SMS: Rolex Submariner Vs. Omega Seamaster 300M
In this Sunday morning column, two of our writers go head-to-head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try and feature as many of our readers’ choices as we can. This week sees a bona fide classic — the Rolex Submariner — take-on the “young” pretender, the Omega Seamaster Professional 300M. Who wins? You decide…
Here we are again. The best time of the week. Do you remember the days of waking up early on a Sunday morning to watch your favorite cartoon? That is what Sunday Morning Showdown is to me — the next episode in a series of wacky adventures. Well, this week is like the epic tussle in the season finale.
This is the ultimate face-off between the Rolex Submariner and the Omega Seamaster. It also rounds-out a thrilling trilogy of Showdowns between Jorg and me. Jorg took the chequered flag on our first outing with the Speedmaster “Ed White” against the Daytona. I came back charged with electromagnetic energy and made the Glacé Verte Milgauss stand out against the Anniversary Railmaster. One apiece by my calculations, Jorg… It’s all to play for.
This week could be our biggest battle yet to close out our triple-header. Could we hit the heights of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the Dollars trilogy? Or the lows of Part III of The Godfather? We’ll leave that to our readers, but first.
Previously, on SMS…
Last week saw the two-tone Datejust 36 bring down the house. Despite many people’s association with the bi-color DJ36 for the statelier owner, Rob fought his case with the jury on his side. The gavel hammered at 64% in favor of the two-tone icon. My conclusion is that a classic watch is worn through the generations for good reasons. Will the same apply to the Professional Rolex? Or will the Seamaster take Neptune’s crown?
Omega vs. Rolex
Taking on the Speedmaster was one thing, but the Sub?! The Submariner is not just a dive watch; it is the dive watch. A benchmark you judge all other dive watches against. How could I possibly argue otherwise? Well firstly, we are narrowing down our selection to the very latest from Rolex. Specifically, the Submariner reference 114060. Notice I did not say “No Date”? You are free to call it that if you will, but for my etymology, it is either the Submariner or Submariner Date — seeing as the very first Submariner did not yet have the date function. Jorg may refer to it as the “No Date” just to pour salt in my coffee, though.
The new Sub has chunky lugs, referred to as the maxi-case
The reference 114060 came out in 2012 as the slimmer and more symmetrical alternative to the Submariner Date. The headlines were; the new Rolex caliber 3130, the Cerachrom bezel, and Chromalight illumination. But my takeaway was always how the case and markers had significantly increased in presence. The blown-up “dot ‘n’ dagger” indices had been around in Submariners since the early 2000s, known as the “maxi-dial”. My absolute top choice Submariner is the 16610LV or “Kermit” that had oversized markers but in a svelte case. The difference was that the new Sub had chunky lugs to boot, subsequently referred to as the “maxi-case”.
In the pantheon of iconic square watches, you see the regulars: JLC Reverso, Cartier Tank, Heuer Monaco. But no one ever mentions the “maxi-case” Submariner. I jest, but while still remaining 40mm, the extra girth of the extremities spoiled the round silhouette of the Sub. The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M, however, is still as suave as the fictional character that sports one.
Ben — Omega Seamaster Diver 300M
After letting the big brother Planet Ocean take the spotlight for a bit, the Seamaster Diver 300M rode in on a wave in 2018. Following a five-year absence, Omega revived the wavy pattern dial. Carved into the Zirconium Dioxide (ceramic) dial were deep, broad repeating lines. Perhaps not as choppy as the charming ’90s dials, this pattern had a lower frequency for calmer seas. The laser engraving is done by machine rather than a Q-issued lume pip, though.
With a 55-hour power reserve, the Seamaster 300M preserves the grab-and-go mentality of a tool watch…
Behind the scenes, the mechanism was brought up to date with Omega’s Master Chronometer self-winding co-axial movement. The in-house caliber 8800 undergoes independent tests by METAS to guarantee accuracy and can withstand at least 15,000 gauss of magnetism. With a 55-hour power reserve, the Seamaster 300M preserves the grab-and-go mentality of a tool watch. That is also 7-hours more than my friend Jorg’s pick. With that, you can also view the 8800 through the sapphire display case back, which I appreciate despite there being some opposition to display backs on dive watches.
