When Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species” in 1859 I doubt he had the Omega Seamaster in mind. The Seamaster has been evolving rapidly since it was first introduced in 1948. It found a fertile niche to evolve in from 1993 and, with a little help from the Bond franchise, and become a staple of the Omega range.
In 2018 the Seamaster evolved once more and changed in a lot of very significant ways. There was the demise of the Calibre 2500, the waves on the dial came back, the size grew and the range expanded with new colourways. Then a year later evolution gave us another surprise, the white dialed Seamaster. Is this the best of the current species?
Case diameter 42mm
Lug width 20mm
Case height 13.9mm
Lug tip to lug tip 48.5mm
Weight on bracelet 175g
Water resistance 300m
The Calibre 8800 is a co-axial movement with METAS certification. It has a 55 hour power reserve and a beat rate of 25,200 bph. It is anti-magnetic and can resist magnetic fields up to 15,000 Gauss. This is supposed to be the magnetic field strength of an MRI machine. If you do have to have an MRI, I’d still take your watch off. One of the nice things about having a METAS certified movement is that you can create an account on Omega’s website, enter the serial number of your watch and a few other details and then you can access the actual METAS test results for your watch.
In moving from the Reference 212 Seamaster models to the current generation Reference 210 Seamaster models Omega grew the case grew from 41 mm to 42 mm. This has the same general form as the Ref. 212 models but is visually less sophisticated than the previous model. The curved lugs are still present but the brushed band that connects the lugs is larger and more slab sided than before and the transition to the crown guards is, whilst being very well executed, also less subtle. The crown guards themselves are well shaped and surround the crown very well, protecting it whilst allowing easy use of the crown when it is unscrewed. The crown is easy to grasp, unscrew and use. It is, of course signed with the classic Omega symbol.
The lug design is has become a symbolic design element for Omega. They curve and twist with brushed sides and polished upper surfaces. The actual tip of the lugs is hidden from above and this makes the watch wear smaller than you might think. This is a good thing on a watch with these dimensions and is a feature that has survived many evolutions of the Seamaster.
Then there’s the elephant in the room. The Helium Escape Valve (HEV) has been part of the Seamaster design since 1993. This is a love it or hate it feature. It sticks out from the case at 10:00 o’clock. It’s hard to avoid seeing it. For those who value purity in case design this is a red rag to a bull. It will enrage them especially as it has actually grown to extend further from the case. It’s also changed shape from being a short, squat cylinder to a subtle, truncated cone. For those who like Seamasters the HEV is a vital part of the design language. It’s hard to be indifferent about the aesthetics of this particular version of the HEV but it won’t stick in your wrist when you’re wearing the watch. The HEV is there but one big improvement is that now it is waterproof even when opened. I’m not sure I’m ever going to use this feature but it’s nice to know that it’s there. It’s even signed with the symbol for Helium (He).
The Seamaster range was famous for the seahorse engraved on the case back. With this generation the stainless steel case back has gone. It was replaced with a sapphire case back which allows you to see the Calibre 8800. This is a step backwards. The Calibre 8800 is nicely decorated but boring to look at. There are swathes of metal plates punctuated by a few jewels here and there. I like to look at the back of a watch if the movement is attractive to look at. The Calibre 8800 isn’t a visual treat. Give me back the Seahorse please, Omega.
On this model the bezel is black ceramic. It has white numbers at 10 minute intervals, lines for five minute intervals and dots for each minute in between. These features are very well executed with clean edges and perfectly even fill. The bezel retains the fluted edges of previous models. In this case the bezel is easier to turn than the Ref 212 model mainly because the force required is less. It has a nice click action and no wobble. It’s easier to use but not easy to use. I think it would be very hard to turn when wearing gloves.
Should dive watches have wave patterns? This is the kind existential question that could occupy many a session down the pub. I say no, particularly if the wave pattern is an applied or printed guilloche. I’ve had enough experience with guilloche wave patterns to know that they can affect the look of a watch as the light changes and this not a good thing. They also remind me of small boats. I get seasick at the sight of a small boat and don’t need to be reminded of them in any way shape or form. And yet the wave pattern has been a part of the DNA of the Seamaster for a long time. For the Ref 210 the wave pattern made a return to the Seamaster dial. Now the wave pattern is laser cut into the dial. The waves are more subtle and compliment the ceramic (zirconium dioxide) dial. The chemical symbol for zirconium dioxide (ZrO2) is even etched on the dial just below the pillar for the hands.
The dial is quite white. White is a tricky non-colour. There are a lot of different white colours. Just look at all the different shades of white on cars if you doubt me. Typically white might be judged from fabrics which seem to glow with their whiteness. Don’t forget that this is a fake white. The detergents used for cleaning clothes typically contain blue-whiteners which glow under bright lights and fool your eyes into seeing that bright white colour. Unless you have a very good grand feu enamel dial you won’t see a pure white on a dial. The ceramic dial gets close though.
