The 2016 OMEGA Seamaster Planet Ocean 600 M Co-Axial Master Chronometer
The new Planet Ocean 600 M Master Chronometer 43.5mm, reference 126.96.36.199.01.002.
Since it first debuted in 2004, the OMEGA Planet Ocean has been the preeminent luxury dive watch at Topper Jewelers. This year, OMEGA performed the second major revamp of the Planet Ocean series since its introduction. This post examines the new models for 2016, and contrasts distinctions between generations of Planet Ocean watches.
When the Planet Ocean first came out in 2004, it was OMEGA's most robust dive watch in production at the time. At 600M, it featured double the water resistance of the extremely popular Seamaster Diver 300 M. It also featured a version of the Calibre 2500.
Examples of our best selling Calibre 2500 Planet Oceans were the 42mm 2201.50.00 and the 45mm 2208.50.00. At that point, OMEGA was on its second upgrade of the movement which was termed the Calibre 2500C. As we described earlier in the year when looking at the new Globemaster models, the 2500 Calibre made it's debut in 1999 and has since gone through three iterations of the original Calibre 2500A, namely the B, C, and D.
The B was upgraded from the A by way of a sturdier palette bridge.The change in the C version was a slowing of the movement from 28,800 vph to 25,200 vph. Shortly before the 2500 Calibre Planet Ocean was discontinued in 2011, OMEGA shipped a small number of watches featuring the 2500D caliber.
The D calibre, as in the current Seamaster Diver 300 M, is distinct from previous versions in that it features a full three-level escapement. The three-level escapement makes the movement more stable, and is how the inventor of co-axial mechanism, George Daniels, originally envisioned it.
As a side note, if you are thinking about buying a 2500 Caliber Planet Ocean and want to know if it's a C or D caliber, you can tell by having a dealer look up the serial number on the OMEGA Extranet or by looking at the date wheel. Assuming everything is original, and the ten digit on the date wheel looks like a capital "I", then it's a C Calibre. If that digit has a serif on top like this "1", then it's a D calibre.
8500 Calibre from 2011
When the Planet Ocean was redesigned in 2011, it switched to the 8500B Calibre. The same 42mm and 45mm sizes were maintained, and all three-hand watches came in both sizes. The aforementioned 2201.50.00 evolved into the 188.8.131.52.01.001 and the 45mm 2208.50.00 evolved into 184.108.40.206.01.002. The watches were immediately distinguishable from the 2500 series as they featured display case backs, and thicker cases. Specifically, the 42mm 2500 Calibre Planet Ocean featured a 14.2mm case while the 8500 Calibre features a 15.7mm case
As for the movement, the 8500 Calibre was a significant improvement over the 2500. When the 8500 made its debut in 2007, it featured several advanced features not found on the 2500. Among the most significant was the dual-barrel power reserve which both elongated the power reserve up to 60 hours and allowed the watch to maintain consistent accuracy throughout all levels of charge. The 8500 also included a time zone function that allowed changing the hour hand (as when travelling across time zones) without hacking the watch, and Nivachoc shock absorber that was an improvement over the 2500's Incabloc shock absorber. By 2011, when the Planet Ocean received the 8500 Calibre, the movement was on its second iteration (8500B) and featured a more shock resistant and magnetism resistant silicon hairspring.
Aside from the movement change, there were a number of significant changes introduced in the 8500 Calibre Planet Oceans. Ceramic bezels were introduced on all black, gray, white and blue bezels. The one notable exception was orange. While OMEGA did feature an 8500 calibre platinum limited edition with an orange bezel, all of the steel 8500 models sported the same anodized aluminum bezels as the prior generation 2500 Calibres.
8500 Calibre references paired blue dials (with the exception of the GoodPlanet GMT) with a grade 5 titanium case. Almost all blue dials also featured Liquidmetal® scales for the numbers and indices. On these watches, their ceramic bezels had been made with a shallow trough where liquid metal was poured then cooled. The effect was a great looking shimmer and a durable finish. In fact, I've never seen a customer bring in a watch with a visible scratch on Liquidmetal®.
While Liquidmetal® was on the titanium models (and for that matter the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe and OMEGA 300 Master Co-Axial), most of the ceramic models in the 8500 Planet Ocean do not feature Liquidmetal®. Instead, they feature ceramic bezels with a plating of chromium nitride. Though also attractive, chromium nitride seemed to attract similar scratches to the anodized aluminum bezels of the 2500 Calibre.
8900 Calibre (the subject of this post)
The new Planet Ocean models feature the same 8900 Calibre movement announced in the Globemaster at Baselworld 2015, and have also earned the designation of 'Master Chronometer'.