The bezel is ceramic with recessed white enamel numerals. The benefit this provides is to reduce fade over time. Much better than the old aluminum bezels of Sea Pros that resemble Escorts left in the sun. I am referring to the cars by Ford (not the other type before you ask)…
To maintain grip, the knurled metal outer bezel ring has kept its style. Admittedly, the levels of grip are not optimal but strike a balance between unique style and functionality. All these elements bring the latest Seamaster Professional 300M to the forefront of Swiss luxury dive watch options.
The domed sapphire sits flush to the bezel and case-back making the 300M appear slim
In fact, the quality is much closer to the pricier Planet Ocean. But the Planet Ocean has 600 meters of water-resistance and a Liquidmetal™ dive scale, which still makes it the premium option in Omega’s range. Enlarging the 300M’s diameter to 42mm from 41mm also narrows the gap to the 43.5mm Planet Ocean, possibly alienating longstanding owners. But the domed sapphire sits flush to the bezel and case-back making the 300M appear slim despite what the spec sheet says.
What I have mostly talked about is what the Seamaster Professional 300M is, but why I like it more than a Sub is a different story. The 300M is not afraid to mix cutting-edge materials and maintain a classic shape. It may not have the near-70-year history of the Sub that would naturally mold it into the modern piece we have now. But even within 27 years, the curvaceous Seamaster case has remained relevant, tactical, and practical.
Let’s see what Jorg has to say on this, though.
Jorg — Rolex Submariner
Finally, the tables have turned, Ben! After battling a slew of Rolex models, I am backing up the claim that I do love Rolex watches. And, on top of that, you are once again my opponent in a Rolex vs. Omega showdown. In all honesty, it feels a bit weird to be on the other end of the spectrum for once, after ranting at Rolex for so long…
The Submariner is the ultimate story of design progression and technological development.
But the Rolex Submariner is not just a watch I like, it’s a watch I love. And when I say “Rolex Submariner” I mean every generation — including the current models. To me, it is the ultimate story of design, progression, and technological development. This Showdown is not simply a sum-up of the pros and cons for me. This is about something far bigger.
Telling a great story
The Seamaster is objectively the technically superior watch. It’s more affordable and you can actually get one when you go to an AD. Imagine that! But that’s totally not what it’s about for me. I would pick the Submariner anytime because it’s about the feeling the Submariner gives me as the ultimate tour de force in watch design.
While many will buy a Submariner for its name or its investment value nowadays, it’s not why I would buy one. I would buy it because of its design legacy. The watch you are wearing is the result of 70 years of optimization. How Rolex has achieved that is magical to me. And even with the current ref. 114060 and ref. 116610, Rolex has improved the design and the movement to bring its offering up to the latest modern-day standards.
The perfect execution of design
Let’s go back to the early ’50s to explain my obsession with the Submariner. See, the most difficult thing to do is design a watch that is new but feels like it has always been there. In a world where designs are representative of their time, Rolex managed to create a string of watches that were timeless. The Submariner, the GMT-Master, and the Explorer are all incredible and have remained pretty much the same over the decades.
The brilliance is that Rolex has been able to update its icon effortlessly.
Rolex’s updates have been a perfect example of respecting the power of the design. The company has carefully improved the technology to make sure it is still the same watch, only making it a better, modernized version. In design, there is nothing harder than changing an icon. And the brilliance is that Rolex has been able to update its icon effortlessly.
Submariner vs. Submariner Date
Which brings us to the current Submariner. As you are a gentleman, Ben, I will only spoil your coffee once. I do indeed prefer a Submariner “No Date” (ref. 114060) over a Submariner Date (ref. 116610). The reason is the cyclops. I know it serves a purpose but I simply don’t like it.
Ben: Ugh, “No Date”…
Visually the cyclops lens makes me think of Jim “Wash Out” Pfaffenbach portrayed by Jon Cryer in the movie Hot Shots! For the people that don’t know, he has walleye-vision that can only be solved with a multi-opti-pupil-optomy. Go watch it and you’ll know what I mean. The cyclops looks at me like Pfaffenbach is eyeballing me. It’s annoying.
