The NTTD Omega Seamaster Professional Diver

The new No Time to Die Omega Seamaster Professional Diver sitting atop a 1958 first edition copy of Dr No. Ian Fleming was an unknown author so his early James Bond novels are rare and an excellent condition copy has a value1 today that surpasses the price of the watch. All images taken with m43 bodies and lenses.

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This is another watch story but it’s a little different because it’s about a new and current watch model. One that was introduced over a year ago but because of the Pandemic was missing its important back story until just last week. And one that bookends the conclusion of a significant cinematic period in film and movie making,

This is latest Omega Seamaster Professional Diver watch and a James Bond tribute watch worn by actor Daniel Craig in the latest movie of that franchise (and his last – starring in the titular role), No Time to Die.

Omega and James Bond have been sharing a successful product placement partnership since the movie Goldeneye (1995). Ian Fleming wrote that James Bond wore a Rolex Explorer which he often used as an ersatz set of brass knuckles rather than as a means of keeping time. But then Bond also drove a Bentley Continental and the movies had no problems evolving the storyline to encompass a much wider range of automobiles.

The great irony is that Omega has a glorious history of manufacturing over a hundred thousand watches used by British and Allied Air Force and Naval officers during World War 2, while Rolex does not. In 1948 Omega introduced the revolutionary Seamaster model with a rubber gasket in the case back that guaranteed water resistance up to 60 metres. (You can see my father’s 1961 Seamaster in https://jimchungblog.com/2019/05/29/of-vintage-watches-and-custom-made-watch-straps/) In 1957 they came out with the Seamaster 300M which became the diving watch archetype with its large face, rotating bezel, and water resistance up to 300 metres. This became the official watch worn by the Royal Navy Divers and Jacques Cousteau’s team. Omega rose to even greater heights with its NASA endorsed Speedmaster which has been to space innumerable times. But by the 1980s, Omega made the mistake of trying to compete with Citizen and Seiko’s quartz watches and almost disappeared as a company while upstart Rolex embraced the use of in house mechanical movements, luxury pricing and the practice of limiting inventory to drive customer demand to frenzied levels. It took James Bond wearing an Omega Seamaster to restore Omega’s fortunes and set it back on the correct path and with this particular watch finally closed the gap with the competing Rolex Submariner.

Even though this new watch is not a limited production model like other Bond watches, Omega has no problem asking twice the price of a standard Seamaster, nearly $10k USD. Could this money be spent on other things in my life and offer a better return – definitely. For close to a tenth of the outlay, I was able to purchase a replica watch from a UK website that specified it came with a Swiss automatic movement. It also promised unparalleled quality and accuracy in reproducing all the complex features of such a watch. After payment, I received no order confirmation or tracking information as was also promised so I initiated a Paypal dispute. Finally I received tracking information and was disturbed to learn the package origin was …. from China! But by then so much time had elapsed that Paypal decided to intervene and return my money. I was not convinced that I would ever receive anything, likely just an empty box, but yesterday I found the replica in my mailbox. I’m going to discuss where it succeeds and where it fails as a replica watch.

It turns out that Daniel Craig is a watch collector and Omega asked him for some valuable feedback when they began designing the NTTD model. Speaking from his James Bond persona, he wanted the watch to be lighter, as thin as possible and to be less flashy. This was to be a professional working man’s watch and needed to be unpolished with a matte satin finish to reduce light reflection and attracting attention. Omega concurred and fabricated the watch from Grade 2 Titanium giving a 40% weight reduction . The typical Seamaster clear exhibition case back was deleted allowing a thinner profile and a plain, unadorned dial face accompanied the unpolished watch case. The replica has the exact same dimensions as the real watch but weighs in at 131 g with the metal Milanese band as opposed to a stock weight of 97 g. The replica is made from stainless steel but does have a grey titanium appearance.

(You can increase the Zoom scale on your browser to see the images at full width as the captions fall from the left and below the images. Images taken with Olympus E-M1.2 and 60mm Zuiko f/2.8 Macro Lens.)

Face3compared
In this series of images, the replica image appears on the right.  There is a shift in the white balance of the replica images due to the use of a white LED light source so the colors in reality match much closer.   The dial is an anodized aluminum in dark brown with major minute markers in an ecru color.  The replica script is as accurate and finished as finely as the original but there are slight errors in the font size, like the “M” in Chronometer and “ft”.

Face2compared
The replica markers have the same grey Titanium look as the originals and the skeleton hands have that raw unfinished look with cutting scratch marks left unremoved.

Face1compared
The bezel is also the same anodized aluminum as the dial face and both will fade and develop a patina with time. This is different from the ceramic bezel that comes with the standard Seamaster.  Bezel detail on the replica is excellent and also features 120 clicks per unidirectional counterclockwise rotation.  However, the replica comes with just a standard flat glass crystal (as confirmed with forehead temperature test) whereas the real watch has a domed sapphire crystal with purple antireflective coatings on the inner surface only.  The dome introduces slight optical distortions which reproduce the vintage look of Omega’s hesalite acrylic crystal.

