2008-11-12

Omega Seamaster 'Bond' and 'Diver' Watches






Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 5 out of 5
Yeah, but: Any watch that costs over $50 is jewellery.

The Long Version: This review is actually of two related items, the Omega Seamaster 300m GMT (a.k.a 'Bond GMT') reference 2535.80, and the Omega Seamaster 300m Chronometer (aka 'Diver') reference 2533.50. 


I've been an admirer of Omega watches for many years, and am particularly fond of the Seamaster line. When it came time to choose a watch, I was in an excellent position to be familiar with almost the entire current line of Omegas and enjoy them without any sales pressure. While I like the idea of the Speedmaster 'Moon watch' I could never quite bring myself to buy one, as I wanted a watch with a screw-down crown. I take my waterproofing seriously, and while the toughness of that model is literally astronomical, the idea of water being able to get under a crown that was accidentally opened wasn't comforting. I also decided that I wanted a simpler watch without the visual and mechanical complications of a chronograph. Legibility, attractiveness, and reliability were going to be the deciding factors in my choice. The watch that I picked - after considering an rejecting the rest of the Omega line for one reason or another - was a black-dialed Seamaster 300m diver. An a few years later, when I was buying my second and final watch, the lure of the Seamaster was stronger than the desire to diversify, and I bought the pinnacle of Omega styling and technology: the coaxial Seamaster 'Bond' GMT.





Omega Seamaster Professional 300m GMT, reference 2535.80

This watch - in its normal 2220.80 non-GMT configuration - has been the watch for James Bond as played by Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. (These two gentlemen will be referred to as "Remington Steele" and "The New Guy" from here on, as this makes it easier for me to keep track of them.) Steele started wearing one because both he and his character were paid to do so, so it's not exactly a personal testament, but product placement and 'brand ambassadors' have long been a part of marketing. The Bond name is very heavily identified with the blue-dial and skeleton-handed Seamasters, and it's the most recognizable watch that Omega makes. The New Guy continues to wear one of these in the more recent films, but he also wears the bigger 'Planet Ocean' models. They've been heavily promoted as a tie-in with "Quantum of Solace", so only time will tell if the 'Bond' appellation applies to those as well.

The 'Bond' model that I have is the co-axial GMT chronograph, which essentially means that it tells two time zones and keeps very good time - about as accurate as a cheap quartz watch. But mechanical watches have a certain essence to them that no electronic watch can match; it's the difference between a cheap Nikon or Kodak point-and-shoot camera versus a hand-crafted rangefinder. A mechanical watch is archaic to the point of obstinacy, but there's just something about a finely crafted machine that has hundreds of parts and is able keep track of the sun with over 99% accuracy through all conditions. If that doesn't make much sense, or the idea of a watch that costs more than a hundred dollars seems ridiculous, I can't help you. Perhaps some of our other reviews will suit you better.





Prince William's Omega Seamaster


All of the co-axial Seamasters are a little thicker than the ones with the lever escapement. (Wikipedia
is our friend.) This new style of movement is a significant improvement over the standard escapement, increasing its accuracy and decreasing the frequency of its return to the mothership for servicing and lubrication. The GMT Bond also has some additional thickness from the clear sapphire caseback that shows off the rhodium-plated 2628 self-winding movement. I like both shiny things and the insides of machines, so when I can see the shiny inside of a machine I'm very happy. Otherwise the thicker watch isn't quite as easy to wear with a dress shirt with narrow cuffs, so just like with everything else, there are compromises to be made.






Back View, Coaxial Bond GMT, reference 2535.80

The Bond GMT is a thick, heavy watch. The bracelets on Omega watches are solid, making the folded-link manufacture of Rolex feel appropriately light and cheap, and it gives the Seamaster a nice heft and balance. On the other hand, it's also possible to have too much of a good thing; the Planet Ocean watches that The New Guy wears are gorgeous, but the large size weighs about half a pound. That's a little too much for me, so the 41mm case diameter of the 300m Seamaster was a better choice. If that's still too much, there's also the 'boy size' (officially the 'medium') that has only subtly different styling and is closer to a traditionally sized watch.




