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Omega Seamaster 300 Review

  1. dsio

    dsio Ash @ ΩF Staff Member Oct 9, 2011

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    The Omega Seamaster 300 Ref. 166.0324

    Current MSRP: N/A

    The Seamaster 300

    The Seamaster 300 Reference 166.0324 is a modern built example of a vintage watch. The watchmaker starts by taking an original vintage Omega Calibre 552 movement, most often from an Omega Genève or De-Ville, fully servicing it and regulating it to within original specifications. They then install it in a newly manufactured, Ref 166.0324 Seamaster 300 case, fitting a Super-Luminova bezel, dial and hands, and a freshly made bracelet, either vintage mesh or Speedmaster style.

    The reason this is possible is that Omega has continued to produce the parts used in the Seamaster 300, with a new reference being issued specifically to the new cases, and all luminous parts being produced with modern Super-Luminova instead of the original Tritium. All parts in the watch, are 100% genuine and produced solely by Omega for service use, and in fact sending a deteriorated vintage SM300 to Omega would result in exactly a watch like this being sent back, the only difference being that this movement, while correct for a SM300, started its life out in a different case, before realizing late in life, that deep down in its heart, it wanted to be one of the coolest dive watches ever made.


    Why a modern built Seamaster 300?

    This is definitely the most obvious question collectors and Omega enthusiasts will ask, and its a very valid one, as for the same money, or possibly less you can buy a vintage SM300.

    The reasoning is that vintage watches should be protected, worn carefully, and kept in as original a condition as possible. Unlike the vintage Constellations and Seamaster dress watches readily available online, the Seamaster 300 was not a great volume production piece, and the original owners bought them as tool watches, to be used and abused (with some experiencing damage from water leakage as well). As a result, the number of mint examples is exceedingly small, with most falling into the average to poor category. The better examples demand top dollar and should be treated appropriately, while the poorer versions, if serviced will come back looking exactly as this watch does, with super-luminova replacement parts.

    The advantage of this piece is that there's no regret for replacing parts, no concern over water resistance, no need to baby it or protect it from the world. This watch is going swimming with me next week and could well get bathed in single malt scotch before that and it doesn't matter in the slightest. The saying used by vintage collectors "It's only original once" doesn't apply here, because it will be as original as it ever will be, as long as replacement parts are still available.

    In that sense this Seamaster 300 has a lot in common with the current Omega Ref. 3570.50 Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch, in that it is the current version of one of Omega's proudest lines. Frankly I think Omega should bring this model back as a full production piece along side the venerable Speedmaster Pro, as a sibling for the Planet Ocean series and a reminder of the rich history behind every watch that carries a Hippocampus on the caseback.


    The Movement:

    The Seamaster 300 carries a fully rebuilt Omega Calibre 552 non-chrometer certified movement. It features:

    • No-Date With Center Seconds
    • Bi-Directional Winding
    • 50 Hour Power Reserve
    • Non-Hacking (May be paused with reverse pressure on the crown)
    • 19,800 VPH Beat Rate
    • Swan Neck Regulator
    The Omega Cal 522 is an in-house produced movement, built during the glory years of Omega in-house movements, when the Cal 55x and 56x series movements were going head to head with the highly regarded Rolex Cal 1530/1570 movements, and considered by many to be equal or better than the Rolex competition.

    The example in this Seamaster 300, while not chronometer rated, is currently keeping +2.0 seconds per day, which is exactly the same timing as the chronometer rated Rolex Cal 1570 in my vintage Ref. 1680 Submariner. The high level of finishing, swan neck regulator and evolutionary design improvements taken from the early Omega 500 series movements result in a calibre capable of meeting and exceeding chronometer specifications easily when correctly maintained, even if not technically certified.

    The longevity of these movements is simply staggering, with many watches going strong after 20, 30 or more years without servicing, as unlike the Rolex calibres, the mid-500 series winding mechanism does not seem to wear out rapidly.


    Case:

    The case of the Seamaster 300 is 41mm in diameter excluding the rather large protruding crown, however it wears smaller than that due to the lack of crown guards compared to the 40mm Rolex Submariner. The case features unusually thin, curved, twisted, and form fitting lugs, which concave under the watch to match the contours of the wrist, resulting in a design that sits very low and comfortably, flush with your arm rather than sitting up like many divers of similar thickness.

