The OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m Has Lost Its Way

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OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m beauty shot

I started in the watch trade in the early 90’s. Back then, the OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m was still very much the new kid on the block. With its striking blue bezel, blue wave dial and helium escape valve, the OMEGA felt serious on the wrist. Thanks to its rock solid bracelet and clasp – a far cry from the Rolex Submariner’s rattly bracelet and tin foil-feeling clasp – the OMEGA Seamaster Diver had genuine wrist presence. The slimline collection offered something for everyone . . .

OMEGA sold the Diver in ladies, mid and gents sizes, with a choice of a quartz or COSC automatic movement. (There was a chronograph version for those who didn’t want to take their Speedmaster swimming.)

Rolex Submariner 1978

The OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m was reasonably affordable. In the UK, the mid-size quartz model set buyers back around £700. The gents auto was around £1,000. The pricing parked the range squarely within reach of anyone considering TAG Heuer’s collections, and several hundred pounds below a Rolex Submariner.

The OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m was a genuine alternative: a no-nonsense watch with style and substance that didn’t require selling your firstborn to buy. It was my first “proper” watch.

OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m collection 1

Since those heady days, the Seamaster Diver 300m lost its way. Like a prized boxer whose best fights are behind him, the passage of time has not been kind to the 300m. The OMEGA Seamaster is no longer a practical, purposeful watch for a fair price. Gone is that lean collection of six watches that blazed a trail through the industry.

In its place: an obscenely bloated collection of fifty-three different versions of the 300m. You could wear a different OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m every day for nearly two months. The collection includes six different “special edition” versions.

Even James Bond hasn’t been able to avoid the bloating.

In 2002, OMEGA released its first 007 limited edition Seamaster 300m, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the Bond films. By moderns standards, its 10,007 unit production run sounds extreme – but only in isolation. OMEGA has been churning out James
Bond special editions with alarming regularity.

OMEGA produced two different limited edition 007 watches to “celebrate” the last film. There are now no fewer than eight different James Bond 007 OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m’s: three limited editions, one numbered edition and four standard production models.

OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m James Bond Platinum

There’s also a platinum version for the princely sum of £44,480. You’ve got to have a lot of spare cash and a strong penchant for watches and James Bond to drop £45K on an OMEGA. Regardless, the watch shows just how far from affordability the Seamaster Diver 300m has strayed.

It’s not just the 300m range that suffers from bloating; the Planet Ocean comes in 49 varieties. But wait! There’s more! The OMEGA Seamaster and Planet Ocean collections are dwarfed by the farrago that is the Aqua Terra collection. You have the choice of 99 different models. Why on earth do you need nearly one hundred different varieties of the same watch?

OMEGA Seamaster Diver America's Cup Chronograph

What annoys me the most isn’t the ridiculously large watch collections. It’s how lazy and
gimmicky OMEGA is these days. Take the America’s Cup model as an example. A sailing watch with a clip-on and off bracelet? What could possibly go wrong? It’s fitted with the helium escape valve – a rather odd choice considering the watch is designed to be on the water, not under it.

It’s the same watch as the standard chronograph, with the same 9900 calibre, with a few gimmicky additions, such as locking the Chrono function, a regatta counter and the clip-on bracelet. These little additions will set you back an eye-watering £2,410 extra. You could buy the standard chronograph and a Tudor Black Bay for the same money as the America’s Cup.

OMEGA Seamaster Diver 30mm Black Black

The gimmicks don’t end there. This week, OMEGA revealed the Seamaster Diver 300M Co-Axial Master Chronometer Black Black – a watch that barely looks legible in the promotional shots. So now the owners of the Dark Side of the Moon Speedmaster Black Black can sport the same look in the swimming pool. Has one-upmanship become reached the point where a collector’s happy to drop £7,410 and £9,990 on illegible watches?

I digress. And I understand the need for a unique selling point to make a watch stand out from the competition. But OMEGA seems oblivious to the concept of overchoice. And unable to stop messing with the fundamentals that made its fortune in the first place. We can see this problem in the evolution of the Seamaster’s movement.

OMEGA Seamaster caseback

Why wasn’t the OMEGA Co-Axial movement enough? Now that OMEGA has worked the bugs out, it’s a first-class movement. Why did the watchmaker feel the need to upgrade from COSC to Master Chronometer (from -4/+6 seconds to 0/+5 seconds per accuracy)? Is it because many competitors are now offering COSC rated watches for half as much as an OMEGA?

Whatever happened to making a decent practical watch for a realistic price? Speaking of the past . . .

OMEGA Seamaster 300 Bronze Gold

The OMEGA Seamaster Heritage range now contains sixty different models. I love the reincarnation of the Seamaster 300, but at £5,560? Do we really need a Titanium Ploprof for £10K? While we’re at it, who on earth is paying £9,920 for the new 300 Bronze gold? Nearly £10K for a 9 carat gold watch? If that’s not the definition of insanity, I don’t know what is.

The watch market is more competitive than ever. New up and coming watch brands – who put quality, purpose and functionality above gross retail prices – are eating into OMEGA’s market share – as are all of the watches Omega’s sold over the years. If you want OMEGA alternatives, the market is full of them.

