Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review of Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Cal. 8500 Ceramic

Model # 232.30.42.21.01.001

Brand/Model:  Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Cal. 8500 Ceramic
Movement:  in-house Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet, ceramic bezel insert
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP $6,200 USD


Plenty of photos follow the review.  Click on the pictures to enlarge.

First off, welcome to review number 100 on my watch reviews blog!  Thank you to all my visitors and regulars for helping to make this blog one of the most popular watch review blogs on-line.  It’s been a great ride and I appreciate your support.

For this special milestone review, I thought a simply superb watch would be appropriate to mark the occasion.  Hence, I selected the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean with the new in-house Caliber 8500 automatic movement.  I reviewed the first-generation Planet Ocean (launched by Omega in 2005) a couple of years ago and I gave that watch high marks.  

The new Cal. 8500 Planet Ocean (‘PO’ for short) continues the excellence started with the first model and improves on many points, and I will say it right now, this is one outstanding watch.  It’s one of those pieces that if I had to own just one watch, this could certainly be it.

The overall design of the Planet Ocean, with its broad arrow-style hands, stylish slightly thinner bezel insert, simple but functional bracelet and superb quality all conspire in a positive way to create a watch that is the perfect all-around timepiece, at home in the office, the country club or on date night.  It exudes presence, prestige and class.  Don’t I sound adoring when I gush about something?

The updated PO has several fairly significant cosmetic changes.  The most obvious are the fatter handset, applied arabics on the dial, an applied Omega logo and slight changes to the applied markers.  The lume is now blue, with a green lume bezel dot and minute hand. 

The bezel now has a ceramic insert in a charcoal grey shade instead of black and the clasp no longer carries an engraved ‘Planet Ocean’ signature, nor the words ‘Seamaster’ or ‘Professional’.  The clasp is ever so slightly different with oval pushbuttons and the bracelet has been upgraded using screws and pins for adjustment.

Aside from a healthy price increase (at $6,200 USD, this watch is getting very pricey!), the biggest news in the latest PO is the brand new in-house Caliber 8500 Co-Axial automatic movement.  Omega ditched the beautiful embossed caseback and added a display caseback, to show off the nicely decorated new movement.  They are obviously proud of their accomplishment and this movement is being used in a variety of other Omegas, including the Aqua Terra.

The latest PO is available in two sizes, just like the first-generation model, at 45.5mm and 42mm.  As before, I am reviewing the 42mm version here.  It starts with an all stainless steel case in a brushed and polished finish and those gorgeous signature Omega curved lugs.  The case measures 42mm without the signed screwdown crown; 45.1mm with the crown included.  Lug spacing is 20mm, thickness is 16mm.  

This newer version of the PO is substantially thicker than the first-generation model, which was 14.2mm thick.  This has been a point of contention with some people, as it does make the watch somewhat top heavy on the wrist, especially if you have a thinner wrist, as I do.  I really haven’t had any problems with the thickness, but do bear it in mind if you’re considering this watch.

The caseback, as previously mentioned, is a sapphire display type and screws down. The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean is still factory rated at 600 meters of water resistance despite the inclusion of the display back, so nothing has been lost with its addition.

The crown that sets and winds the watch is located at the 3 position, and is signed and screws down.  The helium escape valve is manually operated, signed with an ‘HE’ and is located at the 10 position on the left side of the case.

The dial on the PO is a matte to slightly glossy black and with the fatter hands and applied logo, it looks great.  The lume is not as bright as the older model, but I have yet to see a watch that uses the trendy blue SuperLuminova glow as brightly as their green lume.  Why this change was made, I do not know.  To me, it’s a bit of a downgrade.  

The broad arrow hands are silver with inset lume and the seconds hand is silver with an orange pointer-style tip.  A quickset date is at the 3 position, with a black wheel and silver numerals.  

