For some time now the Omega Seamaster has carried with it the notable reputation as the official watch of James Bond. For more than 20 years 007 has sported some iteration of the Seamaster whether he’s at the casino performing some sly recon on a target or in-action either fighting the good fight, jumping out of helicopters, or submerged below the sea surface on the big screen. And while this is all good and entertaining on at face value, there’s much more of a story to tell here that predates the Bond enterprise.
We’re speaking, of course, on the origins of the Omega Seamaster, its original design, and how it became so popular in the recent decades. To us, this is a fascinating story that began in 1948 to commemorate the brand’s 100th anniversary – making the watch the oldest offering in Omega’s current collection – which is saying a lot. It’s no secret Omega certainly has some gems in their collection, and quite a bit of Seamaster iterations based on the original dive watch as well. However, at its core, this is more than just an heirloom-worthy timepiece. Rather, it’s is a style and gear essential for any serious watch collector and connoisseur of fine taste. Here’s the skinny on how they got here.
Years in the Making
Now while we mentioned 1948 was the year Omega released their first Seamaster watch, to fully understand the classic design principles behind this watch, we must travel a bit more back in time to 1932. It was here where Omega’s new Marine Watch caught the eye of famed diver Yves Le Prieur – who also happened to develop the first scuba tank and mask. From here, the Omega Marine was adored by revered men in the travel and adventure niche of the early to mid 20th century, including the likes of Charles Willian Beebe who took it more than 14 meters below the ocean’s surface in an unpowered submersible.
Influence for the first Seamaster came from older waterproof watches worn on the wrists of the British military during WWII.
Needless to say, Omega’s reputation among divers was well on its way even before the first Seamaster was released. The watch brand also drew their Influence for the first Seamaster from older waterproof watches worn on the wrists of the British military during WWII. However, what would initially distinguish the first Seamaster from its predecessors was its rubber O-ring gasket that separated the dive watch from other lead or shellac gaskets which were more susceptible to temperature changes. Instead, Omega’s rubber gasket prevented any water infiltration in severe temperature changes ranging between -40° C to 50° C.
An Instant Classic
Probably the most well-known dive watch Omega has to offer, the Seamaster 300 – initially released as a trio of “Master” watches including the Speedmaster, Railmaster and the Seamaster 300 – soon became a favorite among professional divers and explores. This included Jacques Cousteau who trusted the Omega watch during his Precontinent II experiments in the Red Sea in 1963. What followed was a bit of a cult obsession with the watch, with the likes of British Special Boat Service members trusting in the watch’s durable nature day in and day out.
Initially, the 39mm Seamaster 300 was considered a bit large for the time period, but considering Omega had the foresight to build a watch that was easily legible underwater, it wasn’t long before the trend quickly caught on. One source of confusion, however, was the assumption that the 300 was water resistant at 300 meters. This was not the case though. Instead the 300 was actually rated at 200 meters instead – believed to be the result of Omega’s depth testing equipment limitations during the time of development.
Then, in 1964, Omega redesigned the Seamaster, increasing the case size to 42mm and providing it with twisted bombe lugs along with an enlarged bezel. The new design then caught the eye of British Naval divers who began using the Seamaster 300 before switching over to the Rolex Submariner.
Upping the Ante
As time wore on, technology slowly allowed for deeper and more prolonged dives. Needless to say, a stronger and more capable watch was needed. In response, Omega released their Seamaster 600 and 1000 in 1970 and 1971 respectively. They then accompanied experienced divers to some of the greatest depths at that time. For example, the 600 joined forces with French underwater research and exploration company COMEX where three divers of Janus II set a world record for underwater exploration at 253 meters in 1970. Later, the 600 would accompany several of Cousteau’s divers as they took to depths upwards of 500 meters off the coast of Marseille.The 600 would accompany several of Cousteau’s divers as they took to depths upwards of 500 meters off the coast of Marseille.
Then in 1971, the Seamaster 1000 was unleashed and made history during it’s journey to more than 1000 meters beneath the ocean’s surface while attached to IUC’s (International Underwater Contractors) submarine Beaver Mark IV’s robotic arm. Both of these watches were purposed as nearly indestructible timepieces – so much so that they were impermeable to helium.
The Bond Tradition
Securing A Lasting Legacy
It was from here that the Seamaster 300 then became known as the Bond watch for more than two decades. And for good reason, since by the time the watch was picked up by 007, Omega had been falling out of favor with collectors. Therefore, showcasing the watch on Bond’s wrist couldn’t have come at a better time. Ironically enough, Ian Flemming initially included a Rolex in the Bond novel, and it was because of Omega’s association with the British Royal Navy that Rolex was pushed aside.
Initially, Pierce Brosnan’s Bond was the first 007 to sport a Seamaster Professional 300 in the 1995 flick GoldenEye. From here, the Omega Seamaster 300 Automatic Chronometer was featured in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. Next up, Daniel Craig decided to keep the tradition alive by sporting an Omega Seamaster 300 and Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall. Craig then sported a special edition Bond Seamaster redux for his 2015 release Spectre – in which Omega made the watch available to the public to celebrate a 20-year partnership with the Bond franchise.
Finally, just last year at Basel, Omega released their sleek and handsome 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Omega Seamaster – paying tribute to the original iteration first debuted back in 1957. For decades the form and function of the Seamaster has rung true for collectors and divers alike and it’s easy to see why the timepiece continues to be cherished and considered a flagship must-have for any serious watch collector and gentleman.
The Complete History of the Rolex Submariner
For a similar take on one of Omega’s largest competitors, be sure to brush up on your Rolex Submariner history with this detailed piece.