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Thursday, April 24 Front Page >> Mixelania >> Omega Seamaster Review >> Full Review

Full Review of the Omega Seamaster
July 2003

Omega Close Up

Again, I need to emphasise, I am not a watch expert. I am just a long time fan of automatic watches. I have never cracked open the back of a watch to check it out (though I do own two automatics with clear casebacks that let you see what's goin' on).

With that said...

Freshly Bought Thoughts

The day I bought the watch was undeniably a weird circumstance. You see, I had about 8 years+ to think about buying the Omega Seamaster Professional, but in the end it felt very much like an impulse, spur of the moment purchase.

The kicker for me was putting it on my wrist. I've never done that before, even though I've scoped out the Seamaster in person on at least a half dozen occasions in the past. I never put it on my wrist because I felt if I did, I wouldn't be able to take it off.

And go figure - the day I finally did put it on my wrist, I didn't take it off. It didn't even need to be sized. It was good to go. In fact, I did the initial polishing myself :)

So what did I think that day I put it on my wrist? Well first I tried the Titanium Chrongraph version on my wrist, I realised the Ti was too expensive, and it was just too big for my liking; I also realised the steel version of the Chronograph would be way too heavy as well as being way too thikc. Then I asked to see a new full size mens' chronometer model... was handed it, and thought about it for a bit. Then I slipped it on my wrist.

Heaven.

The weight was just at the edge of perfection - heavier than my Seiko Kinetic Auto Relay, but not so heavy it would be uncomfortable.

The thickness was impressive. It's actually thinner than my Kinetic by about a mm, but the big size of the dial and face make it seem even thinner than it is. I looked at the finish under a magnifying glass (jeweler's light), and was impressed with the fit and finish, seeing it for the first time that way.

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Wide View
The watch is thin, lean, and surprising little things all over the place.

I liked how the waves in the dial face would disappear and reappear depending on the angle I held it at. Pretty damned cool stuff, but also oh-so subtle, which made me like the watch even more.

The skeleton arms... what can I say. Reading other Omega fan sites and reviews, you may see some folks pooh-pooh the skeleton arms, favouring the solid arms on the Seamaster Professional GMT model, but I say screw that sentiment - the skeleton arms are amazingly cool, and help keep the watch face interesting and "clean"... which is a good thing - there's so much writing on the face (4 lines below centre, one line above where the logo name is), plus the big dots and the very visible date... well so much is going on that the skeleton arms open up the watch in such a way so it doesn't look too busy. Solid arms would be too much.

Another thing I "got" right away - the bracelet. First, it fit near perfectly without any adjustments. Bonus! Second, the bracelet components, almost all solid metal, are complex but very flexible - each major link can bend about 115 to 120 degrees, giving a very form-fitting bracelet. Third, no hair snags! I even tested this by putting the watch into swift turns on my wrist, bending the links, you name it - no hair pulling.

Lastly, the colour did it for me. The metallic, deep sea blue blew me away the first time I saw the watch in '94, and continued on this shopping day. Like I said, once it was on my wrist, I wasn't leaving the store without buying it. No matter how maxed out it made my credit card (Visa loves me).

There was one other teensy, itty bitty factor that made me walk out the store with the Seamaster on my wrist: the price. This watch retails for $2,600 in Canada at official Omega Prices™. They never go on sale up here... well, almost never.

Omega lets its authorized sellers have time limited sales very briefly, and my understanding is that each dealer gets their own 'time' during the year where they can do it (I could be wrong on this). By fortune or folly, the day I went into the dealer in downtown Vancouver, they were having a sale on all their Omega watches. The price was dropped sufficiently that it was less expensive than Costco's price on the grey market Seamaster Professional (serial numbers removed, no warranty) they sometimes have up here in Vancouver. In fact, the price was less than 15% higher than the lowest priced "gray market" Seamaster I've seen online at Ashford or World of Watches, with tax included. Plus I didn't have to pay duties, shipping, or brokerage fees.

Kismet was speaking to me that day.

Longer Term Comments

Now that I've had the watch for a while, I've been able to evaluate a few key things about it.

