Omega's New Watch Was Tested At The Bottom Of The Deepest Point On Earth
Though most divers will never venture beyond 30m, your average dive watch will go way past this depth to about 300m below sea level. Omega's new Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional laughs at such limits. The watch has set a new world record for the deepest dive, going to 10,928m.
Adventurer Victor Vescovo strapped two prototypes, FOD-X 1 and 2 ("full ocean depth experimental"), to his Triton-built submersible Limiting Factor, one on each of the vessel's robotic arms, and descended into the deepest section of the Mariana Trench. An additional Ultra Deep Professional, FOD-X 3, was fixed to one of three detachable lander vehicles that accompanied the dive attempt.
After four and a half hours of descent, the Limiting Factor touched down on the ocean floor, reaching the deepest point on Earth. Here, the watch was having to sustain approximately 16 tonnes of pressure on the sapphire crystal. Here Vescovo remained before returning to the surface after a total mission time of 12 hours.
The problem was that all but one of the three detachable landers returned with him. As luck would have it, the one lander that had failed to respond to the call to return to the surface was the vehicle with FOD-X 3 strapped to it. Vescovo faced a choice to either leave the experimental watch at the bottom of the Mariana Trench or return to collect it.
Vescovo chose the latter, however, you don't just hop into a sub and plunge back down to beyond 10,000m. The team had to plan and wait for the correct conditions, which in the end meant that FOD-X 3 ended up enduring an unplanned test at the very deepest part of the ocean in conditions of 16,000psi for two and a half days. When the watch was located, rescued and finally back on the surface, it was not only still ticking, it had lost only one second in time during the whole adventure.
Omega's achievement means that the Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional is now the deepest diving watch of all time, taking the record previously held by Rolex's Deepsea Special. With the bathyscaphe Trieste, piloted by Captain Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard, that watch reached a depth of 10,916m in 1960. Vescovo and Omega have now bested this by 12 metres.
Despite the performance of the Ultra Deep Professional, Omega has managed to limit the thickness of the timepiece to less than 28mm. This was made possible by making the watch out of the very submersible it would be strapped to. Limiting Factor’s titanium grade 5 pressure hull required development of a new forging technique and weld-free construction. Omega took the opportunity to fashion the body of the bezel, casebody, caseback and crown from machined cutoffs from the hull.
Omega also paid particular attention to the lugs. Integrated into the titanium casebody, the lugs of the Ultra Deep are left open as this decreases stress points at ocean depth. Omega has termed them “Manta” lugs due to their resemblance to the Manta ray's cephalic lobes.
However, making the Ultra Deep operate at 10,928m wasn't quite enough for Omega, as the company took the precaution of pressure testing the prototypes at Triton’s facility in Barcelona. While it wanted to be sure the pieces could withstand the maximum pressures required for the Mariana Trench, to be doubly sure (and to comply with dive watch standards), Omega had to add a 25 per cent safety margin to this depth rating, which means the watches can supposedly perform at an astonishing 15,000 metres.
Omega’s extensive history of dive watches begins in 1932, when the brand released “The Marine”, which featured a patented double case sealed with cork to keep the water out, and a strap with an adjustable clasp and diver’s extension. Initially tested in Lake Geneva at 73m, the watch was subjected to more stringent laboratory tests some five years later, which actually found “The Marine” to be waterproof to 135m.