The Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M is a watch designed to go diving to extreme depths. It has an integrated helium valve that offers the option of ascending to the surface after several days in a mobile pressure chamber, via a diving bell, to prevent damage from occurring to the case during the decompression process by any breathing gas mixture that might have penetrated into the watch.
Are you planning a dive to depths of a few hundred or even 1,200 meters? Impossible. Ever spend time in a deep-sea station? Highly unlikely. But these extreme situations fascinate us, and a watch that can withstand such conditions, very much, too. Add to this the “safety factor”: a watch that is water resistant to 1,200 meters can easily handle other severe applications in the water – like a dive into a pool, or a fall while waterskiing, or even the concentrated stream of water from a power washer – not to mention the safety reserve for diving. Because the Ploprof is tested to a depth of 1,200 meters, no dive in open water is limited when wearing this watch.
Even for technical diving that usually exceeds the maximum depth of about 40 meters used by recreational divers, the Ploprof never even comes close to its full capacities. This is an important consideration for divers, who always work with the greatest possible safety reserves (with their breathing gas, for example).
As a compromise between strapping the watch onto a deep-sea submarine and taking it on a simple recreational dive, we tested the Ploprof on a technical dive in a Tyrolean mountain lake. Special equipment included a dry suit instead of the usual wetsuit; double air tanks instead of just one; an additional tank with pure oxygen; and a marker buoy. Taken together, it all weighed more than 110 pounds.
Our fully equipped divers Udo Happ and Jens Köppe tested the functionality of the watch. The enormous size of the watch, 55 mm by 48 mm, was a positive feature. The Ploprof was easy to hold, and to put on and operate, even with the 5-mm-thick gloves often worn with a dry suit. The orange safety pushers that unlock the bidirectional rotating bezel also work well, and even the two bracelet extensions are unproblematic. Pressing a release on the inside expands a 22-mm element in small steps, and folds out an additional 29-mm extension piece.
This allows the watch to fit over any diving suit and even over 5-mm-thick gloves.
If the bracelet is too long at its most extended point, the diver can adjust it using the 29-mm folding extension piece. And for extremely large or small wrists, Omega offers an extra-long and an extra-short Milanese mesh bracelet section that can replace one of the two medium-length bracelet pieces. Also included in the watch box is a dark-gray rubber strap and clasp that can be installed using a special tool (also included).
In the area of functionality and variability of the bracelet, Omega leaves no desires unmet, as the test divers confirmed. Jens Köppe, who performed several dives for our tests, ranks the bracelet and clasp of the Ploprof among the top three in the entire market. In his opinion, only the Oris dive watches and the IWC Aquatimer models could compete.
Under water, the watch honors its abbreviated name “Ploprof” (plongeur professionnel, which is French for “professional diver”). The dive time is legible at all times, even at great depths, thanks to an extremely bright luminous coating on the hands and bezel. Even when setting the rotating bezel, a bright orange dot inside the luminous triangle makes it very easy to align it with the orange aluminum minutes hand.
Because of the refractive qualities of light under water, there’s only one thing the Ploprof cannot do: from some angles it is difficult to see the actual time and dive time. In previous tests, only the oil-filled quartz watch UX from Sinn performed this feat. We found the large but lightweight titanium Ploprof to be a perfect partner during our 90-minute dive. This was especially important in the final phase when handling the breathing equipment. The so-called “stage handling” requires switching from the two original air tanks to the oxygen tank strapped on the front or side of the diver’s body. During our dive, a 15-minute decompression stop was necessary at a depth of six meters. When performing the complex hand grips used with the stage, the mouthpiece and regulator, the watch didn’t catch on anything despite its angular form – something that could be annoying as well as potentially dangerous.
And on it went. At the decompression stop location, the divers filled a buoy with air and allowed it to rise to the surface so the team on the surface could see where the divers are expected to emerge at the specified time. If the buoy bobs several times, this indicates that a diver has a problem and requires someone to come to their aid or bring them another air tank. The shallow depth helps in this regard. For the divers beneath the waves, however, a direct ascent after such a deep and extended dive would be life-threatening.
After coming up to the surface and returning to shore, it was clear that the watch’s case had survived a number of contact incidents with the diving equipment without damage. The sides, top, crown guard, pushers, the raised bezel grooves and the dive-time track showed no signs of scratches.
This was much more surprising on the titanium surfaces than on the bezel, which is made of silicone nitride – a high-tech ceramic material that, according to Omega, is 30 percent harder and 50 percent lighter than other conventional scratch-resistant ceramics. While the titanium mesh bracelet showed no signs of scratches or wear, the clasp was visibly scratched and revealed itself as the only sensitive component on the Ploprof. Not all of the scratches were traceable to the diving equipment. Most were caused while working at a desk during the two-week wearing test. Once again, this shows the great and continuous stress this exposed part is subject to as it moves across the surface of a desk.
Speaking of stress: unlike underwater pressures, our technology-rich days are full of magnetic fields that can have a negative impact on a watch. Omega has been working for several years to counteract this problem with completely antimagnetic movements. One of these finds its place in the brand-new titanium models in the Ploprof line, but not in the steel models, which have been available since 2009, and whose steel cases and enclosed casebacks are similar to the original Ploprof from 1970.
The full name of the movement in our test watch is “Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer Caliber 8912.” Unlike the Omega Co-Axial Caliber 8500 in the steel version, this movement uses exclusively antimagnetic components and is certified by the Swiss Institute for Metrology (METAS), which in addition to many other criteria also tests the antimagnetic properties. Otherwise, the Caliber 8912 is essentially the same as the 8500.
Two serially arranged barrels release their power smoothly to ensure the stable powering of the displays over the entire 60-hour power reserve; the balance spring made of silicon eliminates the problem of shocks and impacts causing deformation and subsequent irregularities in rate; and the iconic Omega Co-Axial escapement with its multi-step escape wheel guarantees excellent rate results, as many of our tests have shown.
Omega has omitted the date display on the new titanium models, even though it is included in this movement’s design. This may quite possibly be an attempt to justify the continued existence of the steel versions in the presence of the new, competitive titanium watches. A clever move, since thanks to the lightweight titanium case and bracelet, improved movement and transparent caseback, the new models are the perfect complement to the steel watches in the areas of wearing comfort, reliability and aesthetics. The new Ploprof is a true titan that has emerged from the depths – and is one of the best watches we have ever tested.