A watch brand's ultimate professional diving watch. This is one sub-category of my collection philosophy that I have tried to keep with some degree of success.
Since my acquisition of the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller, I have slowly assembled a collection of the best diving watches a brand could create by a few respective watch brands. As at today, I have in my collection the following brand/highest specification dive watch:
- Rolex/Deepsea Sea-Dweller
- Deep Blue/Depthmaster
- Bell & Ross/BR02-92
- Victorinox/Dive Master Black Ice
- Orient/Pro Saturation Diver
- Citizen/Promaster Autozilla
- Seiko/Marinemaster Emperor Tuna
Before the close of 2014, I was able to add on to that list. This time, a 'grail' watch from Omega - The Seamaster PloProf. The story how I got the watch is interesting.
While walking inside The Gardens Mall in Mid Valley Complex (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), I happened to drop into the Sincere Fine Watches outlet to just browse the watches on display. While looking at the Omega Mark II, the sales person suddenly mentioned that they have a special offer for a few Omega watches. A 50% discount will be given to watches that have been in the store for more than 2 years. At first I didn't think much of it as I suspect Omega watches under this category would generally be the one bedazzled with gem stones or the Constellation series (I was made to understand that this particular series' throughput is very slow by a number of Authorised Dealers). It was only after I was about to step out of the shop that I asked the salesperson to show me the Omegas on offer. Lo and behold, one of the offered item was a Seamaster PloProf with black rubber strap and dial.
Retail was RM28,800. At half that, it was a steal. Comes with full specifications including Omega's three year international warranty.
The Omega Seamaster PloProf was on my grail's list. The particular model I was aiming for was the black dial with shark mesh bracelet. With such deep discount, I can still afford to get the original mesh later (priced at RM4,800 by Omega) and still be better off. What the heck, I struck a deal with Sincere and walked out of the outlet with the watch.
The Omega package comes in a two box combination. The bigger box, in white, provides space for the actual watch box as well as all the necessary documentations such as the manual, the chronometer certificate (or COSC certification), a pictogram card as well as the guarantee reference. The international guarantee provided by Omega is 3 years for this watch.
The interesting card in the pack is the Pictogram card. As the name suggests, it is a card of symbols about the watch. What is printed on the card provides the owner with a good understanding of what are the key components that make up his or her watch. For example, I've reproduced a Pictogram card that I got from the web (I forgot to take a picture of mine before I put the box and documents in storage). Here's what you get with the PloProf as per the Pictogram card (left to right):
- Easy Time Zone Change
- Sapphire crystal
- Screw-down crown
- Helium escape valve
- Double anti-reflective treatment inside and outside
- Water-resistant to 1200meters/4000 feet
- Operating instructions edition 11 (not sure whether mine is this edition or not. This particular example was taken in 2010. The current edition could be different).
All three cards are kept in a white leather wallet with six slots.
By now you would have realised the colour of choice for Omega is red. The primary box is red, the manual as well as the plastic cards are also red. I believe the watch box is made out of leather and stitched with red thread. It hinges from the back. On the top of the box is a silver button etched with the logo and decorated with art.
The reveal. Apart from the watch and the pillow for the watch, there is not a lot of place left for anything else. Covered with creme coloured velvet interior, the Omega logo and brand are printed in silver on the top part of the inner box. The indentation around the logo suggest the box does not fit well with this particular model. It appear to be too small for the PloProf.
I think I need to go back the Sincere and ask them about this. [Sincere just confirmed that they do not have the actual box. Hence it was replaced with the standard red box. Hence the special discount !?! This is a major disappointment. I am actually quite annoyed about this. Sincere should have told me beforehand about this before allowing me to buy the watch. SELLER ALERT: UNETHICAL SALES PRACTICED BY SINCERE FINE WATCH OUTLET IN THE GARDENS MALL, KUALA LUMPUR. PLEASE BE AWARE OF THIS.]
This Omega Seamaster PloProf is a big monster. It is 55 mm wide by 48 mm tall. Coupled with a height of 18 mm (not from official sources but my own measurement with a ruler), it is weighty at a whopping 260 grams (half a pound).
The first thing that grabs your attention is the shape of the casing. The non-symmetrical sides look strange yet familiar. Familiar because it reminded me of my wrist communicator/walkie-talkie that I used to have when I was a boy. Where the orange button is on the PloProf, it was my walkie-talkie's aeriel. Where the large crown mechanism is on the PloProf, it was my walkie-talkie's send button. Memories.
