In my mind, @furrywristabroad has an interesting way with his words, today he is going to be talking about a watch he holds dear to his ‘wrist’ – the Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-axial.
FYI, this is unlike any other regular watch review. In any case (no pun intended), I would describe it as an experience, and its definitely something you’d be seeing us do fairly often in the near foreseeable future. We sincerely hope you’ll like this new review style.
Now go grab your scotch, fire up your YouTube/Spotify, turn up the volume, sit back, relax, ‘cuz its time for another installment of #LookCloser.
The mission of this review is to inform those who plan on purchasing such a watch to gauge their expectations of these pieces of jewellery accordingly, for they are jewellery, and fragile tools at best by modern standards.
A Love Story:
Long-Term Review of the Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial Chronometer
The year was 2014. After being unveiled at the Baselworld show, I had set my sights on owning the newly announced Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial Chronometer. After reading a glowing review of the watch where the journalist took it into the water with him, I knew right then and there that I would be making the purchase the next time I left my house.
What followed were four years of ownership that scaled from pure joy to unbridled disappointment. This review will go over what a real-world ownership experience is of such a product, and the very real relationships we develop with such inanimate objects. Watch reviews from traditional outlets do not do this for they are simply an extension of marketing department efforts by watch brands. Thus, such long-term reviews are not feasible. The mission of this review is to inform those who plan on purchasing such a watch to gauge their expectations of these pieces of jewellery accordingly, for they are jewellery, and fragile tools at best by modern standards.
Simply doing so would not give this watch and my time with it justice, however. What you will read is a love story accompanied by a soundtrack. Hopefully by the end of this article, you will get a greater sense as to whether such a watch is right for you.
Soundtrack track 1: “The Nature of Inviting” by IAMX
This watch was purchased for the purposes of being worn daily and to be dived with on a weekly basis. Having worn an Omega Speedmaster Professional for several years, I had decided on buying a desirable dive watch to accompany me on my dives. I had originally planned on purchasing the Rolex Submariner but found the new larger case and the paragraph of text on the dial to be unflattering. There was also the factor of by wearing a Rolex, making oneself a target for theft and assault almost in every region on the planet. Thus, when this watch was announced at Baselworld, with all of its technological advancements, and its pleasing vintage styling, I had then decided on purchasing this watch as soon as it was available.
I will go over how this watch performed on a daily basis, what went well and what went wrong, and what challenges arose over the four years of ownership. I will then cover how this watch performed while diving, with the specific sets of obstacles that arose in this role and how they were resolved. Lastly, I will carefully describe the multiple servicing journeys the watch undertook. Thus, at the end I hope you can make a correct purchasing decision if you are looking for such a timepiece in this category.
Soundtrack track 2: “Paradise” by Sade
The Basics and How this Love Story Began
There is no denying that this is a beautiful watch. First there are the proportions of the watch which Omega executed perfectly. The case measures at a very modern 41mm and the lug width comes in around 21mm. In fact, they are closer to 20.5 mm and this is reduced for a reason. On one summer evening, an accomplished watchmaker and I were discussing watch design and he mentioned that an accepted ratio for the case to lug width design was that of 2:1. This is the case of this Seamaster 300, and it is beautifully proportioned as a result. I have heard many first-hand complaints about this lug width and even heard one person claim that it was the major factor in his decision to not buy the watch.
Second, the thickness of 15mm makes it fit easily with formalwear and to slip easily in and out of one’s buoyancy compensation device (BCD) before and after a dive. The 48mm lug-to-lug distance also means that it is wearable by many who even have wrist circumferences below 7 inches. The articulated bracelet with an adjustable clasp further aided wearability and promised capabilities of accompanying me on dives by being able to be worn over thinner exposure suits. Couple that with its great vintage looks and that mesmerising ceramic dial that seemingly changes every second while on wrist, and you have one of the most beautiful dive watches ever produced.
The dial is simply a masterpiece and a definite highlight of the watch. The sandblasted ceramic dial changes from black to a glistening grey with the slightest change in lighting conditions. The recessed hourly markers add a depth that is not overdone and adds an element of grace. The silver printing of the second markers, logo, and limited text are tastefully executed as well. The second markers truly do shine in low-light situations. The decision to not have an applied logo is one that reinforces the watch and its elegant design.
