The Design Origins of the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 2500 42mm

In another life, I was a NASA engineer. So, while I have a deep appreciation for the mechanics behind watches, it was never the overtly more complex or occupation related Speedmaster that caught my eye. I have always been, and likely will always be a child of James Bond. As such, the dive watch has always been my watch of choice. More specifically, my love for the Omega Seamaster knows no bounds.

The 42mm Omega Seamaster Professional Planet Ocean reference number 2201.50.00 is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful watches ever made. Much of the reason for this is just how deeply it references the history of the Seamaster line in ways that are both familiar and new. So, with the idea of pure appreciation of legacy and beauty in mind, I would like to take some time and explore the design origins of this updated piece of Omega history.

No conversation about the design language of any Omega piece would be complete without a discussion about the war-time origins of their wrist watches. In fact, Omega made some of the very first wrist watches designed specifically for men. It was the impromptu adaptation of leather bound pocket watches into wrist watches by British officers in The Second Boer War between 1899-1902 that inspired Omega to design their first wrist watches for soldiers, something they would continue to do for the many wars to follow. In these war-time pieces we can see the beginnings of what would ultimately become the Omega Seamaster.

The first design note of the Planet Ocean we see borrowed from the initial war-time derived Seamasters is the Omega symbol near the top and the words “Omega Seamaster” written directly below. Even the font is, for all intents and purposes, identical! The placement of these words changed over the years, with the true dive watch line moving the “Seamaster” to the bottom. So, to have both at the top, with the addition of the “Professional” declaration, is the perfect balance of old and new.

The next correlation is also between the very first Seamsters in the form of the the numerals. Obviously, the use of numerals is not exclusive to Omega, but the style with which they were drawn on the originals was the precursor to the divers that came after and the modern Planet Ocean we have today. My personal preference for a diver is having the numerals painted on rather than applied, so I’m very happy with this choice.

Ultimately though, the Omega Planet Ocean is an homage to the origins of the Seamaster as a diver, and looking at the various dive models throughout the late 1950’s to the end of the 1960’s, the influence becomes sapphire crystal clear. In Omega’s first dive watch, the CK 2913, the basic structure of the Planet Ocean can be found.

Again, the most obvious connection are those numerals. Now we see exactly where the numeral design is derived from. Pointing to those definitive hours is the broad arrow hand that is nearly 1-for-1 on both the CK 2913 and the Planet Ocean, with the only difference being the extra lume recess on the arm of the hour hand.

Now, this next comparison may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but the bezel of the CK 2913 and the 2201.50.00 Planet Ocean are actually more similar than they might initially look. One of the more unique features of both these models is their smaller perceived bezel width compared to most divers. This is achieved via the creation of empty metal space, which leaves less room on the bezel for the numerals.

Smaller numerals on a diver decreases the ease of legibility, but conversely makes the dive complication a touch more understated. This particular method of decreasing the size of the numerals on the bezel is not only innate to the Omega diver DNA, but also keeps things unique compared with the other Seamaster Professional: the 300 M. It’s also different enough from the 165.014 to distinguish it from a reissue of that watch, but more in that in a second.

These similarities to the CK 2913 reach all the way up through the -4 version of the model. It wasn’t until the -4 that we get another parental trait that the Planet Ocean inherited. On the -4 through the -8, for one reason or another, it was decided to swap the dauphine minute and broad arrow hour hands for a dauphine hour and long arrow minute hands configuration. On the Planet Ocean both the broad and long arrow are brought over, bridging the gap between the range of dash numbers.

Another new and distinctive feature of the -7 was the inclusion of the lollipop seconds hand. While this wasn’t incorporated into the design of the Planet Ocean, the seconds hand of the next iteration of the Seamaster was, along with the most prominent design change for the Seamaster line moving forward: the markers those hands are pointing at.

It is in the 165.014 that we get the features of the Planet Ocean that quite possibly most define the dial. For the first time in the history of the Seamaster diver the hour markers are trapezoidal rather than triangular. This is by far the biggest difference between the Planet Ocean and those original CK 2913 models, and for my money it is an inspired choice.

In reality the Planet Ocean is more of an homage to the 165 and 166 models of these early Seamasters, but the contributions of the CK 2913 line cannot be overlooked. The CK 2913 features that were incorporated into the Planet Ocean set the stage for what makes it unique and different from the 165 and 166; they are what elevates the Planet Ocean from being simply a reissue, and help give it an identity all its own. Not that a reissue of any of the 165 or 166 models would be a bad thing, just that it’s nice to have a proper new addition to the family.

Though it was the 165.014 that gave the Planet Ocean it’s prominent facial features of trapezoidal hour markers and an arrow-like seconds hand, it wasn’t until the 165.024 that we get the iconic muscular build the Seamsters moving forward would be known for. Alas, we have lyre lugs.

