In our Sunday Morning Showdown, 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. In today’s showdown, our writers get wet n’ wild with hefty professional divers. With such a mass of metal, you could even confuse them for diving bells. The Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M takes on the Grand Seiko SBGH257.

I don’t know about you, but last week’s Showdown was a blast. The writers wave their wands of wit, but it’s the comments from our Fratello Lounge members that make Sunday such an epic end to the week — or the start of the week depending on your preference. The spirit of Ian Fleming was watching over as Jorg and Ben went tête-à-tête with the Rolex Explorer and Grand Seiko SBGH279. Droves of readers came in defense of what is the quintessential sports Rolex, and the newest watch for James Bond.

Fire in the comments

Yet, there were some comments ranging from passive-aggressive murmurings, to pure aghast that we pit it against “just another Seiko.” Camp Grand Seiko did not take that lying down. Voters fought valiantly to make the case for the beast from the East, with which the word “Grand” makes a huge difference. In the end, the Explorer pipped the GS to the summit by only a few percent at 62%.

This week, we head from mountain peaks to ocean trenches, and it’s quite a doozy. The story of how these two deep-divers materialize from their whacky concepts is the stuff of legends. Built to withstand 600 meters below the surface, the bulky Grand Seiko SBGH257 fights off great pressures, and undiscovered sea monsters, of the deep. But it’s the story of the remarkable Omega Seamaster Ploprof and how it doubles that depth to 1,200 meters that thickens the plot.

Despite the immediate disadvantage of a lesser depth rating, the traditional round shape of the Grand Seiko may have a fair fight over the marmite “love-it-or-hate-it” Ploprof. Omega discontinued the steel Seamaster Ploprof 1200M (titanium is the only option now) just over a year ago. But then again, the Grand Seiko SBHG257 was a limited edition of 500 pieces back in 2017.

Who ranks the highest? You decide!

Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M

Jorg — Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M

With my wins in the last two Sunday Morning Showdowns, I’m stroking my hands to see if I can make it three-in-row, Ben. This would be the first time in the series that one writer makes it a hat-trick or turkey depending on which sports reference appeals to you. Knowing you as a lager-swilling Brit, it’s probably the football one.

Last week was a clear path to victory for the Rolex Explorer. Not so surprising, but I would have loved to see a little back and forth. In the end, the Rolex Explorer is a watch that speaks for itself, regardless of the deceitful Mt. Everest Hilary/Tenzing summit spun by the Rolex Marketing department. In any case, our readers seem to love the Explorer for its classic design and unpretentious presence.

This is a serious slab of steel.

Something that cannot be said of the watch I am trying to win the triple with this week: the Omega Seamaster Professional Ploprof 1200M. Not just any Ploprof, but the modern-day, heavy metal version in full stainless steel introduced in 2009. The dimensions alone are enough to break the monocles of high society watch folk. 55mm×48mm is gargantuan by any measure and a mass of 279 grams outweighs the new Canopus gold Speedmaster by 44 grams.

There’s no way around it, the Ploprof is a serious slab of steel. Add the asymmetrical shape and bright orange pin, and my treble is looking like a real challenge. I can see you sharpening your talons for this one, Ben, but the Ploprof is what it is for good reasons.

Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M and 1971 PloProf

The origins of the PloProf

I’m sure most of our readers are aware of the origins of the PloProf. That’s why I only want to touch upon it briefly. In the late 1960s, Omega was one of the leading brands in the research and development of deep-sea watches and saturation diving. With industrial diving becoming increasingly relevant, divers needed a watch they could depend on to assist with their job. The results of Omega’s quest were the Seamaster 1000 that we now know as “The Grand”, and the Seamaster 600 that became known as the “PloProf.”

SIDE NOTE: You may notice the alternating spelling of PLOPROF. Omega spelled the original “PloProf” and the re-edition “Ploprof”. Confusing, I know, but we’ll try to maintain the official names for both versions. 

The PloProf officially saw release in 1971 and looked completely different than any other watch, diving or otherwise, out there.  The PloProf featured a monobloc case with a locking bolt to secure the setting and winding crown. Developing the structure to prevent helium from infiltrating the space between the dial and crystal was the ultimate goal. Rolex and Doxa came up with a valve to release helium from their watches. Omega chose the monobloc construction that is less of a fix and more of a prevention. This arrangement minimizes the seals where helium can enter in the first place. Fellow Fratello, Gerard, used to own an original PloProf and did a great write-up explaining the technique behind the watch.

Whatever, you do, don’t push the big red button…unless you need to.

