If you are a Bond-o-phile, you will undoubtedly be familiar with this classic diver from Omega’s dive watch line-up. This iconic timepiece has been used in several of the 007 movies, and like Bond, is at once suave, sophisticated, sharp, savage, and oh so functional! Though made famous by the fictional spy, the Omega Planet Ocean is much more than just a good looking accessory.
Today’s Planet Ocean was introduced in 2005 as a replacement to the Seamaster 300 which started production in 1960.The original line produced several case sizes to fit different wrist widths with popular sizes ranging from 42, 43.5, and 45.5 millimetres. Many of the Planet Oceans feature orange bezels or touches of orange on the bezel, dial, and hands. In fact, you can almost guarantee that if it is an Omega, and you glimpse orange highlights on the watch, it is a Planet Ocean.
In the dark, the hands and dial exhibit an incredible luminescence when fully charged and you may think that your eyes are playing tricks on you because the lume is in two colors. The dual lume colors are not just for looks nor are they a gimmick. This is a functional feature that allows a diver to immediately recognize their bottom time exposure because the lume color on the bezel pip and the minute hand are in the same greenish color while the hour hand and indices have a bluish hue.
Bottom time is defined as the time a diver breaks the water’s surface and starts their descent to the start of their ascent. This is critical to a diver and in some cases, if not timed correctly, can spell the difference between a safe ascent or be subjected to a painful or life threatening case of the bends. If you dive, you want the best equipment money can buy, and you can’t get much better equipment than the Seamaster Planet Ocean.
The Omega Seamaster watch movement
The Seamaster Planet Ocean is not just a pretty face either. Its beating heart is powered by Omega’s Co-Axial movements which have achieved impressive levels of accuracy and as the 600M designation indicates, are capable of depths unachievable by men unless in submersibles. Here is a quote from Omega’s marketing materials.
“The introduction of the OMEGA Co-Axial escapement in 1999 signalled a revolution in modern mechanical watchmaking. It was the first practical new watch movement to be launched for 250 years, and was the best performing and the most beautiful series-produced movement in the world. OMEGA Co-Axial chronometers are now achieving levels of performance previously unimagined for series-production mechanical watches.”
Without getting too much in the weeds, the co-axial escapement was Invented and patented by George Daniels and purchased by Omega. It was a breakthrough for horology and radically different from any other escapement used in the last 250 years. It reduced friction in the movement resulting in “chronometric accuracy and long term performance”. It’s anchor has three ruby pallet stones instead of the usual two stones in other movements, a three level co-axial wheel that can handle a half billion strikes each year, and in 2011, a silicon balance spring that weighs 1/7th of a grain of rice, and, being silicon, ensures that the watch is impervious to magnetic interference.
This picture shows the differences between a traditional escapement and Omega’s co-axial breakthrough. Omega’s movement is the bottom graphic.
When the Seamaster Planet Ocean debuted in 2005, it came with the 2500C movement which was basically an ETA 2892 that was modified to fit a co-axial escapement. It originally was designed to have a frequency of 28800 beats per hour but was later modified to beat at a reduced rate of 25200 beats per hour. This reduction in the frequency is touted by Omega to reduce wear on the mechanisms and results in increased service life of the watch and less service visits to your watchmaker or authorized dealer. This is a win for the consumer because we all know how pricey these visits can be.
In 2011, the start of what I like to call the modern era of the Seamaster Planet Ocean, it went through a metamorphosis. It no longer was fitted with the older 2500 movement but now sported a modified in house 8500 co-axial movement that built on the learnings of its predecessor and greatly improved precision, stability, and durability.
It included a silicon balance spring, 39 jewels, a shock absorbing system called Nivachoc, and managed a 60 hour power reserve. Two mainspring barrels coated in a diamond-like-carbon (DLC) powered the movement and helped to reduce friction and extend the life of the barrels.
The 8500 was also 13% larger than the last movement and the watch now featured a see through caseback to showcase the beauty of its inner workings. On its face, the bezel’s aluminum was now replaced with a ceramic material that greatly reduced susceptibility to scratches. It was coupled with an (also) scratch resistant sapphire crystal. Combined, the sapphire and ceramic materials ensured a watch face that would remain pristine under all but the most demanding of owners and environments.
