When Omega introduced the Ploprof 1200M back in 2009, I was actually happily surprised to see that they did such an amazing job. The resemblance with the original Omega Ploprof 600M 166.077 was amazing. On first sight, the new Omega Seamaster PloProf 1200M looked identical to the PloProf 600M version of almost 40 years earlier. On Fratellowatches we wrote about the PloProf watches several times, but never took the time to put the two models together and have a closer look.
Seamaster PloProf History In A Nutshell
For detailed history on the Omega Seamaster Ploprof 600 I will ask you to read this article on the Omega Ploprof’s History, written by Jon Wallis. I will give the highlights of the PloProf history to you in a nutshell, mainly based on what Omega has documented on this timepiece. According to official Omega documentation, it took them more than four years to develop a solution to create a watch that could handle the extreme pressure that a watch needs to withstand when diving at great depths. Even COMEX divers were involved in the testing of Ploprof prototypes during the Janus operation. Already at that time, around 1970, Omega was experimenting with materials like titanium for watches. Less then 10 pieces have been made out of titanium for testing purposes, but never made production since the price of such a watch in titanium would be totally crazy.
In the end, Omega came up with the following solution: a monocoque case (or monobloc) made of stainless steel with a locking bolt to secure the setting and winding crown. Water is of course one thing, but at extreme depths divers would be working in a pressurized chamber where they breathe a mixture of oxygen and helium. The helium gas is able to enter the watch when it is under pressure, as you probably know if you are into diving watches. Instead of using a helium valve like Rolex did with their Sea-Dweller watches, Omega decided that it would be better to prevent helium from entering the watch in the first place. Omega also wanted to measure the maximum pressure the Ploprof 600M could handle which resulted in a failure of the watch at 1370 meters (or 137 ATM) as the second hand stopped due to deformation of the crystal and case. The Ploprof 600M was taken into production in 1970.
Main Technical Differences Between The PloProf 600M and 1200M
Well, the construction of the case and locking mechanism is exactly where the main difference can be found between the original Omega PloProf 600 and the PloProf 1200 of 2009. The Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M reference 126.96.36.199.01.001 has no monocoque case and uses a helium valve instead. Also, the crown has a different mechanism to it. Where you used the square bolt as a crown and the actual crown looking part as a screw-down crown.
Of course, the movement is also different. As you know, Omega is working hard to make sure most of their watches will have the in-house developed Co-Axial movement. The Seamaster Ploprof 1200 has the in-house developed caliber 8500 movement that we’ve also seen in a number of other Seamaster and De Ville watches. The original Ploprof 600 uses the Omega caliber 1002 movement. The new watch still comes with an Isofrane strap or the beautiful stainless steel mesh bracelet. I am not going to elaborate on the Co-Axial caliber 8500 movement as it has been discussed here several times.
The photos below show you the differences between the watches in detail. The red pusher (needs to be pushed to rotate the bezel) made of plastic has been replaced by a metal pusher, the side of the bezel changed so there is more grip on the new one, the case back is now screw-down and has a number of engraving in there (including the Seahorse) instead of an industrial looking machined finish only. The dial of the new model is also quite different. Not only the location of the date changed from 3 o’clock to 4:30, but it also received a glossy finish and ‘rich’ hour markers.
In my opinion, the Seamaster PloProf 600 is a dedicated and perhaps ‘hard core’ tool watch for divers where the new Seamaster PloProf 1200 is a true diver’s watch and a timepiece for watch enthusiasts. The new watch was created for a different reason, so to speak. Nevertheless, I would have a hard time making a choice between these two watches in terms of ownership. The vintage Ploprof is awesome and chances are big that the ones you will find out there have really been used for diving purposes (more later). The new Ploprof 1200 is a new watch created by modern machinery and using modern techniques but let me say that I think that Omega did a helluvajob on this piece. Even though there are some small changes in the design of the case and it lost its monocoque case, it is still a very very cool watch to own. In the end, I believe you can’t go wrong with either one of them.
The Ultimate Cool
Although I refuse to believe that this Omega Ploprof was ever a big seller, whether it is the vintage model or the current model, I consider it to be one of the coolest diving watches around. I’ve had the Seamaster PloProf for quite a while on my wrist and although it looks odd at first, it was quite easy to get used to. Both the Isofrane strap and the mesh bracelet are very comfortable and I noticed that despite the size – or rather dimensions – of the watch look terrifying, it is quite easy to wear. I have had my share of 44mm Panerai Luminor watches and I have to say that those were more ‘present’ than the Ploprof in terms of feel. With those I always felt the urge to take them off after a day of wearing in the office, but this Ploprof model was just fine throughout all the day.
Probably the ultimate cool was the fact that Gianni Agnelli wore this Omega Seamaster PloProf as well, over his sleeves. This king of style from Italy didn’t follow any fashion rules, he made them. It shows that even though the Seamaster PloProf was meant to be a hard core diver’s tool watch in the 1970s, it had been picked up by those who liked watches as a style object. The photo below was taken from TZ-UK, published by Stefan.
On the other hand, the PloProf was definitely used by professional divers (like the COMEX and Cousteau divers). With all due respect to Agnelli, to me that’s really the ‘cool factor’ about this watch. Nevertheless, it is likely that the watch does not get to see more water than the occasional hotel swimming pool if I am wearing one. It is the same with the Omega Speedmaster Pro really, you know it was on the Moon and used by NASA, even though sitting in a 747 at 10.000M in the air is probably the closest it will get to the Moon.
The Seamaster PloProf – new or vintage – isn’t really for the faint-hearted but in my opinion it is an awesome watch that could be used for daily wear. It is a watch that can take some serious abuse, goes with any kind of attire and it is a great conversation piece. You will be able to find one of the vintage PloProf models fairly easy, but keep in mind that some of them have had a restoration in the meanwhile and could have a service dial provided by Omega. Make sure you get yourself informed about these details before you buy one. There is nothing much wrong with an all restored model if you want it for daily use, but keep in mind that it does effect the (collectors) value of such a timepiece. Depending on the condition, we’ve found PloProf watches for sale between $6000 USD and $10.000 USD. Some of them complete with box and papers, others watch only.
Reference 188.8.131.52.01.001 (the current PloProf), is in the current collection and there are actually five different versions. Three versions with the black dial that have either a stainless steel mesh bracelet, a black rubber strap or an orange rubber strap. Then there are two versions that have a white dial and come either with the stainless steel mesh bracelet or a white rubber strap. The special page on the official Omega website on the Seamaster Ploprof models can be found here. These new models start at around 7000 Euro ~ $9400 USD retail price for the models with a rubber strap.
If you are looking for a serious diver watch that you can wear on a daily basis with modern technology on board, comfortable bracelet or strap, the new Seamaster PloProf 1200M is awesome. If you are more into vintage (Omega) watches then the PloProf 600M might be your choice. However, for all-round use (with the occasional dip in a swimming pool at your holiday destination) I’d suggest you buy the current model.