Omega managed to exceed my expectations when I finally got my hands on the first ceramic-cased Planet Ocean which I’m reviewing here today. Debuted a few months after Baselworld 2016, the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT “Deep Black” carves yet another niche within the brand’s larger line of high-end Seamaster Planet Ocean diving watches. Omega not only has plenty of dive watches to choose from (seriously, no shortage whatsoever), but the brand also has a number of GMT watches to choose from.
I say all this to explain that while the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT Deep Black doesn’t immediately satisfy an existing need, it does represent a desirable accumulation of a lot of things Omega has been tweaking for a while, and is arguably a current best-of-breed product within its relatively narrow niche. To really appreciate this watch, you need to ignore most of the marketing images Omega has of it (they make the colors look way too flat) and also forget what you think the watch represents (a black GMT diver). Rather, we need to look into a series of details contained in the watch design, movement, and construction, as well as consider the versatile and highly contemporary appeal of a watch like this.
Omega’s modern rivalry with Rolex isn’t lost on most people who are paying attention to the watch world. A common question that is asked when Omega releases a new product is “what Rolex are they trying to make an answer to?” The existing Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT watch (aBlogtoWatch review here) is in various forms Omega’s answer to the Rolex GMT-Master II – even though they are rather distinct products. The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT Deep Black continues to aim at Rolex, but with its ceramic case, larger size, and more high-tech look isn’t just answering Rolex, but also Tudor at the same time. If anything, Omega seems to be trying to make “uber-watches” that succeed at multiple levels and are intended in one fell swoop to beat multiple products. Not all are successful, but when Omega gets something right, like the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT Deep Black, they do it very well.
Omega made a big splash back in 2013 when they debuted the sexy-looking Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon watch (aBlogtoWatch review here). The magic in that product was combining the look of the new generation Speedmaster Co-Axial Chronograph with both a black ceramic case and dial. Moreover, Omega cleverly and wisely offered the ceramic case in contrast finishing with some brushed and some polished surfaces. This mimicked the look of metal (but black in color) which allowed the watch to retain so much of the look people came to expect in a Speedmaster. It was a hit, and I am sure that Omega wanted to reproduce its appeal in other areas of their collection.
It would be fair to compare the Deep Black in the Planet Ocean collection to the Dark Side Of The Moon in the Speedmaster collection, but honestly, they aren’t the same thing. Whereas the Dark Side Of Moon is merely a ceramic version of the Speedmaster, the Deep Black is a ceramic Planet Ocean, but also has a unique assembly of parts and features, making it not merely a ceramic version of the existing Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT range.
Further, there are a few versions of the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT Deep Black which add further flavor to the concept. This version is the reference 126.96.36.199.01.003, and in addition to combining black with red accents, it is one of the versions of the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT Deep Black models offered in a mostly all-matte finishing. When I first saw this watch in Omega’s marketing photos, I was a bit underwhelmed and concerned that it might be too devoid of shine and appear flat and down-market given its high-end pedigree. In person, this watch easily exceeds the relatively lackluster presentation the professional marketing images offered – which honestly isn’t that rare even if watches are less likely to look better in person compared to their marketing images.
Omega here has an amazingly good-looking serious tool watch with just enough style. For me, this has always been the value in a Planet Ocean, and whereas the Rolex Submariner and its ilk are a bit more retro-themed, the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean has been able to feel highly contemporary despite having a number of “vintage influences” to the design.
At 45.5mm wide, the Planet Ocean Deep Black GMT is 2mm larger than the 43mm wide Planet Ocean GMT. Other differences aside from the case material are the movement and design of the bezel. Let me make a very important remark on this being valued as a GMT watch. If your sole goal is to have a durable GMT watch because you reference two time zones all the time, you might want to look at more GMT-centric GMT watches. With a traditional 60-minute countdown rotating diver’s bezel, the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT Deep Black does away with a bi-directional GMT bezel as you’ll find on the smaller Planet Ocean GMT – making it more of a diver versus GMT watch. Omega instead put a 24-hour scale on the dial and included a nicely sized GMT hand (with a lumed tip) that is there when you need it, but ultimately sits where it belongs in the background behind the hour and minute hands when it comes to visibility.
This is a very important concept to understand because a lot of people get annoyed with GMT watches, as they find the inclusion of an additional hand distracting. If you want a cool diver’s watch that is mostly about knowing the local time first with the GMT a distant second function, then the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT Deep Black is a very good choice. This makes it sort of a standard dive watch where the ability to know a second time zone is available, but not thrust in your face all the time. I don’t know how many other people value this niche type of style, but I personally do a lot.
Omega did an excellent job on the newly tweaked Planet Ocean dial mixing a matte black ceramic face and little new refinements such as slightly new fonts. Case and dial tweaks abound, and if you are a Planet Ocean veteran owner, it will be interesting to see the differences to previous models even though they are the same at a glance. We detailed more of them while covering the larger range of new-for-2016 Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean watches here.
Omega should be praised for really making the Planet Ocean dials better and better. The white gold hands and hour markers pop nicely against the matte background making for excellent legibility, while various luminant colors work to offer admirable darkness visibility.
Like the 44mm-wide Speedmaster case, the 45mm-wide Planet Ocean case translates to ceramic from steel quite well. There is a serious tool-watch feel in the matte finishing which benefits the theme Omega is going for here (dark and serious, but meant for fun). I will say that it is a very different flavor than I’m used to in the Planet Ocean family, but I think Omega nailed it and even at this high price Omega easily competes with offerings at more prestigiously priced brands even. So what you end up with is a timepiece that is, yeah, expensive for an Omega, but also really cheap for a Blancpain, Hublot, or Audemars Piguet. This is a hot luxury sports watch, and I just hope people are able to incorporate the Omega name in the upper echelons of luxo-sport watches where at times the brand does solidly belong.