The History Behind the Omega Seamaster

Specialist Picks • 01 Apr 2019

The History Behind the Omega Seamaster

by Blake Reilly


Reliable, resilient, and recognisable, the Seamaster is the longest running collection still produced by Omega. A truly iconic timepiece, it holds a special place within the horological halls of not only Omega, but of the entire watchmaking industry. No other model is so thoroughly entrenched in the identity of the Biel/Bienne based brand, and a look back through its history renders the Seamaster all the more impressive.

Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition

Celebrating a Century

Prior to the release of the Seamaster, Omega had already established a reputation as a respected producer of marine watches. Indeed, the Omega Marine claims the title of being the first ever dive watch as it was the first watch to be trialled and qualified specifically for the purpose of diving. It is worth noting that efforts to produce waterproof watches began in the late 1800s with patents for waterproof designs were being registered by the likes of Alcide Droz & Fils, Francois Borgel and notably Hans Wilsdorf (when Rolex was building a name for itself), but it was Omega who first purposely dive tested their timepieces. Therefore, throughout the 1930s it was an Omega on the wrist of notable maritime figures such as Yves Le Prieur, the French naval officer and inventor of the scuba diving device.

Interested in the Omega Seamaster? Let us know, we’re here to assist! Alternatively pop by one of our many boutiques, we’d love to have a chat.

Seamaster Diver 300M Chronograph

Towards the end of the 1940s, Swiss designers and watchmakers were busily preparing for the soon approaching hundredth anniversary of the company. To celebrate, Omega was to release a watch that would epitomise what the company had achieved throughout its first century. At the time, the world itself was navigating unchartered waters. The decade just passed had brought out the best and the worst of humanity; death and devastation were the hallmarks of the two brutal European conflicts which had drawn in the entire world. Peace brought about the opportunity for reconstruction – a rebuilding not only of fatally bombed cities, but of the very social, political and institutional fabric of post-war society. For Omega, releasing the Seamaster in 1948 was more than merely an acknowledgement of their own one-hundred-year history: the Seamaster was their bold statement of innovation and an indication of the new direction upon which the company would embark.

Seamaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer Chronograph 44mm

Fit for Purpose

The Seamaster was designed for “town, sea and country” – a versatile timepiece that was elegant and dignified, yet equally athletic and functional. The design was a signal from Omega that it believed in a practical, purposeful aesthetic. As the company intended, the watch was durable enough to wear whilst venturing across an undulating ocean or traversing steep hillsides, but its considered design also allowed it to look more than comfortable under the cuff of a crisp shirt. However, the Seamaster had not – as its name might suggest – mastered the sea just yet. The rubber O-ring gasket used in the first Seamaster models allowed for the resistance to descend up to 60 metres below the water (62.5 metres was the record achieved by diver Gordon McLean off the coast of Australia). However, recreational scuba diving began to increase in popularity throughout the 1950s, and so Omega had to delve a bit deeper in order to meet the sub-aquatic demands of its customers. Omega had to make a splash.

Seamaster Diver 300M Co‑Axial Master Chronometer 43.5 mm

Professionalism

In 1957, Omega treated the watch market with the release of three ‘professional’ timepieces that would become enduring and iconic additions to the identity of the brand: the Railmaster, the Speedmaster and, crucially, the Seamaster 300. The release of the Seamaster 300 was an extraordinary step for Omega. Not only did it debut the now widely recognisable aesthetic aspects which continue to distinguish contemporary Seamaster models, but it was Omega’s first proper plunge into producing professional quality diving watches. With a resistance of up to 200 metres, there were few submerged needs the Seamaster could not satisfy. Central to the underwater mechanical competency of the Seamaster 300 was Omega’s invention of the ‘Naiad’ crown, in which the crown was mounted on a spring that would allow the seal to tighten as the diver descended and the water pressure duly increased. Testament to Omega’s innovative inclinations, the Seamaster 600 ‘PloProf’ was released in 1970 and it acted to triple the resistance capacity of the Seamaster 300. Only two years later, the Seamaster 1000M proved it possible to keep ticking even a kilometre below, further securing Omega’s position at the pinnacle of dive watch production.

Seamaster Co‑Axial Master Chronometer 42 mm

The Name Is…

A history of the Seamaster would not be complete without mentioning a particular member of the British secret service – perennially suave and always on the move, the Seamaster was the natural timepiece for the character of James Bond. The relationship between Omega and the 007 franchise began in 1995 when Pierce Brosnan was accompanied by a quartz movement Seamaster 300M Diver in GoldenEye. The release of the following film Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997 saw the timepiece return (albeit with an automatic movement), and proved the inclusion of Omega into Bond’s world of action and espionage a seemingly effortless addition. Over the years the Seamaster 300M Diver would go on to share the screen with other Seamaster models including the Planet Ocean and the Aqua Terra. As a timepiece now entrenched in the franchise and with an upcoming film currently in production, the Seamaster will hopefully continue to appear on the wrist of the ever elusive Bond well into the future.

Seamaster 300 Co‑Axial Master Chronometer 39 mm

Always an Ocean View

The Seamaster collection has been, and indeed continues to be, an integral part of the Omega brand. Consisting of co-axial chronographs, day-dates and annual calendars, the collection boasts a revered and respectable range of timepieces. The ocean remains the unifying inspiration for the collection from the Aqua Terra and the Diver, to the Planet Ocean and the PloProf. Whether an exquisite retro-style revival of an iconic model like the 1957 Railmaster, or a daring first for the company such as the striking Aqua Terra Master Chronometer GMT Worldtimer, Omega always strives to maintain the integrity of the collection’s marine heritage; a heritage which began with the release of first Seamaster 70 years ago. If one thing can be said, it is that an Omega Seamaster is never out of its depth.

Interested in the Omega Seamaster? Let us know, we’re here to assist! Alternatively pop by one of our many boutiques, we’d love to have a chat.

Seamaster Railmaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer 40 mm
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