I’m thrilled to finally be getting around to writing this. It’s been about a year since I first purchased my Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean and it’s a watch that continues to delight me. I won’t say the honeymoon period never wore off, but rather that it keeps coming back consistently after long periods off the wrist. That’s because it’s whatever I want it to be. It’s a tool watch as much as a desk diver like me needs it to be, and there’s enough modernity and polish on the watch to make it an excellent choice when I want something classy on the wrist. I’m not a vintage watch collector, and the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 8500 is the ultimate anti-vintage watch.
This One Means Business
Right off the bat, the 42mm stainless steel case makes it clear that the Planet Ocean is all business. Well, mostly business. It’s heavy, water resistant to 600m, and its Helium escape valve at 10 o’clock boasts its ability to go deeper than the Rolex Submariner. Its thickness clocks in at 16mm, which is about 15% thicker than its predecessor, the 2500. This translates to significant heft on the wrist and certain difficulty getting this piece under a shirt cuff. With a few links removed from the bracelet, it’s about 185 grams. Such tremendous wrist presence is either going to be a good or a bad thing for you depending on what you’re looking for in a diver.
An improvement over the prior model is the new matte ceramic bezel insert, the color of which is more anthracite than black like before. The font on the bezel, in addition to the material from which its constructed, reinforces the futuristic appeal of the Planet Ocean. Teeth on the bezel edge make for a sure grip throughout all 120 clicks.
But There’s Beauty in the Beast
I say mostly business because, aside from the chunky case and extraordinary depth rating, the Planet Ocean is a luxury watch. And it looks like it. The domed sapphire crystal is coated with anti-reflective treatment on both sides, making for a perfectly invisible glass with zero distortion at any angle.
The shape of the crystal and its AR coating are an advantage over the Rolex Submariner’s flat, untreated crystal, as the transparency of the lens really brings the dial more to life. Considering that Omega’s Planet Ocean carries more glint, a domed and treated crystal is optimal for showing off all the lovely details on the dial.
It’s what’s beneath the Planet Ocean’s crystal that differentiates this piece from other dive watches on the market but also cements the design as Omega–and it’s pleasantly updated from the previous release. The 8500 features a more luxurious dial, full of rich details and polish: thick, hand-set applied Arabic numerals and Omega logo, bolder broad-arrow hands and a change in lume color from green to pale blue, except for the minutes hand which would aid a diver using this for underwater timing.
Omega closed the numerals on this updated model (the lines of the 6 and 9 on the 2500 never quite closed, a touch I really appreciated). The “Seamaster” signature and tip of the seconds hand add a couple of drops of orange to the otherwise classy and sober dial.
Omega Caliber 8500
Behind the sapphire display back is Omega’s caliber 8500, an automatic-winding movement with 60 hours of power reserve thanks to its dual barrel design. It’s not a completely in-house movement, although any assistance Omega received on developing the caliber came from other companies in the Swatch Group (e.g. ETA, Nivarox, Frederick Piguet). It’s a beautifully finished movement worthy of an exhibition case back, but it’s a luxurious detail I expect tool watch purists to find out of place on a watch that promises such adventure.
In contrast to caliber 2500, Omega designed the 8500 around the co-axial escapement rather than shoehorning it in to an existing design. The result is a significantly larger escapement and the overall increase in movement size is responsible for a chunkier case.
On the Wrist
The Planet Ocean comes on a number of OEM strap options, including a rubber strap and a steel bracelet. The stainless steel bracelet reviewed here is worthy of celebration once you achieve the proper fit, but some wrists out there are going to have to work a little harder than others to reach maximum comfort. Why? The Planet Ocean comes with only one half-link (although it’s more like a two-thirds link) and the clasp doesn’t feature any micro-adjustments. The right fit matters for the 8500 because it’s a heavy watch that can feel like a ball-and-chain strapped to your wrist if it’s too loose or a handcuff if it’s too tight. You may find yourself, like I did, popping into your local Authorized Dealer or Omega boutique to purchase an extra half-link for $47 USD, which will absolutely get the job done if you aren’t getting a perfect fit out of the box.
Once the fit is right, you’ll find a lot to appreciate about this bracelet. I love the depth and curvature of the links, which you can really see as the bracelet wraps around your wrist, lending a sort of three-dimensional, stegosaurus spine look. Without any polished accents on the bracelet, the Planet Ocean doesn’t appear gaudy and the brushed surface will conceal light scratching but, as I mentioned before, there are subtleties to the design of the dial that prove attention to detail and a healthy dose of glint. Anyone’s first impression is that you’re wearing a tool watch, but closer examination will reveal that it’s one of the finest mass-produced wristwatches at its price on the market today.
I’m not a big vintage watch collector, so what I find appealing about the Planet Ocean is how brazenly it stands for innovation. While, when marketing the watch, Omega likes to reference its importance in diving history and all the notable underwater explorers who wore Seamasters, the Planet Ocean is an exercise in modern watchmaking to me. Considering its original and futuristic aesthetics, its extreme water resistance and beautifully decorated in-house caliber, it’s the anti-vintage watch.
Retailing at $6,200 USD, the Planet Ocean competes with the Rolex Submariner, the 116610 in particular, but comes in at about $1,000 cheaper than the no-date 114060. The Rolex Submariner heritage and comfort, especially due to its GlideLock technology, may be critical advantages for some buyers and would sway them away from a Planet Ocean. However, painstaking detail of the Planet Ocean’s dial is second to none and the overall combination of form and function inherent in this Seamaster is why it’s such a popular watch with collectors.