Desert Island Pick: The Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster 300?
The Submariner and Seamaster are both iconic dive watches, but last year’s update to the Omega Seamaster 300 Heritage widens the gap.
Now that those details have been covered – let’s not prolong the debate.
The Seamaster 300 Heritage is the better watch in my view. Full stop.
The rest of this article will be dedicated to me convincing you why it’s the better watch.
A Brief History
While the Seamaster is the older of the two models, the Submariner actually has a far more direct lineage.
A Submariner from 1953 looks very similar to its current model. However, this is not necessarily the case for the Omega Seamaster. The 1948 Seamaster was originally conceived as an everyday watch for people that needed a combination of robustness and everyday wearability. These watches (known as “beefy lug” or “bumper” Seamasters) were typically 35mm, came with or without COSC-certified movements, and could be had in steel, gold, or gold-filled cases.
Again, these were designed as everyday watches for the public who needed a little more ruggedness than the full-fledged tool watch that was a Rolex Submariner.
However, everything changed in 1957 with the introduction of Omega’s legendary “Master Trilogy.” In one fell swoop, Omega released the Speedmaster, Railmaster, and Seamaster 300. It was with this release that the Seamaster made the jump from a “normal” watch to a professional-level tool watch for serious divers.
The ‘57 Seamaster 300 introduced incredible new technology that was previously unheard of, like high-pressure casebacks, crystal gaskets, and 300 meters of water resistance – far greater than that offered by Rolex. By the way, it did all of this without even using a screw-down crown.
As the decades went on, the Seamaster evolved, just like the Submariner. Except Omega eventually took the Seamaster in a more technical direction aesthetically, giving us the Ploprof, Grande Dame Diver, and Seamaster Planet Ocean. All are incredible dive watches but lack the design elegance of the original Seamaster 300 line. However, this all changed when Omega released (around 2014) the Seamaster 300 Heritage model.
Don’t Call It a Comeback
While the first Heritage model was a great watch combining vintage good looks with the modern Omega Co-Axial 8400 calibre, it was not perfect. It was a little thick, the bracelet was a little chunky (especially the clasp), and the general proportions just made the whole watch seem a little block-like.
But last year, Omega fixed all of those issues in one of the most under-the-radar launches of 2021, named (brace yourself): the Omega Seamaster 300 Co-Axial Master Chronometer 41mm (Reference 184.108.40.206.01.001). What a mouthful.
For starters, the watch is almost 20 grams lighter. Meanwhile, the case is 0.5mm thinner, uses the next generation Master Co-Axial Calibre 8912, employs a beautifully finished sandwich dial, has an elegant bracelet taper from 21mm to 16mm, and is somehow cheaper by $300. Now I ask you: When was the last time a brand released a superior watch in every way AND made it cheaper?
Deep-Dive into the Seamaster Design
This current Seamaster employs many of the Seamaster 300’s greatest hits in terms of design cues. The lollipop seconds hand, for instance, is a fan favorite from vintage models (and also made an appearance on the James Bond SPECTRE limited edition watch worn by Daniel Craig. But it isn’t all about the throwbacks. For example, while vintage Seamasters never used a Panerai-style sandwich dial, this model does to brilliant effect.
It is also worth noting that this model has a clean dial devoid of oversized logos and too-much text (*cough* six lines of Rolex Submariner text *cough*). All you see is a modestly sized Omega logo and the words “Seamaster 300” rendered in a classic light cream font matching the rest of the dial.
The bezel itself benefits from the latest Omega ceramic technology. And, whereas the first-generation watch had a patinated dial with white bezel graduations, the diving graduations are now in a color that is harmonious with the dial. All of this makes for a much cleaner look.
The second-generation bracelet is also an exercise in restraint. The 21mm lugs taper to 16mm, and the slimmer clasp now houses an extension with three ratcheted positions for comfort. This is no replacement for diving but does offer incredible comfort when your wrist might swell midday.
From a technical innovation point-of-view, there is no beating an Omega Master Co-Axial. It’s simply the finest automatic movement in the world.
To be my own devil’s advocate, will you ever notice the difference between an Omega Calibre 8912 and Rolex Calibre 3230? No. They are both exceptional pieces of engineering might, and today, both models are capable of the same 1,000 feet of waterproofness. Either watch is a great choice, but seeing as this Seamaster 300 is mine, I think you know where I fall on this debate.
The aesthetics of the Seamaster are more visually pleasing and harken back to the original 1957 model, which I personally think is an extremely important part of dive watch history. Moreover, the Omega offers an incredible value proposition when compared to the Submariner, despite the Seamaster being a better watch. Finally, and most importantly, you can buy one right now with no waiting, and you will likely be one of your only friends with one. Win-Win-Win.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)