The Bracelet

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So people underneath you can tell what watch you wear...
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The links are a mastery of precision.

As mentioned above, the bracelet itself is a work of art. No need to get further into this - it just works, looks awesome, and never snags hairs.

The clasp mechanism is also a serious piece of engineering. Where the Rolex Submariner has a type of "sheet metal" underfold mechanism (at double the Omega's price), the Seamaster Professional has a substantial, solid metal skeleton clasp and foldover design that is widely regarded as the best in the industry.

In short, once this watch is locked down on your wrist, it ain't coming undone.

There's also a well designed "divers' extension". I'll never have a use for this unless I move back to Ottawa to endure -30 winters again, but it's an nice feature to have - on the other side of the clasp, you can unfold two little connections (sorry, I don't know the technical name) to extend the wrist size of the watch by about an inch or so. The divers' extension is the same construction as the rest of the clasp mechanism. When diving, this goes over your diving suit. In Ottawa, it lets you put the watch on the outside of your parka and mitts :)

The clasp is undone by pressing in two side buttons that press easily, but are designed in such a way that it's virtually impossible for them to be depressed at the same time by accident, or contact with clothes, steering wheels, doors, someone's face, etc etc.

I have one peeve about the bracelet - specifically the underside solid metal clasp that faces the floor if you're checking the time. It scratches way too easily. Mine is already scuffed and scratched, just from contact with tables, desks, computers, cameras, espresso machines, and tampers. I would have thought it would stand up to a bit more punishment.

The Outside Top and Bezel

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Sapphire crystal is curved and lookin' good.
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Sapphire is raised a smidge over the bezel, and check out those bezel edges - deceiving!
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Bezel, sapphire, curves, it all works.

The part everyone sees, so it must be all good, right? So far, so good!

The "glass" on the top of the watch is actually a synthetic material called "sapphire crystal". It's one of the hardest synthetic materials this side of a diamond, and very, very difficult to scratch or damage. That's not to say it can't happen, but I'm notoriously rough on my watches (my hardlex crystal top of the Seiko Kinetic Auto Relay has been replaced twice in 3 years), and so far (knock on a huge piece of wood), no scratches, microscratches, or marring of any type on my Omega. It's all good.

The fit is very precise. The sapphire crystal is domed (most of my other watches are flat), which would cause a bevy of reflection problems when viewing the watch, but Omega generously coats the interior of the crystal with an anti-reflective coating. It generally works well, but when photographing it, I do have to deal with a heap of reflective issues (usually solved by good placement of white sheets of paper!)

The sapphire's edge is slightly above the case mount - perhaps 1/5th a mm. I read somewhere this is for a specific reason, but I can't recall what it is at the moment.

I remember seeing in a James Bond Movie, Roger More used the bezel on a watch (I've since found out it was a Rolex Submariner) to spin at super high speeds in order to cut through a rope.

That made me a bit leery of bezels on super expensive Swiss watches, to say the least.

But the bezel on the Omega Seamaster Professional is another engineering marvel. To look at it, you'd think it was full of sharp corners and ends, ready to snag on coats and cuffs and jackets. But a closer examination shows that it's all an illusion, a play of light and shadows caused by the amazing detail work Omega has done with this metal sculpting. All the really sharp bits that could normally do the kind of "damage" I've listed above are in fact smoothed off, and the remaining angles exist in order to facilitate turning the very stiff, unidirectional bezel.

Contrast this with two other sports watches I've owned in ten years - a Seiko Diver and a Swiss Army sports model - the SA watch was the worst - I actually came close to cutting myself on the wrist once with it, the bezel was so sharp; the Seiko did get caught on a couple of wool sweaters I wore.

The bezel is, as mentioned, unidirectional, and a serious job of anodizing (or something similar) has been done to etch the blue and numbers. So far, not a scratch shows on the anodizing, and I've examined it with a 3:1 super macro lens (sees stuff the human eye can't).

What's the bezel for? Basically, it's a poor man's stop watch or timer (heh heh - I managed to work in "poor man's xxxx" in a review about a $2,600 watch!).