The case has flowing curves and polished beveled edges that contrast the brushed surfaces. Although it is 55 mm tall, its lug to lug dimension is only 48mm. As it uses shrouded lugs, there is zero overhang and wears smaller than some big watches I have. In fact, it has the same dimensions as my Ocean7 LM-8 but the wearing experiencing is way better. More on this later.
The lugs on the casing is 24 mm. A wise choice as it helps keep the watch in a proper perspective.
I like the deep black dial with applied OMEGA logo and markers. The dial is highly legible with the trademark double marker at 12 o'clock position and larger markers at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions. The date window is between 4 and 5 o'clock positions and inconspicuous. Having a white font on a black background naturally blends it with the dial concept. Instead of replacing two of the minute markers by the date window, Omega chose to keep a small part of the minute markers for a semblance of consistency. If given the option, I would have simply repositioned the date window closer to the center instead. This will eliminate the need to design partial minute markers at this particular position. I like symmetry. The design choice on these particular minute markers does not sit well with me.
Another comment I would like to make is the orientation of the date. It follows the orientation of the words on the dial. However, since it is a number and not actually aligned properly with the words on the dial, your eyes will automatically make reference to the big numbers on the bezel instead which has the opposite orientation. This would not be an issue if the date window is directly at the 12 or 6 o'clock position. Again, not an issue for some but from a design methodology point of view, it should have been addressed.
The hands uses the PloProf design, with a massive sword-shaped minute hand in anodized orange trim. The orange trim matches the push button orange exactly. The second hand and minute hand are white trimmed.
The illumination on the dial and hands is sufficient in my opinion. I would prefer if Omega increased the area for the luminous paint to stick on compared to the size it is now. This watch is a professional divers watch designed to work in great depths. Deep sea divers with their thicker-than-usual face mask will agree with me the more it can illuminate the better.
There are a lot of words being printed on the dial. Excluding the logo, there are six rows of words. The choice of fonts, size and colour is important as to not overwhelm the dial. In this regard, Omega nailed it perfectly.
Everything on the dial (and the insides as well) is protected by a (approximately) 5 mm thick sapphire crystal. This glass ensures adequate resistance to pressure on the front of the case, enabling the PloProf to withstand pressures equivalent to those found 1,200 meters underwater. The scratch-resistant sapphire crystal has anti-reflective treatment on both sides.
The bezel itself is tall and sloped (see the following photo). Omega fitted it with sapphire crystal inlays. Other brands prefer ceramic bezels. From a durability issue, both are more-or-less similar in performance. However, the effects on the aesthetic are different. Sapphire covered bezel mergers seamlessly with the dial crystal due to similarity of the material. Under the sapphire bezel is a standard minute marker array coated with a lot of SuperLumiNova paint that ensures it remains easy to read under all lighting conditions.
The PloProf utilises a special locking mechanism for the bezel. This means the likelihood of accidentally moving the bezel once it is set is close to zero. Therefore, once the locking mechanism is unlocked, the bezel on the PloProf can rotate in both directions. This is different for most diver's bezels as it makes it easier to set. To set the bezel, one just need to push the pusher on the top right-hand part of the case. This particular pusher is metal with an orange aluminum ring around it.
The crown protector on the PloProf looks like a vault door. However, there are no external mechanism needed to lock or unlock the guard. Instead, you just need to unscrew the crown like you would any other crown. The front part of the closed protector moves along with the crown, which is easy to grasp and turn. The crown operates smoothly when you spin it. Winding is predictably smooth and quiet and there is no danger of cross-threading at all.
Another professional diver watch that I own that has a similar shaped crown protection (difference mechanism) in the same location (at 9 o'clock position) is the Citizen Autozilla. Due to the design of the crown guard, the PloProf is not as painful to the skin as compared to the Autozilla's if it digs into the wrist.
Adjusting the time and date via the crown is slightly different than typical watches. When the crown is in its second extracted position, it can be used in the usual way to adjust the hour hand and minute hand and activating the stop-seconds function (hacking). In its first position, it can be turned to reposition the hour hand in single-hour increments while the seconds hand keeps running, which also resets the date display by moving it forward and backward. Thus, the date can be quickly reset even though the watch doesn’t include a quick-set function for the date display. This independently adjustable hour hand is practical when the wearer travels to a new time zone often.
The PloProf has an automatic helium valve so that professional divers can wear it during saturation dives. The valve is positioned on the underside of the orange button’s position and marked with the chemical abbreviation “He” (for helium) beneath a coating of clear lacquer. I doubt I will ever reach the necessary depth for the valve to pop. Like airbags in cars, its good to know that you have it but it is even better if you don't ever need to use it.
