Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-axial Master Chronometer Chronograph 44mm – ref 18.104.22.168.01.001
The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-axial Master Chronometer Chronograph 44mm is endowed with a plethora of attributes. Furthermore, unlike some so-called unicorn watches, this is a chronograph you can readily acquire. Angus Davies explains why this is a watch that respects the consumer.
A new phrase has entered horological parlance, the ‘unicorn watch’. The term is used to describe a sought-after watch which is almost impossible to acquire. Often this scarcity is not a function of limited production but a clever attempt to engender desire.
This strategy leads some would-be buyers to perceive that every model made by a marque shares the same desirability and residual values, however, this is not always the case.
Recently, I heard of an authorised retailer who said they would only sell a particular unicorn watch if the would-be wearer was willing to spend £40,000 on other items, such as jewellery. I suspect this policy will do little to incite affection on the part of sane watch buyers. Moreover, the actions of some companies who make ‘unicorn watches’ fuels the grey market. While there are many independent companies selling genuine watches, there are also some dubious firms willing to exploit the naive buyer.
Those authorised retailers willing to place your name on ‘the list’ will soon stifle any excitement when they mention the predicted waiting time will run into several years. Personally, I would always choose to look elsewhere and select a brand that appreciates my custom and acts accordingly.
The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-axial Master Chronometer Chronograph 44mm is highly desirable, courtesy of its impressive specification and it goes on public sale in the early part of 2020. Most pertinently, based on my own Omega-buying past, I predict the wait for this watch will not run into many years, making it a viable ownership proposition.
The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-axial Master Chronometer Chronograph 44mm is available in several variants, including a sumptuously appointed version formed of Sedna™ gold. This noble metal is 18-carat gold, with the addition of copper and palladium, imbuing surfaces with a long-lasting reddish hue. The case material dictates the colour of the main dial area, minute track and the circlets framing the subdials.
The Omega is unequivocally a diver’s watch, equipped with several features that make it ideal for subaquatic use.
The generously proportioned golden hands are openworked and feature a liberal application of luminescent treatment. They proclaim the time clearly and with a notable degree of style. The plump, circular indexes stand out from the black dial epidermis courtesy of their scale and luminous properties.
Omega has chosen to emphasise the aquatic character of this watch by embellishing the black dial with a wavelike motif. While the pattern is prominent, it does not inhibit legibility. Many former Seamaster chronographs feature a tri-compax layout and a date aperture at 3 o’clock. However, the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-axial Master Chronometer Chronograph 44mm adopts a bi-compax design and presents the prevailing date at 6 o’clock. The resultant appearance is cleaner, less fussy and, in my opinion, more attractive.
The subdial located at 3 o’clock features both a 60-minute register and a 12-hour register. A small seconds display is positioned opposite. Each subdial is snailed and framed with a golden track. The date is depicted using crisp white numerals set atop a black disc, matching the main dialscape. This latter detail upholds horological etiquette and, once again, demonstrates Omega’s rectitude.
The central chronograph seconds hand incorporates a lollipop, heightening readability. Its slender form kisses the golden minute track framing the dial surface.
The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-axial Master Chronometer Chronograph measures a substantial 44mm in diameter. Its vast proportions are likely to attract attention. This is not a watch for shrinking violets.
Personally, I like the bold nature of this chronograph. Moreover, my left wrist, measuring 21cm in circumference, looks at ease with the Omega. However, those seeking more compact dimensions may prefer the non-chronograph, time only, Seamaster Diver 300M which measures just 42mm.
The Seamaster Diver 300M Chronograph collection is comprised of nine different models, including both steel and bi-metallic options. Further choice is provided with rubber strap and bracelet models.
Omega’s mastery of materials extends to the chronograph pushers which are formed of ceramic. They beautifully contrast with the adjacent gold flanks of the case, enriching the model’s aesthetic appearance. The black bezel is unidirectional and incorporates a polished diving scale, sating the desires of professional divers. However, what differentiates this bezel from most of its contemporaries is the textured surface produced using ‘laser-ablation’. The resultant appearance is comprised of gleaming and muted surfaces, proffering an abundance of eye-appeal.
The watch exudes an air of robustness. Indeed, while it may exhibit a luxurious mien, it is unabashedly a professional diver’s watch. For instance, the crown nestles within a crown protection device. Furthermore, a helium valve, positioned at 10 o’clock, is useful for those commercial divers spending time in a decompression chamber, breathing helium-rich air.
This watch successfully blends practicality with some delicious indulgences which I find hard to resist. The watch is supplied on a black rubber strap, but the Swiss marque indulges off-duty subaquatic types with a choice of 45 different straps in an array of materials, all for an additional, but agreeably modest supplement.
I am pleased to see that the Maison has not stuck doggedly to diver’s watch convention, choosing to venture off-piste, adding an array of non-traditional delights. For example, Omega has chosen to forgo the solid case back typically found on traditional diver’s watches, preferring to equip the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-axial Master Chronometer Chronograph with an exhibition case back. As I will go on to explain, when a movement looks like the Calibre 9901, it would have been churlish of Omega to frustrate inquisitive eyes.
The Co-axial escapement
Most mechanical watches feature a Swiss lever escapement. Originally termed ‘the lever escapement’, this type of mechanism was invented in 1755 by the British clockmaker, Thomas Mudge. Thereafter, various Swiss manufactures sought to improve the system, culminating in a refined evolution of the mechanism, termed the Swiss lever escapement.