Divers use it to track the time they spend underwater. It's unidirectional for a reason - if it could turn both ways, a diver may accidentally rotate it without knowing it, and artificially extend the time he thinks he can be underwater... a bad thing. Being unidirectional, if a diver has 30 mins of air and sets the bezel to indicate 30 mins count down time, if he accidentally rotates it, the only mistake he can make is on the side of caution - reducing the time he thinks he can be down below, not extending it.

In my case, I use the bezel to time my espresso shots. At first, I would set the bezel zero point at 27 seconds past high noon, and just wait for the second hand to get to zero on the clock face before starting the shot; but I don't do that anymore. I simply set the zero marker on the bezel (indicated with the luminous dot) to within 5 seconds or so of where the second hand is, wait for the second hand to get there, then start the shot. The bezel has markers for every second on it, so timing is a breeze. The only problem is, the bezel, being so new, is pretty stiff to turn - but I don't know if I want it to lose any of that stiffness... time will tell.

Plus it gives me an excuse to dial that clickity bezel. Cool, huh?

Those Little Dialy Things

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Winder crown, uh, little dialy thing is multtasking, excellent design, and has the omega logo.
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Helium crown side, doesn't have the protection of the case, but it's tight and lookin' good.

On either side of the Seamaster Professional Chronometer, there are two winders (hereby referred to as little dialy things). The little dially thing on the right side of the watch is one of those multitasking things you see on most watches... except on my watch, it really does multitask.

First, you screw it down to ensure you get all 1,000 feet of sea worthiness. Screw it down real tight by turning clockwise.

If you want to change the date (oops, gotta do that right now, as it's July 1, and my watch says 31 on the dial)... stand by... done. If you want to change the date, first you unscrew the little dialy thing to unseal it from it's watertight position, then pull it out a bit. If you pulled it too much, the second hand stops moving - you don't want that. Pull it out one "stage" as it were (you'll know by touch), then rotate counter clockwise to change the date.

I've read that you will go to hell without your Omega if you dare to change the date between 10pm and 2am; and I sure don't want to go to hell, so I haven't done it (yet). Apparently, along with the trip to hell, you risk damaging the delicate (yet durable! Shockproof!) internal winding mechanisms and screwing up the instant date change ability. Sounds techie to me. The 'hell' part is enough to convince me not to do it.

If you want to change the time, (and you should change the time every week or more frequently... after all, yes, this is a bloody expensive watch, but it's a bloody expensive all mechanical watch - no watch keeps perfect time, and mechanicals can be less accurate than expensive quartz models!), well, when it comes time to adjust your time, simply pull the right side little dialy thing out all the way. The second hand stops, and then you can adjust the minute (or hours if you want to turn it a lot).

I'm fortunate (I think) that so far my watch runs a bit fast... resetting the time is just a matter of pulling the crown winder, er, little dialy thing, out all the way, watching the atomic clock setting on my computer (which I also update), then push the crown back in once the seconds match up. If your watch runs slow, you may have to pull the little dialy thing, dial exactly one minute ahead, and then push it in when your second hand matches the clock you're checking.

Remember I said multitasking? Most watches I've ever owned that were automatics did NOT let you "power up" the watch with the winder / crown. The little dialy thing was just used for date and time setting. The Omega Seamaster lets you wind the watch up to max power with the winder. I've read some fuddy duddies online who tell you never to do this all the way - to just wind sufficiently to get the watch going reliably, then wear it to let your normal arm movements actuate the "automatic" weights inside to get the watch up to max power reserve. But Omega themselves say, not to worry, dude, go for it - dial that sucka in as much as you want. So I say, whatever.

Around the right side little dialy thing, the watch casing extends to protect said crown. Hey, when you're James Bond, I guess you need that kind of protection. Me? Well, I tend to walk into walls, bump against big metal espresso machines and heavy duty grinders all the time, so it's all good, yet again.

Then there's that little dialy thing on the left side. That's actually the helium release one way valve. It's one way, but they tell you not to leave it unscrewed under water... go figure. Still, it's a cool thing to have on the watch. Thanks to the Bond movies, I've already been asked twice if that's where I keep my explosive detonator.