A second distinct feature of the 1971 model is the big red plastic button you need to push in order to rotate the bezel. This security system was developed so that the bezel does not turn accidentally when divers are working at great depths, possibly leading to fatal accidents. The integration of this security system and the locking bolt to secure the crown, lead to this strange case shape. Despite its weird shape, Omega created a watch to withstand the pressures of the deep. Many of the original PloProfs were actually used by professional divers, so the chances of buying an original PloProf with an incredible story are very likely.

Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M and 1971 PloProf

An even better re-issue

Alas, the quirkiness of the model meant Omega stopped production of the original PloProf in 1979. However, the track record and striking appearance made the PloProf a fan-favorite amongst Omega and diving enthusiasts. So much so that in 2009, Omega released a new version of the Ploprof for €8,200. The Omega Seamaster Professional Ploprof 1200M was not only the return of a legendary watch, it turned out to be even better than the original. The new Ploprof saw an increase in water resistance from the original 600 meters to 1,200 meters. Among other things because of the addition of a helium escape valve.

Ben: Let me just jump in here. Omega went to all that trouble in having a monobloc case with the fewest seals, yet the re-edition dropped it for a helium valve? It may contribute to the deeper depth rating, but just pointing this out to our readers.

Never mind that, the quality of the crown actuation is light-years better than the vintage models, as is the security lock for the crown. Obviously, it’s unfair to compare with a 30-year time gap, but it’s a testament that Omega not only followed the original design but improved on it. The red plastic button was swapped for an orange steel button, hugely improving the core components. At the same time, Omega made sure to relate the new color to the other orange elements like the minute hand and lume pip triangle.

Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M and 1971 PloProf

Modernizing an old concept

The updated style of the numerals on the bezel makes it easier to read and gives it a modern-day presence. Typically, the bold Omega numerals can be too in-your-face on models like the Planet Ocean. But with the rejigged dial and bezel of the Ploprof, it really works. Omega also gave attention to the movement with in-house developed Caliber 8500.

A detail I especially love is the moving of the date from the 3 o’clock position on the old watch to the 4:30 position. I don’t necessarily like a date on a diving watch but the way Omega solved it, is perfect. It is unobtrusive and does not hinder the functional power of the design.

One final feature to discuss is the great stainless steel mesh bracelet. It is brilliantly engineered and executed, making sure that wearing the Ploprof is an absolute joy and endurance test. The bracelet makes sure that the watch is always in balance on your wrist and on top of that it looks amazing. Overall the improvements are impressive as Robert-Jan pointed out in his in-depth comparison of both the original and new Ploprof. And yes, this could definitely be a daily wearer if you can handle the size and the weight.

Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M

A personal favorite

Honestly, Ben, there is not a single thing I do not like about the stainless steel Omega Seamaster Professional Ploprof 1200M. It is actually second on my list of future purchases after the newly introduced Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. I have written about my love for the watch in a previous edition of our now-defunct 52Mondayz series.

Ben: RIP 52Mondayz. Honestly, 2020 felt like 366Mondayz. 

As you know, I am a big fan of functional constructs that lead to iconic designs. Just think of the streamlined McLaren F1 supercar. Great designs do not always mean that things need to be different for the sake of it. Quite often, it leads to weird results that miss a certain purpose. But the weirdness of the Ploprof serves the best purpose of them all: practicality.

And lastly, the watch connects me to the story of my father. On 15 March 1971, my dad joined the German gas and oil drilling company that he worked for until his retirement. The exact same year the original Ploprof was released. It’s a coincidence, but nevertheless a nice detail. In the process of writing my piece, I had a chat with him about his professional career in the industry.

What started with a simple question, ended up being a great chat about this part of his life he was very passionate about. As it turns out, the world of professional diving was a lot closer than I had ever realized. It’s another reason why I would like to one day own the steel Omega Seamaster Professional Ploprof 1200M.

So Ben, what makes you so passionate about the Grand Seiko SBGH257?

Grand Seiko SBGH257

Ben — Grand Seiko SBGH257

Jorg, where do I even start. You’ve just gone into extreme levels of detail over what can only be described as a wrist anvil that tells the time. I am more than aware that the head honcho of Fratello (R Jizzle Bizzle himself), will be reading my statement on his actual Ploprof (the one in the images) and probably dock my pay for that. But it’s worth it to make it known that the original  PloProf to me is akin to using a wrecking ball to crack a nut.

Talking about going overboard for a problem that is solved with a simple valve. I do appreciate that Omega likes to revive these old designs for limited editions, like the Bullhead and Museum pieces. But the fact the Ploprof just keeps going is peculiar to me. The resulting design just seems counterintuitive in making a generally wearable dive watch over-encompassing and awkward.

The Ploprof weighs more than half a bag of sugar.