A note on the quickset, with the new Cal. 8500 movement, the quickset works by rotating the hour hand through a 24-hour cycle (├ála Rolex GMT II) to change the date.  While this does take a bit longer than a standard quickset mechanism, it has the advantage of being able to change the date in either direction, so if the date you’re looking for is closer to the displayed date by going backwards, you can rotate the hour hand counterclockwise to get the date set.  And since the hour hand moves, it makes quick timezone changes super easy without upsetting the timekeeping, as the watch continues to run while you adjust the hour hand.

The words ‘Omega’, ‘Seamaster’ and ‘Professional’ are located on the dial below the 12 position, with ‘Co-axial’, ‘Chronometer’ and ‘600m/2000ft’ listed above the 6 position.  It sounds quite busy, but it really isn’t.  The quality of the applied markers, the applied logo, the look of the hands, it’s all top-notch.

The dial is capped by a slightly domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides.

The 120-click unidirectional bezel features the new grey ceramic insert with a lume pip at 12.  The insert has a matte finish and doesn’t scream ceramic, but it looks good, with the standard timing markings to be expected of a true diver.  Bezel action is smooth with nary any backlash.

Much has been discussed about the new in-house 39-jewel Caliber 8500 movement, and I will quote from Omega’s web site as to the features of this movement:  “Self-winding movement with Co-Axial Escapement for greater precision, stability and durability.  Free sprung-balance, two barrels mounted in series, automatic winding in both directions to reduce winding time.  Bridges and the oscillating mass are decorated with exclusive Geneva waves in arabesque.”  The decoration is really quite stunning.  This movement also features Omega’s Si14 silicone balance spring for added reliability.  

Omega lists power reserve at 60 hours; during my testing, I achieved 64 hours, which is superb. The movement is of course COSC rated, which seems to be carrying less and less importance these days, even in high-end watches.  

As with my first Planet Ocean, this new version when running off the wrist in the crown up position runs at just inside the COSC spec. at +6 seconds per day.  But this summer, while on vacation, I wore my Cal. 8500 Planet Ocean pretty much 24/7 (taking it off only to shower) for nine days straight and it performed flawlessly, settling in at a consistent +3 seconds per day over the nine day period.  Just fine.

I won’t go into a technical analysis of this movement, but suffice to say that it appears to be a well-engineered design with some unique features and should stand the test of time. Well done!

The bracelet on the newest PO is pretty much carry-over, with a brushed finish and a pushbutton clasp with machined deployant and fold-out machined diver extension.  

The bracelet features Omega’s patented screw and pin link adjustment, which is so much easier than the old pin and collar system.  As I previously mentioned, the clasp is just signed ‘Omega’ only, with no ‘Planet Ocean’, ‘Seamaster’ or ‘Professional’ script as in the first generation.  

A bracelet half link is also included for a better fit, but as before, there is still no micro-adjustment on the clasp, which earns this watch one of its very few demerits.

The bracelet measures 20mm at the lugs and tapers to 18mm at the clasp.

Presentation is standard Omega red box with vinyl holder for the warranty card, chronometer card, pictogram card, etc.  It works well and looks good, but as Omega’s prices continue to rise, will they spice up the box?  We’ll see.

Overall, the newest version of the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean with the Caliber 8500 movement is a worthy upgrade to the original.  Yes, it costs more, but the new movement is a work of art and performance is robust and accurate.  If you’re wanting one watch that can go anywhere and look great, the PO is a fine choice.

Pros:  in-house movement with great decoration and long power reserve, high quality fit and finish, ceramic bezel looks good, high water resistance rating

Cons:  watch case is rather thick, too thick for some, blue lume is not super bright, bracelet somewhat uninspiring and lacks microadjustment, getting rather pricey

Verdict:  the Planet Ocean is truly a ‘must have’ watch and Omega pretty much knocks it out of the park with this one.  You can’t go wrong with this watch and you won’t be disappointed when you get one, it’s that good.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.

Excelsior!


-Marc