Omega Seamaster 300 ¶
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Omega is one of the top Swiss brands in the world today, and is increasingly becoming a serious competitor against Rolex. The brand has evolved considerably in the last 10 years, and is gaining in popularity each year. The new series of watches are making use of finely engineered in-house calibres that offer a lot of watch for the money. It used to be that Omega was the more reasonable choice for a fine Swiss watch – less expensive than Rolex and the like, but exceptionally well made and very reliable. This was especially true from the 1950 to mid 70s - Omega’s golden era. During this period Omega introduced many of its signature collections that have persisted to the present – the Speedmaster, Seamaster, Constellation, Railmaster, and De Ville. In 1957 the three principle sport models hit the market – the Speedmaster chronograph, the Seamaster 300 diver, and the Railmaster anti-magnetic design. What we have here is the fourth generation of the Seamaster 300, introduced in the 1960s – with a twist, because this watch is not strictly vintage, nor is it entirely new.
Omega ref. CK2913, the first generation of the Seamaster 300. This example is from the Omega Museum in Bienne.The style of this model would serve as the inspiration for the Planet Ocean series.
The Seamaster 300 was a competitor of the Rolex Submariner in the 1950s and 1960s, and would become the first of a series of popular diving watches from Omega. The Submariner was introduced in 1953 and set the template for professional diving watches, a formula that remains to this day – heavy duty hermetically sealed water resistant case, high visibility luminescent dial and hands, screw down crown, and a graduated rotating bezel for counting elapsed minutes (to time dives and decompression periods). Prior to 1957, the Omega Seamaster had been a line of water-resistant watches that were more traditional in style. By modern standards they would be considered dress watches. The 300 was Omega’s first professional diving “tool” watch, a timepiece designed for rough use. The first reference CK2913 was depth rated to 200 metres (yes, the 300 moniker is a misnomer - Omega claims that the pressure testing equipment of the time was not capable of rating deeper than 200m and the Seamaster was able to withstand that pressure with ease) and had a sizeable (for the time) 39mm stainless steel case. It featured an automatic 500-calibre movement mated to the now classic broad arrow hands shared with the first generation Speedmaster and Railmaster. The bezel had a narrow acrylic insert marked with 10 minute intervals (unliked the printed metal insert of the Rolex Submariner).
The style of the Seamaster we have here is the fourth generation model introduced in 1964 as reference 165.024 (no date) and 166.024 (with date). These versions featured a larger 42mm case with twisted lyre lugs that closely resembled the Speedmaster Professional chronograph case, and a wider acrylic bezel insert marked in one-minute intervals. Initial models had straight hands, later models and British Royal Navy issue watches adopted high visibility broadsword hands (which are comparable to the hands found on the Rolex military Submariner 5513/5517, with a white sweep seconds hand). And interesting feature of these models is their luminescent bezel insert; the 10 minutes markers are infilled with lume from behind, much like a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms or IWC Aquatimer.
At 42mm, the 1960s Seamaster is a perfect size for modern tastes. For a vintage watch, it’s enormous – generally watches from this era are 35-38mm, so to find an elegant design that is larger than 40mm is exceptional. It’s a very wearable watch that won’t look out of place in the sea of gigantic sport watches that have dominated the market for the last 10 years. In my opinion 42mm is an ideal size for a men’s watch, big enough to fit in without being overwhelming on a small wrist (such as mine). The Seamaster 300 has a very distinctive design, and at a glance it appears very similar to a Rolex "Milsub" with its minute-graduated bezel and broad hands – except a Milsub costs upwards of 50 000$, where a 300 can be had for under 4 000$. I adore the design of the Seamaster and prefer it to the traditional Submariner look. It wears well, it has a beautiful dial and hand set, the luminescent acrylic bezel is very distinctive, and it shares a case style with one of my all-time favourite watches – the Speedmaster Professional. That isn’t just sales fluff either – the watch you see here is from my personal collection, and was one of my daily wear timepieces. I’m sorry to see it go, but it is time for me to make some room in my collection.
The 300 has interesting proportions. The case below the bezel is quite slender and has the classic twisted lugs that have become an Omega signature. The case has a highly polished chamfer with brushed sides and lugs, quite fancy for a tool watch. The crown is an oversized screw-down item, which is much more reliable than the early Naiad compressor crowns found on the 300 that relied on water pressure to maintain the seal. The bezel is tall and has substantial knurling around its rim, making it very easy to manipulate. It rotates in both directions with a solid racheting mechanism that allows precise one-minute adjustments without any slack.
Almost half the thickness of the watch is from the height of the bezel. The domed acrylic “Hesalite” crystal protrudes quite a bit as well; it has to be thick to resist water pressure, and is similar to the “superdome” crystals found on vintage Rolex Sea Dwellers. All original Omega plastic crystals are signed with an engraved logo in the centre, a nice detail that you can always share with your watch anorak buddies.
This example is not strictly a vintage watch. The movement is a circa 1968 calibre 565, which was found in the 166.024 date model Seamaster 300. Everything else is new. I had this watch built last year. I sourced the case, dial and hands directly from the Omega service spares catalogue. I built the watch around the original vintage movement. Thus it bears the case reference 166.0324; Omega added the extra digit to distinguish the new cases from the old. Everything aside from the movement is newly manufactured by Omega to repair and restore vintage models in their service centres. The bezel, hands and dial feature modern Luminova markers - so unlike a vintage model with tritium or radium lume, this one glows nicely. I had it assembled by our watchmaker, and at the same time the movement was overhauled and serviced - an important consideration when you are dealing with a calibre that is over almost 50 years old.
The 500 series movements are workhorse calibres that have stood the test of time, much like the 15XX Rolex movements of the 60s and 70s (please note that not all 500 series calibres are automatics, or even of the same family of movements. I’m simplifying the calibre variations for the purposes of this article). Some would say that the Omega 500 is one of the best mass-production movements of all time, and having owned several of them, I would tend to agree. They run very accurately and winding is extremely smooth – the rotation of the automatic rotor is silent and imperceptible, unlike typical ETA calibres. They are nicely finished, well built, and robust. They are also relatively easy to get serviced and parts are still available – an important consideration for a vintage watch. The 565 has a quick set date, which is uncommon for this era – setting the date is unusual, as the first position is for setting the time while the second position advances the date instantly. You pull the crown out to the second position to advance the date one day at a time, so to advance five positions you need to move the crown in and out five times. It feels a little cumbersome but I’ve never had any issues with this style of quickset. You just need to exercise the proper care when setting the time and date.
The Seamaster 300 has a cult following but is not that common in vintage circles, compared to Rolex Submariners of the same age. New-old versions like this one are quite popular among Omega fans that want the style of a vintage watch without having to worry about preserving a fragile antique. It’s the best of both worlds – classic design, modern OEM parts, and an as-new appearance for a reasonable price. You can wear it every day without worrying about breaking some unobtainable original part - and you’ll have something much more distinctive than your typical Submariner, Seamaster Professional, or Planet Ocean. For more info about this Seamaster 300, call us at 514 845 8878 or visit our contact page.