There has to be a reason why the steel version was laid to rest in the production line. 279 grams! This is more than half a bag of sugar on the wrist. I don’t care if you have the strength of Arnie in his prime, you’re going to feel that at the end of a long day. I’ve come round to many watches in my time, such as the X-33 and G-Shock Mudmaster, but the Ploprof is a bridge too far. The same must be said of my early impressions of Grand Seiko. When Grand Seiko was double-stamped with the GS logo relegated to the bottom of the dial, I had little interest. Especially when I was repeatedly told the only way to appreciate Grand Seiko is to visit the manufacture in Japan — quite a barrier of entry.

Grand Seiko SBGH257

Exposure to Grand Seiko

When the branding of the Grand Seiko dials eschewed the mothership Seiko name, all changed. It began to highlight GS as a serious contender to the Swiss stalwarts. If last year is anything to go by, it seems the Fratello audience is obsessed too. Even the unrelenting release schedule of new watches stayed captivating. But transporting back to four years ago in 2017, the reorganization of the Japanese houses was still in its transition period.

Yet, Grand Seiko was bold and brave to announce a goliath dive watch at a super-premium price to rattle the cages. The dimensions of the Ploprof already had me quivering. But in turns of shear diametric impact, the Grand Seiko SBGH257 might even match the Ploprof. Its 46.9mm×17mm case height. No shrinking violets here.

Yet, to counteract the girth, the SBGH257 had the wise idea to employ the lightweight yet still strong “high-intensity” grade 5 titanium. The desirable visual impact of the GS is therefore not diminished with unnecessary heft. Even the typically dark grey titanium base metal is given some sheen with extensive use of polishing techniques (that may or may not start with a “Z”). Usually, I find Japanese designs that are set to appeal to customers in the west often appear as derivatives of western designs.

The honeycomb dial has an illusion that switches the pattern from appearing recessed to embossed.

However, Grand Seiko ensures its watches remain distinctly Japanese with a look that appeals across cultures. The hobnail pattern of the dial may draw comparisons to the Royal Oak’s tapisserie dial, but the effect is totally different. The style creates the illusion that the embossed elements inverse in certain lights then switch back. It’s sure to keep you entertained during a long conference call.

Grand Seiko SBGH257

The crown is down

The way I feel this matchup has been devised is all about the old goat taking on the young buck. Yet, there is a sense of heritage with the Grand Seiko.

Jorg: I get what you are saying. It’s like Jordan Vs. Lebron. Both are incredible players with amazing careers. There is only one true icon though.

Check out the crown placement at 4 o’clock. That may be a beneficial choice to avoid discomfort with the crown on the wrist, but it’s also an obvious throwback to the early Seiko dive watches, such as the Silver Wave. The placement tightens the overall package, making it much more wearable than the Ploprof. I’ve seen owners of the Ploprof switch wearing it on the left wrist and right wrist. Neither of which provides desirable wearing comfort. You may as well wear it around the neck Flavor Flav style.

Grand Seiko SBGH257

Big for the sake of purpose

In the Grand Seiko, you have the focus of professional specifications in a more ergonomic design. As with last week’s GS, I am a big fan of the angular facets and mirror-polished touches. It brings a whiff of luxury without looking too brash and still maintaining a tool watch aesthetic. The movement is also the same 9S85 Hi-Beat as the SBGH279 we sent into battle in last week’s Showdown.

This time, the thickness of the movement is no match for the overall case height. Therefore, it’s less of a disadvantage. However, I am still awaiting the improved 9SA5, with 80 hours of power reserve compared to 55 here, to take the reigns of the Hi-Beat. Until then, the SBGH257 still gives its all as a super pro diver. Which does come at the sum of €12,300.

Coming back to my earlier interjection, Grand Seiko is confident enough in the tolerances of the materials and the seams in the structure, that a Helium Escape Valve is not needed. The watch is still spec’d to handle saturation diving without helium infiltration as a concern. More than so than the re-edition Ploprof that sheepishly incorporated an automatic valve on the underside of the orange pin (you can see this on the pictures above). The Grand Seiko also comes with ridiculous extension options in the clasp for wearing over dive suits while maintaining a tight fit to the wrist.

Grand Seiko SBGH257

Final bout

Ben: You’re probably going to have a tough time convincing me on the Ploprof, Jorg. And I am excited to hear what our readers think about this. I have a feeling the adoring fans will be few and far between compared to the Rolex Explorer last week.

Jorg: I completely understand the Ploprof is a Marmite watch. And I am very aware it might not bring me the much-desired treble in this series. But I have a good feeling there quite a few readers out there that appreciate the Ploprof for what it is. But enough of us talking. It’s time to let out readers have the final say in which of these two watches they prefer. Let us know your favorite of the two watches by voting and posting your comments below!

Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M Vs. Grand Seiko SBGH257

    Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M Vs. Grand Seiko SBGH257