Of course, Omega was not the first to create this type of lug, that credit seems to go to Universal Genève for their Poulerouter in 1959, but I do so love their interpretation. Maybe it’s because I have smaller wrists, but I prefer lyre lugs to straight lugs, and enjoy the rugged depth of character they bestow upon the overall frame of the watch. Additionally, this lug style adds the slight asymmetry leading to the crown, as was present on the 165.024 and moving forward, and absent from the previous models.

This is also the first time we see a triangle at the 12 o’clock on the bezel, though not yet with a pip, as the bezel markers in these first divers were fully lumed. But, it wouldn’t be until 1967 that the final design note would come through. It was in the 166.024 that we got a date window at the 3 o’clock.

Looking at the 166.024, one would be forgiven to think that the first Planet Ocean models are nothing more than a slight reimagining of this model. There is no doubt that the Planet Ocean is heavily inspired by and heavily an homage to this watch. But, as we have seen, by taking cues from multiple designs of the past, the Planet Ocean not only stands on its own, it unifies the evolution of the origins of the Seamaster itself.

Of course, this is the latest incarnation of the Seamaster line. This is a Seamaster Professional. As such, the Planet Ocean includes the addition of the helium escape valve, encapsulating the full span of the development of the Seamaster into what we know it as today. Some may not like it, but for me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Another takeaway from the professional line is the colored tip of the seconds hand. While the paint on my watch has mostly worn off, I do plan on getting it redone during its next servicing, as I love this sporty detail. It’s nice to see this on the Planet Ocean as it helps cement the feature as characteristic of the professional line, with the orange being all the more playful and unique to the series.

Though the markers are derived from the 165.014 model, they are applied and finished more like a modern Seamaster. In fact, it was the Planet Ocean that pioneered as the first Omega dive line to exclusively use applied markers, as the professional line up until that point had kept with printed indices. The applied markers would carry on for all Omega Professional divers so far, up to the new Diver 300M today. Even the original 300M was outfitted with the applied markers, around the same time of the Planet Ocean’s release, in their transitional model the 2220.80.00.

Lastly, we have the bracelet upon which the watch is showcased. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful 3-link bracelet design I have ever seen. It has the perfect mix of hard and soft lines, making it look both strong and delicate at the same time. It appears to be a refinement of the bracelets that came with the original 165.014 to 166.024 Omega Seamasters, and I don’t think a better choice could have been made.

I’ve owned the Planet Ocean on the rubber strap, and I personally just think that the sportiness of the strap clashes too much with the dressy qualities of this watch. I’m a firm believer that, while a watch may be able to pair well with multiple bracelets or straps, there really is only one that harmonizes best for that watch. With regards to the original Planet Ocean 42mm, the OEM metal bracelet achieves that perfect balance.

To me, the Planet Ocean is the pinnacle of the Omega heritage Seamaster design. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original Seamaster Professional 300 M, as well as the newly updated Diver 300 M, but the design language of those watches are far more modern in terms of Omega’s design heritage. In the planet ocean, we get a true update to the original divers of the 50’s and 60’s, touched up with modern flare and quality.

For “town, sea and country”, that was the motto for the first Seamasters. The idea was a go-anywhere, do-anything watch that was comfortable both in sporting and social circumstances. That dressy ruggedness crossed over into their first divers in the form of the CK line and the 165.014 with their smaller, uncluttered bezel.

In many ways, the Planet Ocean is more in-line with the ethos of the CK models as well as the 165.014 than it is with the 165.024 & 166.024. It’s body may be in the latter, but its soul resides in the former. To me, this makes the most sense for what the Seamaster originally represented, and there is no better symbol of the duality of a Seamaster than the famed hippocampus, updated and present here on the Planet Ocean, as it has been since 1958.

That is not to say that I do not love the dedicated diver aesthetics of the later 165 and 166 models. That specificity is something I enjoy about the updated design of the Diver 300 M, and, for me, the 165.024 “Big Triangle” is the absolute best dedicated dive watch ever made, and a faithful recreation, or even a reimagining, would be in my collection without question. An update to the 2254 perhaps?

Ultimately though, I am completely content with what Omega has done with the original Planet Ocean. The line has taken a turn since it’s initial inception, and that is likely for the best, as the new models are more modern and robust completely dive oriented watches, a facet Omega needed to fill to round out their offerings.

Nevertheless, give me old school charm. Give me printed numerals, a slimmer bezel and a watch I can wear just about anywhere doing just about anything, and I’m a very happy man. I like my Seamasters to be a bit like the character that inspired my love for them in the first place: tough as nails, rough around the edges, but cleans up nicely all the same.

The original Planet Ocean, particularly in the 42mm case size, really is a modern version of a 1960’s diver on your wrist. It feels special. It feels vintage in all the right ways, without having to sacrifice on modern quality of construction and performance. Because it is modern, yet not modernized, it feels like you are wearing a piece of history. I don’t know how to describe it any other way other than by saying, it simply transports you.

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