Exploring the fascinating depths of the Planet Ocean’s history
For more than 15 years now, OMEGA’s Planet Ocean has been making serious waves in the watchmaking world. The very first Planet Ocean was designed by OMEGA to be the natural successor to the universally sought-after Seamaster Professional 300M, which up until then had been the go-to diving watch for well-heeled connoisseurs.
Making its debut in 2005, the original Planet Ocean may have lacked the provenance of its older sibling, but it more than made up for that with a technically ingenious and aesthetically stunning design. One of its standout features was its impressive water resistance, rated at 600m (2000ft) – double that of the Seamaster 300m.
Since then, the Planet Ocean has been characterised by a constantly evolving design; over the years OMEGA has used it to showcase new materials, technologies and manufacturing techniques. No wonder then, that it’s come to be known as the pride of OMEGA’s collections, a modern luxury dive watch that can seamlessly blend into casual and formal environments just as effortlessly as it can take to the waves.
Let’s take a quick look back at its history, shall we?
The Planet Ocean’s first generation: Making a splash
By the early 2000s, the Seamaster Collection had more than a century of history to its name already, so the Planet Ocean had a formidable legacy to live up to. And indeed, the Seamaster 300’s influence is tangible in the makeup of the first Planet Ocean, especially in the design of its bezel, hands and dial.
However, the Planet Ocean wasn’t content to sit in its older brother’s shadow, and there are a number of little iterations that give the timepiece its own distinct personality – including the not-quite-round sports case, twisted lugs, three-piece bracelet, and the now-iconic broad-arrow hands. Its impressive underwater capabilities partially hinged on its helium escape valve, which was still water-resistant to 50m even if left unscrewed. Take a quick look at the case, and you’d find that instantly recognisable OMEGA hippocampus (seahorse) motif finely engraved upon it.
Beneath that motif was another key powerhouse of the Planet Ocean: the Calibre 2500 movement with a co-axial escapement. OMEGA had purchased the co-axial mechanism from its inventor, George Daniels, back in 1999. Over the next six years, its craftsmen further refined the mechanism, until the Planet Ocean was released in 2005, finally revealing new possibilities for the co-axial escapement to an eager audience of countless more luxury watch connoisseurs worldwide.
The following year in 2006, OMEGA released a new Planet Ocean, this time with a chronograph complication. That same year, it made its silver screen debut on the wrist of Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Casino Royale, marking a noticeable departure from the blue Seamaster 300m famously favoured by Pierce Brosnan’s Bond.
The change was no coincidence – the character has been portrayed by many different actors over the years, each of whom have brought their own little quirks and mannerisms to the role. As a result, while his core character traits have largely remained the same, Commander Bond is a man of many different personas – so his sense of style has always been used as a distinctive shorthand to define each interpretation of the character. That extends to his choice of wristwear, too.
This phenomenon is perfectly encapsulated by the contrast between Brosnan’s and Craig’s timepieces. The Seamaster Professional’s light blue shade and swathes of improbable gadgetry is neatly reflective of an easy and (dare we say it) swashbuckling charm embodied by the Irish actor throughout his tenure. The Planet Ocean on the other hand is a bulkier, burlier watch for a gruffer, tougher Bond, reflecting Craig’s darker take on the legendary spy. (Obviously, OMEGA capitalised on the success of Casino Royale by releasing a limited edition of the Planet Ocean that same year, and doing the same with Quantum of Solace in 2008.)
2009 marked another coup for OMEGA, as it released the Planet Ocean LiquidMetal. This latest timepiece was notable for its use of the eponymous hi-tech ceramics for its bezel and dial. A true trend setter, it’s a fairly widespread trait in luxury watches these days, but at the time it was revolutionary. Take a look at the Planet Ocean LiquidMetal and you’d see that the markings were perfectly flush with the bezel, to the extent that you’d be forgiven for thinking they were painted on. But they weren’t – they were engraved and then filled in.
The result was a better-looking, more durable dial that was far more resistant to discolouration than ever before, and watchmakers rushed to replicate the materials for their own designs.
The Planet Ocean’s second generation: Going swimmingly
In 2011, OMEGA introduced the world to an entirely new generation of the Planet Ocean, utilising brand new in-house movements: the Calibre 8500 movement, and the Calibre 8520 for its ladies’ range of Planet Ocean watches.
The new Calibre 8500 was touted as a major upgrade for the Calibre 2500, allowing the new Planet Ocean to benefit from “greater precision, stability and durability”, according to OMEGA, with a total of 60 hours of power reserve. The second generation Planet Ocean watches also made extensive use of LiquidMetal, making these new timepieces an effortless blend of new materials and cutting-edge technologies, and solidifying OMEGA’s reputation for innovation with the collection.
Much like its predecessors, a second-generation Planet Ocean watch made its own cinematic appearance in another high-octane Bond film; the universally-acclaimed Skyfall. (In case you’re wondering, it was an OMEGA Seamaster Planet Ocean 188.8.131.52.01.001, and you can spot it on Bond’s wrist during his scenes in Istanbul.) OMEGA did, of course, develop and launch a special edition to mark the release of the film.
The Planet Ocean’s third generation: Ruling the waves
With the Planet Ocean’s dominance now firmly established, OMEGA caught the attention of watch connoisseurs worldwide in 2014 with a new release of its flagship diver’s watch, designed to commemorate the Winter Olympics.
That same year saw another substantial leap forward for the Planet Ocean’s already impressive credentials, as OMEGA announced that it would now be seeking METAS certification for its Co-Axial Chronometer movements. These co-axial movements were already COSC certified, which means that owners could expect them to be accurate to within -4 to +6 seconds a day.
METAS certification would require the watches to pass even more stringent test conditions, remaining accurate to within 0 to +5 seconds per day, and do so in various positions and extreme conditions, from sweltering heat to nigh-on freezing cold. What’s more, they would also have to resist magnetic fields of over 15,000 gauss.
OMEGA’s answer to this was the Calibre 8900 movement, which was its first METAS certified Master Chronometer movement. Notably, the rotor is marked as the OMEGA Master Co-Axial, to distinguish it from the OMEGA Co-Axial.
It was a staggeringly impressive achievement – and it wasn’t even OMEGA’s last triumph of the decade. In 2019, American explorer Victor Vescovo broke a world record for the deepest dive, reaching a depth of 10,928 metres in his submersible, the Limiting Factor. And on that submersible were strapped three Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professionals – ultimately making them (to date) the world’s deepest diving watches.
That’s just the latest milestone in the Planet Ocean’s short but highly eventful history – and it’s not over yet! You may have already seen our post about why the character of your luxury watch is defined by its heritage. If you have, you’ll already know that there’s one more important figure in the story of the Planet Ocean – and that’s you.
The heritage of each individual Planet Ocean is not just shaped by the history of its collection and the prestige of its manufacturer, but also its own personal story too. So the question is – will you choose to be a part of it?
If so, you’re in exactly the right place. We’ve got a magnificent selection of Planet Ocean watches to explore both on our website and in our Blackpool showroom here at Leonard Dews – and don’t forget that if you ever need any help, that’s exactly what our experts are here for. If you’ve got any questions or need any advice, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 01253 754 940.