For those of you familiar with Theo & Harris
, it is no secret that we are in absolute infatuation over there with vintage Omega, specifically, the Omega Seamaster. It is a series of watches that has changed dramatically over time — from its initial release in 1948 as a collection of small dress watches, to its transition to a dive watch in 1957, to its massive diversification in the 1970s as a result of the Quartz Crisis, to its contemporary version being James Bond’s current watch of choice. It is a piece that has truly experienced the ups and downs of a consumer market, and that is what makes last year’s release of the Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial, and the design choices Omega made with it, even more special.
As I mentioned above, Omega began producing Seamasters as dive watches in the watershed year of 1957 — the same year that both the first Speedmaster and the now-discontinued Railmaster were released. They were produced as luxury pieces to compete (and continue to compete) with the Rolex Submariner, with the goal of becoming the go-to dive watch — even over the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and Zodiac Seawolf — for serious divers and boardroom executives alike. From its original release onward, the Seamaster dive watches have experienced massive changes in design, popularity, and marketing, yet it is that classic reference from 1957 upon which today’s Omega Seamaster 300 is based.
Today’s watch (Ref. 126.96.36.199.01.001, pictured above and below) is a 41-mm beast. With case options in steel, platinum, yellow and Sedna gold, or titanium, with either a matching metal or leather bracelet, there is a combination for pretty much anyone’s taste and budget.
Specifically focusing on the steel-on-steel variation, the piece features a sand-blasted black dial with faux patina, Super-LumiNova hour markers, Arabic quarter hour numerals, and a white Omega corporate logo at 12 o’clock. The hands are the vintage-inspired broad arrow hour, and a matching vintage-Omega-styled minute hand; the bezel is a polished ceramic with a Liquidmetal diving scale — an upgrade from the brittle 1950s-era bezel previously used. Inside the case, and visible through a clear sapphire caseback, resides the Omega Caliber 8400, an automatic movement that uses the brand’s Co-Axial escapement, is resistant to magnetic fields greater than 15,000 gauss, and has a power reserve of 60 hours. Some other key features to notice are the large crown minus crown guards, vintage-style domed crystal, and proven water resistance of 30 bar, or 300 meters (it was only proven to 200 meters in 1957). This piece is listed on the Omega website at $6,600, but it is possible to find it for less at a dealer.
For the most part, today’s Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial is a faithful re-creation of the original 1957 watch. From the colors, the dial and hand designs, and case, the watch as a whole is a clear homage to the past and the Seamaster’s diving lineage. Some aethsetic differences to note, as both modern improvements and for contemporary appeal, include the wider bezel and case (41 mm instead of 39 mm), polished center links on the metal bracelet, a somewhat stubbier screw-down crown, arrow-esque seconds hand, and — most notably — a clear caseback. While I personally would have preferred the thinner bezel and the original seconds hand, at the heart of this watch is its use as a tool, and both these modern features improve its function for legibility while diving. Overall, I find this a very handsome piece, and a great job by Omega of riding today’s trend of nostalgia-loving watch aficionados.
Finally, I want to touch upon the assured rise in prominence of this watch as a result of its association with James Bond. While there are a few differences between the reference we previously covered and the limited edition “Spectre
” variation (Ref. 188.8.131.52.01.001, pictured above), namely the 0-11 marked, bi-directional rotating bezel and the lollipop seconds hand, the Seamaster 300 is experiencing a new era of “watch love” due to its place on the wrist of the cinematic superspy played by Daniel Craig. What all this means is that the watch now has tested relevance: consumers see the similar timepiece on Bond’s wrist, are drawn into its intricacies, and eventually, when they are unable to pick up the more expensive or potentially unavailable spy-watch, will settle for the equally cool, vintage-inspired, flagship Seamaster 300. Kudos to Omega on both a watch and marketing campaign very well done.
For part 18 in this series, in which I take a look at the IWC Big Pilot, click here.
Caleb Anderson is the Director of Outreach at the online vintage watch boutique theoandharris.com. Since starting at Theo & Harris, he has garnered extensive knowledge on vintage watches, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions within the field. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on watches, and a casual runner.