A Swiss lever escapement prevents the mainspring unleashing all its stored energy at once via the gear train. An unusually shaped wheel termed the ‘escape wheel’ and the ‘pallet lever’ collaborate to suspend the motion of the gear train at regular intervals as well as supplying energy to the regulating organ.
The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-axial Master Chronometer Chronograph is equipped with an alternative mechanism, termed the ‘co-axial escapement’. This system is patented and unique to Omega. It represents a major step forward when contrasted with the ubiquitous Swiss lever escapement. Interestingly, English Watchmaker George Daniels conceived the original system, albeit Omega has repeatedly enhanced the mechanism over the years.
Unlike a Swiss lever escapement, the co-axial escapement is endowed with a 3-level co-axial escapement wheel. Moreover, the pallet lever features three pallets instead of the customary two. The impulse pin and roller are positioned to the side of the pallet lever. With this system the impulse and locking functions are separate.
With a Swiss lever escapement the pallets slide along the face of the escape wheel teeth, creating friction. On the co-axial escapement the pallets don’t slide but push instead, virtually eliminating friction. The two key benefits of a co-axial escapement are longer service intervals and greater precision.
The Omega co-axial Co-axial Master Chronometer Calibre 9901 is virtually identical to the Calibre 9900, albeit with additional finishing and the fitment of a highly attractive balance bridge and rotor, again executed in 18K Sedna™ gold. This automatic movement proves very handsome and incorporates some delightful features.
The 18K Sedna™ gold oscillating weight is adorned with ‘Geneva waves in arabesque’. The adjacent bridges share the same decoration. The jewel and screw sinks are highly polished and the bridges sport gleaming bevels. While this watch may lack some of the high-end touches found on models from its upscale siblings, Blancpain and Breguet, it certainly stands comparison with the best watches in this price segment.
The balance bridge, again formed of the brand’s proprietary noble metal, is affixed at both sides, providing greater stability than a simple cock. Two barrels are arranged in series, granting a power reserve of 60 hours.
While the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-axial Master Chronometer Chronograph doffs its hat to traditional watchmaking know-how, it repeatedly embraces cutting-edge technology. For instance, the balance spring is formed of silicon. This glass-like material is not subject to corrosion or magnetism.
The watch features a variable inertia balance (also called a free-sprung balance). By adjusting the screws affixed to the rim of the balance wheel, the moment of inertia is adjusted, altering the rate of the movement. When contrasted with the commonplace index adjuster, the hairspring breathes more concentrically and the accuracy is less susceptible to positional influence. Another attractive quality of this balance wheel is the positioning of the screws in-board, mitigating air turbulence, hence augmenting precision.
The watch is a chronometer, independently certified by COSC. In addition, the movement has been approved by the Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS). This latter testing regime looks at the average daily precision of the watch, exposing it to different temperatures, positions and magnetic fields of 15,000 gauss. METAS’s scrutiny also extends to looking at water resistance.
METAS also looks at the deviation of rate when the power reserve is at 100% and 33%. Typically, when the energy held within the barrel(s) wanes, the force serving the escapement drops, the amplitude of the balance falls and precision is compromised. The fact that the METAS performs this test is very reassuring. Moreover, the fact that Omega meets the stringent requirements of METAS is particularly impressive.
As a diver’s watch, the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M is robust, water-resistant to 300 metres and proves highly legible. Perhaps, it is too expensive or luxurious for subaquatic use, but in all honesty, few divers’ watches are ever used in anger. Furthermore, many of its qualities are equally valid on terra firma, hence it remains worthy of consideration even if you seldom get your hair wet.
This watch also features a chronograph, a useful complication when performing an array of everyday tasks. Moreover, it is endowed with a highly desirable column-wheel, sating the desires of purists. When the chronograph is actuated the central chronograph seconds hand commences its journey without hesitation. Furthermore, the pushers have a silken action that invites repeated manipulation.
Technically this watch is exceptional. Its specification is extensive and encompasses both innovation and peerless watchmaking know-how. Furthermore, Omega has chosen to put its head above the parapet and invite third parties to closely scrutinise its models. Both COSC and METAS repeatedly challenge the performance of numerous Omega models, providing prospective purchasers with a welcome degree of peace of mind.
This version of the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-axial Master Chronometer Chronograph costs a not inconsequential £20,870, however, if this is beyond your financial grasp, don’t be dismayed. The Swiss luxury marque offers a steel version of the Seamaster Diver 300M Co-axial Master Chronometer Chronograph for a very reasonable £5,740 on a rubber strap. Alternatively, the watch is available on a bracelet for just £6000. Both of these models encompass many of the qualities of the glorious, über-luxurious Sedna™ gold version. And once again, these watches are readily available.
Those brands who feel the ‘unicorn watch’ strategy is a shrewd marketing strategy should pause and think about the message they are sending to the watch buying public. I suspect many customers who have experienced this approach, don’t feel valued. It is for this reason, along with the aforementioned product benefits, I feel more inclined to visit an Omega boutique than… well, you know who.
- Model: Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-axial Master Chronometer Chronograph
- Reference: 22.214.171.124.01.001
- Case: Sedna™ gold; diameter 44mm; water resistance 30ATM (300 metres); sapphire crystals to front and back
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; chronograph
- Movement: Calibre 9901; automatic movement; power reserve 60 hours
- Strap: Black rubber strap
- Price: £20,870 (RRP as at 31.12.2019)