    The ratcheting bezel turns 60 clicks per rotation, and is very easy to grip, thanks to its coin edge design, which is almost identical to the current Planet Ocean series, moving firmly and very precisely. The bezel features a unique acrylic insert, with very bright, Super-Luminova lit markers for the triangle, 10, 20, 30 40, and 50 markers, a feature limited to this watch and the current Omega PloProf 1200 re-issue in Omega's lineup.

    The crown is large, easy to grip, easy to pull out, and screws in neatly but firmly. The lack of crown guards does not seem to be much of a concern, as the strength and build quality in the case and crown assembly is very apparent, this is not a fragile watch by any means.

    The weight of this watch is fairly modest, being a touch lighter than a comparable Rolex Submariner:

    • Omega Seamaster 300 (Omega Vintage Mesh Bracelet): 114g
    • Rolex Submariner 1680 (Rolex 93150 Oyster Bracelet): 116g
    That said, the Seamaster 300’s head is probably somewhat lighter than the Submariner’s with most of the weight in the heavy mesh bracelet. The result is that the watch sits closer to your hand, with less head-flopping, and a great deal of balance.


    Dial, Hands and Crystal:

    The dial will be immediately familiar to Planet Ocean owners, with very generous sized Super-Luminova indices, and the well known "3, 6, 9, 12" arabic numbering arrangement, with even the same font used as on Planet Oceans. A minute track is visible on the outer edge, and dial writing is kept to an absolute minimum, with nothing more than "Seamaster 300" and "Automatic" printed on the dial aside from the Omega brand.

    The hands are equally generous in their use of luminous material, with a thick sword hand used for hours, a long minute hand, and a seconds hand with a large segment of lume in the head touching the minute track. Readability is absolutely superb, and nighttime visibility is one of the most impressive aspects of the SM300, with nothing short of a Seiko Monster outdoing this modern made 60's designed Omega for brightness.

    The thick, domed plexiglass crystal, signed with an Omega symbol in the center has a remarkable warmth and vintage feel about it, which any Speedmaster Professional owner will immediately appreciate. From less than a 30 degree angle, the domed crystal “warps” the dial as if peering through a magnifying glass, and reflections are created on the surface from many angles. In most watch reviews this would be marked down as a negative, but in the case of the Seamaster 300, this is what a vintage enthusiast loves about plexiglass, and I would not swap it for all the anti-reflective coated Sapphire in Switzerland.


    The Bracelet:

    Omega’s Vintage Mesh bracelet is considered one of the best mesh bracelets ever produced, so good in fact that it is commonly seen attached to Seiko, IWC, Breitling, and even Rolex sports watches, in spite of the fact that it carries a very visible Omega symbol on its clasp. The mesh is several millimeters thick, strong, effortlessly flexible, and as smooth as glass, while carrying a not insignificant heft to it. The way it fits puts it above the Omega Bond bracelet, and Speedmaster bracelets in terms of comfort, and explains why PloProf owners consider their watch with all its size to be so comfortable.

    The clasp is an odd duck, it uses an airline seat-buckle style tongue and catch type system, which takes some practice to use. After clipping it and unfastening it about 50 times, it got to the point where I could do it without looking and without fear of losing it, but when practicing I would strongly recommend doing so over a pillow or soft surface.

    The bracelet opens up fully, like a strap would, which is different, and makes installing and removing the strap from the watch much less of a hassle.

    Sizing is very convenient, with a micro-adjust spring-bar inside the clasp, and due to the design of the mesh and clasp, there is no fiddling trying to get the spring-bar into the next hole, it simply slides forward and back as if on rails and slots into the next hole.

    The standard bracelet length allows about an inch of adjustment and fits medium to small sized wrists quite well. Larger wrists can be accommodated with the use of an extension link which joins by spring-bars and can be chained together for even greater length.

    The only gripe with the Omega Vintage mesh is that when opening the clasp, it can have a tendency to flip one side of the watch over the top, possibly causing damage if there is anything hard nearby.


    Wrist Presence:

    The Seamaster 300 was designed from the beginning not as a fashion watch, but as a tool watch. It was in fact issued to British Royal Navy divers for operational use from the mid 60s to late 70s and the utilitarian nature of the piece is apparent from all angles.

    At 42mm, its size is still very modern, slightly larger than a Submariner, and slightly smaller than the current Planet Ocean, but the design of the dial and particularly the bezel insert make it seem larger than it is, and really stand out.

