Last year Swiss Omega answered the prayers of their most fervent fans, re-releasing the Seamaster 300, a beloved vintage model, and one of the all-time great dive watches. The Seamaster 300 hasn’t been seen in catalogues for the last 45 years, and it was past due for a comeback. And not only because the watch industry can’t get enough of heritage reissues at the moment. The time is right for the Seamaster 300 – it has the combination of looks, legacy and technical prowess to rival the mighty Rolex Submariner.
For the first version of the new Omega Seamaster Watch smartly decided against cherry-picking the best and most popular elements from all of their vintage 300 models, instead they opted (much like they did with the Speedmaster ‘First Omega in Space’) to faithfully reproduce the first Seamaster 300 released in 1957.
When you first see at the Seamaster 300 on a screen it looks like the watch is a 1:1 reissue of the 1957 original. The case shape, from the bezel, to the lugs to the exposed crown (crown guards came later) is remarkably similar. But there are differences between old and new. Inflation has (of course) taken its toll; what was once 39mm is now 41mm. You could hardly call this an excessive bloating; it’s more of a sensible adjustment in line with market norms. Understanding specifications is one thing, but the pictures and press releases don’t adequately prepare you for reality. When you hold the Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial in your hands you’re immediately aware that this isn’t a straight vintage reissue. Largely this is down to the Master Co-Axial movement adding significant thickness to the case, giving it a very modern bulk.
The other big surprise for me was just how shiny it was. I wouldn’t say Omega have gone out of their way to make this a flashy watch. The polished case elements, ceramic bezel and mirror finish on the hands gives the Seamaster 300 a definite new watch vibe, which lifts it out of ‘tool watch’ territory.
The dial and bezel
Omega has really knocked it out of the park with the dial and bezel. Managing to make what is a very technical execution appear simple and uncluttered. Not an easy thing to pull off. First let’s talk about the dial. The triangular hour indices and the broad arrow hands, both filled with off white luminous material that has become synonymous with heritage pieces dominate the dial. Of all the elements of this watch the ‘faux-tina’ is the one that might put some people off, but I think that Omega have been judicious with their heritage tweaks and haven’t gone overboard; meaning that this watch won’t date too badly when we all move on from our infatuation with vintage.
If you look closely you’ll note that the luminous indices are recessed and you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a ‘sandwich’ type dial construction, of the sort popularised by Panerai. In actuality Omega have laser cut the indices out of the single layer dial and filled them with luminous material, creating a great sense of depth. They’ve further added to the richness of the dial by using a matte textured black finish that looks almost like sandblasting. Completing the vintage look of the dial is the printed numerals and the refreshingly sparse dial text. Sure, it doesn’t say ‘Seamaster 300’ in the lower half as the originals did, but I understand that Omega are keen to show off their new movement and two discreet lines is nothing compared to the paragraphs found on other dials.
Onto the bezel. I said earlier that I found this watch unexpectedly shiny. A lot of that has to do with the bezel. Not only the glossy ceramic (with Liquidmetal numerals) insert, but also that mirror-like inner steel ring. The combination of these two elements really plays in the light, and contrast starkly with the sober dial. It’s a good combo, but one that someone expecting a vintage watch will be surprised by. On the functionality front the bezel is grippy enough for a watch that will mostly be on desk diving duties, and there is minimal play. I’m glad Omega opted for an applied luminous pip at 12, as one inset into the ceramic would have detracted from the look.
If the exterior of this watch is all about the past, the interior is all about the future. Flip over the watch and you can’t help but notice the Calibre 8400, a large movement filling up the sapphire display back and gleaming from every angle thanks to its radial Geneva striping.
The visibility of the movement in this watch is also a deliberate statement by Omega. A solid caseback would have suited the aesthetic of the watch, and even though I’m sure most consumers of the watch are more than happy to be able to whip their watch off their wrists and impress their friends with the glimmering workings, I think there’s more to it than that. The new generation of anti-magnetic Master Co-Axial movements (which meet the stringent new METAS standards) are the most technically impressive and best quality high-volume production movements in the game at the moment. Omega knows this and they’re not letting you or their competitors forget it by hiding it behind a steel caseback.