Why I put my own money behind the Omega Seamaster Diver 300MBruce Duguay
It was during a particularly cold snap in January that I decided to get off the couch and out of the house. I was restless. The internet had been bombarding me with watch photos, opinions, reviews and advertising. I’m quite sure the only Google algorithm pointed at me is for watches. On that frigid January evening all these influences conspired to push me toward the mall (which is a recognised natural habitat for most Canadians in the winter months). Luckily, as everyone else had stayed home, I had near-exclusive access to a great boutique which housed an impressive selection of my favourite watch brands. The sales rep was extremely patient with me and after much head scratching, it was down to two Omegas: the relatively new Seamaster Diver 300M and the venerable Speedmaster Moonwatch, both of which are priced within $300 of each other on a bracelet.
If you haven’t already, you can read right here about some of the reasons it’s hard for me to buy a Speedy; however, I have to say, the Seamaster Diver simply charmed the wallet out of my pocket. The model I purchased was released in 2018 as an overhaul of the early 1990s watch that Omega went to great lengths to strap on James Bond’s wrist when I was a teenager. We aren’t here to argue the clout (or lack thereof) that particular product placement lends to this watch as I would rather discuss the singular appeal of the 300M and how it stands on its own as a contender in the literal sea of dive watches.
The new case diameter of 42mm sounds a bit brash at first until you have some time to live with it and experience the small elements that make it comfortable for everyday wear. The watch is not as thick as a 41mm Tudor Black Bay and the rolled lugs and edges of the watch are not as sharp as a 40mm Rolex Submariner. Having owned all three of these watches now, I have to say my initial comfort level with the Omega was far higher than the Black Bay and on par with the Submariner. My time with the Seamaster Diver has so far been split evenly between the OEM bracelet it came with and a dark blue NATO strap. I don’t have an issue wearing the watch on the bracelet, but it does noticeably increase the heft of the Seamaster. The bracelet is beautifully finished, has an integrated extension mechanism and feels very secure on the wrist. Because the links don’t taper like the Rolex bracelet, the watch tends to make its presence felt a little more often, such as when typing on a laptop or carrying heavy items. Lastly, the clasp is easy to operate but the large brushed metal area is very prone to scuffs from daily desk diving and other minor hazards. For casual wear, it seems to be very appropriate on the NATO and embraces a much lighter attitude. It is important to note that the Diver 300M can also be purchased and paired with an Omega rubber strap that looks amazing, but I was not able to sample.
There is a lot of visual energy contained in this watch, which is a nice way of saying there is a lot going on here. This specific colour-way has a combination of brushed and polished steel on the case, a knurled dive bezel with dark blue glossy ceramic insert, which contains bright white numbers and markings. The bezel has a nice feeling while turning, but the same soft edges that make it slip easily under your shirt cuff also yield some slippage during operation. Living inside the bank vault security of the case is a dial teeming with many frenetic details. Because this is a contemporary Omega, all of the details are done with precision married to perfection and the build quality forgoes the need for any excuses at all. This is why the watch doesn’t look cluttered despite several design elements interacting all at the same time. You’ve got the dial itself, which is a gorgeous plate of silver ceramic and has a fine machined texture. Spanning the dial are the clever reimagined waves from the original 1990s Seamaster Diver, here laser etched to convey the most modern maritime message.
That modern message theme makes the new Seamaster Diver stand out in today’s watch crowd. While it seems like every manufacturer is giving us ample amounts of throwback nostalgia elements (fauxtina, to use an industry buzzword), the Diver 300M has none of it. The hour markers are large and highly visible and filled with bright white lume for excellent low-light visibility. Even the chemical formula for the ceramic material is etched on the dial just as proudly as the depth rating. The date window at six o’clock is nicely integrated in the busy dial and has unnecessarily brilliant bevelled edges, but the tone-on-tone colour of the date wheel does make it a bit more squint-worthy than it should be. All said, the overall look of the watch is crisp and contemporary and, given the advanced materials served up with a high standard of construction, the Seamaster should remain technically handsome for several decades to come.
The Omega Seamaster Diver isn’t shy about its technical handsomeness inside either. Turn the watch over and through the sapphire case back you can see the in-house Calibre 8800 finished to a tastefully beautiful standard. The credentials for this time and date engine are splendid, not the least of which being the Omega METAS Master Chronometer certification which blesses the Seamaster with allegedly impeccable timekeeping and 55-hour power reserve. This thoroughly modern co-axial anti-magnetic automatic movement continues the supporting argument that the Seamaster Diver 300M is a banner watch for everything that is great about modern Omegas.
If I’m honest, the new Seamaster Diver’s technical superiority to just about every other watch in this price segment holds an almost ironic secret appeal. Omega itself will gladly sell you timepieces that can readily generate nostalgia for a trip to the moon or fill your desire to own a new watch that looks exactly like an old watch. This is all well and good in that the company celebrates the important values of heritage and pedigree. While this Seamaster Diver draws on those values via the brand and name, it also fully embraces the competitive and forward-thinking component of Omega, the component that fiercely wants to outmanoeuvre the Rolex crown at every turn. It is a dive watch technical tour-de-force for the year 2020 and not afraid to show it, laser-etched waves and all.