The Omega Seamaster that bested Rolex to become the new king of the deep
Explorer Victor Vescovo broke the world record for the deepest dive in history – this is the watch that went along for the ride 10,928m under the sea.
It is hard to imagine that in this age of technology, it could take more than half a century to set a new world record in exploration. Which is what makes Omega’s latest achievement all the more significant.
In 1960, Captain Don Walsh and Jacques Picard reached a depth of 10,916m in the bathyscaphe Trieste, the farthest man had gone downward at the time, and it was the Rolex Deepsea Special that accompanied them.
Fifty-nine years later this May, the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional bested that record by going 12m deeper with explorer Victor Vescovo.
Vescovo, a 53-year-old private equity investor and retired naval officer, realised there was no undersea equivalent to the Seven Summits challenge (which he has already completed, in addition to reaching the North and South Poles, thereby completing the Explorers Grand Slam), so he decided to create one himself.
The self-funded “Five Deeps” expedition in his Limiting Factor submarine would bring him to the deepest points in world’s five oceans: The Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic Ocean (8,376m), the South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean (7,433m), the Java Trench in the Indian Ocean (7,192m), the Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench (10,928m) and the Molloy Deep, the deepest point in the Arctic’s Greenland Sea (5,669m).
Vescovo has completed four of these dives, with the Molloy Deep dive scheduled for September.
He bought himself a Seamaster Planet Ocean Chronograph to commemorate this quest – and it was only after his first dive to the Puerto Rico Trench in December 2018 that Omega got wind of it and decided it wanted to be part of making history. By then, the brand only had about six months to build a watch tough enough for Vescovo’s trip to Challenger Deep.
Still, Omega ended up making three timepieces: One for each robotic arm of the Limiting Factor, and another for its detachable lander.
TELLING TIME AT 15,000M
An extreme watch requires extreme construction, so nothing beyond the general appearance of the Ultra Deep Professionals resemble anything Omega has done in the past for its regular diving models.
The case uses titanium cut from the submarine itself, and the lugs are designed to curve inwards toward each other – inspired by the cephalic fins of manta rays – while leaving a small gap between for maximum durability.
Following the idea of how submarine viewports are designed with stress distribution as a priority, the sapphire crystal has been fused to the case using LiquidMetal, a technology Omega invented to bond ceramics to alloys for its bezel scales. The patent-pending process involves heating the case, crystal and LiquidMetal to 280 degrees Celsius and pouring the molten gasket material into the machined channel.
Once the crystal is in place, it is compressed under tremendous pressure until the LiquidMetal cools and forms a seal. This method negates the need for polymer seals while also reducing the sapphire crystal’s thickness.
The final result is a watch certified to 15,000m, well over what’s necessary for Challenger Deep.
All that trouble seems to have paid off. Vescovo’s submarine lander ended up stuck in the sea floor on one of the dives and could not be retrieved during the same trip. It took a second descent – 54 hours later – to rescue the lander. The watch recovered with it was still in perfect working condition.
The actual watch movement is nothing terribly exciting: A time-only, co-axial automatic calibre 8912 with no luxury finishing. But with a METAS chronometer certification and a story this good, we dare say fans of Omega – and adventure – are looking forward to a commercialised version of this beast from the deep.