The Watchface, Hands, and Date Comments

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Waves Appear, Dissapear
This photo shows a bit how the waves can appear or dissapear, depending on the viewing angle.

Here's where the real magic comes in... the face. It has those waves you tend to see in most photos of the watch. This might just lead you to believe the waves are very visible, all the time, and maybe even distracting?

Not so, mon frere. The waves are more like a texture, and they actively change the watch face depending on the angle the watch is viewed at. Just an hour ago, I was driving in the car with the top down (the car's top, not mine), and my left hand was on the steering wheel at about the 10 o'clock position. I glanced down to check the time, and walla, I was staring at a deep, dark gray blue solid face on the watch. Not a wave in sight. But a little twist of the wrist, and the waves caught the sunlight right, and jumped out, vibrant as all heck.

Chameleon watch, it is.

And the colour... bam. I don't like white watch faces. I don't like gold. I don't even really like black all that much (but can live with it in a watch face)... but I have to say that all of this is clouded by my first ever viewing of the Seamaster - once I saw the colours used in this watch, I just couldn't imagine a more perfect colour. And that was almost 10 years ago!

But enough about that. How about some talk about what's on the clock face.

First up, there's these big ole' dots at the 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11 o'clock positions. At 6 and 9 o'clock, there's a big, fat ass dash line. At 3 o'clock, the date forces Omega to make a little stubby dash line. And at high noon, there's a big fat ass double dash.

All of this is coated with something Omega calls "Super Luminova". Gone is the days of good old Tritium (I read a novel once where some dude raided a watch factory to get a couple of grams of tritium to aid in making a nuclear weapon! Woo Hoo! Did you know that Tritium is one of the most expensive materials by weight on the planet earth? Even more than plutonium; or so I've been told. Tritium in a watch dots and hands is probably 0.001 of a gram).

For whatever reason Omega switched to Super Luminova, it all works. I read in another review it glows bright enough to light your way to the bathroom at 3am; well, I dunno about that. But I can say this - sun goes down here at around 9:30; I go to bed at around 1:30 (usually). I woke up at around 4:30 one particular morning to make a trip to the loo, with the watch on my wrist and nothing more than a 40 watt light as the last light source shining on the watch indirectly at around 1am (so 3.5 hours previously), and in the dark, I could easily read the time on the watch.

No other watch I've owned had that kind of staying power for the luminescence. Not even my Seiko 200m diver, which I thought (previously) had pretty good lasting power for the glow in the dark moments,

I still stubbed my toe on the weight scale in the darkened bathroom though. So much for the claim it can light your way :)

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Looking Up the Face
A look see at the face detail, logo in focus
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Looking up the Face
Now the text, hour, minute and second hands are inf focus. Micro-design, here I come.

Next up, the hour, minute and second hands. Again, my epiphany in the "ultimate watch" was when I saw the Seamaster back in 1994 for the first time, and the skeleton hands had a lot to do with it.

The watch face is fairly busy. You have the Omega logo and Omega name up top. On the bottom half, you have four lines of text:

Seamaster
PROFESSIONAL
CHRONOMETER
300M / 1000ft

You also have the date indicator on the right side, and that oh-so-luscious wavy watch face.

Solid hands would be just too much with this watch. It would get too busy, too brash, too bold. The skeleton hands are cut out, and show stuff underneath. In the dark, you have these two razor lines along the skeleton arms that show up glowing, and a triangle for the minute hand, and a dot circle for the hour hand. It's all pretty cool looking in the dark.

In full light, the face looks open and almost "inviting" because the skeleton hands open things up. I just can't imagine a better set of indicator hands for a watch and in particular, this Seamaster Professional.

Lastly, there's the date indicator. One thing that distinguishes the Omega Seamaster from the Rolex Submariner is that the Submariner uses a magnifying bulb of glass over the date to make it seem huge. I have never liked that about any watch, especially Rolex watches. But I could see the use - the date on a Rolex is pretty darned small.

On the Omega full size Seamaster Professional, the date is a perfect size for instant viewing. It's also outlined by a blue border, framed by a very thin (but visible) white border, which helps highlight the area and draw the eye to it. Again, it really is all good - about as perfect as can be. The only thing lacking is a perpetual date feature so I don't have to manually change the date on months with less than 31 days, but other than that, it's poifect!

