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REVIEW: The Omega Seamaster ?Ploprof? 1200 M



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Published on 11-08-2010 10:40 AM

Number of Views: 7637

Review of The Omega Seamaster “Ploprof” 1200 M

By: John B. Holbrook, II

11/8/10


Watch enthusiasts often consider Omega’s most iconic models to be the famous “Moon Watch” Speedmaster and the “James Bond” Seamaster. But increasingly, another historically significant Omega timepiece is competing with them for its share of the limelight –the Omega Seamaster “Ploprof.”

In the late 1960s, Omega engineers realized that the ever increasing depths at which professional divers were required to work had begun to exceed the capabilities of their classic Seamaster 300. In 1970, after more than four years of research, Omega released the Seamaster 600m/2000 ft Professional, – the watch which would be come to be known as the “Ploprof,” (from the French plongeurs professionnels (professional divers).

The Omega Ploprof achieved its pioneering level of water resistance through several patented design innovations. The first was the case, which was machined from a single block of stainless steel (patent CH 480680 from 1967). This construction ensured that there were only two points where water might get in – via the crystal, and the winding tube attached to the crown. To protect the crown, Omega designed a unique system (patent CH 503310 from 1968). What appears at first glance to be the crown is actually a knurled locking nut which compresses the crown and stem into the case; the crown itself is the square metal element that sits flush with the crown guards. A similar compressed gasket system protects the chemically reinforced mineral crystal (treated with both anti-reflective and scratch-resistant coatings) which is secured in a compressed gasket via a screwed down ring at a pressure of 120kg. The result is a crystal which can resist hydrostatic pressures of 60 atmospheres. The bidirectional rotating bezel is locked in place, and can only be unlocked by the distinctive orange pusher protruding from its housing on the right side of the case. As the bezel is designed to be used to measure the diver's remaining air supply, the Ploprof's bezel ensured that once set, the bezel could not be accidentally bumped and yield a life threatening false reading.

One of the most famous undersea missions associated with the Omega Ploprof was the 1970 “Operation Janus” - a diving expedition which took place on the sea-bed below the Gulf of Ajaccio. The Omega Ploprof spent eight days strapped to the wrists of all three of the divers from the French diving company COMEX which were hired by an oil research firm which was exploring the sea floor. However, it was the use of the Ploprof by none other than Commander Jacques-Yves Cousteau which gained the Omega Ploprof near cult status among collectors and enthusiasts of diving watches. Commander Cousteau worked closely with Omega during the Ploprof's 4 years of development, as he conducted a series of experiments designed to test man's capabilities and limitations when working at depths of 500m.

The Omega Seamaster 600m/2000 ft Professional “Ploprof” was first offered for sale by Omega in 1970. While the watch was known and appreciated by professional divers, it was not as successful with the general public. Scuba or “skin diving” as it was known at the time had not yet grown to the level of popularity it enjoys today, so the dive watch market was small. And, at 54mm wide, the Ploprof’s size limited its ability to appeal to a wider audience. Even one of Omega's own ad campaigns acknowledged the challenging size and appearance of the Ploprof , saying “It may not look pretty on the surface, but deep down it's beautiful.” The Ploprof was also at the very top of Omega's price range at the time of its launch, at roughly twice price of the Rolex Submariner. And finally, electronic dive computers gradually began to eclipse mechanical watches as a diver’s primary timing tool. Eventually, Omega stopped offering the Ploprof 600 M, in 1979.

But by 2009, it had become a cult hit. A surge in the popularity of both mechanical watches and recreational scuba diving had created a strong collector’s market for the original Omega Ploprof thanks to its unique design and its Omega manufactured Caliber 1002 movement. In response, and to the surprise and joy of enthusiasts everywhere, Omega boldly introduced the all-new Ploprof 1200 M at the 2009 BaselWorld Watch Fair, bringing the 30 year absence of the legendary Ploprof from Omega’s catalog to an end.

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The new Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200m (ref. 224.30.55.21.01.001) is remarkably faithful in design and function to its 1970’s predecessor. The stainless steel case of the Ploprof 1200m measures 55x48 in diameter, and offers a staggering 1200 meters (4000 feet) of water resistance – double that of the original Ploprof.

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The case also offers the same bezel locking system found on the original, although the crown locking system is slightly different –the original locking nut design has been updated, in the Ploprof 1200 M, to one in which unscrewing the crown frees it from its locked position and also causes the massive guard overlying it to telescope from the case. Also new on the Ploprof 1200 M is a helium escape valve (the original, interestingly, omitted this feature, relying instead on the watch’s monocoque case and compressed gasket system to prevent the entry of helium in the first place) which allows built up gases to escape the watch case when a diver has to spend time in a decompression chamber. The hands and dial (as well as the markers on the bi-directionally rotating bezel) on the Ploprof 1200 M are coated with SuperLuminova to enhance low-light, underwater visibility. The dial of the Ploprof 1200 M is protected by a sapphire crystal which has an anti-reflective coating applied.

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The Ploprof 1200 M also enjoys an Omega manufactured “in house” movement just as its predecessor did. The co-axial cal. 8500 is a self-winding, 39 jewel movement with a power reserve of 60 hours, and a balance which oscillates at a speed of 25,200 beats per hour (BPH). The George Daniels designed co-axial escapement greatly reduces the lubrication required for the movement, particularly in the escapement, allowing the watch to perform longer between service intervals, as well as maintain better accuracy. The Caliber 8500 is a fairly new movement for Omega, having debuted just two years before the Ploprof 1200 M, and provides an ideal horological match to the impressive specifications of the Ploprof 1200 M.

The stainless steel mesh bracelet of the Ploprof 1200 M is another feature which is inspired from the vintage Ploprof counterpart. Mesh bracelets are a favorite of working divers and they tend to be more comfortable than a traditional bracelet design, and the lack of uniformity of the mesh surface means that it's scratches are all but undetectable. The mesh bracelet is held together with a push-button, stainless steel clasp which will be quite familiar in design to fans of the Omega Seamaster, and includes a built in release for the dive suit extension.

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So far, the Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200 M (reference 224.30.55.21.01.001) has proved to be quite a hit with both scuba and watch enthusiasts. Omega expanded the Ploprof line in 2010 with the introduction of a white dialed version of the famed Ploprof offered on a white rubber strap, giving additional visual punch to an already powerful design. This blast from Omega’s distinguished past looks set to wow watch lovers for years to come. The Ploprof 1200 M has a retail price of $9,000.00 US.

**Photos & Text Copyright 2010 WATCH TALK FORUMS. No part of this report can be reproduced outside of WATCH TALK FORUMS without the expressed permission of John B. Holbrook, II.


This article was originally published in forum thread:

REVIEW: The Omega Seamaster “Ploprof” 1200 M
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