    On top of this, the mesh bracelet takes it to the next level. There is something truly special about being able to tell someone that your dive watch has a “shark-proof” bracelet, and it transforms an already aggressive looking watch into something worthy of a Bond villain, and possibly more evil than a Panerai. This piece genuinely looks like the type of timepiece an Israeli Mossad agent would wear while dumping the body of a murdered dictator in a deserted swamp.

    The most effective description would be bad-ass.
     
  2. Trev

    Trev The Architect Staff Member Oct 9, 2011

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  3. Steve

    Steve Oct 9, 2011

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    Fantastic Review Ashley, you got yourself a nice collection going on there. And Great Photo's Trev. :thumbsup:
     
    MyVintageOmega likes this.
  4. Trev

    Trev The Architect Staff Member Oct 9, 2011

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    For some reason I can't the idea out of my head that a Russian submarine captain would wear something like that.
    "One shonar ping...."

    Thanks Steve. Did the best with what was available. Need a real Macro lens. ;)
     
  5. ulackfocus

    ulackfocus Dennis @ ΩF - vociferous quartzophobe Staff Member Oct 9, 2011

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    That's a good looking watch. :thumbsup: Total agreement that it should be put back in production since the 42 mm case could feasibly contain the larger caliber 8500 with some changes.
     
  6. Steve

    Steve Oct 9, 2011

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  7. dsio

    dsio Ash @ ΩF Staff Member Oct 9, 2011

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  8. Steve

    Steve Oct 9, 2011

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    You can imagine them with their daggers between there teeth. And not bothered what date it is !!.:D
     
  9. dsio

    dsio Ash @ ΩF Staff Member Oct 9, 2011

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    That was my thought exactly, it wouldn't cannibalise Planet Ocean sales, because the SM300 remake would, like the Speedy feature a hesalite plastic crystal, making it appeal to those inclined towards the classic. It also fills a gap left by the 2254.50 that was quite similar in dial, hands and design. Cal 8500 would be a perfect replacement for the Cal 552, and the Omega mesh is already being put back into use on the PloProf and Planet Ocean.
     
  10. Trev

    Trev The Architect Staff Member Oct 10, 2011

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    This is making me want a mesh bracelet for my SMPC. :)
     
    Lundy likes this.
  11. dsio

    dsio Ash @ ΩF Staff Member Oct 10, 2011

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    Do... it...
     
  12. Tempus Suisse

    Tempus Suisse Nov 24, 2011

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    This is a good post Ashley!
     
  13. rxpete

    rxpete Nov 29, 2011

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    What a beautiful watch. You can really see where Omega got the inspiration for the PO.
     
  14. dsio

    dsio Ash @ ΩF Staff Member Nov 30, 2011

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    Indeed, they also made a broadarrow SM300 with a slight inner part of the bezel in silver, much like the PO:

    The seconds hand is almost an exact copy, as is the minutes hand, and the silver/black two colour bezel is very close.

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Matt

    Matt Jan 7, 2012

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    Awesome review. I own a slightly different version of this watch: it uses the cal. 565 movement to add a date function. I absolutely love this watch, and I have no fear of wearing it regularly and 'destroying' a vintage timepiece. It wears slightly smaller than my cal. 861 Speedmaster Pro, even though it's in exactly the same case.
    ome0002.jpg
     
    Varasc, andnowwhat and dsio like this.
  16. dsio

    dsio Ash @ ΩF Staff Member Jan 8, 2012

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    Oh hey, nice. You in Brisbane too?
     
  17. Trev

    Trev The Architect Staff Member Jan 8, 2012

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    More locals :)
     
  18. Matt

    Matt Jan 8, 2012

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    Yep, sunny Brisvegas. Perfect place to be wearing sport watches.
     
  19. dsio

    dsio Ash @ ΩF Staff Member Jan 17, 2012

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    As a followup to this, when I took it to Brisbane Vintage Watches to be pressure tested, it failed instantly, they recommended a new crown and tube as well as a new crystal, which was ~$300. So that's been ordered and installed and it passed pressure test, however while in there, they found there was some rust on the movement, it was keeping very good time, and was apparently serviced prior to me purchasing it, but perhaps the original movement was in worse condition than I had expected before it was serviced.

    After changing parts, the watch successfully pressure tested to 100M / 300Ft which is as far as they feel safe testing plexiglass crystal watches, so we're assuming either the crown was at fault (as it felt strange from the start) or that the crystal was bad from the time I bought it.
     
  20. Trev

    Trev The Architect Staff Member Jan 17, 2012

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    Does plexiglass/etc have more a tendency to change shape over time?
     
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