The calibre 8400 Master Co-Axial movement also promised greater reliability, longer service intervals, and unrivalled anti-magnetism when compared to the offerings by Rolex such as their Milgauss. This movement is beautifully machine-decorated and a true joy to view. This is one of the great things which mechanically-inclined owners of modern Omegas get to enjoy.
Soundtrack track 3: “Jihad Joe” by Christian Atunde Adjuah:
Daily Duty on Land
The first couple years of ownership of this watch were spectacular. The polished surfaces on the case and bracelet gradually accumulated scratches and scuffs which only made it dearer to my eyes and it never became less attractive to onlookers. For the first year the movement was accurate to +2 seconds a day and in the second year it gradually rose to +4 seconds a day. The winding action throughout had never felt nearly as smooth as other watches in the price range, and the luminescent markers always performed very poorly. They would essentially not be able to hold a charge through a two-hour period while in a movie theatre. This was and is something that my Omega Speedmaster Professional never had an issue with.
Within the first year though, the clasp mechanism (which has a spring keeping it closed) failed and the watch would occasionally come loose. On one comedic occasion I pointed at a friend’s open zipper on his jeans and the watch flew off my wrist and hit the person standing next to him. The very next day I went to Swatch Group headquarters in Toronto and they supplied a replacement clasp very quickly. So, I ordered some custom-made straps and wore my Speedmaster in the meantime while I waited for the replacement clasp. Amongst these straps were a custom rubber NATO made by Alex Moss of YellowDog Watchstraps. Little did I know that my watch would primarily reside on his straps.
Unexpectedly my love for this watch grew during this period for it gave me the opportunity to wear it on a varying number of straps. I had once thought that my Speedmaster was the most versatile watch for pairing with straps. I was mistaken. The vintage beige luminescent markers allowed the Seamaster 300 to adorn even more straps than the versatile Speedy. After getting a few curved spring bars, I fully switched to wearing the watch with NATO and pass-through straps.
What resulted was truly the best thing that watch ownership could offer, a watch that accompanied me to every imaginable event. From formal events to impromptu long-distance sprints home in the rain, to dinners with loved ones, and to seeing the same loved ones lose their lives, this watch became more than just a tool or a piece of jewellery. It became a part of my suit of armour that I wore on a daily basis as I headed out into the world to aggressively attack all of the challenges it threw my way.
As my love affair with this watch seemed to reach heights I had never thought possible, I soon realised that troubled times were ahead.
Soundtrack track 4: “Tell Everybody” by Róisin Murphy:
What Went Wrong
As the third year of owning the Omega Seamaster 300 went into full swing, I was fully in love with the watch. I had gone on a couple of memorable dives with it, it had accompanied me on many milestones, and it was a stable companion, until it was not.
I had noticed that the watch was not only gaining more time every day, but it was doing so at alarmingly different rates. One day it would gain 7 seconds a day. The next day it would gain 15 seconds. Then the following day it would gain 9 seconds. I had recently become a lot more active, but I primarily wore a G-Shock alongside my Polar V800 during my sporting activities, so I was surprised at the change in performance.
As a result, during a beautiful snowstorm I decided to walk many kilometres to the authorised dealer where I had bought this watch for advice. Upon arriving, I was quickly advised to send it in for servicing. Heartbroken, I went out for an hour stroll and went back in to see my beloved daily companion get wrapped and sent off to the Swatch Group Headquarters.
After four months had passed, I finally received the phone call that my watch was ready. I raced to receive my watch and once again wore it lovingly and almost immediately went diving with it again. A few days later I noticed that there were many particles in the clear caseback, so I took a half day off and went down to the Swatch Group headquarters and had them clean the watch. This only took about twenty minutes. After a couple of weeks, I started to notice something troubling. The ceramic bezel was disintegrating. With the help of many on Instagram, I had noticed that this was a problem that was happening to many other Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial Chronometers and to this day still come across examples that are suffering from this ailment to varying degrees.
