Groundbreaking technology, the adequate amount of financial backing, and just the right amount of willpower, all put together, can achieve great things. When avid adventurer Victor Vescovo piloted the “Limiting Factor“ submarine to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in 2019 at a depth of 10,928 metres, he did exactly that. Along with him, were three Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional timepieces.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of how Swiss watchmaker Omega broke the world record for the deepest dive in mankind’s history.
Omega’s History With the Seas
In 1932, Omega came up with the ‘Marine’, which as the company claims was the ‘first diver’s watch for everyone’. The legacy continued in 1948 when the Omega Semaster was finally released. The timepiece was greatly valued by British pilots and sailors because of the watch’s reliability and sturdiness.
In 1957, the Seamaster 300 watch was released and it was specifically designed for sea divers and workers who went underwater. In 1970, the Omega ‘Ploprof’ was finally created and accompanied Jacques-Yves Cousteau on his diving ventures. Cousteau tested the Ploprof to its absolute limits. Merely a year later, in 1971, the Seamaster 1000 followed suit and one year after that the Seamaster 120 Big Blue took the centre stage. In 1981, popular free diver Jacques Mayol plunged to a record-shattering 101-meter dive as he had the Seamaster 120 on his wrist.
However, it wasn’t until 1993, that Omega launched what we know today as the Seamaster Diver 300M. The watch was re-iterated in 2018. The early developments of the Ultra Deep began in the year 2005. This was also the year when the prestigious Planet Ocean was released.
How the Icon Was Created
Conceiving The Watch
Creating a dive watch is not a big deal for the Swiss watchmaker. Creating a watch that can reach the deepest point in ocean, however, is a different tale. For this task, Omega had to get back to the basics and start from scratch. The journey was not easy but it wasn’t supposed to be.
A Slim Case (As Per Dive Watch Standards)
For a timepiece to withstand enormous amounts of pressures, it need not be bulky. Omega managed this feat as the thickness of the Ultra Deep is less than 28 mm. The brand achieved this without sacrificing the exceptional water and pressure resistance.
Made From The ‘Limited Factor’
‘Limited Factor’, the submarine used by Victor Vescovo was made of grade 5 titanium. The pressure hull required development of a new advanced forging technique and an entirely weld-free construction. This allowed it to tolerate the extreme pressures of the Mariana Trench. The Omega Seamaster Ultra Deep is made of the same material. Its bezel body, case, case back, and crown were actual machined cutoffs from the hull of the Limited Factor.
A key component in any submersible is its viewports. In the case of the Limited Factor, the viewports were designed in a way that pressure on the inside edges of the cone was minimized. This is the place where the stress is at its highest.
Similar to this, the Omega Seamaster Ultra Deep Professional chooses a very effective way of stress distribution. The watch took inspiration from the submarine’s loadbearing conical design. Liquidmetal® was used to make sure that a firm, as well as flexible sapphire-to-case assembly, was achieved.
The lugs of the Ultra Deep Professional are Fully integrated into the titanium body. The lugs are also left open to lower the risk of any liability at complete ocean depth.
The watch received a DNV-GL certification with the words, tested 15,000m / 49,212ft, laser-engraved at the back of the case.
All of the Omega Ultra Deep watches were pressure tested at Triton Sub’s facility in Barcelona in the presence of a DNV-GL surveyor. The maximum tolerance was supposed to be the depth of the Mariana Trench but to be absolutely sure Omega chose to opt for a 25 per cent safety margin. As a result, the watches had to be tested at mind-boggling depths of 1500 bars or 15,000 meters.
The World’s Deepest Dive
In April – May 2019, The Five Deeps Expedition team created a historic record. This was done after sonar mapping the Pacific Ocean floor to pinpoint the deepest spot in the Challenger Deep. Victor Vescovo then singlehandedly manoeuvred the Deep Submergence Vehicle, ‘Limiting Factor’ to its final destination.
Omega truly outdid itself as all the watches were put through rigorous tests over a period of 10 days post-dive. These tests were set by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology or METAS. Even after the arduous underwater expedition to the planets deepest point, each of the watches achieved a Master Chronometer certification. How amazing is that?