Ben: You have me briefly distracted. The pre-Two and a Half Men double-act by Sheen and Cryer in Hot Shots! was brilliant. My favorite scene was Cryer sneezing on the radar, confusing the snot for enemy targets. “There’s a blimp slowly moving south!”
Jorg: Haha! Another brilliant scene from a cult classic. Now you did mention the beefed-up design of the latest Submariner. A maxi-dial and a maxi-case do change the overall looks. Sure, the chunky lugs do change the round silhouette of the Submariner. I agree with you on that. And I get it’s not everyone’s preference. But as with any iteration of the Submariner, it perfectly represents the next step in the Submariner’s design. It’s a step that you have to get used to for a minute but it makes sense. At least to me, it does.
As mentioned you can favor the Seamaster because it is more affordable, is available, and is technically the better watch. And don’t get me wrong, I like it a lot. But seven decades of Submariner are in my heart whereas the Seamaster is still a rational choice. And when it comes to watches, I don’t go for rational choices.
What about you Ben? Do you actually love the Seamaster Diver 300M?
Ben: You surprise me, Jorg. I left an open goal in regards to Helium Escape Valve, or HEV, and you didn’t take the shot. For many, a HEV is a completely redundant feature on any watch. I appreciate that the Seamaster has the HEV, which you cannot say for the Sub. But it did not need to be in the form of the conical manual release crown at the 10 o’clock position. Which for some is slightly perfunctory.
Jorg: I take it as a compliment that I’m able to surprise you. I don’t mind the HEV although I agree that its shape and loud presence are debatable. But sometimes quirky details can grow into the elements that people love the most.
Ben: Coming back to your question, I must say I do not love the Seamaster Professional 300M. And it is perhaps related to that additional valve on the case flank. The integrated HEV on the Omega Seamaster Ultra-Deep at least gave me hope that we could see the streamlined case on the normal Seamaster. Along with the manta ray lugs.
Yet, anyway, I still have a deep connection with the 300M and have done since the early ’90s. Seeing Pierce Brosnan give a steely-eyed performance in GoldenEye rocking the 300M must have had a lasting impact. The filmmakers also made sure that the watch got a lot of screen-time too! But that was the quartz with aluminum bezel. The fact that Omega has brought so much innovation to the latest Seamaster 300M without impacting the identifiable design deserves merit. The brand also had the passion to bring back the old-school wavy dial with just a pinch of modernity.
I understand Rolex always wants to be moving forwards, but can you ever imagine Rolex bringing back the gilt dial on the steel Sub?
Jorg: Before I answer that I agree that Omega deserves credit for the latest Seamaster Diver 300M. As you said, the company has done everything in its power to innovate without impacting the identifiable design. And I’m glad it did. But that’s exactly what Rolex has been doing with the Submariner for decades and what has made it such an icon. A case of leading by example.
The classic Submariner looks are now Tudor’s success.
To answer your question, I don’t think that we will be seeing a gilt dial ever again. And I don’t think that Rolex should bring it back. As you said it is all about moving forward for Rolex and the classic Submariner looks are now Tudor’s success. And I think that’s where it will stay. If you want a Rolex Submariner with a gilt dial, your best chance is to get your hands on a vintage piece — although that has become an expensive hobby, unfortunately.
I want to close things out by reacting to your statement about the Omega Seamaster and James Bond. First off, the deal between Omega and the Bond franchise has done wonders for the Seamaster 300M. It’s a big part of why the watch has become an icon. A stroke of genius by Jean-Claude Biver. But my favorite James Bond has never been Pierce Brosnan and even Daniel Craig is only second on my list. My undisputed no.1 is Sean Connery. And you and I know that Connery wasn’t wearing an Omega in his portrayal of the world’s most famous spy…
Although we could go on for hours, I think it’s up to our readers to have the final say in all this. In this battle of the titans, who do you think comes out on top? Let us know by voting for your favorite watch and don’t forget to comment.