version of almost 40 years earlier. We’ve written about the Omega PloProf watches several times on my blog, Fratellowatches, but have never taken the time, until now, to put the two models together and have a closer look.

Omega Seamaster PloProf History In A  Nutshell

For detailed history on the Omega Seamaster Ploprof 600 I would direct you to this article on the Omega Ploprof’s History, written by Jon Wallis. I will give the highlights of the Ploprof history to you in a nutshell, mainly based on what Omega has documented on this timepiece. According to official Omega documentation, it took the company more than four years to develop a solution to create a watch that could handle the extreme pressure that a watch needs to withstand when diving at great depths. Even COMEX divers were involved in the testing of Ploprof prototypes during the Janus operation (“Ploprof” stands for “plongeurs professionel,” or professional divers). At that time, around 1970, Omega was already experimenting with materials like titanium for watches. Fewer than 10 pieces were made out of titanium for testing purposes, but none of them ever made into production, since the price of such a watch in titanium would have been totally crazy.

In the end, Omega came up with the following solution: a monocoque (or monobloc) case made of stainless steel with a locking bolt to secure the setting and winding crown. Of course, the watch needed to be waterproof, but at the same time had to take into account the extreme depths at which divers would be working in a pressurized chamber, where they breathe a mixture of oxygen and helium. The helium gas is able to enter the watch when it is under pressure, as you probably know if you are into diving watches. Instead of using a helium valve, like Rolex did with its Sea-Dweller watches, Omega decided that it would be better to prevent helium from entering the watch in the first place. Omega also wanted to measure the maximum pressure the Ploprof 600M could handle, which resulted in a failure of the watch at 1,370 meters (or 137 ATM) — at which the seconds hand stopped due to deformation of the crystal and case. The Omega Ploprof 600M was taken into production in 1970.

Omega Seamaster Ploprof - Old vs. New

Main Technical Differences Between The PloProf 600M and 1200M

The construction of the case and locking mechanism is exactly where the main difference between the original Omega PloProf 600 and the PloProf 1200 of 2009 can be found. The Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M (reference does not have a monocoque case and uses a helium valve. Also, the crown has a different mechanism to it. Of course, the movement is also different. As you know, Omega is working hard to make sure most of its watches will have the in-house-developed Co-Axial movement. The Seamaster Ploprof 1200 has the in-house developed Caliber 8500 movement that we’ve also seen in a number of other Seamaster and De Ville watches. (The original Ploprof 600 uses the Omega caliber 1002 movement.) The new watch still comes with an Isofrane strap or the beautiful, stainless steel mesh bracelet. I won’t elaborate on the Co-Axial caliber 8500 movement as it has been discussed here several times.

Omega Seamaster Ploprof - Old vs. New - pushers

The photos in this article show you the differences between the watches in detail. The red pusher (needs to be pushed to rotate the bezel) made of plastic has been replaced by a metal pusher, the side of the bezel has changed so there is more grip on the new one, the caseback is now screw-down and has a number of engravings on it (including the Seahorse), instead of just an industrial-looking machined finish. The dial of the new model is also quite different. Not only has the location of the date changed from 3 o’clock to 4:30, but it also has a glossy finish and “rich” hour markers.

Omega Seamaster Ploprof - Co-Axial - back

In my opinion, the Omega Seamaster PloProf 600 is a dedicated and perhaps ‘hardcore’ tool watch for divers, whereas the new Seamaster PloProf 1200 is a true divers’ watch as well as being a timepiece for watch enthusiasts. The new watch was created for a different reason, so to speak. Nevertheless, I would have a hard time making a choice between these two watches in terms of ownership. The vintage Ploprof is awesome and chances are good that the ones you will find out there really have been used for diving purposes (more later). The new Ploprof 1200 is a new watch created by modern machinery and using modern techniques, but I do think that Omega did a helluvajob on this piece. Even with the small design changes and the lack of a monocoque case, it is still a very very cool watch to own. In the end, I believe you can’t go wrong with either one of them.

Omega Seamaster Ploprof - old vs. new - sides


The Ultimate Cool

Although I refuse to believe that this Omega Ploprof was ever a big seller — the vintage model or the current model — I consider it to be one of the coolest diving watches around. I’ve had the Seamaster PloProf on my wrist for quite a while and, although it looks odd at first, it was quite easy to get used to. Both the Isofrane strap and the mesh bracelet are very comfortable and I noticed that even though the size – or rather dimensions – of the watch look intimidating, it is quite easy to wear. I have worn my share of 44-mm Panerai Luminor watches and I have to say that those were more noticeable than the Ploprof in terms of weight. With them, I always felt the urge to take them off after a day of wearing them in the office, but this Ploprof model felt just fine throughout the day. Probably the ultimate cool was the fact that Italian “king of style” Gianni Agnelli — who was known for making his own fashion rules rather than following the current ones — wore this Omega Seamaster PloProf as well, over his sleeves. It shows that even though the Seamaster PloProf was intended as a hardcore divers’ tool watch in the 1970s, it caught the eye of those who saw watches as a style object. (The photo below was taken from TZ-UK, published by Stefan.)

Agnelli with Omega PloProf

On the other hand, the PloProf was definitely used by professional divers (like the COMEX and Cousteau divers). With all due respect to Agnelli, that’s really the “cool factor” about this watch for me — even though it’s likely that the watch won’t get to see more water than the occasional hotel swimming pool if I’m wearing it. (It is the same with the Omega Speedmaster Pro, really: I know it was on the moon and used by NASA, even though sitting in a 747 at 10,000 meters in the air is probably the closest mine will ever get to outer space. The Omega Seamaster PloProf – new or vintage – isn’t really for the faint-hearted, but in my opinion it is an awesome watch that could be used for daily wear. It is a watch that can take some serious abuse, goes with any kind of attire, and is a great conversation piece. You should be able to find one of the vintage PloProf models fairly easily, but keep in mind that some of them have had a restoration in the meantime and could have a service dial provided by Omega. Make sure you get yourself informed about these details before you buy one. There is nothing much wrong with an all-restored model if you want it for daily use, but keep in mind that it does affect the (collectible) value of such a timepiece. Depending on the condition, we’ve found Omega PloProf watches for sale between $6,000 USD and $10,000. Some of these are complete, with box and papers; others are the watch only.

Omega Seamaster Ploprof - old vs. new - side angles

Reference (the current Omega PloProf), is in the brand’s current collection, and there are actually five different versions. Three versions have a black dial and either a stainless steel mesh bracelet, black rubber strap, or orange rubber strap. Then there are two versions with a white dial, which come with either a stainless steel mesh bracelet or a white rubber strap. These new models start at around 7,000 euros ($9,400) for the models with a rubber strap.

Omega Seamaster Ploprof - old vs. new - backs

If you are looking for a serious dive watch that you can wear on a daily basis, with modern technology on board and a comfortable bracelet or strap, the new Omega Seamaster PloProf 1200M is awesome. If you are more into vintage Omega watches, then the PloProf 600M might be more your speed. However, for all-around use (including the occasional dip in a swimming pool), I’d lean more toward the current model.

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