Omega Seamaster Professional 300m Chronometer, America's Cup edition,
reference 2533.50, on rubber buckle strap

The other Seamaster that I own is the black-dialed steel 'Diver' model. As it's an older watch it originally came on the bracelet that now only remains on the Bond styles, instead of the newer style that was introduced on the Seamaster GMT. I suspect that Omega brought in the GMT bracelet to show Rolex how one is supposed to be made, but the general consensus is that the Bond bracelet is both better looking and more comfortable. Regardless, even before I had the GMT Bond I usually wore the Diver on a rubber strap. It's lighter and more comfortable to wear for extended periods, and I like the look of the combination. A black dialed watch on a black strap accentuates the case, while a metal bracelet accentuates the dial. The buckle-strap in this photograph is off of a 2004 Olympics edition Seamaster, and is the new design that also appears on the Planet Ocean, but I also have a black rubber deployant strap as well. It was never sold in either combination, making this configuration unique. What can I say - working for Swatch Group Canada for so many years did have some advantages.

This particular 300m Diver is from 1999/2000, and was produced as a limited edition for the America's Cup and
Sir Peter Blake. While Sir Peter isn't as famous as the various 007 Agents, he's just as interesting a person and someone more worthy of admiration. The changes for this model are the words Limited Edition on the side of the case, one word on each side of the crown, the America's Cup logo on the dial, and a numbered case back. There was also non-limited version that kept the white-gold bezel with raised markers, and also an ugly version with a yellow-gold bezel and two-tone bracelet.




Aside from the different movement and the GMT function, the main differences between the two models is the dial and hands. The Diver model has much larger hands and markers, making for a bolder face that's easier to read. It's so luminous that I can see it from across a dark room, and the non-radioactive material remains luminous for hours. The markers themselves are simply 'painted' (I have no idea how it's actually put on) onto the dial, which is standard for the basic Seamasters. The non-limited watch with the same steel+white gold bezel has applied markers, so the version that I have is a cross between the dressier aspirations and the functional simplicity of a diver's watch. 

The Bond is a more stylish watch, and may work better with a tuxedo and evil-but-sexy villainess than a wet suit. The one real advantage to the skeleton hands is that it doesn't obscure the date display, which helps those of us with no short-term memory. The other real advantage to the skeleton hands is that it doesn't obscure the date display, which helps those of us with no short-term memory. The disadvantage is that legibility is good but not exceptional, and the watch is much dimmer at night or in the inky depths of the abyss.

Choosing one of these watches is a significant decision. They're not expensive for an expensive watch, but they're far more money than a sensible person should ever spend on one. (In my case, see my above comment about how working for Swatch did have some advantages.) With luck, this is a lifetime purchase. I'm pleased with mine, but that's no reason for anyone to take my advice, so go to a decent store and have a look at your options before you buy one. Other styles to look at would certainly include the new black-dialed Bond, although I'd skip the 007 limited edition version as I'm not a fan of the smooth face. The titanium Diver 300m Chronometer is a lighter (and warmer) watch, the Planet Ocean also has some Bond appeal with beautiful orange accents. The Aqua Terra - especially the stunning two-tone rose gold - is a fine dress watch, the Seamaster Chronographs have the ability to stop and start the chronograph underwater, and even the Speedmaster is an excellent watch with real historical value.

Just skip the Rolex section - unless you really want to spend far too much money to make most people to think that you're wearing a Seiko.


4 comments:

  1. Very good review, i enjoyed it

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very professional comments and very understandable.

    Thank you very much.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You should get commission, because your review turned me from a TAG Grand Carrera to the SM 300GMT, which I finally got.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Congratulations on the GMT, it's a beautiful watch.

    Maybe I'll replaced the Google Ads with a "donation" link some time – but not quite yet.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to write a comment. Thewsreviews is moderated; comments will only appear after they are vetted by Matthew, who may be asleep or at work at the moment. If you interrupt him by posting spam, he'll be very disappointed.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

contact me...

You can click here for Matthew's e-mail address.