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The replica accurately also applies arctic blue lumes to the bezel but the 12 o’clock round marker should be the same neon green as the minute hand. This is all in keeping with a military watch where the minute hand must stand out from the rest of the watch. The glaring deficiency in the replica is that it uses an inferior luminous paint which fades quickly over a matter of minutes whereas the original uses Grade X1 Super-LumiNova which can keep the dial face visible for several hours (or at least until dawn!). The phosphorescent glow intensity and duration can be increased by multiple reapplications of the paint onto the dial.

BackCasecompared
The replica back is accurate, including confirming it is made from stainless steel and not titanium!  Honesty is vital to the replica world because the intention is not to produce counterfeits but tribute watches that can give the wearer the same kind of satisfaction as the original.  The replica Milanese strap stamps its identification on the wrong section of where the spring bars pass through.  The famous Broad Arrow logo signifies that the watch is property of the Ministry of Defence and permission was sought by Omega to use it.  0552 denotes the Royal Navy,  923-7697 denotes a NATO Diver’s Watch, A – a watch with a screw down crown and 62 is the year Dr No was released, the first Bond film.  Moving the 007 Logo from the dial face to the back was a great idea and likely something purchasers had asked for in the past.

BackCompared
The original uses the fantastic master chronometer designated 8806 Omega movement beating at 25,200 bph.   I timed it at 28,800 bph with an error of -3 s/day so the replica is likely using a Swiss ETA2824-2, and there is a very strong physical resemblance.  This very movement was used in some Omega Seamasters until Omega introduced the coaxial escapement in 1999.  This movement is available in four grades with the top grade having superior finish and chronometer performance.  Many famous Swiss brands use this movement but rebranded to appear proprietary and include Breitling, Tudor, Tissot and IWC. There are actually even better replicas made from Titanium and have movements disguised to appear as an Omega 8806 movement. 

StrapCompared
I prefer the NATO band to the titanium Milanese mesh band because the latter is heavier and bulkier while the NATO band has colours which perfectly complement the watch.  This is another subtle Omega vintage nod as it has been a very long time since such a band has been offered with a watch, likely as far back as the the early 1970s.  In fact my own 1969 Omega Chronostop Driver’s watch did come with an original mesh band.  The replica band appears to be not as well finished as the bead surface is full of scratches. The strap tip is also poorly finished and not embossed with Omega. The weaving also appears to be less dense in the replica when comparing cross sectional views. Confoundingly, the butterfly clasp is finished to a higher level.

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This unlikely pairing (probably the only one in the entire world) clearly emphasizes the vintage touches Omega strived to achieve with the new Seamaster. The earthy tones, the unpolished case, the mesh strap, the red second hand belies the passage of over 50 years!!

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The replica’s screw down crown functions and looks just like the original.  As does the Helium escape valve.

I promised not to buy anything from China, if possible². And certainly not a watch. I guess technically I haven’t purchased anything since no funds were exchanged. Certainly this Chinese replica is several times better than the the Heuer Monaco that I reviewed a year ago because it is a fully functional watch and the errors are so subtle. As I alluded to in that article, not every component of a Swiss made watch is actually made in Switzerland. Many are likely sourced from China because it would not be a feasible business model to have to recreate all the non-movement components and most of this replica’s parts are indistinguishable from the real Omega.

I really enjoy the design of this watch, it’s a welcome departure from the current obsessions with consumer luxury goods to take a nod at Omega’s rich past. And in many ways reflects that path the Bond films have taken since Daniel Craig assumed the helm. People who have read the original books know that Fleming designed the Bond character as a privileged war veteran who appreciated the finer things in life but was also a cold, calculated killer. Daniel Craig wanted to return the role to a few shades darker than that even portrayed by Sean Connery and was finally sold after reading the line in Casino Royale where he orders a Vodka Martini. The bartender inquires if he prefers it shaken or stirred. Bond stares at him and replies, “Do I look like I give a damn?”.

Bond
Daniel Craig as Bond in No Time to Die. Bond has retired and is back in London to meet with M at MI6 for the first time in years. Always a connoisseur of quality, he drives the 1985 Aston Martin V8 Vantage and has his Savile Row hand tailored suits always close fitted.  And of course wearing the latest Omega Seamaster Professional Diver, in titanium.
GenesisorAston
Some more m43 content: is that a certain famous secret agent driving very fast in his Aston Martin, or something else entirely? Lumix GX8, Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 at f/6.3, ISO800, 1/160s.

1 The wonderful Canadian book selling website, AbeBooks, reports that over its 25 years of existence, the 12th most expensive book sold was Casino Royale at $46k USD. There is currently another copy of Casino Royale listed at $177k USD because it was signed and inscribed by Ian Fleming to an old and obviously cherished girlfriend.

² I’m happy that the two Canadian Michaels have been released and are safe at home after more than 2 years in solitary confinement in jail. China maintained that the two were arrested for spying.   However they were prepped and made presentable to the world and released at the exact same time Meng Wanzhou was boarding a flight out of Vancouver to Beijing, clearly revealing the naked truth of this ridiculous and clumsy subterfuge. China is a country that takes political hostages to get its way – there is simply no other description for its conduct.  This is a country with no rule or respect for law.  This is not a country to trade with. 

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