THE OMEGA SEAMASTER 'NO TIME TO DIE' - THE BEST SEAMASTER EVER?

As Daniel Craig bows out, does his 'Bond watch' parting shot hit the mark?

THE OMEGA SEAMASTER 'NO TIME TO DIE' - THE BEST SEAMASTER EVER?

Omega’s Seamaster has had more incarnations than Dr. Who and more variants than a certain well-known virus. Starting out with the robust, no-nonsense Patrick Troughton bumper movement models of the late 1940s, through the Pertweesque elegance of the 1960s Seamaster DeVilles right up to the slightly confused and uncomfortable McCoy ana-digis of the 1990s, it seems Seamasters have been part of the watch world forever. In fact, the Seamaster has charted the course of the Swiss watch industry from 1948, through the quartz crisis of the 1970s, to today.

 

The latest incarnation - although with Bond the Timelord analogy comes crashing down - the Seamaster Diver 300m Co‑axial Master Chronometer 007 Edition - is probably the best yet.

 

The Seamaster replaced the Sub on Bond’s wrist in Goldeneye, but it took until 2006 and Casino Royale for its makers to get a proper on-screen name-check. Unfortunately for such a fine watch, the scene involved more cheese than a French market. Vesper Lynd and Bond are sharing dinner and, having dissed Bond’s choice of tailor and eviscerated his character, she moves onto his new watch:

 “Rolex?” she asks, with a sneer.

“Omega,” Bond replies.

“Beaudiful,” clunks Lynd.

 One wonders how many takes it took to deliver the lines without either corpsing or squirming. No matter; the popping corks as Omega’s product placement team filled their baths with champagne must have sounded like an on-set gunfight. The Seamaster had arrived.

 The snappily-referenced 210.90.42.20.01.001 (try remembering that after tee martoonies) comes with a 42mm titanium case, is water-resistant to 300m and you get your choice of a special NATO strap or a titanium Milanese bracelet that is a thing of engineering beauty in itself.

 

But wait - there’s a problem. You’re not actually Bond, James Bond, are you? So how can you, in all conscience, wear a 007 watch without cringing just a little? There are two reasons the latest Omega Bond is OK. First, its level of watchmaking obviates any worries about Bondiness and lets the watch stand on its own merits, presumably casually lighting a Morland and gazing moodily into the distance. Second, Omega has managed to avoid the blinged-up Bondfest elephant trap very well indeed. You’d barely notice the links unless you were really looking for them. And, thank goodness, it doesn’t say ‘007’ on the dial.

 

In fact, the only visibly Bondish angle is the pheon on the dial just above the six o’clock baton. If you really know your Fleming, there’s a rather nicely obscure link; a perhaps unintentional tribute to Connery’s earliest ref. 6538 Sub and its tropical look with the dial, bezel and hands. Talking of which, Omega have managed to age their new watch by using antiqued Super-LumiNova for the dial plots, hands and bezel. Surprisingly, the faded hand and plot lume actually glows bright blue with the bezel pip at 12 a bright green. 

 

The bezel on the 007 is hardened oxalic aluminium. Omega have taken it up to 500 Vickers - twice the hardness of regular aluminium - but it’ll still pick up a scratch relatively easily. This isn’t a bad thing though, surely? Would you not want a practical diving watch to acquire a bit of character? Omega actually says the bezel should age as you wear the watch and expose it to light too.

 

It’s not as though the 007 is any more of a scratch-magnet than yer usual titanium watch, mind. For a start, the case is a little thinner. It’s 12.99mm rather than 13.56mm. That half-a-mil makes a surprising difference, especially with the new lower profile to the sapphire crystal. As a result, the whole watch feels more snugged-down on your wrist.

 

The case isn’t polished at all, as befits something with supposed military heritage, and the only other ‘military’ bits are the NATO stock numbers on the caseback. “0552” is often used as a naval NATO code-number, with “923 7697” being the number for a divers’ watch. The letter “A” denotes a watch with a screw-in crown. “007” is pretty obvious, but less so is the neat “62” at the end - that’s the year of the first Bond film.

 

Omega have used their Naiad system for the caseback, so it only goes on one way - the way where all the writing lines up nicely. Behind that Ti caseback is the splendid Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer cal. 8806. There’s no date on this version - who needs one when you’re worrying about the bodyshop bills for the bulletholes in your DBS - which fits with the all-round utility feel. The 35 jewel cal. 8806 is an evolution of the original cal. 8800 from 2016 with a free-sprung titanium balance running at 25,200 vph with a silicon hairspring and Nivachoc shock absorber.

 

You wouldn’t want to be late for that important assassination, would you? So the cal. 8806 is certified by METAS, awarded by Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Metrology. It’s the sort of testing you really wouldn’t want to endure after a few shaken-not-stirreds the night before. First, pass your 14 days of Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) testing without a blot, then you get a chance to try for your special-forces METAS. Every single movement Omega sells in the 007 - rather than just a sample - passes.

 

And METAS involves a serious beasting. For a start, each movement gets zapped with 15,000 gauss for magnetic resistance. For comparison, the magnet holding your invitation on the ‘fridge door to the Blofelds’ cocktail party at No. 32 puts out about 50 gauss. Your laptop comes in around 1,000 gauss. Unless you make a habit of hanging around in MRI machines, your Seamaster should merely raise a Roger Moore-style eyebrow and get on with its job.

 

Once it’s got this far, the movement - and the completed watch - then gets tested for positional error, heated up and frozen, checked for isochronism and power reserve, and finally dunked in water, heated up to 50 degrees C, and re-tested. To pass out with its 00 number, each watch needs to ace eight different tests.


Omega has also addressed a bit of a personal pet hate; the box. Buy a Speedmaster and it comes in a box so large you need to be good friends with your local planning officer. Why? It’s not like you need a box the size of a garden shed to hold a watch. Far more sensibly, the Bond Seamaster comes in a simple waxed cotton watch roll. 

 

So is this really the best Seamaster yet? From a casemaking, movement, and technology angle it will take a lot of beating - as well as a proper beasting. It’s a practical, reliable, accurate, and smart bit of kit you’ll enjoy wearing and looking at. Yes, there’s the slightly wincey Bond angle but that’s really not obvious unless you go hunting for it. So, unless you want to go down a completely different route with a vintage Seamaster (things of beauty in their own rights), we’d say it’s a resounding ‘yes’. Now we just need Q’s ‘phone number.  


Mark McArthur-Christie

Mark's obsession with watches began long before the internet made it (just about) socially acceptable. He’ll happily bore anyone within earshot about the merits of early quartz and vintage Heuer, but his real love is the stories behind the watches and the people who own them. As well as Watch Collecting, he also writes for Octane magazine, Escapement and Worn & Wound in the USA.