Omega Conquers All with the Ultra DeepBy Jeremiah Chan
The Low Down
Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench of the Pacific Ocean is probably the de facto location for watch companies to test their flagship saturation dive watches and then hopefully lay claim to the record of “deepest diving watch”. Rolex have held that title for 59 years since 1960 with their Deep Sea Special which reached a depth of 10,916m. They sent another watch down in 2012 called the Sea-Dweller Deep Sea Challenge, a 51mm x 28.5mm monster, with a 14.33mm thick sapphire crystal, that managed to reach 10,898m. Then in 2019, out of nowhere, Omega smashed the deepest diving record with three prototypes of the Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional with a recorded depth of 10,935m (recorded depth updated in 2020). Incidentally, one of the prototypes had to be left on the ocean floor due to a technical issue but it was retrieved two and a half days later, having lost only 1 second of time. This is a record that unequivocally cannot be broken. And now you can buy one.
There were hopes back in 2019 when Omega accomplished the impossible that the Ultra Deep Professional would be put into regular production but as Omega CEO, Raynald Aeschlimann would say, the Speedmaster, probably the strongest pillar of Omega’s total lineup, has been the focus for 2019 and 2020. This year the Seamaster takes center stage with seven made-for-public consumption versions of the record breaking Ultra Deep Professional. All officially depth rated for an astounding 6,000m (7,500m if you count the 25% safety margin used during testing). Six of those models are rendered in a completely new, proprietary stainless steel alloy that Omega is calling O-MEGASTEEL. Yes, we know. It’s a bit on the nose. But the highlight of the bunch is in sandblasted Grade-5 titanium and the closest aesthetically to the 2019 prototypes. It just looks the business.
For that ultimate tool watch feel, the titanium model’s dial is made of black ceramised Grade-5 titanium with a subtle [Ti] engraving below the dial’s center hole, that let’s the wearer know it is truly something special. The bezel is also made in sandblasted, polished and brushed titanium with brushed black ceramic and a Liquidmetal diving scale. Cyan-colored hour markers at the quarters and the colored gradient effect of the seconds hand provide just enough color contrast to make the dial pop off the flat greyness. But the design feature that probably defines this titanium rendition is the “manta lugs” that are meant to mimic fixed spring bars, and take reference from the frontal lobes of the manta ray. A black NATO strap with cyan stripe and sandblasted titanium buckle and strap keepers completes the look. Omega’s NATO straps are among some of the most comfortable out there and this particular strap is woven from 100% recycled fishing nets, which seems to be a trend nowadays as a source of sustainable material.
The six O-MEGASTEEL (still can’t get over the name) models come with either a sturdy three-link bracelet in the same material or a rubber strap that mimics the texture of a wetsuit. This new steel alloy has a brighter, whiter sheen to it than standard 316L stainless steel that brings out the luster of the polished sections of the case band and bracelet particularly well. Beyond the aesthetically pleasing properties, Omega would also like to highlight that the yield strength of O-MEGASTEEL is more than twice that of 316L and 904L stainless steel, both of which would have been unsuitable for this application. Yield strength refers to the elasticity limit of metal before it begins to deform. Additionally, O-MEGASTEEL is 40-50% more scratch resistant than conventional stainless steels, with exceptional resistance to corrosion.
There are a further four patent pending features that ensured the Ultra Deep could achieve its extreme depth rating:
1. The conical load-bearing sapphire crystal
2. The specific location of the crystal gasket
3. The load-bearing screw-in crown
4. The two-piece case back design
The need for a helium escape valve (HEV) is one of the most divisive topics of discussion on Seamaster design and if you are wondering where the Seamaster’s iconic HEV is, look no further. The Ultra Deep completely does away with the need for one. Firstly, the 5.2mm thick sapphire crystal is of a conical load-bearing design and together with the crown, both have to be able to withstand the eight tons per square inch pressure at the bottom of the Trench. A process called Edge-defined Film-fed Growth, first developed by Harold LaBelle in the 1960s, was chosen to create a defect-free crystal. The crystal and specific placement of the crystal gasket in the case, creates a tight seal that prevents helium from entering the case in the first place. The seal was tested by leaving the watch in a 40 bar pressurized helium chamber for two weeks and the crystal remained in place without incident. Lastly, the two-piece case back screws onto a case back gasket that leaves no points of entry for helium or water. There is no indication that the case back employs the NAIAD locking system but from the looks of it, the Omega hippocampus looks handsomely centered, superimposed over radiating sonar waves.
To meet the required ISO 6425:2018 standard for saturation diving, the Ultra Deep had to undergo nine additional tests on top of the eight required for METAS certification. The new testing machine that put the Ultra Deep through its paces all the way to the safety margin of 7,500m is in fact capable of testing a watch down to a staggering 15,000m. We wouldn’t bet against Omega to be the first to release a commercially available watch rated to that depth. Not content with only laboratory testing methods, Omega actually returned to the Mariana Trench in 2021 to conduct real-world testing of the Ultra Deep at a depth of 6,269m.
