Omega PLOngeur PROFessionnel (Professional Diver) began life in 1970, the ugly ducking of diver watches. The watch was, and it is still considered by some, one of the most non-appealing watches released by Omega. But since the utility and not the beauty was the key factor of this tool watch, the Ploprof raised fast a profound respect between professional divers. Today we review the modern diver Seamaster Ploprof 1200, Reference 126.96.36.199.04.001, a titanium beast with a sweet blue bezel.
Review: Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200
The increasing number of the military and commercial diving professionals in the sixties, as well as the increased requirements for the diving watches, lead to a collaboration between Omega and Jacques Cousteau to create an extreme water-resistant watch. After four years of development and intensive testing, the Omega Ploprof was released in 1970. The PLOngeur PROFessionnel nomenclature comes from the French-speaking team that designed the watch.
The first company that used the new diver was Compagnie Maritime d’Expertise – Comex, an oil research company that participated also in the development phase. Fearing that the crystal might pop out at decompression stage of diving, due to helium expansion, Comex researched the solution provided by a helium release valve. In 1971, Rolex made the helium escape valve commercially available on the Ref. 1665. We covered this historical landmark in our hands-on of the newest Sea-Dweller, Ref. 126600 is available here. But in fact, even without a gas escape valve, Omega had none of the helium issues of the counterparts diving watches. The brand’s solution was to make the watch air-tight, and thanks to the monoblock construction, it achieves a tightness better than that of the Apollo spacecraft.
The first watches were tested and proofed in Omega laboratories for 600m and even in lower depths in the live experiments, going up to more than double of the advertised 600m. The costly development boosts the watch on the top of the most expensive Omega professional watches. The Ploprof price was so high, approximately double that of the Rolex Submariner, that many of the amateur divers could not afford it. And it was mainly bought by companies for their professional divers.
The watch featured a series of patents like the CH503310 / 1968 for the locking bezel system or the CH480680 / 1967 for the monobloc case. The easy use of the crown locking system and the unusual bezel lock gain sympathy due to robustness and easy handling. The watch was not the most attractive diving pieces available on the market and Omega advertised it in an original way:
“It may not look pretty on the surface, but deep down it’s beautiful.”
The professional divers knew that they can rely on Omega Ploprof for their own life, and this contributed to the success of the watch. The original Ploprof was available on the market between 1970 and 1979. The modern version, debuted in 2009, is an improved version. Boosting an impressive water-resistance of 1200m, an HEV (helium escape valve) and a light titanium case, the Omega Ploprof 1200 is a modern beast with the vintage look. We take a look at the Reference 188.8.131.52.04.001 in an attempt to find out by ourselves and discover at least a part of its greatness.
The case, dial and hands
The Omega Ploprof 1200 was designed as a tool watch. It comes with generous dimensions of 55mm by 48mm, manufactured in titanium. The design is more from a science fiction story than a day by day life. Considering the fact that the Ploprof 1200 is created to conquer the alien world of the extreme depths, the design becomes somehow logical. Nevertheless, the je ne sais quoi appearance has a strange attractive effect, an exotic beauty.
The use of titanium for both case and mesh bracelet was an expected evolution. The light material increases the usability from a professional diver watch to ordinary use of day by day. Why is this important? The comfort of the watch is raised to a level where the presence of the watch becomes a real pleasure on the wrist. While the original in stainless steel felt hefty on the wrist, the review sample in titanium felt comfortable. The presence of the crown and crown protection at 9 o’clock does not interfere with the wrist. We can confirm that once on the wrist, the watch adapts easily and is light. Very light! Admirable for a watch with these dimensions and background.
The Ploprof 1200 is nicely finished on the exterior with a series of brushed and polished surfaces. The massive look is softened by the bevelled and polished edges. The massive bezel fits well the entire look. Having a good grip, even with gloves, the bezel features polished and satin facets, being equally usable and beautiful. The sky blue ceramic insertion contributing to its aesthetic appeal. The scale, numbers and diver’s triangle are filled with Super-LumiNova offering a spectacular view on any light. In combination with the dial’s markings, the watch in low light is reduced from being a great monster to a lovely jelly-fish.
The safety features, the crown protection and the bezel release orange button make up the charm of this watch. Omega managed to transform two key features, lifesaving functions into design elements. Loved, appreciated and recognisable.
Once a monobloc piece of steel, the case-back is now a screwed on back bezel with a sapphire crystal to reveal the decorated calibre Omega 8912. The addition of the second crystal on the back was not the reason why the Ploprof has a gas escapement valve. The valve was introduced from the first re-edition, in 2009, as a safety measure for the screw down case back to guarantee the extraordinary reachable depth of 1200m. But since the watch behaved so well, they could incorporate a sapphire crystal on the back.