Timing, Testing and Usability

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Accurate!
My Seamaster has settled down to being around 3 seconds fast per day.

I haven't had the watch long enough to really get a handle on how the watch runs, but in a few weeks I've been able to witness a few things.

First up, the watch really hasn't left my wrist since I bought it, except for a few occasions where I'm "giving the wrist a rest". I wear it to sleep, I wear it in the shower, I wear it pretty much all the time.

Each night since getting the watch, I check the time against an atomic clock program I have on my computer. I do it at around the same time each night - around 9pm. The first few days I had the watch I was concerned - it was running as much as 10 seconds fast! WTF?

But by the fourth day, it settled down quite a bit to the point where now it's running about 3 seconds fast per day - well within the COSC standards. A couple of days, it was less than a second fast, but most days it's between 2 and 4 seconds. I certainly can live with that.

Some people may be going "hey dude, if I paid $2600 (Cdn dollars) for a watch, I'd expect it to be accurate as an atomic clock!!!"

Idiots. (grin)

Even quartz watches lose time - as much as 10 seconds + or - per week. The watch I own is 100% mechanical. It uses a series of springs, actuators, weights, levers, gears, and maybe even a little grease and oil to keep time accurately. The fact that it can average an accuracy rating of only 3 seconds fast per day is simply amazing. By comparison, a Seiko 5 I have is as much as 20 to 30 seconds off per day.

I think our expectations are spoiled in this day and age. With computers and operating systems that check atomic clocks automatically to update their internal clocks; with a quick flip of channels to see a super accurate clock on the listings or weather channel; and with the advent of the $1.99 quartz watch - with all of this, we've lost perspective on what a marvel of engineering and human ingenuity a mechanical, manual time piece on your wrist really is all about.

Add to that the fact that an "automatic" has this big honkin' piece of metal spinning around unbalanced inside (in order to constantly "wind" the watch based on the movement of your wrist)... you gotta realise that automatic mechanical watches are even more of an engineering marvel.

And when they keep time to under 6 seconds' accuracy (COSC standards) or in my case, under 3 seconds' accuracy... it is even that much more amazing.

On the subject of usability and feel
Can a one watch be more usable than another watch? Most certainly. Watches with numerals on the clock face are arguably the most "usable" analog readout watches because there's no guesswork - is that dot a 10 or 11?

But I grew up, for the most part, with analog watches (though I had my share of digitals as well)... and most of my analog watches were simply dots or lines at the hour markers - not numbers. So I have been trained over the years to associate an hour with a "position" on a clock face - not a number. For others, a watch like the Seamaster may take some getting used to, if they grew up with a digital watch or numerals on the clock face.

Another aspect of usability is the ability to easily manipulate the watch while it rests on your wrist. The Seamaster excels in this regard. With most of my automatic and mechanical watches, I have to take the watch off to adjust the date or time. Not so with the Omega - I can do everything with the watch staying in place on my wrist. This is because the crown, er little dialy thing, is big enough for my big paws to easily twist, turn, push or pull. I can wind the watch in place. I can change the date in place. I can change the time in place. I can waterproof it... you guessed it: in place.

Yet another aspect of usability: viewability. I won't lie - the curved sapphire crystal does present some visibility challenges. I imagine it would be much worse if the underside wasn't coated with an anti-reflective coating. While the watch face does pick up a lot of reflections, it is never so bad that you can't read the time or see the face... still, flat glass tends to be much better in this regard. I've done some photography on my Seiko Kinetic Auto Relay and it photographs very well because I can make it look like there's no crystal on top - the casing becomes completely invisible. I couldn't quite make this happen 100% with the Omega.

In terms of size, I've talked about this in the Overview and above in the "Freshly Bought Thoughts" segment of the review, but I'll repeat here - the size is just on the top edge of "perfection" for me. I like heavy watches, but watches can be too heavy. I opted for the Chronometer instead of the Chronograph Seamaster specifically for this reason - the Chronograph, while being beyond cool, was just too heavy and too thick. The full size Seamaster Professional Chronometer is around 150 grams, 11mm thick, 40mm size from bezel edge to bezel edge, and for my big wrist - poifect.

