The Omega Seamaster line of watches first made its debut in 1948, to mark the 100th anniversary of Swiss watchmaker Omega SA. Despite the brand’s long and vibrant history at that time, the Seamaster was so popular that it quickly leapfrogged all other Omega watches to become the company’s top-selling product. More than 70 years later, the Omega Seamaster remains a flagship of the Omega brand. It is the oldest Omega model in the company’s lineup today.
The Omega Seamaster was born as a watch meant for divers and naval officers—not a first in Omega’s history. Starting in 1932, Omega began producing the Marine brand, another line of watches geared toward the same market. The Marine ultimately paved the way for the Seamaster, though the latter timepiece outstripped its precursor in several ways.
The most notable feature of the early Seamaster was a rubber O-ring gasket, inspired by the design of World War II submarines. Previous water-resistant watches could reach great depths but used lead and shellac gaskets that were extremely vulnerable to temperature changes. The rubber gasket on the Seamaster could handle both the pressure of extreme depths and the wide-ranging temperature shifts a diver was likely to experience. As a result, the watch was able to survive a record-breaking dive in 1955, when diver Gordon McLean made it down to 62.5 meters in Australia.
To show off the Seamaster’s incredible temperature resilience, Omega tried a different test. A year after McLean’s dive, Omega set a Seamaster on a flight to the North Pole—on the exterior of an airplane.
The Omega Seamaster was an incredibly popular watch throughout the second half of the twentieth century, boosted undoubtedly by a spike in the popularity of scuba diving. These days, though, the watch’s biggest claim to fame might be its association with the James Bond franchise.
Of course, the Seamaster is not the first luxury watch to be worn by the world’s favorite super spy. For many years, Rolex was the watch brand that was synonymous with 007, with Bond wearing various Rolex models in different films in the franchise. If you’ve been to a theater to watch a modern James Bond flick, though, you’ve probably seen the version of Bond that wears an Omega Seamaster.
The Seamaster became 007’s watch of choice in 1995 when Pierce Brosnan took over the iconic role in the film GoldenEye. In the film, Brosnan’s Bond receives an Omega Seamaster Professional Diver 300M Quartz from Q Branch—the gadgets department at MI6. Bond’s version comes equipped with a laser cutter, which serves a crucial plot point in the film. An Omega Seamaster watch has been featured in each James Bond film since GoldenEye, including all four entries with reigning 007, Daniel Craig.
The Omega Seamaster’s constant presence in James Bond films has kept the watch famous and iconic into the 21st century. The Seamaster was beginning to fade in popularity in the early 90s, due in part to age and in part to the deceleration of the scuba trend. Bond reinvigorated the watch and ensured that it would stand the test of time. Unsurprisingly, Omega has released numerous special edition Seamaster watches in connection with the Bond partnership. These models include a James Bond 50th Anniversary Limited Edition and a Seamaster 300 Spectre.
Beyond James Bond, the Seamaster has several other claims to fame. In 2012, when London hosted the Olympic Games, Omega released the Omega Seamaster 1948 Co-Axial London 2012. The watch paid tribute to the previous London Olympic Games in 1948, for which Omega served as official timekeeper. The London Seamaster was only produced in a small quantity—1,948 watches, to be exact. The Seamaster also has several famous wearers, including Prince William and former Vice President Joe Biden.