First, a little history: in 1970 Omega released a watch whose intention was to be the most rugged, perfectly adapted watch for extreme diving situations. Input on the design came from none other than Captain Cousteau and it was tested by commercial divers working out of a diving bell hundreds of feet underwater. The crown was located on the left side of the watch so as not to interfere with wrist movement and was protected by a protective block fitted at the end. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the watch was the push button bezel release. To prevent accidental turning of the timing bezel, Omega added a spring-loaded locking button that had to be pressed in order to turn the bezel.
The official name of this strange watch was the Seamaster 600. The working name, given by Omega’s design team, was “Ploprof,” short for Plongeurs Professionnels (French for “professional diver”). The watch didn’t have a long run – the design was overkill for recreational divers and the cost, even back then, was prohibitive. But for watch collectors, finding one of the original Ploprofs is akin to a Grail quest.
Fast forward to 2009. Omega announced that they were going to sell an updated version of the Ploprof. The new one has all of the obvious similarities to the original but is a decidedly 21st century watch. To be clear, it’s not for everyone. If the 52mm case diameter and arm-withering nine-ounce (260g) heft doesn’t scare you off, the diver-geek styling might. And if you get past those things, take a look at the price tag.
The watch is an engineering masterpiece. The case, though brutish, possesses subtly beautiful curves and polished beveled edges, which offset the brushed surfaces that predominate. The crown guard is keyed to fit perfectly into the corresponding slots on the case when shut. The dial is a deep, abyss black, against which the anodized orange minute hand marks dive time. The rotating bezel echoes the original Ploprof’s, but is updated with a scratchproof sapphire insert that is mesmerizing to look at. The distinctive push button release is anodized orange aluminum and its action is firm and reassuring. The whole package ensures water resistance down to a staggering 1200 meters (twice that of the original 1970 version).
The watch is an engineering masterpiece. The case, though brutish, possesses subtly beautiful curves and polished beveled edges, which offset the brushed surfaces that predominate.
If the whole point of a dive watch case is to protect its movement from water, then the calibre 8500 that lies within is definitely worth protecting. Developed wholly in-house by Omega, the automatic movement is built around a co-axial escapement, which means better accuracy and less friction over a longer period. The movement has twin mainspring barrels which, when fully wound, yield an impressive 60-hour power reserve, should you ever decide to take the thing off for that long.
The watch comes with three strap options. There is a steel mesh bracelet (Omega calls it “Sharkproof”) or two different rubber straps – one orange and one black. All come fitted with a superb clasp that has a ratcheting adjustment and integrated wetsuit extension.
So enough with the drooling. How does it wear? Surprisingly well for such a large watch. Though the case width is massive side to side, from top to bottom (12 o’ clock to 6) it is smaller than many other watches, so even guys with smaller wrists can pull it off. The watch’s weight is balanced by the large clasp. The model reviewed here came on the orange strap and the rubber is thick and comfortable. Though the rubber must be cut to fit, the ratcheting adjustments in the clasp are pure genius, allowing for fine-tuning as your wrist expands or contracts.
Bravo to Omega for releasing the updated Ploprof. It is a polarizing piece, definitely not for the average watch buyer. But for those who want to wear half a pound of Swiss engineering perfection in a unique package, look no further.
Cost: $8800 (on rubber strap)