The dial is simple: white with blue – excellent legibility and warm contrast. The raised blue indexes are filled with Super-LumiNova. The rest of the markings is done with a printed blue. The colour touch of the dial is represented by the orange minute hands, the printing of the “Seamaster” in a matching colour for the bezel release button and bezel’s origin orange spot.
The titanium mesh strap strengthens the solid look and feel of the watch. We were interested to find if the watch is easy to use, especially for a daily use. We are positively surprised how easy is to handle and to set. The watch is sporty and chic in a geeky way. It looks good, it is sturdy and has an impressive heritage.
The movement: Omega 8912
Turning the case, the back sapphire crystal reveals the Omega 8912 calibre with a Co-Axial escapement and Master Chronometer certification, approved METAS. The Co-Axial escapement was invented in 1974 by the great watchmaker master George Daniels. The invention was patented just in 1980 and Omega used it the first time in the DeVille collection at the calibre 2500, in 1999.
The Co-Axial system features a system of three pallets. In this way, the locking function is separated from the impulse. The system removes the sliding friction of lever escapement and with it the lubrication and its issues of the traditional lever escapement.
The Master Chronometer certification is an in-house certification system. Instead of using the C.O.S.C. certification, Omega certifies their testing methods and tools by METAS, the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology. The new certification removes the need to send the movements to Geneva for COSC certification and adds more testing possibilities like the water resistance and anti-magnetic properties. This increase of the “simple” in-house test to the level of METAS approved and certified is a guaranty not only of the chronometric capabilities but also of the watch’s construction and other important properties.
The movement construction is realised with free-sprung balance (the rate is adjusted by timing screws on the balance wheel) with silicon spring. In this way, the watch is resistant to magnetic fields up to 15,000 Gauss. The movement has an interesting speed of 3,5Hz (25,200 bph) that was chosen for the movement’s exceptional stability over extended periods of time. The balance’s speed is the Omega’s technical solution for a prolonged lifespan, still maintaining the chronographic capabilities. The timepiece is a long runner with its very good power reserve of 60 hours coming from two series-mounted barrels. The calibre 8912 is a simple hour, minutes, seconds movement without a date. In the abyss, the date is not an important feature.
The exhibition case-back shows the nicely decorated movement, the calibre 8912 being machined but adequately decorated with Geneva waves in arabesque motifs. This finish can be seen on the bi-deirectional rotor as well as on the bridges and plate. These details increase the watch’s appeal. The Ploprof 1200 is a tool watch with a touch of beauty coming from the exposed movement and the nice dial.
Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200 has a price tag of EUR10,400 or SGD16,300 (incl GST). The price is similar to the traditional Ploprof’s competition, the mighty Rolex Sea-Dweller. The Ref. 126600 has a price tag of SGD15,250 (incl GST). The Rolex watch is a reference in the world of saturation diving watches. Popular with professionals and enthusiasts alike, the Sea-Dweller comes in a 43mm steel case with classic diving bezel, date window and 1220m water resistance. Under the solid case back, the calibre 3235 is certified to the Rolex Superlative Chronometer with a power reserve of 70 hours. More information in our recent review of the Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref. 126600.
Another great diver watch with “only” 600m water resistance and a price of €12,300, about SGD19,600 is the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional SBGH257. The magnificent watch has a big titanium case of 46,9mm but features no helium escape valve. This was managed via a robust construction. The timepiece has exceptional finishes with Zaratsu polish, an exemplary legibility and a beautiful dial. The Hi-beat movement offers remarkable precision and 55 hours of power reserve.
Omega made a big step and pushed the Ploprof 1200 from the pedestal of an extreme diving watch in the middle of the “masses”. The super technical design and appearance were raised to the rank of an icon. It is not often met that a watch is loved in equal ways by professionals, who depend on the watch for their life, and by the collectors who love it for its unusual beauty and impressive specifications.
This interesting piece has the advantage of being an original, with a nice history. It is important to mention that the Ploprof 1200 is a wrist marvel with a comfortable wear, despite the big size. The handling, setup and overall feel are very good. The addition of the helium escape valve is a safety measure, considering the crystal back. The light blue note of the dial and ceramic bezel is warm, delightful, almost in contrast with the watch’s out of this world design. We consider the Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200 a well-balanced watch: beauty versus function, toughness versus charm.
Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200 Specification and Price
Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200 Reference 184.108.40.206.04.001, has a price tag of EUR10,400 or SGD16,300.
Calibre: Omega 8912
Type: Self-winding movement with Co-Axial escapement
Dimensions: Ø 29.0mm
Power reserve: 60 hours
Frequency: 3.5Hz / 25’200 vph
Functions: Hours, Minutes, Seconds
Dimensions of the case: 55 x 48 mm
Crystal: Flat scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides
Crown: Screw-in crown titanium
Caseback: Transparent case back
Water resistance: 120bar (1200 metres / 4000 feet)
Material: polished grade 2 titanium “shark-proof” mesh bracelet, additional electric blue rubber strap.
Buckle: Deployant clasp