Three dial configurations finished in transparent lacquer are available: a blue-black gradient that gives you the feeling that you are literally staring into the deep, a grey-black gradient with orange accents and a plain white with blue accents. To complement the shine of this new steel, the hands and indexes are all cast in 18K white gold and the bezels in polished ceramic with the same Liquidmetal diving scale of the titanium model.
All models are powered by the Omega caliber 8912, a Master Chronometer certified movement with a power reserve of 60 hours provided by two mainspring barrels mounted in series. It can resist magnetic interference up to 15,000 gauss which is the magnetic field strength you would find in an MRI machine, and completely overkill. Leaving the watch next to everyday electronic devices is a non-issue. This resistance comes mainly from the use of a silicon hairspring, which is mated to a free sprung balance wheel and secured by a balance bridge. The caliber 8912 also features an hour wheel with an internal spring that allows the hour hand to independently jump in one hour increments without needing to hack the movement. This is especially useful when changing time zones on your travels and not often seen in technical divers such as this.
If you were to ask a watch idiot savant (WIS) or even a casual observer, who is the biggest name in the sports watch category or of watches in general, they would undoubtedly say “Rolex”. And don’t get us wrong, Rolex deserves its place in the unwritten hierarchy of watch brands. Regardless of what you are looking for in a watch, an Oyster Perpetual could very well be your one watch for the rest of your life and a worthy pick at that. However, we feel that Omega is equally worthy of recognition but always seems to be a little bit behind The Crown in the public’s consciousness.
Omega is a brand that innovates not simply to offer something new at the trade shows every year, like a new dial color or updated case size, but it truly is a core value of the company. Say what you want about its use of celebrity endorsers past and present, or its partnership with the Bond franchise, you can’t diminish the significance of its technical achievements throughout history. It is the rightful claimant of the official watch for space exploration. It is the official timekeeper of various international sporting events where accurate timekeeping is of the essence. It has sought to advance the standards of quality of the whole industry through the development of the Master Chronometer certification with METAS. It is one of the industry leaders in materials science expertise with material innovations like LiquidMetal, Ceragold, and now O-MEGASTEEL that resist the ageing effects of time.
Now it is offering a dive record breaker at a retail price thousands of dollars less than the secondary market value of its nearest competitor, the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660. Its real world tested depth rating is two whole kilometers deeper than the Deepsea’s 3900m, while only being 1.5mm larger in diameter and a near-as-makes-no-difference 0.4mm thicker. You can have it in different case materials and on a variety of different straps. If you took issue with the HEV protruding from the case at 10 o’clock before, well, it’s no longer there.
And while the deepest diving you might do on a day-to-day is into your work desk, it is nice to know that there is a company willing to push the boundaries to create a product whose true engineering capability will rarely be challenged. It does so simply because the goal is there to be chased. It is comfortable at the deepest depths and in the skies, crossing time zones. This is truly a go-anywhere, do-anything watch to the nth degree.
If you were to walk into any Omega boutique, it is not often that you will have to put your name down on a waitlist for most of their watches. Not even for an extreme watch like the Ultra Deep. In short, Omega represents industry-leading innovation that you can buy at retail. That is a value proposition that honestly, can’t be beat.
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep
Size: 45.5mm x 18.12mm; Lug width 22mm; Lug-to-lug 56mm (Manta lugs) or 51.95mm (standard lugs)
Movement: Self-winding in both directions; Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer Cal. 8912, 25,200 vph, 60hr power reserve, magnetic resistance to 15,000 gauss
Case: Sandblasted forged Grade-5 titanium or O-MEGASTEEL
Bezel: Sandblasted forged Grade-5 titanium with brushed black ceramic and Liquidmetal diving scale; Polished-brushed-sandblasted O-MEGASTEEL with polished black ceramic and Liquidmetal diving scale
Dial: Black ceramised Grade-5 titanium with brushed indexes; Transparent lacquer with gradient effect or plain white with 18K white gold indexes
Hands: Brushed steel; Polished 18K white gold
Water resistance: 600 bar (6,000m/20,000ft)
Strap: Black polyamide NATO with cyan stripe, 100% sourced from recycled fishing nets; Black rubber with cyan / orange / blue lining; O-MEGASTEEL bracelet with total length adjustment of 33.30mm
Special features: METAS certified; Silicon “Si14” balance spring; time zone function with independent jumping hour hand
Price: USD 11,200 for O-MEGASTEEL models on a rubber strap; USD 11,600 for O-MEGASTEEL models on a bracelet; USD 12,300 for titanium model on a NATO strap