In essence, this movement is an upgraded version of the 8500B in which components such as the escapement wheel and pallet fork are also made of anti magnetic materials. Furthermore, though the 8900 is still certified by the COSC before it is cased in the watch, it undergoes further testing as a fully cased watch by the third party testing organization, Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS). METAS testing is done to externally validate quality standards beyond those used by the COSC. Watches that pass the METAS certification process earn the designation of Master Chronometer.
Where the COSC rates a fully charged watch movement in five positions, Master Chronometer watches complete a second certification that essentially validate the capabilities of the 8500C. METAS ensures that the watches are accurate not just to the COSC standard of -4 to +6 seconds a day, but that they are accurate to their stricter specification of zero to +5 seconds a day.
METAS also subject the watch to a series of tests that OMEGA innovations only first seen in the 8500A enable it to pass. For instance, one of the tests ensures that the rate is fairly close when the watch is at both a 33% charge and at full charge. Another test insures that the power reserve achieves the promised 60 hours. This is only possible due to the use of dual barrels on all 8500 Calibres. There are also tests such as the 15,000 gauss magnetic resistance test that only the most recent version C of the 8500 could pass. METAS also performs other tests such as water resistance, which is only possible to validate on a fully cased watches. WatchTime magazine has a great article that describes the METAS test in more detail. OMEGA also provides a description of the METAS certificationhere.
Changes from the 8500 in Case, Dial, and Bracelet
There are several changes worth noting in the 2016 series. First, the sizes are different. In recognition of the industry's trend towards smaller watches, the three-hand models are now 39mm and 43.5mm, reduced from 42mm and 45mm. All models feature Liquidmetal® instead of chromium nitride coating on the bezel. However, the biggest change, and by far the most polarizing, is the way that the pieces use the color orange in the bezel. OMEGA used a vulcanized rubber to get the orange color they wanted, and also a color that perfectly matches the strap. Instead of using the orange on the entire bezel, the orange is applied only to the first 15 minutes. OMEGA believes that the rubber will have similar hardness to the ceramic on the other parts of the bezel. Vulcanized rubber may have been invented in the 1850s, but having rubber fit perfectly flush to a ceramic is an application that's incredibly modern and novel.
The dials are the same glossy style that were on the titanium Liquidmetal® models of the previous generation. While the steel models of the 8500s featured matted black dials, the new pieces sport glossy finished dials made out of the same ceramic (ZrO2) as used the Dark Side of the Moon models.
The bracelet has been changed at both ends. The center links that abut the case are shorter than the prior generation allowing a sharper transition away from the case. This in theory should allow a better fit for smaller wrist sizes. The clasp has also been upgraded to feature the same extendable foldover rack-and-pusher mechanism resident on the Seamaster 300 and the Speedmaster Mark II. This upgrade allows adjustment to five different positions adding up to 9.60 mm in length. The "alveol" screw-in caseback seems a little thinner than the previous caseback and its design ensures that the caseback text is always properly aligned to the watch.
Below are photos of the new 43.5mm Planet Ocean on a steel bracelet, including some comparing it to the 42mm Planet Ocean of the previous generation. How do you like the new use of orange?
The new 43mm Planet Ocean (left) and the 42mm (right) of the previous generation. Note the shorter center link on the 43mm bracelet.
A side view of the new Planet Ocean 43mm (left) and the 8500 Calibre 42mm (right). Note how the bracelet on the new version falls more closely to the case allowing for more of a form fit.
The upper portion of the glossy ceramic dial on the new 43.5mm 8900 Calibre Planet Ocean.
The inner ring of the new ceramic bezel is segmented for minute indices.
The glossy ZrO2 ceramic dial with, new for this year, orange text indicating the depth rating.
Wrist shot of the new 43.5mm 8900 Calibre Planet Ocean on Burlingame Avenue.
The hands, applied indices, and chamfered date aperture of new 43.5mm Planet Ocean.
The orange vulcanized rubber insert of the new 2016 43.5mm Planet Ocean.
The signed screw-down crown and case side of new 43.5mm 8900 Calibre Planet Ocean.
The 2016 Planet Ocean features the easily extendable foldover rack-and-pusher clasp which allows adjustment to five different positions adding up to 9.60 mm in length.
The 2016 Planet Ocean's new adjustable clasp at its tightest setting.
The 2016 Planet Ocean's new adjustable clasp at its loosest setting.
The 2016 Planet Ocean's on a black and orange rubber strap. The orange in the bezel perfectly matches the strap.