DOXA SUB 300T

Want a quality COSC certified diver’s watch but don’t want to spend £4,450 on a OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m? Buy a DOXA SUB 300 for £2,390 or a Tudor Pelagos for £3,440. Fancy a quality chronograph but don’t want to spend between £4,260 to £5,370 on a Speedmaster? Buy a Bell & Ross BR V2-94 for £3,800. Looking for a quality watch with vintage appeal but you don’t want to drop £5,560 on a Seamaster 300? Buy an Oris divers sixty-five for £1,650.

There are numerous more affordable and comparable quality watches, both new and old, for everything OMEGA makes. The cachet of the OMEGA brand will only go so far. There are only so many wrists globally; more and more watches are competing for space.

OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m collection 2

If OMEGA isn’t careful they’ll look like overpriced gimmicky watches. They’ll sound like that crazy old uncle who tells everyone how he used to be somebody important. For me, old OMEGA’s will always have a special place in my watch collection. Modern OMEGA watches no longer put simplicity and value at their core.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Great article, Gareth. Just yesterday I had a discussion with a fellow watch enthusiast about exactly the same topic. How the modern Seamaster became a mens jewellery, absurdly shiny, almost screaming “Look at me, I’m expensive”. To make things even worse, the co-axial movements made the new Omegas thick sometimes beyond the thickness of Seiko Divers (Planet Ocean anyone?). As we spoke about this I was wearing my ca. 2005 SMP Titanium (2231.50) and he was wearing a black Peter Blake Seamaster. Both thin, comfortable watches that can be serviced almost anywhere and can probably easily outlast the owners.

    • Thanks, I am pleased you liked the article. I used to be a big fan of Omega, but these days it’s hard. They seem to want to go bigger and bigger, and they also have a big thing for exhibition backs these days. From a personal standpoint, I see it as a gimmick. From a professional valuing perspective, I love it. It makes obtain calibre and movement numbers much easier, as I no longer have to take the case back off and then get them pressure tested. I love the Peter Blake, such a simple yet effective looking watch, that is incredibly practical.

  2. Swatch Group has a great ETA 2892 powered dive watch called the Longines HydroConquest.

    The biggest problems with the 300M are its protruding HEV, goofy skeletonized handset, and hard to grip scalloped bezel. Omega should kill the 300M and expand on the Seamaster 300 family – one of the best looking dive watches on the market. The pricing is right for Omega and its co-axial movements. Apparently the reason Omega refuses to kill the 300M is that it is its best selling watch.

    • Not a fan of those skeletonized hands. I’ll buy a homage or mod with snowflake hands, mercedes hands, or fishbone hands, but not one with skeletonized hands.

    • I don’t mind the aesthetics of the 300m personally. What I don’t like is the ridiculous retail prices Omega sets these days. I don’t care how they spin it; the current 300m is not a £4,500 watch; there is no need for it. And it boggles my mind how Omega has managed to convince people that their pricing is fair. You are right; the ETA 2892 is a fantastic movement and near bulletproof. The A2 version is also the base movement for the Omega 1120 calibre, COSC certified and powered the old 300m for years without any issues. Take a 2892, make a few tweaks, and chuck a Co-Axial escapement in and bang; you’ve got the 2500 calibre. It’s not like Omega made the calibre from the ground up, and there is considerably better value watches out there.

  3. Same with all the various versions of the speedy. Makes me want everything but Omega. Also well reflected in the secondhand prices of most Omega watches around and about. Where I think prospective Submariner buyers will turn towards Tudor BB, I think Omega will lose out.

    • Absolutely. In 20+ years, I have never seen anyone go out to buy a sub and come home with a Seamaster. Traditionally when faced with steep retail prices, most would look at the pre-owned market. But even there, Omega values are holding well. And I agree, people will look at alternatives such as the Tudor BB. A quality watch that has an in house movement and costs £1,740 less than the Seamaster. I think Omega is going to lose out. And don’t even start me on the Speedmasters! lol

  4. It’s my understanding that Omega has plagued themselves with too much variety going back to the 1970’s, so it’s almost in their blood. It also explains why they don’t really have a truly iconic model (yeah, yeah one of the many Speedmaster variants), because they can’t just stick with the original flavor long enough.

    It is amazing that they can’t casually observe their competitors, who introduce like one new variant in a model line every year or so and let it be the it thing for as long as possible without stepping on their own toes.

    I truly wonder how much they could save by drastically reducing the SKU count. The American car companies figured this out. There was the original Mustang that had at least a couple hundred thousand ordering combinations, whereas with the average Honda or Toyota it’s about two dozen.

  5. I think over-complication is in their blood. The original 321 Speedmaster is certainly iconic to people who like watches. But to joe public, the Speedmaster is a bizarre collection of watches, different sizes, movement types, functions, editions, the list goes on and on. And that isn’t even bringing the Mark version into the conversation. I certainly think less is more, but I can’t see Omega ever getting on board with that idea.

  6. […] H writes: I’m so glad someone has finally gone the hard yards and counted the Seamaster SKUs! (The OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m Has Lost Its Way). It was always something I’d meant to do, but pesky things kept getting in the way. Shucks, life […]

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