A few years ago, Omega decided to do a re-edition of one of their iconic diver’s watches. A watch that originally had been used in the 1970s, co-developed by COMEX and tried and tested by a number of famous divers. However, also FIAT boss Gianni Agnelli (The Rake of the Riviera) had been spotted with one and definitely not in or near water. So even back in the 1970s some of the then fashionistas laid their eyes on this odd looking fellow.
Anyway, as you probably know most of the re-editions that watch brands introduce to us watch consumers and collectors are either entirely off or do show some resemblance with the original but really has nothing to do with it. A few brands get away with it, like TAG Heuer with its Monaco and Carrera models, Jaeger-LeCoultre with their Deep Sea models, Longines with the Legend Diver etc. A re-edition needs to be done properly and if you don’t, it can become disastrous in terms of sales numbers and image.
A watch like the original Omega Seamaster PloProf (derived from the French plongeur professionnel) that had a water resistance of 600 meters and a little history with the COMEX organization is something you can easily mess-up as a brand when thinking of a re-edition.
To my surprise in 2009 however, the Omega Seamaster PloProf 1200M was a well-executed re-edition, especially when it comes to esthetics. I’d been impressed by the specifications, water resistance up to 1200 meters and packed with the in-house developed Omega caliber 8500 co-axial movement. However, I did not have the chance to do an endurance test drive with this watch until recently. The proof of the pudding is in the eating of course, although I am by no means a diver.
Let’s start by the gigantic case. I need to be a bit more subtle on that, as the case appears to be big and clunky but in fact wears quite ‘compact’ (if that makes any sense to you). A 44mm Panerai feels bigger on my wrist, while the Seamaster PloProf 1200M sits more tight on the wrist – more compact – but does weigh a lot more than a Panerai Luminor Marina. However, if you look at this watch in the display of your authorized dealer, you might think it is not for you. Just give it a try, trust me, it wears more comfortable as you would think.
I have the version with the stainless steel bracelet, also referred to as the ‘shark bracelet’. It is a heavy-duty mesh bracelet with an easy to resize clasp. The clasp also has an extension system so you can use it over your diving suit. Or – as Gianni Agnelli used to wear them – over your cuff. The bracelet wears very comfortable but it does make the watch very heavy, be prepared.
The watch is also available on a rubber strap from Omega. I would strongly suggest buying the watch on the mesh bracelet and putting an Isofrane strap on it. You will have the best of both worlds. If you want to purchase the mesh bracelet after you’ve bought it on the OEM rubber strap you are going to pay. Just a tip.
Anyway, the watch operates very easy. The crown is locked by the crown guard, so you have to unscrew the crown in order to pull out the rectangular shaped crown guard and only then you can operate the crown for setting and winding the watch. Here is the big difference with the model from the 1970s, where the rectangular crown guard thingy was actually the crown and the round crown was only used to screw and unscrew the actually square shaped crown. Both systems are nice and perhaps the new way of operating the watch is even a bit better/modernized. At least it feels a bit more solid compared to the old version (yes, I’ve tried that one too).
The other big change is the case construction. Although the case looks similar at first sight, if you turn the watch around you will immediately note a big difference compared to the vintage PloProf reference 166.077 model. The re-edition has a screw-down caseback where the vintage version is a monobloc case. This is also why the re-edition requires a helium valve.
However, optically these are just minor differences. Most people will see the dial as modernized (glossy) and the orange bezel lock button instead of the plastic red button.
In terms of the movement, I am actually happy that Omega used their caliber 8500 movement. I even believe it was one of the first watches to use this caliber, besides some DeVille Co-Axial Hour Vision models. In the meanwhile, Omega started deploying this movement (in a number of variations in the meanwhile) to most time-only Seamaster and DeVille models. The 1970s PloProf used a caliber 1002 movement that was one of the first movements to tick at 28,800 beats per hour. However, this caliber 1002 isn’t considered to be a really good movement as it didn’t come without failures. The co-axial caliber 8500 movement is considered to be a puppy perhaps, but Omega is very confident that this movement will last given the fact that they increased the warranty period on these new movements.
To be brutally honest with you, I have worn this watch for over weeks in a row and it did not let me down once. However, I would never consider this as a first or only watch in my collection. Or to anyone’s collection for that matter. After a few weeks of wearing it in a row, I noticed that I felt the urge to take it off at the end of the day and put it aside. Especially when the weather was a bit humid. Suddenly the weight started to play its part (not the size). Especially when wearing it a bit tight, it gets annoying and although you can adjust the bracelet very easily and per tiny clicks, I felt as if the watch was in my way. I have and have had a few other divers watches and I also experienced the same with the Panerai Luminor models. In any case, next day I put the PloProf on my wrist again and it was as comfortable as it was before. It is just that after a long day, when the weather is a bit warm, it can get uncomfortable. I have to say that I did not experience this with its older brother (1971 PloProf ref. 166.077) on an Isofrane strap. So I do blame the heavy duty mesh bracelet in this case.
The Omega Seamaster PloProf 1200M is not for the faint hearted by any means. It is out there and I mean really out there. People will comment on it all day, even if they are non-watch people. On top of that, 95% of the people think it is an ugly watch. Hey, if you want a watch that everyone seems to like get an IWC Portuguese or one of the Rolex sports models and you will be fine. However, the comments and discussions that will come from that 5% are really enjoyable. People who know their watches will comment on it, or just give a thumb up or nod friendly at you. The price of the watch is approx. 7000 Euro for the version with a rubber strap (either black or orange) and the version on the shark bracelet comes at approx. 7250 Euro. Both prices include 21% VAT.
As a watch blogger – or journalist – I get quite a few watches on my desk. This PloProf is a watch that I can’t get out of my head for some reason. Although I am more of an Omega Speedmaster guy, this Seamaster PloProf could very well become my next watch purchase. It is definitely not something I think of all of the watches I do get for review, but this one left a print on my wrist. It is something to ponder on.
So, did Omega do a worthy re-edition? Definitely! Although the watch has been modernized in terms of the case construction, dial appearance and crown system, the association with the old Omega Seasmaster PloProf 600M is a no-brainer. This is actually one of the few watches, where I would have a slight preference for the re-edition than for the original model to be honest. And that is a very rare thought.