As a result, I once again took another half day off and went down to the Swatch Group headquarters and explained to them the issue. At this point I had fallen out of love with the watch and had enough. Too many issues had arisen for a product of such perceived quality, and I simply wanted to move on. I had shown the bezel and pictures of other examples to the truly lovely, kind, and understanding employees at Swatch Group Canada, and they asked for me to leave the watch with them. I initially said that it was fine, and that I would essentially stop wearing the watch most days. Reassuring me that I would be taken care of, I left the watch in Swatch Group Canada’s capable hands and within a few days they informed me that they were sourcing a new bezel free of charge. This was of great relief to me. A new Liquid Metal ceramic bezel for this Omega costs around $900 CDN. With one of the selling features of the watch being that the ceramic bezel would not age and stay perfect for my lifetime, I was truly crushed at this point. Three weeks later the watch was once again back in my hands, and once again I took it immediately on its last dive. A couple of days later I once again found some dust and particles through the exhibition caseback. Taking yet another half day off, the matter was resolved in under a half hour and I was on my way after having another pleasant chat with the watchmaker who cleaned the inside of my watch.
By this time I had moved on to another watch and all the love I had felt towards this watch was replaced with disappointment. It was replaced with a tough professional quartz dive watch by Seiko, the MarineMaster SBBN025.
I had later decided then to wear this watch to my best friend’s wedding. My reasoning for this was that the watch had lumed hands and indicators, so it was the most functional watch I could wear at a formal event. I had many best-man-related duties that required me to make announcements and arrangements at specific times throughout the evening, and the wedding was out in the country. Thus, I needed nighttime legibility. I had forgotten how horrible the lume was on this watch and as night fell, I quickly added a bunch of alarms to my Garmin on my other wrist and didn’t miss a beat.
The consequence of this was even further disappointment and me putting the watch into a safe and not seeing it again for months.
Soundtrack track 5: “Deep Sea Diver” by Bat for Lashes:
Performance Underwater as a Dive Watch
I previously mentioned the winding action was a bit rough from the first day that I had bought it, and this unexpectedly came into play while at depth. On one day with repeated dives to about 60 feet, I noticed that the crown would came loose each time that I surfaced. It never came loose to the point where the gasket disengaged and let water in, thankfully. Apparently, the constant contractions and expansions of my wetsuit were gripping the crown and forcing it open as I began my ascent and resurfacing. I noticed this and kept securing the crown after the first two dives before putting it away. This issue went away with the first servicing of the watch and after going on a couple of dives after, this issue never resurfaced.
I also previously mentioned the horrible performance of the lume of the watch , but this was never an issue underwater. In the few low-light and night dives that this watch experienced, I had sufficient lighting on my kit that the watch was always illuminated. Furthermore, the polished hands made time telling effortless, for they would catch light in every scenario they were exposed to.
Many other reviews of this watch bemoan the choice by Omega for choosing a white seconds hand. This was also something that a couple of owners of this watch I had come across also complained about. This is simply the case of the designers at Omega being smarter than us, and knowing what they are doing. On one occasion where I was helping a diving student go through an exercise where he had his mask removed for thirty seconds before putting it back on, and then proceed to clear the mask, this white seconds hand was brilliant. I would not have the seconds hand designed in any other way than what Omega did here. While sitting in rush hour traffic, I would use this to my advantage as well. By only using my peripheral vision I used the precise seconds hand to do multiple breathing exercises as I slowly made my way to the next destination. We will revisit this topic about watch reviews and their challenges in the conclusion.
I had never taken this watch diving on its bracelet, however. After the clasp failed in such a dramatic fashion, I did not want to risk seeing this shiny expensive watch slowly descend past my depth limits. This is when I stumbled upon YellowDog Watchstraps by Alex Moss in the UK. He simply makes the best rubber NATO straps and can customise them to not only fit your wrist, but that of your varying exposure suits.
Feel free to read my review of these wonderful straps here:
Because of these straps, this watch only left my wrist for workouts, runs, showers, and sleep.
The bezel was easy to use using wetsuit gloves and never caused any issues with becoming accidentally moved. The only occasion where this could occur is when the diver is either first putting on or taking off his or her BCD. If the diver comes into contact with anything during the dive, let alone something that would adjust the bezel, either his buoyancy needs work, or he is having an emergency underwater. Thus, some of the other more substantial dive bezel designs such as by Oris with its locking mechanism are not helpful. In reality these bezels only create an obstacle for dynamic time keeping while at depth.