The indices are applied and filled with lume. The indices themselves are simple rectangles or circles and have black edges which helps with visibility. Overall the dial, hands, minute track and indices are very visible. The text is printed on the dial and the ‘Seamaster” is in red. This burst of red adds character to the dial and the dial wouldn’t work without it.
The hands are skeletonized and treated to be black in colour. They contrast very nicely with the dial. The minute hand has a triangular lume filled tip and the hour hand has a circular lume filled tip. The seconds hand has a red tip which compliments the red “Seamaster” text and is another reason the overall design works very well.
The date window at 6:00 o’clock is appears to be a simple cut out in the dial. The date wheel itself is recessed within the watch. The black printing on a white date disk is legible but the sunken date wheel means it’s not as legible as it could be. It feels like an afterthought not a feature.
Omega rubber straps are incredibly well made and very comfortable to wear. They are quite long though and if your wrist is less than 6.5” then you will be on the last hole in the strap. They have some lovely details such as the signed keepers and the Omega symbol on the clasp. Swapping between the strap and the bracelet will change the look of the watch completely and pictures of the watch on the strap and bracelet don’t really convey the differences when worn. I bought this on the bracelet and then added the strap. It’s still on the strap as it is the most versatile and elegant way to wear the watch.
The hands and indices are filled with lume. Lots of lume and lume that glows like it’s going out of fashion. This watch will glow all night with very little provocation. The lume on the minute hand is green and the lume on the hour hand and indices is blue. This lets you tell the hour and minute hand apart at night. Other than the pip at 12:00 o’clock the bezel isn’t lumed and I wonder if Omega missed a trick by not using lume on the bezel. If one of the marks of quality is good lume then this Seamaster is a “good ‘un”.
The sapphire case back is flat and like most sapphire case backs does seem to stick to the wrist keeping the watch held in place even if you have the bracelet or strap a bit loose. This seems a characteristic of sapphire case backs and does take a bit of getting used to. The case back also allows you to look at the movement. It is well decorated and finished but rather boring. All you can see are some jewels, some plates and the rotor. Omega engraved the hippocampus on the back of the titanium/tantalum model and I wish they’d done it on the rest of the range too. It’s much more interesting to look at.
The bezel has a nice action with no wobble but can be quite hard to turn. It’s easier to use than the previous model but still not the easiest bezel to turn.
The rubber strap is lovely and it would be a really hard choice between buying the watch on the bracelet or the strap. The standard advice is to buy on the bracelet and add the strap later. I’m not sure that this is the best choice for this watch. The bracelet will outlast the strap but doesn’t look as good. However, this being Omega the strap is not cheap. In the US the additional strap is more than $300. It may be cheaper in other markets but I don’t think it’s ever going to be cheap. Caveat Emptor.
The skeleton hands are crucial to the design of the modern Seamaster. They are lumed and Omega did a good job differentiating between the hour and minute hands in term of the shape of the tip of the hand and the colour of the lume on the skeletonized part. For me the problem with this design is at night. Unless I’m wearing my glasses I can’t tell the hour hand dot from the indices. This is definitely a first world problem and a poor eyesight related one too. It is something to bear in mind though.
The current generation Seamaster watches are technical marvels and are a big step forward for the Seamaster line and Omega. The current generation seems to be going through an identity crisis. If you like simple, clear categories then you have to question which “bucket” does this fall into. Is it a dive watch, a dress watch, or something else entirely?
With the generation of Seamaster watches launched in 2018 Omega changed the direction of the Seamaster 300M range. They became technological marvels. They also became less subtle and more “shouty”. These watches have a definite presence on the wrist and they want everyone to know it. Some colourways demand attention. The white dial version is the most discrete but the large white numbers and shiny, ceramic bezel and the stark white dial make this a hard watch to miss on the wrist. The black rubber strap tones this down and this is a watch that could be worn as a one watch collection. It really could be worn with anything and is tough enough to go anywhere too.
Is it a dive watch though? No it isn’t. It has the specifications to make it a dive watch. It has the love it or hate it helium escape valve, it has a 300 meter water resistance and it has the lume pip below date window. It also has those skeleton hands and they detract from the legibility of the watch under certain circumstances. It’s dark under water, right? It’s a great sporty watch that’s not afraid of getting wet but it’s not a tool dive watch and hasn’t been since 1993. And, perhaps, that’s the answer. Think of this as a go anywhere, do anything, stylish, sports watch and you’ve captured the essence it.
This has been a review of my own white-dial Seamaster Ref 212. I have no buyer’s remorse. I feel the thrill of taking it out of the box and wearing it. If I didn’t own one already I’d be plotting how to buy one. That’s the key to the success for any watch. Do you still want to wear it? Yes I do. Case closed.