I noticed the weight the first day or so, but then it became transparent. The only time I occasionaly notice the weight and size is when I'm typing on my desktop computer system with a funky angled keyboard - and I'll take the watch off to make my typing more comfortable.

But I do most of my typing on a ThinkPad X30 notebook computer, and the watch is a non-issue when using the notebook. In fact, Except to check the time (or oogle at how cool the watch is), I forget I have it on most of the time.

Yes, a 150 gram, 40 mm watch can disappear!

Another pleasant aspect of the watch is that it "appears" thinner than it is - blame this on the very huge face. It's 11mm thick, which is 1mm thinner than my Seiko Auto Relay watch, but it "seems" much thinner. The bezel is very low profile, which ads to the thinness impressions.

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Not Just an Aesthetic!
The wavy pattern on the back of the Omega keeps it sitting still on your moving wrist.

Lastly, I wanted to briefly mention the underside of the watch. You'll notice from the photograph that there's the seamonster in the middle, and a wavy pattern around it. This serves a purpose, and it serves that purpose well. The wavy pattern is a "non-slip" design consideration for the watch. And it works.

Almost all my other automatic watches flop a bit on my wrist. I don't like super tight bracelet settings - I like to be able to put a finger between the bracelet and my wrist - and all my other automatics slip and slide easily on my wrist, especially if I wiggle my wrist.

The Omega passes the wiggle test with flying colours. I can hold my arm up, gyrate my wrist back and forth, and the watch face sits tight - it doesn't slide very much, if at all. Amazing stuff.

In fact, it's so amazing that it made me realise I had an unconscious nit about my other watches - I didn't like that they slid around so easily - but I didn't know this consciously until I started wearing the Seamaster regularly. Today as I wrote this portion and photographed my Seiko Auto Relay, I put it on for a time, and realised just how much it slip-slides around on my wrist, and I thought "how annoying"... wow! The Seamaster has spoiled me. Big time.

Wrap Up

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It may seem I'm overwhelmingly positive about this watch, and you may be thinking "well, it's obvious why - he spent a small kidney on it!".

I'm conscious of this thought. I run CoffeeGeek and I often read consumer reviews about mediocre products that the review rates in a very positive fashion, and I have those thoughts as well.

But I'm also a professional product reviewer in the coffee world - and the reason why I can call myself a pro is because I get hired from time to time to provide private evaluations for companies and their pre-production products. They trust me to remain objective and critical where it matters, no matter how "cool" I think a product is.

This is what I've tried to do with this review - keep it fun, keep it real, and keep it as objective as possible.

There are a few things I don't like about the watch (or at best, am neutral about)... for instance, the sapphire crystal dome shape does knock down the usability a bit - reflections are noticeable. Another is that the back solid metal portion of the bracelet clasp scratches way too easily.

But try as I did, there wasn't a lot to complain about with this watch. In many ways, it's the perfect watch for me:

  • Colours are perfect
  • Skeleton hands rule
  • Accuracy is amazing
  • Weight is perfect
  • Size is perfect
  • Bracelet is one of the best designed ones I've ever seen
  • Watch face design is stellar
  • Usability (outside of viewability) is near perfect
  • Bracelet clasp locks down like glue, but easy to release
  • Bezel design is awesome
  • Glow of the time indicators and hands is phenomenal
  • Style and design is about as perfect as a watch can get (in my opinion)

The only thing I'd like better is the Seamaster Professional Full Size Chronograph... in the same weight and dimensions as this Chronometer model. That would be the World's Perfect Watch™ in my book. But until that day, this Omega Seamaster could very well be the perfect watch for me. I can't imagine buying anything better.

Have a look at some additional photos:

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300 Metres!
This watch can go deep. Way deep.
Finish is Superb
Colours, fit, finish - it's all good.
Skeletons in your Watch
The skeleton hands and second hand are perfect.
Say it Proud, not Loud
Omega logo and name are there, but not overwhelming.

Head back to the Main Seamaster Page, check out the Overview or the Long Term comments.

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