This is a very serviceable and enjoyable watch to take diving with you, especially if you are a recreational diver. If you are loading and moving all the equipment including multiple gas tanks, you may want to take the watch off or wear something that is quartz-powered. This is the only time where impact can affect your mechanical watch during scuba diving activities. As a side note, the most common watches I have seen on seasoned divers’ wrists are solar-powered Seikos. Most of them enjoy the fact that it is simply a piece of reliable gear which they never have to think about maintaining.
Because this is a luxury watch that is very eye-catching, I did leave it at home when diving in areas where security was a concern, ranging from northern Canada to the Caribbean. A lot of people notice this watch. A lot of untrustworthy people can easily attach a price to it thanks to the ever-growing marketing campaigns by Swiss watch groups, and because the prices are now on the websites as well. One of these watches on the used market can easily pay for up to three months of rent for someone living in a rural area. This is something that you should be aware of when taking such a timepiece diving, or anywhere with you for that matter.
Soundtrack track 6: “Amazing” by George Michael
Ever since I started writing this review (this is the fifth version) I started to wear the Seamaster again just to make sure I did not forget anything. Besides the watch utterly failing in low-light conditions, proving to be a lot more fragile than I had thought, and initially giving me cause for alarm while at depth underwater, I am still in love with it. With regards to the low-light performance, many people including myself have concluded that this and other quality control concerns are due to my example being an early production model. Seeing first-hand the performance of other examples only supports this. This may also explain why my watch had to go in for service at the two-year mark. Many others had to have theirs serviced around the three-year mark which raises an interesting point.
Both Rolex and Omega have gotten into an arms race where they are increasing the number of years offered for their warranties. The prices of their watches have also gone up significantly over the last five to ten years. If someone wears these watches with any regularity and pays close attention to how accurately it is keeping time, he or she will inevitably be forced to service the watch well before the warranty due date. Swatch Group and Rolex know this. Thus, it is fair to say with near certainty that these companies are building in the first service of your watch of this price range into its initial purchase price. By doing so, they are making such warranties effectively fictional since you are already paying for the service. Once again, this is a point that is not brought up in any other publication. Luxury car companies do this by building it into the vehicle’s purchase or lease pricing and it is well known. For watches however, little attention is given to this practice.
As promised earlier when discussing the white seconds hand, we shall now go over common watch reviews and a reoccurring problem with them. Take note of watching and reading watch reviews when the writer, blogger, or some person with a camera starts complaining about a watch and its features. Ask yourself why someone, or in this case, an entire department of people who dedicate their lives towards designing watches, would make such a design decision. This is something that I find that barely any writers or presenters ever do. I fear that the amount of time that a reviewer has with a watch does not allow for such insights to be gained and that this may be the reason why most do not do this. A week of just wearing this watch around to work and back, or just going on a couple of dives is not enough to gauge its real-world performance and test all of its design features. Unlike cars, or any other consumer goods outside of glasses for instance, a watch may have the possibility of being worn by the owner for almost every moment of their lives. Thus, these short-term reviews and impressions of only wearing the watch for a brief period of time could be misleading for the lay person looking to pay a sizeable sum for a timepiece.
Overall this is a beautiful, capable and functional dive watch that can accompany you on some of your adventures and makes a great watch to be worn every day. What makes me recommend this watch however also has to do with the people behind this watch.
Swatch Group Canada and their customer service is ultimately why I recommend this watch. If you reside in Canada, or near any certified service centre, and can visit them yourself and speak to them face to face, you will be taken care of. It is because of those who work at the Swatch Group headquarters that I am still wearing this watch. If the faulty bezel, or the multiple visits to their centre had not gone well, I would not be recommending this watch.
For the price that we are willing to pay for a timepiece like this, customer service is what can make or break your purchasing decision. Furthermore, the people working at this establishment really care about these products and their customers. This is true for everyone that I have encountered working there. Whether they are a manager, a front desk coordinator, or a watchmaker, the passion and care that every individual put into their work is immediately evident. In this case, if you can personally hand in your watch for the service and maintenance to your local Swatch Group headquarters, explain to them what your expectations are, I highly recommend this watch.
It will give you years of joy, and as long as you are prepared to part with your watch for many months every two to four years for servicing, you will be happy with your purchasing decision.
Written by @furrywristabroad.
For Team Matick,