The Co-axial movements have since been upgraded and modified since the 2500, they have gone through several iterations and are used in several of Omega’s product lines including the Speedmaster, deVille, and Aqua Terra, and Constellation.
Seamaster Planet Ocean Models
The first generation Planet Oceans came out in 2004-2005 and featured the 2500 Calibre movement. Cases were either 42 or 45 millimetres in width and came with a variety of bezel/dial/strap combinations and a helium escape valve. The 45 millimetre case was thicker than the smaller case at 17 millimetres, and had wider 22 millimetre lugs. There are multiple reference numbers depending on the color/strap/bezel combinations so it behooves the buyer to use these reference numbers when comparing prices in the used market. Some combinations are more desirable than others and will fetch a higher premium.
In 2009, the Planet Ocean upgraded its bezel to a ceramic material and fortified it by using what Omega termed “liquidmetal” technology. This was a malleable titanium alloy coating that was applied over the ceramic bezel to strengthen it and prevent discoloration and scratches. The watch came with the 2500 co-axial calibre movement and a 42 millimetre case size. Some in the industry have suggested that this is the most collectible of the Planet Ocean series. Only 1,948 pieces were manufactured.
Although previous Bond’s wore the Seamaster Professional 300M, in 2006, the Planet Ocean became a “Bond girl” (wink!) starting with the “Casino Royale” edition. It was followed in 2008 by the “Quantum of Solace” model and in 2012, “Skyfall”; although this was released in a 42 millimetre case size. It was the “Skyfall” version that first employed the “new” 8500 Co-axial calibre.
These models came with a variety of interesting dials and all gave a nod to the Bond genre by including a 007 designation and pistol on the caseback or some type of engraving on the case. In the “Quantum of Solace” model, it was laser etched into the crystal. The Skyfall model, because of the see through caseback, had the “Skyfall” title, 007, and pistol engraved in the rotor and 007 and pistol was substituted for the index marking at 7 o’clock on the watch dial.
Interestingly, the Bond series did not utilise much orange in their designs, being limited to the second hand tip and the Seamaster script on the dial. These are all collectible in their own right and fetch higher prices than the non-Bond models for the most part.
The second generation Planet Ocean models came of course with the 8500 Co-axial movement and in 2011, the silicon hairspring was added along with the Chronometer designation. This generation added a smaller diameter case size at 37.5 millimetres, perhaps targeting the feminine wrist sizes and some models featured titanium cases and blue or white dials and bezels.
Another innovation of the 2nd generation movement was the addition of a jumping hour hand, making time setting much quicker. The jumping hour hand feature allows the user to quickly set the time by clicking the hour hand around the dial to the desired hour index while the minute hand remains fixed.
In 2013, the Planet Ocean GMT was released in a 43.5 millimetre case size and 24 hour markers on a now bi-directional bezel. This allowed a user the convenience of tracking two or three time zones if one uses the bezel correctly to track the 3rd time zone. However, the 24 hour bezel does create confusion if one is to use the watch for its original purpose, a dive watch.
The third generation Planet Ocean watches came out in 2014. These were now being tested against the more stringent METAS certification. This certification requires watches to perform accurately between 0 and +5 seconds per day in various positions, under temperature extremes, and high magnetic fields up to 15000 gauss. METAS is much more demanding than COSC certification which requires the watch to remain accurate by -4 to +6 seconds per day.
To note, there are other criteria for METAS and COSC certification we will not touch on in this blog. There are gobs of information online that you can refer to if this subject is of interest to the reader.
This 3rd generation was introduced with the 8900 Co-axial calibre movement and now integrated rubber into the first quadrant of the bezel and the entire bezel was coated with “liquidmetal”. Omega replaced the 37.5 millimetre case with a 39.5 millimetre size and added a 43.5 size which was a replacement of the 45 millimetre case all except for the chronograph model which remained at 45.5 millimetres.
This latest era has so many attractive combinations of bezel, dial and strap and so many limited editions like the “Deep Black”, “Cookies and Cream” and others like a “Sochi Olympics” model, a “Michael Phelps” and “Pyongyang” model in 2018. Altogether too many to dive into in this brief write up.
Suffice to say, do your research on these models if you are in the market for this extraordinary dive watch. I am positive you will find one that fits you just right, and in a color scheme that suits your taste. The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean is a great watch and is certainly worthy of your undivided attention.
Written by:Stephen Semenchuk
With acknowledgements to: