Seamaster Professional Diver 300M Review
The original Seamaster Professional Diver 300M is, without a doubt, one of the most important models in Omega history, and arguably the single most influential contemporary Omega. The decision to overhaul it from the ground up, therefore, was not one to be taken lightly.
Today we'll be looking very closely at two examples of this new version, brought up to date for their 25th anniversary. Currently, 7 basic different incarnations of the watch are available, each with either a bracelet or strap for 14 possible versions, not counting the titanium/gold limited edition. The two we'll be looking at today represent a very broad spectrum of the new lineup and the models I anticipate will be the most popular, the black dial and blue dial, one on rubber and one on a bracelet. Specifically, the blue model is reference 126.96.36.199.03.001
and the black model is reference 188.8.131.52.01.001,
but you can see all of the new Seamaster Professional Diver 300Ms here.
To make comparing them easier, I created this blend of both watches from my photographs.
We shall start, as always, with the face of the watch. While it has largely stayed true to its predecessor, there is a strong sensation of quality and precision in the new one--everything looks so clean, and the materials have a very obvious glossiness to them that's more visible in some other of my later photos.
The dial retains its familiar wave pattern, although in a far less busy way than some of its predecessors. Now there are fairly few lines, but they are laser cut with beautiful precision. Because the lines themselves are matte, they are obvious when the shiny dial is in the presence of bright, direct light, yet relatively subtle in indirect light.
Look at the detail here. If you were to compare my old Aqua Terra 8500 with its then-trend setting teak lines to these lines, the difference is night and day. The improvement is incredible.
The use of both a ceramic dial and a ceramic bezel also presents another advantage, namely that the color can be flawlessly matched between them, in addition to the obvious improvements in durability and longevity.
On the topic of color, here's another thing that Omega got right. The date rings on each of these two versions (as well as the rest of them) are color-matched appropriately. In real life, the date ring is more obviously blue but due to the lateral lighting of my photography equipment, it's relatively obscured in shadow here. Note how the dial is removed to reveal the date, using a step to, in effect, create a frame, instead of a haphazard simple square that looks like an afterthought. Interestingly enough, unlike most Omegas today, this Seamaster has a quickset date, but I'll get to that in the movement section. The date begins its march around 45 minutes till midnight, and in this example, flipped over roughly 90 seconds after midnight. In future Omega movements, which are no doubt years down the road, I'd love to see them adopt an instant date mechanism like the one used in the Pelagos.
Here's a good place to show off the incredibly shiny dials and bezels of these watches. Note how you can easily see the reflection of the seconds hand on the blue dial. The shine is particularly impressive on the black model, yet it also adds a lot to the dynamic character of the blue. In the latter case, if the dial is reflecting something light, the blue will wash out, as in this photo. But when it's reflecting something dark, the blue can become more vibrant, trending almost towards a purple. In real life, I'd say that the blue is a bit more saturated, away from the confinement of a white light box.
The specific blue used here is also very balanced. I personally love the Tudor Pelagos, but a lot of people found its blue version to be, well, too blue. This blue is not what I'd call subdued, especially played against those red accents, but it's nonetheless more subtle than the Pelagos, and I suspect it'll find a bigger audience due to its versatility.
The hour markers, like on any good dive watch, are bold. Note the use of unique markers for the cardinal directions, particularly the two markers at 12 and the small one at 6. It seems trivial, but touches like this make it easy to orient the watch correctly in the dark, which prevents the wearer from making mistakes during quick glances. I also appreciate the small marker at 6, which, when combined with the white date numeral, balances the dial as nicely as it could be with this overall layout.
The skeleton hands return largely unchanged, although it's worth pointing out that the hour hand now has a more sword-like tapered appearance, which I prefer. Their skeletonization lets you see the hour hand underneath the minute hand, and their distinctive luminous tips, a triangle for minutes and a circle for hours, makes them very easy to distinguish at a glance. Due to this model's 8800 movement, which we'll discuss in detail later, it also lacks the independent hour hand found in the 8900 in favor of the more conventional design, probably as a result of the trade up to the quickset date.
Which brings us to everyone's favorite photo, the lume shot. As you would anticipate, the lume is very bright and easy to read. I especially like that the minute and hour hands, as well as the pip, are different colors, again making it nearly impossible to get confused even in adverse conditions. I would, however, prefer to see more consistently applied lume in the tapered lines on each hand. This may only be because it's one of the very first of these to hit the market, and it's not likely to be noticeable in real life. It's just one area of mediocrity that stands out a bit in the overall excellence everywhere else.
The ceramic bezel is quite bold, and the contrast between the white numerals, particularly on the black bezel, is very impressive. It's extremely legible and, due to its polish, looks and feels very high quality.
The bezel feels great with very clear detents and somewhere between a medium and heavy level of resistance. However, the edges of the bezel are quite smooth, which looks nice, but they can make it slightly difficult to get the grip you need to rotate the bezel while it's on your wrist. Conversely, it's nice to see something other than a coin-edge bezel these days.
The 42mm case is probably about right for a contemporary dive watch. It's large, but not absurdly so.
Now we can see the helium escape valve, which, I suspect, is for the vast majority of us more style than substance, but it is nonetheless a signature of the line of watches. I am perhaps an outlier, but I've always liked how these looked on Seamasters, particularly the Planet Ocean. It somehow contributes to the tool watch look for me, perhaps because it comes off utilitarian.
Here we can see the signed crown, but we can also observe its thickness. At about 13.7mm, it's not particularly thin, but it has avoided the rather absurd thickness of some of its contemporaries. 13.7mm seems reasonable for a 42mm dive watch. Of course, some of that thickness may owe to its new display back, but we'll get to that in a moment. For comparison purposes, the 43.5mm Planet Ocean is 16.25mm thick, so if you found the PO too thick for your tastes, give this new model a shot.
The lug to lug measurement is about 50mm, while the lug width is 20mm.
Before we get to the movement, let's take a look at this great bracelet. Created in the tradition of its predecessors, it's very complex for what most would consider a tool watch, perhaps even a bit on the dressy side. As you can see, it has alternating brushed and polished links. Omega's a bit strange, in a good way, with their pricing for bracelets, and in this instance, it's just $100 more to get the bracelet over the rubber. You should do that.
I'm also impressed with the clasp that's included. It's very adjustable, with small adjustments made easily with the push button you see there, and a second large adjustment available on the right. Despite this, the clasp isn't particularly thick.
And finally we arrive at my favorite section, the movement, which turned out to be surprisingly interesting. You, would, of course, anticipate that Omega would use their 8900 movement found in some other Seamasters like the Aqua Terra, as is only natural. But then you, like me, would be wrong, because what we're looking at is not an 8900, but an 8800.
For instance, if we look closely, we can find only a single barrel for the mainspring, compared to the two barrels found in the 8900. I've highlighted it in green for your convenience. This means that the 8800 has a 55 hour power reserve, compared to the 8900's 60, but that's a pretty trivial difference, especially when you remember that 55 hours is still a solid 15 more than the vast majority of watches on the market today.
Other elements remain the same, however, like the co-axial escapement and free sprung balance wheel with silicon hairspring. The 8800 is capable of withstanding nearly any magnetic field you could throw at it, and like other Master Co-Axial Omegas, is unique in that it can provide that resistance while maintaining a display back. It's a very elegant solution to the problem of magnetism. Where most companies try to quarantine their movements from magnets, Omega simply immunizes them at birth.
Likewise, the rather beautiful bridge remains, in theory making the movement a bit more robust than competing designs.
If it's so similar, but with a slightly smaller power reserve, you might be asking why bother using it instead of an 8900? That's because it's a substantially more compact movement than the 8900, but perhaps more precisely, because the 8800's dimensions are pretty close to the old 2500 that it replaces.
The 8800 is just as beautiful as the 8900, being one of the prettiest mass-produced movements on the market, but it does have a couple of other small differences. For one thing, in the 8900, there is no quickset date, which means you have to rotate the hour hand around the dial to change the date. In the 8800, this is much easier, because you can set the date directly from the crown. Conversely, you give up the independent hour hand, making this a bit less travel friendly. Six of one, a half dozen of the other, it's just contingent on which feature you'd prefer to have. For most users, these will be the most important differences between the 8800 and 8900 because I don't expect there to be any appreciable difference in performance.
I really like this new Seamaster Diver 300M. The whole thing just feels sharper, more precise, and just higher quality somehow. It's difficult to explain in writing, but I think it's something you'll experience if you see one in person. While I expect the display back to be divisive, I like it a lot, and the movement update was very much needed. In my opinion, it's a better watch in virtually every way, and it isn't the small, but appreciable, step up we see in the Aqua Terra 8900 compared to the Aqua Terra 8500. It's a leap forward.
The pricing for the new watch is quite competitive. If you manage to avoid the more expensive two tone models, the price for one on bracelet is $4,850 and on strap it's $4,750. This puts the Tudor Pelagos directly in its firing line, with only a $450 difference. Choosing between them would be quite difficult for me. On the one hand, Tudor is using titanium, which whether or not you like titanium, makes it impressive from a value standpoint. It also has a superior date mechanism, and a longer power reserve. On the other hand, the new Seamasters are METAS-certified, have a display back (as well as a much prettier movement to begin with), and I suspect that their styling is more versatile, largely owing to the fact that it doesn't have the controversial snowflake hands. The dial of the Omega is also more impressive, in my opinion, both due to its exquisite finishing and to the fact that it's missing the novella found on the bottom of the Tudor's dial. They're both excellent, and closely matched. If you're comparing between them, I think your decision ought to come down to which one you think looks better, at least if you don't have an aversion to or preference for titanium. They're both superb from a movement and quality standpoint.
My favorite of these two new Seamasters surprised even me, a lifelong fan of blue watches. And that's the black dial. The blue dial is gorgeous, and I'd happily wear it, but there's just something about a perfectly polished black watch, not unlike a freshly waxed black car, that's so appealing here. Punctuated with red accents, it's just right for me. I'll have to check out the silver dial with blue accents because that might also be a contender, but for now, this is what I'd get. I also really like the rubber strap, but for only $100 more, I'd certainly get the excellent bracelet first and perhaps get a rubber strap later. Make sure to see all of the new Seamaster Professional Diver 300M models here
because there's quite a lot of variety to choose from.