The case back is art. With a central engraved and ridged disc that is held in horizontal orientation by an outer compression ring. The ridges on the central disc and the engraved center with the legendary Seamaster hippocampus was beautifully rendered. It provides the necessary texture to keep the watch from slipping around the wrist.
The strap is the most difficult to resize in my opinion. If you have gotten the PloProf with the Milanese (mesh) metal "shark-proof" bracelet, resizing is a just a matter of taking out the necessary number of links. However, if you got the rubber strap, which I did, resizing means cutting!!!
First of all I must say that this rubber strap from Omega could have been one of the best I have even worn. Prior to this, I used to say the rubber strap on my Victorinox Dive Master Black Ice watch was the best. It is thick, comfortable, not sticky and odorless rubber strap. The PloProf is so much similar. The sides of the strap has horizontal ribs that help make the strap more pliable. The words "OMEGA" and "PLOPROF" in raised lettering on opposing sides makes sure everyone knows the pedigree this watch was spawn from. Unfortunately, what is required to be done to it before we can use the watch is, in my humble opinion, pure vandalism.
The strap comes with a clasp system plus a diver's extension mechanism. Therefore, I don't see the reason why Omega should attach a strap that could fit a 12-inch wrist in the first place. If it comes in a buckle system, than it is possible that someone (don't ask me why) would need that kind of size to fit it on his legs or other parts of his or her anatomy (please don't go there!).
Although Omega provides nice indentations and numbered cutting marks on the inside of the strap for fitting, the fact is, once cut, its permanent and not reversible. Even the Authorised Dealer was apprehensive when making the cut. She had to ask me three times how I would like to wear the watch (tight - if so, how tight? loose - if so, how loose?). The watch came in and out of the little workshop at the back of the store about four times. She dared only to make incremental cuts. I bet it was more stressful for her than it was for me.
The big deployant clasp is pure engineering art. The etching on it is beautiful and captures the essence of the watch. The engravings are filled with black paint (or lacquer) to give that extra contrast. The bigger size clasp also balances the watch casing proportionately.
It opens via two push buttons that squeeze two spring-loaded bows. It closes with a firm click and opens quietly. What is underneath the clasp is perhaps the most ingenious design for a diver's extension I have seen. Made from solid milled pieces of steel, the ratcheting micro-extension system allows you to extend the clasp in small increments outwards an extra 22 mm. Inside the clasp is a button marked "PUSH" which releases the extension. To top it all, in addition to the ratcheting extension, there is also a fold-out dive extension which becomes operable once the ratcheting part is extended about half-way and this gives an additional 26 mm to the strap. In total, you can extend the strap by a full 48 mm. Most impressive.
I am actually quite pleased that Omega decided to have a deployant clasp for this watch instead of a simple buckle system. This offers a secure way to put on this watch (necessary for a heavy watch) as it may accidentally slip out of your hands while fiddling with a buckle system.
Inside the PloProf is an in-house Omega made caliber 8500 automatic Co-Axial Escapement Chronometer movement. The 8500 is a pretty good movement which operates at 28,800 beats per hour, has a long power reserve of 60 hours (two mainspring barrels) and the ability to advance the hour hand independently to account for time zone changes without having to hack the minute and second hands (which was explained earlier). The movement is allegedly decorated beautifully though you can't see it (a pity).
The shrouded lugs does wonders to the comfort level of this watch. It is able to bring closer the straps hence eliminating the lug-overhang problem prevalent in a lot of large watches. Nevertheless, you do need a minimum wrist circumference to be able to carry this watch with confidence. I reckon a wrist circumference of 7.25 inches is the minimum. Anything smaller and the watch will look comical on the wrist. My advice is try it on for yourself to see how suitable it is to you.
I worn this watch for over a week. I am very pleased to report that this watch is comfortable to wear despite the weight. However, it is can never be considered as a daily watch. The size and weight does preclude it from certain situations such as formal wear. The large deployant clasp is also a magnet for scratches. The likelihood of impact with surfaces even on a desk typing is very real.
This is my OCD-self lamenting how difficult it is to keep the watch pristine, free from scratches and blemishes. However, this not what this watch is all about. As a professional tool watch, it was designed to take punishment upon punishment. Keeping it scratch-free is not one of its KPI (key performance indicators). It is supposed to be used and abused. Its true KPI is how well it continues ticking after being abused.
The real value of owning this watch is not about the brand or history. It is the technology that you now have packed in a casing surrounding your wrist. It makes one confident to be able to do anything.
From a practical point of view, these kinds of dive watches are now superseded by dive computers that can do much more. If you are a sucker for history, this is the watch you must have in your collection.